Biological and cultural evolution: Similar but different


Ever since The Origin of Species, but increasingly in recent years, parallels and analogies have been drawn between biological and cultural evolution, and methods, concepts, and theories that have been developed in evolutionary biology have been used to explain aspects of human cultural change. Many others, however, while accepting the need for some form of evolutionary approach to culture, have consistently emphasized the differences between biological and cultural evolution, with these differences often presented as being problematic for existing evolutionary analyses of culture. Here I argue that this is largely a false debate, given that its protag onists agree on the majority of key points. Apparent disagreement may stem partly from simple differences in emphasis, and partly from the diversity of both biological and cultural evolutionary processes.

Biological Theory 2, 119–123.