Re: A Further Note

Dwight W. Read (dread@ANTHRO.UCLA.EDU)
Wed, 31 Jul 1996 07:36:32 -0700

Snower comments:
>But then we must introduce an ordering principle, SUCH AS NATURAL SELECTION
>(successfully) to eliminate this ordering principle, at the individual
>level. BUT NOT AT THE GROUP LEVEL. It seems to me quite plausible that the
>myriad of early societies were compelled to complete ONE against the OTHER
>for survival, the group's destiny, and its particular BRAND of cultural
>solution, being at stake. This conversion of the selection process from the
>individual unit to the group unit being the whole point of the primordial
>cultural device, thereby enabling the altruism required by a highly
>differentiated society of animals not genetically qualified for it.

The tricky part is to get from individual selection to group selection.
Note that Snower's statement goes against the idea of cultural "memes."

>A further note:
>But this "selection" is a little different. It is truly a "natural"
>selection, because biological life and death survival--of the group--is at
>stake. But a biological trait is not being selected. A biological
>structure of the group is not being selected. A cultural construction is
>being selected. Therefore outsiders do not have to lament their biology.
>No need to blame it on genetics. Every culture is free to change. Or any
>individual is free to move, to emigrate from one culture to another, and to
>adopt the new culture, as is commonly in fact done. Unless the local
>nativist politicos keep him out. After all, culture is a hypothesis.
>Anyone is free to make it. Unlike genetics.
I don't so much as disagree with this comment as just wanting to note that
the process being identified is not natural selection. There IS some kind
of selection operating--other wise all "social/cultural" variants would be
equally plausible, yet that does not seem to be the case as evidenced by the
amount of patterning that seems to characterize human societies. Natural
selection need not be thought of in terms of biological traits, but any
trait that is subject to the process defined by natural selection. Does
that processs, even if stripped of its biological language, apply to what is
being discussed here? Only if a series of assumptions are made about the
nature of a "cultural construction."

D. Read