Re: Culture

Dave Rindos (arkeo4@UNIWA.UWA.EDU.AU)
Sun, 30 Jan 1994 14:08:20 +0800

On Sat, 29 Jan 1994, Lt Commander Data wrote:

> On Fri, 28 Jan 1994, Rafael Candido Alvarado wrote:

> > >Lt Commander Data has written:
> > >Culture is, simply, learned behavior. Embodied in that simple statement
> > >are all the apsects of culture that you need: learned = reproduced;
> > >behavior = human activity and the products thereof.

Pardon me for jumping in on this (and apologies if this point has already
been made, but I only recently joined the list).... it seems that learned
behaviours should NOT be confused with culturally transmitted ones --
there are numerous things an individual might learn (the simpliest example
might be a conditioned reflex) which are not cultural in any sense of that
term. Richerson and Boyd make this point strongly in their volume; I make
similar points in some of my papers. The basic, underlying, point, is that
cultural learning must occur between individuals. It doesn't become part
of culture (in the partative sense of "a culture") unless this occurs.

I think it also goes, almost without saying, that our phylogenetic
precursors likely did a GREAT deal of individual learning long before a
well-developed capacity for cultural transmission ever existed. Hence,
culture in the general sense (the generative sense of "the cultural
capacity" which may, or may not, be what meant by the "internal factors"
in the post referred to here [?]) had to evolve by means of a very different
route than that which leads to individual learning.

> This is an intriguing conundrum: did culture arise after we had gained
> the ability to change our niche, or did we learn to change our niche, and
> subsequently develop culture? I would argue that it is a case of changing
> our niche = development of culture (they are, in other words, the same
> thing, and therefore separation of the two is unproductive).

Or is it possibly better said that the "human niche," in fact, is culture??
Viewed in those terms (that the human social environment is the MAJOR
determinant of biological fitness for individual humans) it at least
becomes somewhat comprehensible that a capacity for cultural (as opposed to
individual) learning might have evolved at all!


Dave Rindos
Australian Foundation for Archaeological Sciences
20 Herdsmans Parade Wembley WA 6014 AUSTRALIA
Ph:+61 9 387 6281 (GMT+8) FAX:+61 9 380 1051 (USEST+13)