Re: What Is Natural?

26 Jan 1995 16:49 CST

In article <>, (Thomas Pardoe) writes...
>In the previous thread on whether extinction by human pollution etc.
>constituted natural selection, someone mentioned something about it
>not being so because human intervention in the environment (i.e.
>culture and technology) is not in itself natural. (I don't remember
>who, and that's not my point). I don't wish to restart the whole
>natural selection x-postflamefest, but I wish to pose a question:
> Hasn't homo sapiens' (sapien's?) primary adpatation to the
>world been cultural, specifically, technological? And if so, aren't
>cultural and technological adaptations therefore "natural"? I
>recognize of course that over time, cultural adaptations likely result
>in physical and genetic changes in brain structure and function.
> Potential sources further insight: Don Ihde, "Technology in the Lifeworld,"
>and David Rothenberg's "Hand's End."
> Just askin'...
>Thomas Pardoe
>Carleton University

I'll take responsibility for that post. Yes, culture *began* as a natural
adaptation to the environment (as Service and Sahlins point out and expound
on in _Evolution and Culture_) but it has, IMHO, developed into
something far more complex and "unnatural." Because of culture humans have
ceased to _evolve_ biologically as a result of *environmental conditions* [in
large measure--I'm sure there are minor characteristics, such as the brain and
cognitive capacities, that are still evolving--but you get my drift]. In fact,
Philip Tobias claims that the brain has become the central focus of further
evolution in homo sapiens. Good news for psychological anthropology!

Culture has become the buffer between us and the environment to such an extent
that *it* evolves in our place. This is my basis for claiming that we have
become so removed from nature that we, as well as our technology [what is
natural about what I'm doing right now?], have become decidedly "unnatural."
I know I feel unnatural everytime I go camping :-)

my $0.02,
james benthall