There is a very quirky sentence right in the first chapter of Richerson & Boyd’s (2005) Not By Genes Alone that unintentionally defeats the very point they are making. After explaining why ‘culture is essential’ (the chapter title) and noting the influence of Darwin’s population thinking on biology, there is the following remarkable aside:
[I]f through some miracle of cloning Darwin were to be resurrected from his grave in Westminster Abbey, we think that he would be quite happy with the state of the science he launched. (p. 5)
Note how that statement in one breath essentializes biology (Darwin = his genes alone) and totally ignores culture (Darwin’s clone = Darwin now as then).
It would be a great miracle indeed if the encultured product of a cloning operation on Darwin’s remains would view Darwinism as ‘the science he launched’ and be happy with it! 1
- Richerson, Peter J., and Robert Boyd. 2005. Not by genes alone. How culture transformed human evolution. Chicago/London: University of Chicago Press.
- To see just one of the reasons this wouldn’t work, it is enough to turn back to the preceding page, where we read that “[T]he most fundamental questions of how humans came to be the kind of animal we are can only be answered by a theory in which culture has its proper role and in which it is intimately intertwined with other aspects of human biology. (p. 4)”. [↩]