Commentary on “An evolutionary framework for cultural change: Selectionism versus communal exchange” by Liane Gabora
There is surely some truth to the notion that culture evolves, but the Darwinian view of culture is trivial. Gabora does two things in this paper. First, she levels a reasoned and devastating attack on the adequacy of a Darwinian theory of cultural evolution, showing that cultural evolution violates virtually all prerequisites to be encompassed by Darwin's standard theory. Second, she advances the central concept that it is whole world views that evolve. A world view emerges when the capacity of memories to evoke one another surpasses a phase transition yielding a richly interconnected conceptual web, a world view. She proposes that cultural evolves not through a Darwinian process such as meme theory, but through communal exchange of facets of world views. Each section of her argument is completely convincing.