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The Evolution of Cultural Entities$
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Michael Wheeler, John Ziman, and Margaret A. Boden

Print publication date: 2002

Print ISBN-13: 9780197262627

Published to British Academy Scholarship Online: January 2015

DOI: 10.5871/bacad/9780197262627.001.0001

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Introduction: Selectionist Reasoning as a Tool of Thought

Introduction: Selectionist Reasoning as a Tool of Thought

(p.1) Introduction: Selectionist Reasoning as a Tool of Thought
The Evolution of Cultural Entities

John Ziman

British Academy

This chapter focuses on a new mode of metascientific reasoning that applies the underlying rationale of Charles Darwin's explanation of the ‘Origin of Species’ to many other examples of historical change. More specifically, it examines the ‘evolutionary paradigm of rationality’ which can be summed up in the formula: BVSR = Blind Variation + Selective Retention. It shows how selection in reasoning applies to the changing membership of a population, rather than to changes that might be taking place in any particular member of that population; how the adaptive nature of the Darwinian process results in a population whose members are more ‘fit’ — that is, better able to satisfy the criteria of selection; and the essentially naturalistic nature of evolutionary reasoning. It also discusses bio-organic evolution as a classic example of a Darwinian process; the concept of ‘artificial life’ in relation to many evolutionary phenomena; the evolution of primitive human artefacts and other cultural entities; and the application of evolutionary reasoning to the history of science. The chapter concludes by looking at evolutionary reasoning as a ‘tool of thought’.

Keywords:   evolutionary reasoning, Charles Darwin, evolutionary paradigm of rationality, blind variation, selective retention, BVSR, selection, bio-organic evolution, artificial life, cultural entities

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