Centre for Philosophy of Science Applied Evolutionary Epistemology Lab

Marion Blute

Darwinian Sociocultural Evolution

Course Description

This is a broad-based course in social learning-based Darwinian sociocultural evolution. Of Darwin's "two great principles", "the unity of types" (common descent), and "the conditions of existence" (natural selection), the emphasis will be placed on the latter - in particular on evolutionary ecological and socioecological principles applied to the culture of science and scholarship. We will also consider the sociocultural evolutionary approach to contemporary problems in culture and social theory including the problems of agency, social constructionism and the evolution of complexity. We will conclude with a discussion of the role of culture in an extended evolutionary synthesis.


Day-by-Day Program

Lecture 1: Constraints, Chance, History and Necessity

  1. Campbell, Donald T. 1965. Variation and Selective Retention in Socio-cultural Evolution. Pp. 19-49 in H.R. Barringer, G. I. Blanksten and R. W. Mack, eds. Social Change in Developing Areas: A Reinterpretation of Evolutionary Theory. Schenkman Publishing Company. Also reprinted under the same title, 1969. Pp. 69-85 in L. von Bertalanffy, A. Rapoport and R. L.Meier, eds. General Systems: Yearbook of the Society for General Systems Research XIV.
  2. Blute, Marion. 1979. Sociocultural Evolutionism: An Untried Theory. Behavioral Science 24(1): 46-59.
  3. Blute, Marion. 1997. History Versus Science: The Evolutionary Solution. Canadian Journal of Sociology 22(3): 345-364.

Lecture 2: Evolutionary Ecology and Socio-ecology of Scientific/Scholarly Culture

  1. Blute, Marion & Paul Armstrong. 2011. The Reinvention of Grand Theories of the Scientific/Scholarly Process. Perspectives on Science 19(4): 391-425.
  2. Blute, Marion. 2003. The Evolutionary Ecology of Science. Journal of Memetics 7(1): 21 ss.pp.
  3. Blute, Marion. 2011. Super Cooperators? Trends in Ecology and Evolution 26(12): 624-625.

Lecture 3: Agency (Individual Learning) and Constructionism (Niche Construction)

  1. Blute, Marion. 1979, 2002. Learning Theory and the Evolutionary Analogy. Cogprints. 71pp.
  2. Odling-Smee, F. John, Kevin N. Laland, and Marcus W. Feldman. 1996. Niche Construction. The American Naturalist 147:641-648.
  3. Blute, Marion. 2008. Is It Time For an Updated 'Eco-Evo-Devo' Definition of Evolution by Natural Selection? Spontaneous Generations: A Journal for the History and Philosophy of Science 1(2):1-5.

Lecture 4: The Evolution of Complexity (New, More Complex Kinds)

  1. Wagner, Gunter P., Jason Mezey and Raffaele Calabretta. 2005. Natural Selection and the Origin of Modules. Pp. 33-49 in Werner Callebaut and Diego Rasskin-Gutman, eds. Modularity: Understanding the Development and Evolution of Natural Complex Systems. The MIT Press.
  2. Szathmáry, Eörs. 2012. Transitions and Social Evolution. Philosophy & Theory in Biology. 4: March.
  3. Blute, Marion. 2007. The Evolution of Replication. Biological Theory 2(1) 2007: 10-22.

Lecture 5: The Role of Culture in an Extended Evolutionary Synthesis

  1. Pigliucci, Massimo. 2009. An Extended Synthesis for Evolutionary Biology. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences 1168(1): 218-228.
  2. Richerson, Peter J. and Robert Boyd. 2005. Culture Evolves. Chpt. 3, Pp. 58-98 in Peter J. Richerson and Robert Boyd, Not by Genes Alone: How Culture Transformed Human Evolution. The University of Chicago Press.
  3. Blute, Marion. 2006. Gene-Culture Coevolutionary Games. Social Forces 85(1): 151-166. Laland, Kevin N., John Odling-Smee & Sean Myles. 2010. How Culture Shaped the Human Genome: Bringing Genetics and the Human Sciences Together. Nature Reviews Genetics 11:137-148.

Suggested Further Reading

  1. Blute, Marion. 2010. Darwinian Sociocultural Evolution: Solutions to Dilemmas in Cultural and Social Theory. Cambridge University Press.
  2. Hodgson, Geoffrey M. & Thorbjørn Knudsen. 2010. Darwin’s Conjecture: The Search for General Principles of Social & Economic Evolution. The University of Chicago Press.
  3. Mesoudi, Alex. 2011. Cultural Evolution: How Darwinian Theory Can Explain Human Culture & Synthesize the Social Sciences. The University of Chicago Press.
  4. Runciman, W. G. 2009. The Theory of Cultural and Social Selection. Cambridge University Press.
  5. Whiten, Andrew, Robert A. Hinde, Christopher B. Stringer & Kevin N. Laland, eds. 2012. Culture Evolves. Oxford University Press.
  6. Hull, David. 1990. Science as a Process: An Evolutionary Account of the Social and Conceptual Development of Science. University of Chicago Press.