Twenty(-Something) Controversies in Ten Domains:

Be honest: You Really Want To See This Movie

Be honest: You Really Want To See This Movie

Controversy – (noun): argument that involves many people who strongly disagree about something; strong disagreement about something among a large group of people.

(Merriam-Webster dictionary)

See also:

Benford’s Law:

`Passion is inversely proportional to the amount of real information available.’

(Gregory Benford, 1980)

So since doing the StoryAlity research, one of my hobbies is collecting controversies.

Arguably, some of these `controversies’ listed below, aren’t in fact even valid controversies; but rather – just: widespread misunderstandings / incorrect underlying assumptions / arguments-from-ignorance and/or personal-incredulity.

As also recently witnessed, in some Comments, on this excellent article: http://www.themillions.com/2014/02/on-the-origin-of-novels-encountering-literary-darwinism.html

i.e.: A valid controversy assumes that both sides of the debate: (a) knows what they are talking about; and also (b) understands the subject-matter and the issues at hand.

As Professor Brian Boyd has noted, before making assumptions (like, say) assuming evocriticism is `reductionist and determinist’, (say) it is important to, actually, “read some literary Darwinism (or: Evocriticism), rather than theorize from a position of ignorance what it must be like“.

e.g.: There is a list of books on evocriticism, and consilience, here.

Also – by the way, I am currently convinced by Evolutionary Epistemology (see: Campbell, D.T. 1974. “Evolutionary epistemology.” In: Schlipp, P.A. (Ed.), The Philosophy of Karl Popper, Vol. I, 413–459. Illinois: La Salle.)

And, see also, this excellent paper: `Introduction to Evolutionary Epistemology, Language and Culture’ (2006) by Nathalie Gontier.

In which I note, Gontier (2006) writes:

`Evolutionary epistemology (EE) is the most controversial, the most fascinating and the most difficult discipline within philosophy today. It is controversial because it declares all other philosophical disciplines bankrupt, and explains itself as part of the sciences. At the same time, it is a fascinating and difficult
discipline because of its inter- and transdisciplinary character.’ (Gontier 2006, p.1)

So – I would first note one key domain controversy to those, listed below:

(0) – Philosophy

(0a) – The Evolutionary Epistemology controversy (see: DT Campbell 1974).

At any rate, let the other controversies begin: here come the domains…


The 13 nested domains involved in this thesis, within the discipline of Communications are:

Consilience > Evocriticism > Systems Theory > Creativity > Biology > Culture > Cultural Evolution > Narratology > Screenwriting > Filmmaking > Memetics > Philosophy.

13 Nested Domains (StoryAli)

13 Nested Domains (StoryAlity Theory, 2013)

And I will now briefly summarize the StoryAlity research before getting into the related controversies.

Most simply, the (StoryAlity) thesis asks: Why are some films more viral than others?

(i.e.: Why do they have a greater artistic cost-benefit ratio, in terms of audience-reach?)

Such as, the top 20 RoI films?

(Please Also Note: `viral’ does not always mean `popular’, though it can do; e.g.: top 20 RoI films Star Wars (1977) and ET (1982) were both viral, and also popular; whereas, Primer (2004) was viral, but not necessarily popular. All are fantastic films, in my own personal view.)

Also note, some films start out cult and later become classics (see: almost all of Stanley Kubrick’s – amazing – films.)

8 x Types of `Big-C’ Creativity in Film:

Films can – and do – move around between these categories over time, given evolutionary epistemology. 

8 Types of Creativity in Movies (StoryAlity 2013)

8 Types of Creativity in Movies (StoryAlity 2013)


Key Controversies In The Relevant Domains – for StoryAlity Theory (as @ 2014)

(1) Evolution (and, Evolutionary Psychology):

(1a) The Evolution vs. `Creationism’ (also, `Intelligent Design’) controversy;[1]

(1b) Out-Of-Africa (OOA) vs. Multi-Regional Continuity (MRC) genetic theory;[2]

(1c) The Sociobiology (Wilson 1975) controversy – including gene-culture coevolution, (Wilson & Lumsden 1981);[3]

(1d) Coding vs. non-coding genes (or, “junk DNA”)[4]

(1e) Weismannian vs. (and/or?) Lamarckian biological evolution in behavioural epigenetics[5]

(2) `Big-c’ Creativity:

(2a) Romantic/Inspirationist vs. rational/scientific views of Creativity;[6]

