Evolution and Climbing: Uniting Two Memes

My latest essay for my favorite class (probably because it combines writing and evolution as opposed to my usual chemistry and math) narrowed in on the cultural evolution of the rock climbing community. We were prompted to choose our own subject for cultural evolution, and how could I miss the opportunity to delve into my favorite sport-pastime? I’ve spent a lot of time interacting with climbing at the physical level and a decent chunk of my writing on this blog making wild speculations and proposing novel ventures about and in climbing, but I hadn’t previously taken the time to properly survey rock climbing as a whole. And what better way to do it than through the wonderfully revealing lens of cultural evolution?

My ideas on cultural evolution have been heavily influenced by two books, so I’d suggest reading The Selfish Gene by Richard Dawkins and Cultural Evolution by Alex Mesoudi if you want everything I say here to make sense. The more I talk about cultural evolution, the more I understand that these books have put me on a different page than I was before. I now have many assumptions about cultural evolution incorporated into my arguments that I directly draw from these two books, and–try as I might–I’m not entirely aware of when I’m stepping past common assumptions into the ideas of these books. I think that says a lot about the two, specifically that their arguments appeal very effectively to common sense, making their somewhat counter-intuitive conclusions appear as natural extensions of the common frame of understanding.

Anyway, that’s all just an excuse for me saying you should read the books and then tell me what you think of them. They’re fascinating, and I don’t agree with every thing they say. If you read them both, you’ll basically have completed two-thirds of an honors college course, so you can claim you learned something substantial.

Another book I’m reading, as a result of my attempt to fit rock climbing into the framework of cultural evolution, is Rock Climbing by Timothy Kidd and Jennifer Hazelrigs. The search for quality literature on rock climbing, a culture still several steps from mainstream, was surprisingly difficult. I think these two made solid work in pinning down much of the basics of rock climbing, and I appreciate that. I’ve already learned a few things from this book, and I hope it continues to interest me.

That’s really all I have time for right now, a brief description of one of my recent projects and a mild book review. Naturally, with interest I could post some interesting excerpts from the essay, but I won’t push that right now. I’m absolutely bogged down with courses and work, but I’m happy to say I’ve made the OU Apes of Wrath A-team for this upcoming season and that my research is just about ready to start writing a paper while also launching new, truly groundbreaking projects.

I’ve also played a game of drunk backseat chess since my last post, making what would have been a relatively demure house-party into a wild frenzy of delirious, nerdy, alcohol-fueled semi-intellectual competition. It’s wonderful having friends who understand the merits of chess as a drinking game…


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