Re: thought-experiment

Paul Gallagher (
14 Sep 1996 19:17:56 -0400

It's interesting that E.O. Wilson specifically addresses this question. He
believes the babies would grow up to form a culture significantly like our

This strikes me as unlikely. But even if (if!) it were true, what would
it prove? That culture serves definite survival functions, or that it
is genetic?

On one hand, you have the idea that culture is functional; on the other, that
human culture arises from the genes, and that the variation among human cultures
arises from variation in the genes. The latter may suggest the former, if
function is defined in the very narrow sense of increasing reproductive success
(but it need not be the case - genes don't necessarily confer a reproductive
advantage, and genes can have multiple effects, not all of them adaptive).
But in any case the former certainly does not imply the latter.

Indeed, I suspect the very best strategy for genes out to insure their
survival would be develop a system capable of bypassing the genes for
innovation and inheritance. A system capable of generating new forms and
transmitting them to others, not only one own's progeny, is much more
"adaptive" than one limited by rate of genetic mutation and transmission
through reproduction. Non-genetic innovation and transmission of cultural
forms would be a lot faster and more flexible than genetic evolution.

I don't want to imply that culture is functional. I am suggesting that a
culture that is autonomous from the genes would better serve the reproduction of
the genes than a culture that is determined by the genes.

I apologize for hijacking this thread for my own (my gene's?) purposes.