(3) Structuration theory:

(3a) Free will vs. determinism;[7]

(4) Screenwriting & (5) Filmmaking:

(4&5a) Screenwriting and filmmaking (or film `conception’ and `execution’) as one process vs. two separate processes;[8]

(4&5b) Empirical/consilient studies of the arts/objectivism vs. relativist/subjectivist (non-empirical/non-consilient) studies of the arts;[9]

(4&5c) Questions of the `primary authorship’ of a film (writer, or director `auteur’ theory) vs. group creativity theory;[10]

(4&5d) Aristotelian “Three-Act” structure. (i.e.: Aristotle never actually said, “3 Acts“.) Also, note that films that fail also have 3 `Acts’.

(6) Memetics

(6a) Memetics as a Kuhnian `pre-paradigm’ pseudoscience;[11]

(6b) Memes (ideas, processes, products) as `alive’ and/or `self-replicating due to an internal mechanism’, like molecular DNA/genes;[12]

Side Note – The meme or `unit of culture’ was identified here:

Velikovsky, J. T. (2016). `The Holon/Parton Theory of the Unit of Culture (or the Meme, and Narreme): In Science, Media, Entertainment and the Arts.‘ In A. Connor & S. Marks (Eds.), Creative Technologies for Multidisciplinary Applications. New York: IGI Global.

(7) Cultural evolution / Evolutionary Psychology

(7a) Evolutionary epistemology vs. radical constructivism/postmodernism;[13] (See also: Gontier 2006)

(7b) Language – as adaptation vs. byproduct/exaptation/co-opted adaptation (or, co-opted spandrel);[14]

(7c) The arts (fiction, movies, music) – as adaptation vs. spandrel;[15]

(7d) The `definition of culture’ controversy (including: whether nonhuman animals have culture);[16]

(7e) Culture-as-transmitted-information vs. culture-as-advanced-adaptation;[17]

(8) Evocriticism / biopoetics / literary Darwinism

(8a) Nomenclature for the discipline: `Evocriticism’ (Boyd 2012) vs. `biopoetics’ (Cooke & Turner 1999) vs. `literary Darwinism’ (Carroll 1995, 2004);[18]

 (9) The Humanities, Communication and `Creative’[19] Arts:

(9a) Consilience (and, evocriticism/biopoetics/literary Darwinism) vs. literary “Theory” in the Humanities, Communication Arts and `Creative’ Arts;[20]

(9b) `Reductionism vs. holism’ in consilience and evocriticism;[21]

(9c) Instinct vs Intentionality [22]

(9d) Human exceptionalism vs cross-species study [23]

NOTES: (please note – there is also, more stuff to read, down below these `Notes’)

[1] Buss (2012) notes: `A third objection [to Darwin’s theory] came from religious creationists… the controversy continues to this day. Although Darwin’s theory of evolution, with some important modifications, is the unifying and nearly universally accepted theory within the biological sciences, its application to humans, which Darwin clearly envisioned, still meets some resistance.’ (Buss 2012, p. 9-10)

[2] For a summary of the `OOA vs MRC genetic theory’ controversy, noting also that some do not see them as mutually-exclusive and therefore accept both theories, see: (Buss 2012, pp. 24-5)

[3] For a summary of the Sociobiology (1975) controversy, see (Buss 2012, pp. 16-7)

[4] See: `Breakthrough study overturns theory of ‘junk DNA’ in genome’, (Jha 2012)

[5] See: ‘Trait vs Fate: Grandma’s Experiences Leave a Mark on Your Genes’ (Hurley 2013)

[6] For a summary of the `Romantic vs rational view of creativity’ controversy, see: (McIntyre 2012, pp. 3-11). See also ‘What is a creative idea? Little-c versus Big-C creativity’ (Simonton 2013).

[7] For a summary of the `free will vs determinism’ controversy, see (Dennett 1984, pp. 1-18), and (Dennett 2003, p. Ch 1). See also (Poole & DeSanctis 2004, pp. 206-49) on controversies in structuration theory, as per (Giddens 1979, 1984).

[8] For the `film conception and execution as two separate stages’ controversy, see (Maras 2009, p. 179).

[9] See: (Peer, Hakemulder & Zyngier 2007, p. 6), though essentially this is also the same dichotomy/controversy as `Consilience vs “Theory”’.

[10] See (Bloore 2013) pp. 73-4.

