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Title: A complex systems theory and model of cultural evolution and revolution : the case of Homo sapiens
Author: Bond, P. L.
ISNI:       0000 0004 6422 3940
Awarding Body: University of Liverpool
Current Institution: University of Liverpool
Date of Award: 2017
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The primary aim of this dissertation is to develop a theory and model of the evolutionary and revolutionary phases of change in human cultures valid from prehistory to the present. Its originality derives from the adoption of a radical theory of living and cognition devised by biologists and neuroscientists Humberto Maturana and Francisco Varela, referred to as a biology of cognition (BoC), autopoietic theory, or a theory of constitutive ontologies (suggesting an entanglement of living entities). The demand for a new theory arises from the strong discontent felt amongst some palaeoanthropologists and archaeologists of a failure to develop a satisfactory theory of Homo evolution. Some believe the failure is due to the absence a robust theory of evolution that satisfactorily explains how genes, brain, body and the cultural world co-evolve. This is also apparent in the recognised absence of a satisfactory theory of technical cognition that links brain, body and world in actions such as, tool using or making. The main thrust of this work has been to reveal the mechanism that operates between brain and body, body and world, which Maturana and Varela describe as structural coupling. The nature of structural coupling is such that organisms may only know their world through their senses. Some only have chemical senses, while others are endowed with different permutations and combinations. However, what sets humans apart from all other animals, is that we live in language, or in conversations about our sense making experiences of the world. Although sounding radical, with a hint of solipsism, living in language is presented as an alternative explanation to the one currently favoured in human origins research, that we are symbolic animals, and our behaviour is mediated by symbols. The living in language hypothesis leads to the proposition that culture is a closed network of conversations, which are flows of emotions entwined with flows of co-ordinated actions or behaviours. Further, that networks of conversations are supra-critical or unstable systems. A supra-critical system is one in which novelty and variety is produced on an explosive scale, and when such phases occur there is revolution. However, and paradoxically, the supra-critical state is ameliorated by what it produces, that is, the products (artefacts) and associated processes (or techniques), around which new, but temporary, stable subcritical structures precipitate. This defines a period of evolution.
Supervisor: Gowlett, J. ; Archibald, Z. Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral