Social Evolution

Mon, 16 May 1994 14:35:36 CDT

The fact that human societies, and their cultures, change over time
makes it possible to study such change; and some of us are interested in
trying to generalize about such change over the relatively long term. I
think this is what identifies social, cultural, or sociocultural
evolutionists as such. The value of analogies between biological and
sociocultural evolution is another question. My own view is that such
analogies are of little value except as mind-stretchers at an
introductory level. A more interesting possibility is that social and
cultural evolution should be thought of not as analogous to, but
literally as continuations of, organic evolution in a modified form. I
have come to suspect that organic evolution favors species that use
energy well relative to the species surround them. Among K-selected for
ms, this eventually would produce species evolved to high technology,
for whom use of huge quantities of energy non-metabolically was entirely
"natural." I know that such speculations about species-level selection
are anathema to many biologists; but this one makes a great deal of
sense out of the general course of biological and cultural evolution.
--Bob Graber