The rapid interest in the emergent field of inquiry known as cultural evolution, and the high quality of research in this field, is leading to consequential changes in the study of human beings across the social and life sciences as well as the humanities. Cultural evolutionary science (CES) is encountering novel theoretical questions at a rapid pace, some of which are foundational, several of which are inadequately formulated or addressed. What is ‘culture’? What is the role of institutions in CES theories? Are mechanisms of explanation in cultural evolutionary science, like prestige bias, empirically tenable? How ought the relationship between genomics and cultural variation be framed?
This project proposes creation of a virtual research network (VRN) for philosophers of science to address these and other questions directly. The mission of the VRN is to catalyze new philosophical interest in foundational problems of cultural evolutionary science by provisioning a small group of excellent philosophers of science with incentive and cooperative context to enter this exciting area with ample background information, knowledge of major issues, and a network to aid ongoing collaboration. In a small supplemental component of this discovery-phase project, the PI and a collaborator will conduct a data science study mining academic publications in philosophy to enhance clarity about core questions the philosophy of science for cultural evolution.
The big question this project helps to answer is: What are the philosophical foundations of the science of culture? Seen in such a light, the project activities are related to Sir John Templeton’s interests in catalyzing discovery about human nature, science-based exploration of fundamental philosophical questions, and development of an intellectually humble approach to what he called “evolution.”