File Name: biological and cultural factors in human evolution .zip
- Cultural Evolution Society
- Interaction between Biological and Cultural Factors in Human Social Behavior
- Biological and Cultural Evolution
- The Smithsonian Institution's Human Origins Program
Human evolution is the lengthy process of change by which people originated from apelike ancestors. Scientific evidence shows that the physical and behavioral traits shared by all people originated from apelike ancestors and evolved over a period of approximately six million years. One of the earliest defining human traits, bipedalism -- the ability to walk on two legs -- evolved over 4 million years ago. Other important human characteristics -- such as a large and complex brain, the ability to make and use tools, and the capacity for language -- developed more recently. Many advanced traits -- including complex symbolic expression, art, and elaborate cultural diversity -- emerged mainly during the past , years.
Cultural Evolution Society
In the near future, we will be in possession of genetic engineering technology which allows us to move genes precisely and massively from one species to another. Careless or commercially driven use of this technology could make the concept of species meaningless, mixing up populations and mating systems so that much of the individuality of species would be lost. Cultural evolution gave us the power to do this.
To preserve our wildlife as nature evolved it, the machinery of biological evolution must be protected from the homogenizing effects of cultural evolution. Unfortunately, the first of our two tasks, the nurture of a brotherhood of man, has been made possible only by the dominant role of cultural evolution in recent centuries. The cultural evolution that damages and endangers natural diversity is the same force that drives human brotherhood through the mutual understanding of diverse societies.
Cultural evolution will be the main force driving our future. In addition to fundamental contributions ranging from number theory to quantum electrodynamics, he has worked on nuclear reactors, solid-state physics, ferromagnetism, astrophysics, and biology, looking for problems where elegant mathematics could be usefully applied.
In the Pirandello play, "Six Characters in Search of an Author", the six characters come on stage, one after another, each of them pushing the story in a different unexpected direction. I use Pirandello's title as a metaphor for the pioneers in our understanding of the concept of evolution over the last two centuries.
Here are my six characters with their six themes. Charles Darwin : The Diversity Paradox. Herbert Wells : Varieties of Human Experience. Richard Dawkins : Genes and Memes. The story that they are telling is of a grand transition that occurred about fifty thousand years ago, when the driving force of evolution changed from biology to culture, and the direction changed from diversification to unification of species.
The understanding of this story can perhaps help us to deal more wisely with our responsibilities as stewards of our planet. In the Pirandello play, "Six Characters in Search of an Author", the six characters are actors who arrive at a theater to begin rehearsing a play. The theater manager apologetically informs them that there has been a misunderstanding and he has no play for them to rehearse.
He begs the actors to go home. But the leading actor refuses to leave and starts improvising a play, making up the story as he goes along. One by one, the other actors join in, each of them pushing the story in a different unexpected direction. At the end of the performance, all the actors are fully engaged, and together they bring the story to a dramatic climax. I have borrowed Pirandello's title, and used his characters, as a metaphor for the pioneers in our understanding of the concept of evolution over the last two centuries.
Until recently, evolution was considered to be a biological process, driven by the slowly acting forces of speciation and extinction. Speciation is the birth of new species by splitting of an existing species into genetically isolated populations that do not interbreed. Extinction is the disappearance of a species that dies out without leaving descendants. He demonstrated, with a wealth of evidence, from observations of species in the wild and from the effects of selective breeding of plants and animals, that natural selection is [a] powerful force driving evolution.
His book made a stronger statement, that natural selection is [the] cause of evolution. The difference between [a] and [the] was hardly noticed by the readers of his book. His theory triumphed and became for a hundred years the view of evolution accepted by almost all biologists and by the majority of educated people. Darwin himself was well aware that nature contains many mysteries that his theory does not easily explain.
There is a mismatch between the real world, with its amazing richness of diverse species, many of them obviously burdened with superfluous flowers and feathers, and the theoretical world of Darwinian evolution in which only the fittest should survive. Naively, we should expect Darwinian evolution to result in a world with a much smaller number of species, each selected by superior fitness to be a winner in the game of survival.
All through his life, Darwin was puzzled by the abundance of weird and wonderful species that look like losers but still survive. I call this abundance the diversity paradox. If only the fittest survive, we should expect to find a few hundred superbly fit species adapted to live in various habitats. Darwin looked at the real world and found an extravagant display of species, with a great diversity of superficial differences.
He saw elaborate structures that are expensive to maintain. The theory of evolution by natural selection should tend to keep creatures plain and simple, but nature appears to prefer structures that are elegant and complicated. Darwin understood that sexual reproduction is a powerful cause of diversity of species.
For a sexual species to exist and survive, it is advantageous to have distinctive ornamentation of one sex, usually the male, and a strong preference of the other sex for a mate with that particular ornament. The mating system causes the population possessing it to be genetically isolated from other related populations. The mating system becomes a genetic barrier, creating a new species and maintaining its identity.
