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Replicate After Reading. On the extraction and evocation of cultural information.

Boudry, Maarten (2018) Replicate After Reading. On the extraction and evocation of cultural information. [Preprint]

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Does cultural evolution happen by a process of copying or replication? And how exactly does cultural transmission compare with that paradigmatic case of replication, the copying of DNA in living cells? Theorists of cultural evolution are divided on these issues. The most important objection to the replication model has been leveled by Dan Sperber and his colleagues. Cultural transmission, they argue, is almost always reconstructive and transformative, while strict ‘replication’ can be seen as a rare limiting case at most. By means of some thought experiments and intuition pumps, I clear up some confusion about what qualifies as ‘replication’. I propose a distinction between evocation and extraction of cultural information, applying these concepts at different levels of resolution. I defend a purely abstract and information-theoretical definition of replication, while rejecting more material conceptions. In the end, even after taking Sperber’s valuable and important points on board, the notion of cultural replication remains a valid and useful one. This is fortunate, because we need it for certain explanatory projects (e.g., understanding cumulative cultural adaptations).

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Item Type: Preprint
Boudry, Maarten
Keywords: Keywords: cultural evolution; replication; information; granularity; extraction and evocation; memes
Subjects: Specific Sciences > Biology > Evolutionary Theory
Depositing User: Maarten Maarten Boudry
Date Deposited: 02 Jul 2018 13:47
Last Modified: 02 Jul 2018 13:47
Item ID: 14835
Subjects: Specific Sciences > Biology > Evolutionary Theory
Date: 18 May 2018

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