Genetic change (Was Re: The Anthroplogy of the New World)

Domingo Martinez-Castilla (
Mon, 5 Dec 1994 16:59:03 GMT

In article <3bt0iu$> (whittet) writes:
>I am curious as to whether there is any evidence that man has existed
>long enough in the new world to evolve any adaptations.
>It would seem at first glance that there are a number of
>possible differences, related to things like diet, climate,
>lifestyle, and behavior in general as well as genetics.

This posting raises an interesting topic that relates to all the discussions
about "race" (no, please, I do not want to argue about whether the term is
valid) and other genetically determined differences, which indirectly pop up
in this newsgroup once in a while. It is argued, ever since Darwin, that
cultural forces impose upon genetic selection quite a bigger impact than
biological forces, like the variations suggested in the paragraph above. In
other words, humans (and some other culturally adept species) may accelerate
genetic change through sexual selection, thanks to the strong preference most
humans show to mate with individuals matching the overall desirable
characteristics of a given culture.

Consequences of this culturally-driven genetic selection could be:

1. Human groups are more closely related (genotypically) to each other than
what most particular individuals tend to believe, and phenotypical
characteristics may change very fast, as compared with other non domesticated
species (domestic species are also adept to fast culturally-driven genetic
changes, usually imposed by H. sapiens, as it happens in dogs, cats, cattle,
sheep, etc.) (Cf. also studies on DNA, mytochondrial or not.)

2. Rivalry among groups is quite deeper (and bloodier) among, understandably,
neighboring groups, but notice that it does not matter if they are of similar
phenotypes (cf. Balkans today; examples abound) or not (cf. South Africa,
USA, Brazil). Cases of true extremination of one (large) group by another do
not seem to abound (I am not really sure of this, but "total solutions" seem
to fail, which does not mean they do not cause a lot of pain and anguish in
the group dealt with the lower hand.) (Note that dissapearance of cultures in
the Americas has happened, but it has been driven -in opinion of many- first
and chiefly by disease, with Europeans finishing the job later.)

Aside: However, in the Americas, extreme cultural complexity did not follow
the "rules" established by European historians to define a "civilization"
(please, if you want to discuss what "civ." means, change the subject line in
the follow-up). No wheel anywhere to be seen; in MesoAmerica, no large
domestic species (which, of course, helps to explain -with the landscape in
many areas- why wheels were not so successful); in the Andes, no writing (even
though they were better accountants than anybody before them). This contrasts
with the extremely successful agroiculture, large cities, etc.)



Domingo Martinez-Castilla