On October 12th, Jonathan Birch (LSE) is invited in the research seminar of the British Society for the Philosophy of Science Lecture (BSPSL) in (London School of Economics) (from 5.15 to 6.45 pm, LAK.2.06, 2nd floor of the Lakatos Building, Portugal Street). The title of his presentation will be “Kin selection, group selection and cultural change“.
Abstract: The relationship between kin and group selection is a vexed issue in evolutionary theory, and matters are not helped by a tendency to conflate questions of methodology with questions of causal reality. Drawing inspiration from W. D. Hamilton, I suggest we conceptualise the distinction between kin and group selection in terms of differences of degree in the structural features of populations. I then argue that we can usefully draw a parallel distinction in the case of cultural evolution. Cultural group selection, which involves competition between stable, well-defined ‘tribes’, has received a great deal of attention in recent years, despite its reliance on questionable assumptions. Cultural kin selection, which relies on kinship relations in more loosely structured social networks, has been largely neglected. I argue that cultural kin selection deserves much more theoretical and empirical attention than it has so far received.