For a population to undergo Darwinian evolution, that is, evolution by natural selection, it is assumed that the constituents of the population must reproduce. Put otherwise, parts of a population, such as organisms or genes, must form parent-offspring relationships, where the parents are both responsible for materially producing the offspring and for having offspring that are similar to them. Cases of extra-biological Darwinian evolution, such as cultural evolution (Cavalli-Sforza & Feldman 1981; Boyd and Richerson 1985) have been challenged through the claim that cultural variants do not reproduce because they hardly have lineage relationships (Sperber 1996, 2000; Godfrey-Smith 2009). If parent-offspring relationships were necessary for a population system to evolve, be it biologically or culturally, this would be a serious challenge to Darwinian theories of cultural evolution. In this talk, I challenge the assumption that parent-offspring relationships are required for a population system to undergo Darwinian evolution. I will analyze the notion of reproduction into two sub-processes, multiplication and inheritance, each producing a parent-offspring lineage, and will show that their evolutionary role, generation and memory respectively, can be effected by processes that do not rely on parent-offspring lineages between population parts. This means that reproduction is but one means to insure Darwinian evolution, and so dismissing cultural evolution on the basis that cultural variants do not reproduce is unsound.
Mathieu Charbonneau completed his PhD (2013) in the philosophy of science and of biology at the Université de Montréal. He is currently working as a post-doctoral fellow at the KLI, where he is pursuing a research project on the integration of development into theories of cultural evolution.