April 3, 2023

12:00 pm - 1:30 pm 352 Haines Hall

Richard McElreath
Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology

"The Problem with Cultural Evolution"


Abstract: The field of cultural evolution, like any rapidly growing field, has some pruning to do. In this talk I will outline some problems with the field and suggest some paths forward. Parts of cultural evolution are an undisciplined bandwagon characterized by vague theorizing or even worse no theorizing at all. It is methodologically chaotic, and links between theory and evidence are often more metaphorical than logical. Some of the most prominent cultural evolution research is exaggerated story-telling sinking on a swamp of illogical and opaque data analysis. The field has tremendous potential as a scientific framework for the study of animal and human societies. But it must invest more in self-criticism and rigor, if it is going to do more than produce entertainment for the college-educated.

Zoom link: https://ucla.zoom.us/j/92826436236?pwd=SytQNTNPSWdwaDNlTm05d2srdXNHUT09

Meeting ID: 928 2643 6236

Passcode: BEC

host: UCLA BEC