Resolving the Anti-Antievolutionism Dilemma: A Brief for Relational Evolutionary Thinking in Anthropology



ABSTRACT  Anthropologists often disagree about whether, or in what ways, anthropology is “evolutionary.” Anthropologists defending accounts of primate or human biological development and evolution that conflict with mainstream “neo-Darwinian” thinking have sometimes been called “creationists” or have been accused of being “antiscience.” As a result, many cultural anthropologists struggle with an “anti-antievolutionism” dilemma: they are more comfortable opposing the critics of evolutionary biology, broadly conceived, than they are defending mainstream evolutionary views with which they disagree. Evolutionary theory, however, comes in many forms. Relational evolutionary approaches such as Developmental Systems Theory, niche construction, and autopoiesis–natural drift augment mainstream evolutionary thinking in ways that should prove attractive to many anthropologists who wish to affirm evolution but are dissatisfied with current “neo-Darwinian” hegemony. Relational evolutionary thinking moves evolutionary discussion away from reductionism and sterile nature–nurture debates and promises to enable fresh approaches to a range of problems across the subfields of anthropology. [Keywords: evolutionary anthropology, Developmental Systems Theory, niche construction, autopoeisis, natural drift]