What is the New Directions in the Evolutionary Social Sciences conference about?
In a nutshell, this conference is about new or otherwise neglected approaches to studying cultural evolution and the evolution of human capacities for culture – what I’ve called (somewhat provocatively) the ‘Evolutionary Social Sciences’. There are now a wide range of methods and tools for studying these phenomena, and this conference aims to introduce and raise awareness of these methods.
What are the big questions/issues/themes addressed by this conference?
One of the most interesting issues is the relationship between contemporary approaches of data gathering and modelling, and what we might think of as more ‘applied’ approaches: ethnography and archaeology come to mind. One area where I hope to hear some great discussions is on the methodological and explanatory relationships between work in these ‘Evolutionary Social Sciences’ and the flesh-and-blood phenomena of the applied sciences.
Another area where I hope we have some substantial dialogue is on the foundational assumptions of how culture works. Several of the early formal modelling approaches – particularly Robert Boyd and Peter J. Richerson’s text Culture and the Evolutionary Process – have a number of interesting but contestable assumptions built in. Many of the approaches that will be discussed at this conference bring in different and sometimes competing assumptions. Considering the explanatory trade-offs between such different sets of assumptions would be incredibly fruitful.
Who will it be of interest to?
We have anthropologists, philosophers, primatologists and mathematicians on the programme, along with commentaries from zoologists, paleoanthropologists, and geneticists.
Generally, if you are interested in the evolution of capacities for culture or how culture can be understood, then this conference should have something of interest to you.
How can people find out more?
Individuals can get in touch with the conference convener Andrew Buskell (ab2086 [@] cam.ac.uk) if they have more questions – otherwise, check our conference website.
New Directions in the Evolutionary Social Sciences takes place at CRASSH, University of Cambridge, on 13 - 14 December 2016.
Registration is now open: £50 (or £25 student/unwaged). Registration deadline: 4 December.