DOI link for Cultural evolution
Cultural evolution book
Cultural evolution is a thriving research program that promises to provide a unified understanding of culture, generating novel insights into a wide range of cultural phenomena. Some cultural evolution proponents have advanced bold claims that this framework could yield a vastly more successful way of investigating and explaining culture. However, these claims can mask the commitment to particular epistemic and non-epistemic values that are entailed by the adoption of cultural evolution models over alternatives (such as those from anthropology, history, or sociology). These commitments can come into tension with alternative frameworks and modes of understanding culture, including indigenous understandings, and may have troubling social or political implications. Here I highlight two: the emphasis on generalizability over other epistemic values, and the tendency to de-emphasize or minimize human agency, which can have negative effects on marginalized groups. I suggest these considerations could lead to either reform or abandonment of cultural evolution research.