International Society for History, Philosophy, and Social Studies of Biology

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WEDNESDAY, JULY 8  /  15:30 - 17:00  /  DS-1525
Individual papers
Disunity, Culture and Evolution

The disunity of cultural group selection

Olivier Morin (Central European University, Hungary)

Cultural Group Selection (CGS) is touted as a solution to the problem of explaining the rise of large-scale cooperation among humans. I will argue that CGS is not a coherent theory, but a collection of models with discrepant assumptions and objectives. Two objectives can be distinguished. One is to justify the claim that evolutionarily altruistic behaviors (reducing the agent's fitness at the expense of a group) are frequent and matter to the evolution of cooperation. The other objective is to provide a mechanism for equilibrium selection, the process by which sub-optimal forms of cooperation are replaced by stable ones. Equilibrium selection may occur without evolutionary or behavioral altruism. 'Altruistic' models face a difficulty that Equilibrium Selection models do not face: individuals are not purely selfless or irrational. They would rather join coalitions, or adopt institutions, that do not demand uncompensated sacrifices. Historically, CGS was able to counter this objection by assuming that cultural evolution is mostly driven by group-level demographic dynamics (birth rates, wars, etc.), which decide the outcomes of competition between coalitions. Such forces are arguably beyond the power of individual decisions to control, which is what made CGS attractive to social scientists since Hayek. Yet, this assumption is arguably too demanding. Equilibrium selection models can function without it: in recent theorizing (e.g. the work of Peter Richerson), the mere diffusion of mutually beneficial institutional practices (e.g. using insurances, or adopting majority voting) qualifies as CGS, because it promotes mutually beneficial cooperation. Selection between competing coalitions is no longer crucial. Such forms of CGS are morphing into a variety of functionalism, the twentieth-century doctrine that stressed the contribution of culture to social cohesion. This disunity is a sign of dynamism, but we run the risk of buying into CGS' most controversial claims inadvertently, when we endorse its milder versions.

The “final wave” model for the evolution of cognitively modern humans: A multi-level approach

Andrea Parravicini (Università degli Studi di Padova, Italy); Telmo Pievani (Università degli Studi di Padova, Italy)

Growing evidence corroborates the hypothesis of multiple waves undertaken by Homo sapiens populations out of Africa. Recent data show that the emergence of symbolic behaviors coincides with the final third wave. New southern African dating and chronological reconstructions of Still Bay and Howieson's Poort industries (about 75-60Kya) seem to confirm the occurrence of punctuated bursts of technological and behavioral innovation, which may be strictly linked to climate changes and demographic fluctuations in southern Africa. We propose the Final Wave model stating that one of these bursts of innovation have been particularly successful in contributing to bring a small population of H. sapiens (carrying L3 mt-DNA haplogroup) out of Africa, together with the symbolic capacities showed by the members of this group in Europe and in South East Asia. This model exemplifies, on the one hand, how we could integrate archaeological, paleoclimatological, molecular and demographic data in order to explain the biological and cultural evolution of cognitively modern humans. On the other, it is an ideal example of the the way a hierarchical framework works within the evolutionary processes, as the model reveals the presence of a complex interplay among patterns and processes belonging to different hierarchical levels (ecological and genealogical).

Normative cognition and the disunification of moral judgment: Ontogenetic and phylogenetic perspectives

Ivan Gonzalez-Cabrera** (Australian National University, Australia)

Moral judgments are neither a unified domain (Sinnott-Armstrong & Wheatley, 2012, 2013) nor a natural kind (Kelly & Stich, 2008; Kelly, Stich, Haley, Eng, & Fessler, 2007; Nado, Kelly, & Stich, 2009; Sripada & Stich, 2007). This suggests that the class of moral judgments is determined by the speakers’ intentions, with members of that class sharing a form of family resemblance. Empirical sciences such as evolutionary biology and cognitive science should then focus on broader categories of normative judgments along the lines of Nichol’s (2002, 2004) approach of norms with feelings or Sripada and Stich’s (2007) psychology of norms, and/or more specific varieties of moral judgments (see for instance Mameli, 2013). In this paper will sketch how this enterprise can be carried out by looking at some findings in developmental and comparative psychology. I will explain how a basic capacity of normative judgment can produce some varieties of moral judgments, and how this capacity emerges during ontogeny. Finally, I will suggest some evolutionary hypotheses about the evolutionary trajectory of this multi-dimensional capacity for moral judgments.