Darwinian cultural evolution: problems and prospects of a theory19 okt 2017
Van 16:00 - 17:15uur
– Utrecht Cultural History Seminar –
Phd Student Steije Hofhuis (Cultural History Research Group) will give a presentation called Darwinian cultural evolution: problems and prospects of a theory.
DARWINIAN CULTURAL EVOLUTION
The last decades have witnesses a remarkable growth of the idea of Darwinian cultural evolution. It is in particular in disciplines such as economics, archeology, linguistics and anthropology that the field of cultural evolution has led to a whole new range of research programs. However, most social scientists and scholars of the humanities remain highly skeptical of the applicability of Darwinian theory to the socio-cultural realm. The idea is often criticized as either fundamentally mistaken, or a fancy re-description of things we know all along.
In this talk Hofhuis will argue that cultural Darwinism may actually resolve a crucial problem in sociological and historical thought, namely how socio-cultural adaptations, or functions, can evolve beyond people’s conscious or even unconscious knowledge. This argument will be illustrated through an analysis of sociological and anthropological functionalism, its critics, and a few classic case studies such as the Hopi rain dance, the holy cow, and Aztec human sacrifice. Eventually, Hofhuis will also address why this bears upon cultural history, and why cultural historians have an important role to play in the debate, as they are amongst those best able to test some of the new Darwinian hypotheses.