A species like the bird of paradise with an elaborate mating system may derive enough advantage from the uniqueness of the system to pay for the cost of the feathers. Another cause of diversity of species is symbiosis, enabling two or more species to help each other to survive or to reproduce. A conspicuous example of symbiosis leading to diversity is the simultaneous evolution of flowering plants and insects.
Another example is the coral reef and the reef-fish. Darwin concluded that sexual selection and symbiotic coevolution would explain the overall diversity of natural ecologies. But he had no hard evidence to justify this conclusion. We now know that he was mistaken.
Another cause of diversity, of which he had no conception, also plays a dominant role in natural evolution. Darwin knew nothing of genes. He was unaware of the work of Gregor Mendel, the Austrian monk who worked in his monastery garden and did experiments on the inheritance of pod-color in peas. Mendel discovered that heritable traits such as pod-color are inherited in discrete packages which he called genes.
Any act of sexual reproduction of two parents with different genes results in offspring with a random distribution of the parental genes.
Heredity in any population is a random process, resulting in a redistribution of genes between parents and offspring. The numbers of genes of various types are maintained on the average from generation to generation, but the numbers in each individual offspring are random.
Mendel had read Darwin's book, but Darwin never read Mendel's paper. In , the year when Mendel's paper was published, Darwin did a very similar experiment, using snap-dragons instead of peas, and testing the inheritance of flower-shape instead of pod-color. Like Mendel, he bred three generations of plants, and observed the ratio of normal-shaped to star-shaped flowers in the third generation. Unlike Mendel, he had no understanding of the mathematics of statistical variations.
He used only third-generation plants and obtained a value of 2. This result did not suggest any clear picture of the way flower-shapes are inherited. He stopped the experiment and explored the question no further. Darwin did not understand that he would need a much larger sample to obtain a statistically significant result. Mendel understood statistics. His sample was sixty-four times larger than Darwin's, so that his statistical uncertainty was eight times smaller.
He used plants. Mendel's essential insight was to see that sexual reproduction is a system for introducing randomness into inheritance. In peas as in humans, inheritance is carried by genes that are handed down from parents to offspring.
His simple theory of inheritance carried by genes predicted a ratio of three between green and yellow pods in the third generation. He found a ratio of 3. This gave him confidence that the theory was correct. His experiment required immense patience, continuing for eight years with meticulous attention to detail. Every plant was carefully isolated to prevent any intruding bee from causing an unintended fertilization.
A monastery garden was an ideal place for such experiments. Unfortunately, his experiments ended when his monastic order promoted him to the rank of abbot. Obedient to his vows, he ceased to be an explorer and became an administrator. The idea of genes remained generally unknown to biologists until twenty years after Darwin's death. Darwin imagined various ways of mixing inherited traits of parents and distributing them to offspring, but he never imagined genes.
Without the concept of genes, it was impossible for him to calculate correctly the rates of speciation and extinction in any natural population. He never attempted such calculations. If he had made such calculations with a model of inheritance based on mixing, he would have got drastically wrong answers. He had the good sense not to make such calculations without a verified model of inheritance. Without experimental knowledge of the statistics of inheritance, he had no way to guess reliably how effective natural selection could be in creating new species and exterminating old ones.
At this point in the play, our second character enters, Motoo Kimura, author of the book, The Neutral Theory of Molecular Evolution , published in , more than a hundred years after Darwin's masterpiece.
Kimura was a Japanese geneticist who came as a student to work with Sewall Wright at the University of Wisconsin. Sewall Wright was one of the biologists who explored the evolutionary implications of Mendel's discovery after Mendel's paper was rediscovered in I was lucky to meet Sewall Wright accidentally at the faculty club at the University of Wisconsin in I was visiting the University and went to the faculty club for lunch.
Sitting alone at a small table was a lively old man who turned out to be Sewall Wright, then 98 years old but still in full possession of his wits. He gave me a first-hand account of how he read Mendel's paper and decided to devote his life to understanding the consequences of Mendel's ideas. Wright understood that the inheritance of genes would cause a fundamental randomness in all evolutionary processes.
The phenomenon of randomness in evolution was called Genetic Drift. Kimura came to Wisconsin to learn about Genetic Drift, and then returned to Japan. After the discovery of the structure of DNA molecules by Crick and Watson in , Kimura knew that genes are molecules, carrying genetic information in a simple code.
His theory applied only to evolution driven by the statistical inheritance of molecules. He called it the Neutral Theory because it introduced Genetic Drift as a driving force of evolution independent of natural selection.
