COLLOQUIUM: "Natural Artificiality: A Contested Pattern in Human Evolution"

Feb. 22, 2019

Friday, February 22, 2019 - 3:00pm, BEH 217
Phillip Honenberger, Department of Philosophy, University of Nevada at Las Vegas

In the course of the 19th and 20th centuries, a number of theorists proposed a particular pattern of relation between biological and cultural factors in human life: namely, that while capacity for culture is a selected-for or species-typical feature of human beings, the content of that culture is not equivalently selected-for or species-typical. This pattern poses interesting questions for evolutionary theory and theories of behavior, and (to the extent it applies) may have implications for epistemology, ethics, and social theory. My aim in this talk is to clarify how such a structure is possible from a contemporary biological standpoint, as well as to discriminate various types of pattern of this sort. In conducting the analysis I draw on recent discussions of species-typical "natures" as well as the effect of environment on phenotypic expression of a common genotype ("norms of reaction"), niche-construction theory, and gene-culture co-evolution.