Re: Social Evolution

Dave Rindos (arkeo4@UNIWA.UWA.EDU.AU)
Mon, 23 May 1994 07:15:39 +0800

On Fri, 20 May 1994, Stephanie Wilson wrote:

> The analogy of biological evolution to cultural evolution being discussed
> is not a true correlation. This discussion came up several months ago
> and someone (Mike Leiber?) mentioned that a closer analogy is not to
> Darwinian Biological Evolution, but to Lamarkian Evolution. This
> difference is that Lamark thought that new traits came about from active
> changes in behavior, meaning that if there was a need for a
> more-resistant gene to flu (because of a new flu epidemic), it
> would/could appear in an individual and thus could be passed on to the
> next generation.

The mode of *inheritance* discussed here is, of course, present in ALL
conceptualisations of inheritance be they Lamarckian or Darwinian or even
Lyshenkoist. Matter of fact, it is pretty much the *definition* of
inheritance. Heck... new mutations ARE passed to offspring...

The mode of *evolution* is not really all that different either. IF a new
trait appears as a RESPONSE to an envrionmental change in INDIVIDUALS,
then spreads (as seems to be being implied here) it is not all that far
from, and is quite compatable with, Darwinian evolution. The example
chose here, immune response, might (not too likely I admit, but still
MIGHT) work something along these lines: It is within the realm of
possiblity that exposure to certain pathogens might produce heritable
changes in the genetic system controlling response to that pathogen (NOTE:
I am NOT claiming I accept this research, merely that it lies within the
realm of possibility). Here, different individuals have different
(qualitative and quantitative) response to the new pathogen, and this
response MIGHT be heritable. Accepting this mode of evolutionary response
would not cause one to be excommunicated from the High and Holy Church of
Darwin. :{) Such an EVOLVED response to the evolutionary stratagies of
pathogens would be quite theoretically acceptable (its empirical status
is an entirely different matter and that, of course, *is* of concern;
I see major problems in studying the phenomenon, but am wary of speaking
since it is SO far fron any area in which I can claim much knowledge).

So what WOULD be unsound theoretically? This would be if the ENTIRE
SPECIES AS A UNIT were to respond in an IDENTICAL, ADAPTIVE manner to the
appearance of a NEW environmental "problem." In an earlier post I referred
to "typological thinking" and talked a bit about the idea of the "species
essence" which is that which is wont to change under pre-1850ish-Darwinian
(and most of the anthropological) conceptualisations of evolutionary
change. The BIGGEST difference between Darwinian and other theories of
change have more to do with WHAT is changing than HOW it changes.

Does this make sense to you??

overjoyed because it is RAINING!!! Six months IS a long time to wait...