Re: More Evolutionary Thoughts

William Roberts (wroberts@LAB1.SMCM.EDU)
Sun, 10 Sep 1995 09:10:24 -0400

Among the topics on this network I've enjoyed in the past are
intelligence, emotion, and now evolution. Teaching my intro class about
social science and biological evolution, I've thought about
specialization as an adaptive strategy. Intelligence could represent
people's evolutionary specialization, and if intelligence and emotion are
linked, as I think they must be - then this represents a dangerous
combination for us as a species. In the short term, there are numerous
examples of deadly intra-human conflict such as Nazi Germany and many contemporary
examples in africa. In the long term there is the pollution of our
sometimes described as sacrificing future generations. All the children
of the world who have lost their status as one of the most important
resource for human groups represent a disturbing and dangerous break from
the proven primate pattern.

On the other hand, be of good cheer. David Givens (see last Sunday's
Washington Post magazine) uses the Price Club as an example of human
ability to colonize space. Technology certainly is a good candidate for
expanding human habitat to new ecozones.

Bill Roberts
St. Mary's College of MD

On Sun, 10 Sep 1995, Giacobbe John wrote:

> More Evolutionary Theory in Anthropology and Archaeology.
> I believe that for Darwinian evolutionary theory to be incorporated into
> an
> anthropological framework, some adjustments must be made. Partially to the
> application of
> the theory, and partially to our way of thinking about evolution and culture.
> Culture must be
> thought of as an adaptive strategy no different than long teeth or fast
> running speed. A
> unique aspect of this adaptation is that a cultural adaptive strategy has the
> potential to receive
> feedback from the environment, and then adjust the strategy parameters to the
> environmental
> situation within the lifetime of a single organism. No genetic change need
> occur for
> evolution to proceed once the genetic ability to develop culture is within
> the organisms
> phenotype. In addition, culture is additive in that social learning is
> transmitted within and
> between generations.
> These factors make evolutionary progression and success (as measured by
> reproductive success, adaptive radiation, and ecosystem dominance),
> exponentially more rapid
> than is possible by purely somatic adaptions. As a corollary to the
> behavioral aspects of this,
> I believe that we must find a way to be able to evaluate models of social
> transmission. In
> the biological-ecological sciences, ethologists (animal behavioralists) have
> discussed learned
> behaviors and their transmission by quantifying them as memes. Specific
> behavioral traits
> are in some way in the genetic code as a meme, or behavioral code, giving
> animals the
> potential to learn, without actually coding any information.
> This appears to me to fit nicely into an anthropological evolutionary
> framework.
> Not to go on a rant here, but let me conclude with this. Think of cultural
> traits, such as
> mating ritual, subsistence strategy, or stone tool manufacture technique, as
> a "cultural quanta"
> that is affected by selective processes. I believe that if we chart the
> changing frequency over
> time of the expression of this quanta, we have at least an empirical measure
> of cultural
> evolutionary change.
> John A. Giacobbe