[11] The key reason for charges of `Memetics as a pseudoscience’ (Benitez-Bribiesca 2001), (Pinker 2009), et al,  include that the unit of the meme has not yet been satisfactorily defined; this thesis advances a potential solution to that domain problem in Memetics. See also, posts #100-#108 at https://storyality.wordpress.com/an-index-to-this-blog/

[12] In the systems model of creativity (Csikszentmihalyi 1996, 2000), memes (cultural/non-genetic: ideas, processes, products) are `replicated’ (copied – with varying degrees of fidelity – and also combined, and transmitted) in human culture due to memes being selected, varied (sometimes also, combined) and transmitted by humans, but memes are not `alive’ nor `self-replicating’ due to any `internal mechanism’ in memes like molecular DNA/genes. For a critique of memes as a misconceived analogy, see: (Carroll in Buss 2005, p. 937). Not everything published to date about memes (or, about anything, for that matter) is correct. One way to empirically track the spread of a meme/memeplex as a holon/holarchy over time is (for example) to count the citations of a given academic paper, and the specific idea cited in each case.

[13] See (Kitching 2008 pp. 33-9) though essentially this is also the same dichotomy/controversy as `Consilience vs “Theory”’.

[14] For a summary of the `Language as adaptation vs. byproduct’ controversy, see (Buss 2012, p 400-1). See also `Adaptations, Exaptations, and Spandrels’ (Buss et al. 1998).

[15] See (Buss 2012, pp. 426-8) on courtship display theory vs spandrels in art, fiction, movies and music.

[16] Noting that `As far as can be seen, there is no consensus on the notion of culture anywhere to be found.’ (Peer, Hakemulder & Zyngier 2007, p. 30), see also: (White 1959) and it is noted that there are over 160 different definitions of `culture’ in (Kroeber & Kluckhohn 1952).

[17] See (Gatherer 1997).

[18] For critiques of some (controversial) variations on evolutionary literary theory, see also `Non-Adaptationist Forms of Evolutionary Criticism’ in (Carroll 2004, pp. xi-xiv).

[19] Given the scientific/rational definition of creativity, all arts and sciences are `creative’; this term `Creative Arts’ is problematic as it is a tautology, and indicates a Romantic view of creativity; see domain controversy (2a) above.

[20] For the `consilience (and evocriticism) vs “Theory”’ controversy, see: (Carroll 2004, pp. 29-39), (Gottschall 2008a, pp. 17-41), (Boyd 2009, p. 2), (Boyd, Carroll & Gottschall 2010, pp. 1-20), (Carroll et al. 2012, pp. 2-8), (Pinker 2002, pp. 415-7), and (Martindale 1990, pp. 2-3).

[21] For the `reductionism vs. holism’ controversy in evocriticism, see for example: (Gottschall 2008, pp. 35-6), (Boyd 2009, p. 2-3), (Carroll, Gottschall, Johnson, Kruger 2012, pp. 171-4).

[22] This feeds into the freewill vs determinism controversy

[23] Such as adaptive rhetoric, see: Adaptive Rhetoric: Evolution, Culture and the Art of Persuasion by Dr Alex C Parrish (2014). And – many thanks to Dr Parrish for the last 2 x suggestions – i.e.: Controversies (9c) and (9d) above.


Also, of course – there is always the excellent essay `Controversial Issues in Evolutionary Psychology’ (pp 145-73) by Edward H Hagen, in The Handbook of Evolutionary Psychology (Ed: Buss 2005).


Also, below is an illuminating quote from the edited volume on Evolutionary Psychology (EP), The Adapted Mind (1992) where, in the opening chapter/essay, The Psychological Foundations of Culture (Tooby & Cosmides 1992). Tooby & Cosmides comprehensively point out the defects of the prior paradigm, namely the Standard Social Science Model (SSSM) that dominated the social sciences for around 100 years, prior to the emergence of an alternate paradigm, namely Evolutionary Psychology (EP).

This is a just a very short excerpt below from The Adapted Mind (1992), but raises many important (past) `controversies’, many or most of which are false dichotomies/logical fallacies. (I would recommend reading the actual chapter itself, so that, as a reader of this brief excerpt below, you do not misinterpret / assume incorrectly what I, and also the chapter, are saying here, as, that would perhaps be very easy to do. But the main reason for this quote is the list of `controversies’ in the parentheses, though they are not really controversies, just misunderstandings – as they are false dichotomies.)

