Suggestions for research projects
based on cultural selection theory
Now that the theory of cultural selection has been developed into a powerful paradigm, a plethora of new research possibilities emerges, waiting to be explored. This research may contribute significantly to an improved understanding of our society. Obviously, I don't have the resources to delve into all these subjects myself. I have therefore provided this list of ideas for research projects, and I will be happy to assist any scientist who decides to devote his time and energy to one of these or a similar project.
- Mass media and democracy
- Commercial mass media are controlled by economic market forces. By the
selection and framing of news, the media in turn influence public opinion,
which again influence political decision makers in the democratic process.
This causal chain has such a profound and unintended influence on our
culture that a more thorough research in this area should have top priority.
See chapter 9.
- The development of industries is governed by economic laws which have been
studied for many years. Selection theory may contribute to the understanding
of this process by focusing on how the many micro-level economic selection
processes influence our culture on the macro level, for example by
concentration, convergence and globalization.
- Prioritizing public budgets
- Politicians don't want to prioritize because this inevitably makes them
unpopular by whoever comes low on their priority list. But if nobody makes
explicit priorities, then how are the resources divided between health care,
social relief, roads, education, culture, etc., etc.? There is obviously a
selection going on here, but the criteria or mechanisms are obscure. This
also applies to the prioritizing within each sector. The health sector, in
particular, is extremely touchy. Who is deciding whether the money goes to
cancer or psychiatry? Does an excessive amount of money go to the most prestigious
(and expensive) areas? Is it simply a battle of which patient organization
can make the most noise in the media? Are the capacity problems solved
simply by letting the waiting lists grow so long that patients die or give
up before they get to the operation table? Cost-benefit analyses have not
been very successful because the costs and benefits cannot be measured by
the same unit. An objective analysis of the selection mechanisms behind
these covert prioritizings would be extremely useful.
- Testing the cultural r/k theory
- The proposed cultural r/k theory has an
attractive explanatory power, but a more thorough verification of this
theory is still wanting. A statistical factor analysis on anthropological
data from the human relations area files, or similar data, would be very
useful for this purpose.
- Civil wars and refugee problems
- It may be predicted from the
cultural r/k theory that the time of big international wars is soon over,
while we will still see civil wars and terrorism for many decades to
come. It would be interesting to further analyze how these problems and the ensuing
migration of refugees influences the surrounding cultures according to the
cultural r/k theory.
- Art history
- It would be interesting to investigate whether historical changes in
art style are in agreement with the cultural r/k theory. Many different arts
could be considered, including music, painting, drama, literature,
- Meme theorists have developed a powerful set of concepts and tools for
studying the evolution of religions, but we are still waiting for a more
systematic application of these principles to historical data. The cultural
r/k theory can also contribute to this study.
- Population growth
- The general fertility seems to be strongly correlated with economic and
political factors, sexual mores, and other cultural factors. A better
understanding of these mechanisms could be useful for controlling population
growth and thus securing political and ecological stability.
- Technological development
- Some big computer companies attempt to push proprietary technologies in
order to strengthen their market position, while many customers prefer open
standards and the availability of second sources. An analysis of the various
selective forces behind this and similar conflicts may improve our
understanding of the mechanisms that determine which ways technologies go.
- The evolution of scientific theories
- Scientists generally agree that their theories must be selected according
to accepted norms of reproducibility, verification and falsification.
However, such tests are not always easily applied, especially not in soft
sciences such as psychology, sociology, philosophy, aesthetics, etc. Where
rigorous testing of theories is not possible, the development of a science
may be influenced more by ideology, selective funding and a peer review
process which occasionally is more peer than review. Some
scientific communities are able to run away into crazy excesses, and they
may not be subjected to corrective intervention from outside unless the
application of their theories has dramatic consequences, as in the case of
the theory of recovered memories. An analysis of the selection processes
that govern the development of such sciences is highly needed.
- Astrology, parapsychology, ufology, numerology, healing, alternative
medicine, etc., etc. How do the theorists of these teachings agree on what
to believe? What are the selective forces that guide the development of