Re: Social Evolution *is* Linear

Kevin Hendrickson (hndrcksn@MUSEUM.CL.MSU.EDU)
Fri, 13 May 1994 16:01:56 -0500

I wrote:

> At any rate I still don't have a clear
>>picture of the way in which "Social Evolution" is related to Biological
>>Evolution. Perhaps I'm incorrect in assuming that Bio Evolution is the
>>intended model, but, assuming it is, are there any counterparts to
>>mutation, gene flow, etc in "Social Evolution"?


>Seems to me that counterparts to mutation = any new practise or custom or
>invention. Thus (to
>refer to the earlier posts, I know nothing about this personally) when one
>person decides to take
>a partner along when going sealing, that is a mutation. When all the people
>who take partners
>live and the ones who do not take partners die, that is a successful mutation.
>If things go the
>other way around, you could call that a stupid idea, or you could call it an
>mutation. Thus for example making VHS players has turned out to be a
>successful mutation,
>while making Betas has not.

Interesting analogy. But there are a couple problems here. Mutations can
occur randomly naturally or are induced by mutagenic agents (chemical,
nuclear). The kind we are interested in here must result in inheritable
characteristics and must occur in sex cells. At any rate the affect the
mutation has on the organism possessing it is independent of the mutation
process itself. What I mean is this: an individual may have a mutated gene
that allows her survive a new deadly strain of flu. The gene may have been
created in her during the cell replication process of birth or passed down
from one of her ancestors. What is important to keep in mind is that the
mutation is not predicated upon or created in response to the deadly strain
of flu. All we can say about the mutated gene is that prior to the
existence of the new flu, it was neither selected for or against by the
process of Natural Selection. Now that the flu is here it is used by
Natural Selection to select for those who have it to survive the flu i.e.
this individual and her progeny or relations with the gene are going to
survive. However the examples given (new practices in sealing, VHS, etc)
are not so randomly arrived at. Inventions in particular are likely to come
up and be used in situations where there is a perceived need. Steam engines
existed in China before Europe, but steam power didn't developed first in
China, because at the time all needs were being met with human/animal
power. Similarly, the Beta vs VHS does not fit with my understanding of
mutation in genes. The quality of video signal reproduced in Beta tapes is
much better than VHS, but in this instance it wasn't product quality that
decided the victor. It was marketting and market saturation. At any rate
the idea of "Beta is bad" or "Beta is not as successful" could not predate
the existence of VCRs and movies on tape and home entertainment and it is
these factors that decided the fate of Beta.

>Gene flow, I suppose, is when you teach your children how to tie their shoes.
>Or when you
>teach them to like KoolAde. Not everything we teach them is beneficial, just
>as not everything
>we inherit genetically is beneficial. One advantage of social evolution over
>biological evolution is
>that children can be and are taught by many people besides their parents.

Are we talking about the success of people here (the children?) or of the
ideas passed around by parents and other intruments of instruction?

>I have been asked to read a book called Ishmael (sorry I forget the author's
>name) and to
>consider adopting it for a freshman course. I am still reading it, so will not
>comment yet, but I
>would welcome other people's comments if they have read it. It's about a
>gorilla who has
>figured out what is wrong with mankind. (sorry humanity? less sexist?)
>Karen Eva Carr
>History Department
>Portland State University
>Portland Oregon 97203
>(503) 725-5472

| Kevin Hendrickson / "Nyabinghi Warrior" |
| / / |