`The Moral Authority of the Standard Social Science Model – The overwhelming success of the Standard Social Science Model is attributable to many factors, of which, arguably, the most significant has been its widespread moral appeal. Over the course of the century, its strong stand against explaining differences between races, classes, sexes, or individuals by hypothesizing underlying biological differences has been an important element in combating a multitude of seating horrors and oppressions, from the extermination of ethnic groups and the forced sterilization of the poor to restrictive immigration laws and legally institutionalized sex and race discrimination. The depth of these tragedies and the importance of the issues involved have imbued the SSSM and its central precept, “environmentalism” with an impossible moral stature. Thus, to support the SSSM was to oppose racism and sexism and to challenge the SSSM was, intentionally or not, to lend support to racism, sexism, and more generally (an SSSM way of defining the problem), “biological determinism”. If biological ideas could be used to further such ends, then ideas that minimized the relevance of biology to human affairs, such as the tenets of the SSSM model, could only be to the good. In this process, all approaches explicitly involving nativist elements of whatever sort became suspect…

This morality play, seemingly bound forever to the wheel of intellectual life, has been through innumerable incarnations, playing itself out in different arenas in different times (rationalsim versus empiricism, heredity versus environment, instinct versus learning, nature versus nurture, human universals versus cultural relativism, human nature versus human culture, innate behaviour versus acquired behaviour, Chomsky versus Piaget, biological determinism versus social determinism, essentialism versus social construction, modularity versus domain generality, and so on)… As we will see, this framing is profoundly misleading.’

(Tooby & Cosmides in Barkow, Cosmides, Tooby [eds], 1992)


Just to briefly examine one example (human nature versus human culture), it is a mistake to attribute behaviour (either a specific particular of behaviour, or even human behaviour as a collective whole) to `one or the other’ when we come to `human nature’ vs `human culture’.

Biology, Society, Culture

Biology, Society, Culture

Human culture emerges from human nature, which emerges from human biology, which emerges from biology in general, and yet – all exist at once.They are confluence systems, and also they are holarchies; the `rules of the game’ that apply for one level of the holarchy, are not the same as those on different levels (see: Koestler 1979, Janus: A Summing Up).

Physico chemico bio psycho socio culturo politico directed evolution

Physico chemico bio psycho socio culturo politico, directed (biocultural) evolution

At any rate, I commend that book (The Adapted Mind, 1992) and especially that chapter to you. i.e. The Psychological Foundations of Culture (in The Adapted Mind, Tooby & Cosmides 1992).


So… Are there any major controversies in these domains, that above list of `20 Controversies in 10 Domains’, misses?

You think this is a GAME?

Actually, even Set Theory itself, is controversial. See Russell’s Paradox (from the Spring of 1901). i.e.: “Does the set of all sets, contain itself?”

In fact, I think Russell’s Paradox (1901) is not even a paradox, it just shows how all holon/partons have an assertive tendency (see Koestler, Janus: A Summing Up, 1979). …apparently, even sets want to evolve. Sheesh.

And – for more detail on the evolutionary systems (or, complexity) view of narrative and bioculture in general, see, this book chapter:

StoryAlity #132The holon/parton structure of the Meme, the unit of culture – and the narreme, or unit of story – book chapter (Velikovsky 2016)

And for a great consilience & creativity & evolution reading list, see:

StoryAlity #71On Consilience in the Arts / Humanities / Communication

Comments, always welcome. (Especially, controversial ones.)


JT Velikovsky

High-RoI Story/Screenplay/Movie and Transmedia Researcher

The above is (mostly) an adapted excerpt, from my doctoral thesis: “Communication, Creativity and Consilience in Cinema”. It is presented here for the benefit of fellow screenwriting, filmmaking and creativity researchers. For more, see https://aftrs.academia.edu/JTVelikovsky

JT Velikovsky is also a produced feature film screenwriter and million-selling transmedia writer-director-producer. He has been a professional story analyst for major film studios, film funding organizations, and for the national writer’s guild. For more see: http://on-writering.blogspot.com/



Velikovsky, J. T. (2016). `The Holon/Parton Theory of the Unit of Culture (or the Meme, and Narreme): In Science, Media, Entertainment and the Arts.‘ In A. Connor & S. Marks (Eds.), Creative Technologies for Multidisciplinary Applications. New York: IGI Global.



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