More Evolutionary Thoughts

Giacobbe John (Catalinus@AOL.COM)
Sun, 10 Sep 1995 00:07:24 -0400

More Evolutionary Theory in Anthropology and Archaeology.

I believe that for Darwinian evolutionary theory to be incorporated into
anthropological framework, some adjustments must be made. Partially to the
application of
the theory, and partially to our way of thinking about evolution and culture.
Culture must be
thought of as an adaptive strategy no different than long teeth or fast
running speed. A
unique aspect of this adaptation is that a cultural adaptive strategy has the
potential to receive
feedback from the environment, and then adjust the strategy parameters to the
situation within the lifetime of a single organism. No genetic change need
occur for
evolution to proceed once the genetic ability to develop culture is within
the organisms
phenotype. In addition, culture is additive in that social learning is
transmitted within and
between generations.
These factors make evolutionary progression and success (as measured by
reproductive success, adaptive radiation, and ecosystem dominance),
exponentially more rapid
than is possible by purely somatic adaptions. As a corollary to the
behavioral aspects of this,
I believe that we must find a way to be able to evaluate models of social
transmission. In
the biological-ecological sciences, ethologists (animal behavioralists) have
discussed learned
behaviors and their transmission by quantifying them as memes. Specific
behavioral traits
are in some way in the genetic code as a meme, or behavioral code, giving
animals the
potential to learn, without actually coding any information.
This appears to me to fit nicely into an anthropological evolutionary
Not to go on a rant here, but let me conclude with this. Think of cultural
traits, such as
mating ritual, subsistence strategy, or stone tool manufacture technique, as
a "cultural quanta"
that is affected by selective processes. I believe that if we chart the
changing frequency over
time of the expression of this quanta, we have at least an empirical measure
of cultural
evolutionary change.

John A. Giacobbe