I never met Kimura, but he was still alive when I began to study his work, and I was delighted to receive a personal message of encouragement from him before he died in
Interaction between Biological and Cultural Factors in Human Social Behavior
This observation has been explained by the fact that we possess a secondary inheritance mechanism, culture, in addition to a genetic system. Because it is assumed that cultural evolution occurs faster than biological evolution, humans can adapt to new ecosystems more rapidly than other animals. This assumption, however, has never been tested empirically. Here, I compare rates of change in human technologies to rates of change in animal morphologies. I find that rates of cultural evolution are inversely correlated with the time interval over which they are measured, which is similar to what is known for biological rates. This correlation explains why the pace of cultural evolution appears faster when measured over recent time periods, where time intervals are often shorter. Controlling for the correlation between rates and time intervals, I show that 1 cultural evolution is faster than biological evolution; 2 this effect holds true even when the generation time of species is controlled for; and 3 culture allows us to evolve over short time scales, which are normally accessible only to short-lived species, while at the same time allowing for us to enjoy the benefits of having a long life history.
Biological and Cultural Evolution
Yet while cultural evolution can be described as Darwinian in this sense, the details of the processes e. Bearing these differences in mind, cultural evolution researchers have taken many of the same methods, tools, and concepts that biologists have developed to explain biological diversity and complexity and used them to explain similar diversity and complexity in cultural systems. Given this interdisciplinary breadth, it has been suggested that evolutionary theory may serve as a synthetic framework for unifying the social sciences, just as evolutionary theory synthesized the biological sciences during the early 20th century. Mesoudi, et al.
Human evolution is the evolutionary process that led to the emergence of anatomically modern humans , beginning with the evolutionary history of primates —in particular genus Homo —and leading to the emergence of Homo sapiens as a distinct species of the hominid family, which includes the great apes. This process involved the gradual development of traits such as human bipedalism and language ,  as well as interbreeding with other hominins , which indicate that human evolution was not linear but a web. The study of human evolution involves several scientific disciplines, including physical anthropology , primatology , archaeology , paleontology , neurobiology , ethology , linguistics , evolutionary psychology , embryology and genetics. Human evolution from its first separation from the last common ancestor of humans and chimpanzees is characterized by a number of morphological , developmental , physiological , and behavioral changes. The most significant of these adaptations are bipedalism, increased brain size, lengthened ontogeny gestation and infancy , and decreased sexual dimorphism.
The Smithsonian Institution's Human Origins Program
Fields of Anthropology. There are now four major fields of anthropology: biological anthropology, cultural anthropology, linguistic anthropology, and archaeology. Each focuses on a different set of research interests and generally uses different research techniques. The methods range from those commonly used by the social sciences and humanities to those of biology and geology. Biological anthropology and archaeology are generally the closest to the biological and physical sciences in methods and approach to learning about the human experience.
In the near future, we will be in possession of genetic engineering technology which allows us to move genes precisely and massively from one species to another. Careless or commercially driven use of this technology could make the concept of species meaningless, mixing up populations and mating systems so that much of the individuality of species would be lost. Cultural evolution gave us the power to do this. To preserve our wildlife as nature evolved it, the machinery of biological evolution must be protected from the homogenizing effects of cultural evolution. Unfortunately, the first of our two tasks, the nurture of a brotherhood of man, has been made possible only by the dominant role of cultural evolution in recent centuries.
Cultural evolution is an evolutionary theory of social change. It follows from the definition of culture as "information capable of affecting individuals' behavior that they acquire from other members of their species through teaching, imitation and other forms of social transmission". Cultural evolution, historically also known as sociocultural evolution , was originally developed in the 19th century by anthropologists stemming from Charles Darwin 's research on evolution. Today, cultural evolution has become the basis for a growing field of scientific research in the social sciences, including anthropology, economics, psychology and organizational studies. Previously, it was believed that social change resulted from biological adaptations , but anthropologists now commonly accept that social changes arise in consequence of a combination of social, evolutionary and biological influences. There have been a number of different approaches to the study of cultural evolution, including dual inheritance theory , sociocultural evolution , memetics , cultural evolutionism and other variants on cultural selection theory. The approaches differ not just in the history of their development and discipline of origin but in how they conceptualize the process of cultural evolution and the assumptions, theories and methods that they apply to its study.
These are extremely important aspects of understand- ing and are Both biological and cultural evolution, and human function as well, are mokled to a large.
Annals of Theoretical Psychology pp Cite as. Professor Rushton has produced a scholarly, well-argued, and up-to-date account of the present state of sociobiology—that is, the view that not only the abilities but also the main traits underlying human social behavior have a substantial genetic component and that they have evolved among animals and humans according to Darwinian theory of natural selection. One of the reasons why other expositions by Wilson and Campbell have been criticized is that they are hghly speculative, lacking in experimental and other forms of scientific evidence. Rushton has culled the literature very widely, all the way from animal and cross-cultural psychology and historical anthropology to statistical studies of individual differences. Thus most of his claims are accompanied by relevant confirmatory evidence. The paper, therefore, should be of considerable interest and value to psychologists and students. Unable to display preview.
The core idea of cultural evolution is that cultural change constitutes an evolutionary process that shares fundamental similarities with — but also differs in key ways from — genetic evolution.
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