Re: Evolutionary Thoughts

Mr J.M. Ottevanger (J.Ottevanger@LIVERPOOL.AC.UK)
Sat, 9 Sep 1995 12:44:04 +0100

hi John,
Your post hits the spot regarding an area of enquiry I'd very much
like to see pursued. I agree with your thoughts, and wish you'd said
something I disagreed with so I could get my teeth into it. I do have
one slight query regarding the equivalence of anthro or arch with
evolutionary theory. That is that the latter is centred around the
existence of species: separate lineages of development that cannot
interbreed. Anthro and arch cannot, I believe, assume populations to
have been isolated in the same way through time - perhaps they're more
equivalent to subspecies in this analogy, and the concept of subspecies
carries a whole load of undesirable baggage - some people deny their
existence because they are too hard to consistently define. Anyway,
this may be rather naive so put me right where I'm wrong.
Regards, Jeremy.

In the last mail Giacobbe John said:
> Sorry for any reposts that appear, but some overlap seemed
> necessary.
> Evolutionary Theory in Anthropology and Archaeology.
> Evolutionary theory has played a seminal role in
> anthropological and archaeological theory since the development
> of the discipline. Most recent definitions of culture include an
> evolutionary perspective, such as Binford's view that "Culture is
> all those means whose forms are not under direct genetic control
> which serve to adjust individuals and groups within their
> ecological communities". Dunnell considers that modern
> evolutionary biology provides an explanatory framework for the
> processes of cultural change, but that it cannot "be applied
> unamended and uncritically to cultural phenomena, be they
> ethnographic or archaeological". I would like to begin a
> discussion that would work towards a synthesis of the
> relationships and applications of evolutionary theory in modern
> anthropological theory and practice.
> I believe Darwinian evolutionary theory can be incorporated
> into an explanatory framework, possibly even as a paradigm, for
> cultural processes, and it is eminently qualified to give
> empirical significance to the archaeological and anthropological
> record. I would accept the theoretical premise that culture is
> an extrasomatic character that is effected by, and responds to,
> selective pressures in the environment. Many questions remain,
> such as the role of the mechanisms of social learning and
> transmission on the general Darwinian fitness of the hominids.
> The development of an evolutionary paradigm may place
> anthropology and archaeology in the position to making genuine
> contributions to Western thought that go beyond what happened
> when.
> John A. Giacobbe