Re: Religion: definition of

Gerold Firl (
28 Apr 1995 13:58:51 -0700 (Don Steehler) (quoted with permission) writes:

> In article <>, says...

>>Culture fits the definition of a _complex adaptive system_ perfectly, and as
>>such, it follows the evolutionary logic of other adaptive systems. A religion
>>which does not reflect the specific requirements of cultural survival at that
>>time and place will not last.

>>Evolution is far more than just the strong killing the weak. Symbiosis and
>>competition work hand-in-glove to produce stable systems.

>Yes. Consider the following table:

>Form "Culture" Example
>Cell DNA/Genetic code Amoeba
>Animal Neuro-Endocrine Physiology Frog
>Human Society Cultural "memes" Islam

See also Lazlo, _evolution: the grand synthesis_ for a concise summary of
the similarity of evolutionary processes at all levels of organization,
from the basic units of matter (subatomic particles, atoms, molecules, etc)
to the macroscopic large-scale structures (stars, galaxies, galactic
clusters) and the orthogonal axis of complexity in the living world, from
cell to organism to culture.

Rather than using the term "culture" in your table, which I would reserve
for animal societies, I think something like "organizational system" would
be preferable.

>"Analogous" processes in the different forms ("levels") of organization
>suggest that more is involved than the strong killing the weak.


Some of the work done by people studying complexity and evolutionary
theory, such as Stuart Kaufman, come to mind. As our understanding of
evolutionary processes deepens, the importance of interactions between
subsystems has increased. The linkages are key. Roger Lewins book
_complexity_ gives a very readible overview; a little lacking in
mathematical rigor, but in consequence very accessable and entertaining.

The concept of a _fitness landscape_ is a little difficult to concisely
describe, but briefly, picture a topological surface in gene-space, where
the height of the surface is a measure of fitness (probability of survival
and reproduction). Each peak is a local maximum, and selection drives each
species towards a peak. Now, the landscape changes with time, as a result
of changes in the environment. What has recently been understood is that
the most important part of the environment is the other inhabitants, with
which each species interacts.

Another key point to remember is that history is a one-way street;
evolution is constrained to work within the limitations imposed by
immediate conditions. Worms get their biggest pay-off by developing better
ways of crawling; wings are not very useful to a worm.

Birds and worms do co-evolve, however. In time, they come to depend on one
another. This is seen most clearly in studies of isolated ecologies, such
as islands. On prince edward isle in canada, huge fluctuations in the
population of snowshoe hares and lynxes are observed, which puts both
species at risk of extinction. A stable predator-prey relationship is
beneficial all around.

>You may find an article by Arthur S. Iberall interesting:

>"A Physical Contribution to Understanding Information Processing Systems such
>as Societies of Complex Particles, People or Neurons" in Vol. 12 of the
>Journal of Social and Biological Structure (pp. 357-366). He discusses a
>generalized meaning of "culture."

Looks interesting. Anyone care to summarize?

>You may be interested in an article by Vilmos Csanyi:

>"The Shift from Group to Idea Cohesion Is a Major Step in Cultural Evolution"
>in Vol. 30 of _World Futures_ (pp. 75-82). He develops an argument similar to

Like sci.anthro; most of us will never meet, but we are united by our
interest in human culture.

Disclaimer claims dat de claims claimed in dis are de claims of meself,
me, and me alone, so sue us god. I won't tell Bill & Dave if you won't.
=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=---- Gerold Firl @ ..hplabs!hp-sdd!geroldf