Cultural Evolution: How Darwinian Theory Can Explain Human Culture and Synthesize the Social Sciences

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follow link And whereas genetic information is expressed as proteins and ultimately physical structures such as limbs and eyes, culturally acquired information is expressed in the form of behavior, speech, artifacts, and institutions. This definition of culture encompasses in one way or another all of the colloquial uses of culture noted above. Culture includes the Japanese grammar and vocabulary, Japanese norms, and Japanese customs that a Japanese child acquires that contribute to maintaining the specific "Japanese culture.

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Cultural groups are not always the same as nation-states, though: there is substantial variation in the customs and values of people living in different regions of Japan, while Japanese customs such as chopstick use have diffused to many other nations. Culture also includes the literature, music, and art that make up "high culture," although it is by no means limited to this. Celebrity gossip about the latest relationship problems of Hollywood movie stars is just as much a part of human culture as are the works of William Shakespeare.

And culture includes those norms and practices that may have been transmitted from banker to banker via imitation or direct instruction that create and maintain selfish behavior within an organization. According to this definition, culture is defined as information rather than behavior in anthropological jargon, it is an ideational definition of culture.

Restricting our definition of culture to information does not mean to say that culturally acquired information does not affect behavior. Of course it does, otherwise it would be a useless concept for explaining human behavior. However, as anthropologist Lee Cronk makes clear, it is important to distinguish between culture and behavior for two reasons.

First, if behavior is the thing we are trying to explain, then including it in the definition of culture makes cultural explanations for behavior circular. A thing cannot explain itself, at least not in any useful sense. And second, there are other causes of behavior besides culture. In fact, this is a useful way of defining culture: by what it is not. First, as noted above, culture can be distinguished from information that we acquire genetically , from our biological parents, which is stored as DNA base pair sequences and expressed as proteins and, ultimately, as entire organisms.

Second, culture can be distinguished from information that we acquire through individual learning , which describes the process of learning on our own with no influence from other individuals. While individually learned information, like culturally acquired information, is stored in the brain, it is not acquired from other individuals via cultural transmission.

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In Search of Pedagogy Volume I. Of course it does, otherwise it would be a useless concept for explaining human behavior. Evidence reviewed from the perspective of The Origin of Species. For more information or to contact an Oxford Sales Representative click here. First, as noted above, culture can be distinguished from information that we acquire genetically , from our biological parents, which is stored as DNA base pair sequences and expressed as proteins and, ultimately, as entire organisms. Cultural groups are not always the same as nation-states, though: there is substantial variation in the customs and values of people living in different regions of Japan, while Japanese customs such as chopstick use have diffused to many other nations.

This distinction between genetically, culturally, and individually acquired information is important, because even if we observe variation between people and groups in some behavioral practice, we cannot automatically assume that the explanation of this behavioral variation is culture. Take variation in alcohol drinking, for example. Some variation in alcohol drinking is most likely cultural in origin, for example, resulting from the culturally transmitted norms prohibiting the drinking of alcohol found in religions such as Islam, or the more informal prodrinking norms found in certain social groups such as university fraternities and sororities.

But some variation might be the result of individual learning, where a person independently decides to drink or not to drink alcohol because they like or dislike its taste or its effects. Other variation in alcohol drinking might be genetic. Indeed, certain genetic alleles have recently been found to increase a person's risk of alcohol dependency such that people with these alleles have higher alcohol intake than people without these alleles.

Many East Asians, on the other hand, lack a different genetic allele that would allow them to digest alcohol, potentially decreasing the frequency of alcohol drinking in that group. Given these alternative explanations for human behavioral variation, how can we be sure that culture really is important, compared to genes and individual learning?

It is often said that the United States is a nation of immigrants.

Can Cultural Evolution Help Integrate the Social Sciences?

Leaving aside the issue of the several million Native Americans who already lived on the continent, the early European settlers of North America did indeed come from various countries, including Britain, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, and Scandinavia. As anyone who has traveled across Europe will be aware, while the inhabitants of each of these countries are broadly similar in their beliefs and attitudes at least compared to, say, Japan or India , there are also significant differences between European countries.

One such difference relates to values and attitudes concerning civic duty. These include various traits that can be considered beneficial to a liberal democratic society, such as the tendencies to donate to charity and conduct voluntary work, to vote in elections, to organize local pressure groups and labor unions, to regularly read newspapers and thus be able to make informed democratic decisions , and to support social equality and representation for minorities.

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Some countries, such as Denmark, Norway, and Sweden, are high in average civic duty. Their inhabitants willingly donate to charity, vote, volunteer, and so on. Other countries, such as Italy and Spain, rank somewhat lower in average civic duty. Their inhabitants are less likely to, among other things, donate to charity, vote, and volunteer. To political scientists Tom Rice and Jan Feldman, this cultural variation in civic duty presented a natural experiment that could test to what extent cultural differences persist over time.

Rice and Feldman reasoned that if values related to civic duty are faithfully passed via cultural transmission from parent to child and teacher to pupil, down the generations, then perhaps the civic duty of contemporary Americans could be predicted by the specific European country that their settler ancestors came from. So Rice and Feldman calculated the civic duty for Americans of various European ancestries. They did this using the answers to such questions as "Do you regularly read a news paper?

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The book Cultural Evolution: How Darwinian Theory Can Explain Human Culture and Synthesize the Social Sciences, Alex Mesoudi is published by University. Cultural Evolution: How Darwinian Theory Can Explain Human Culture and Synthesize the Social Sciences [Alex Mesoudi] on dynipalo.tk *FREE* shipping.

Rice and Feldman's results were just as they predicted. Americans who claim to be descended from settlers from European countries that have high civic duty, such as Denmark, Norway, and Sweden, themselves have relatively high civic duty.

Cultural Evolution

Americans who claim to be descended from European countries that have low civic duty, such as Italy and Spain, have relatively low civic duty. This can be seen in figure 1. See what's been added to the collection in the current 1 2 3 4 5 6 weeks months years. Your reader barcode: Your last name:. Cite this Email this Add to favourites Print this page.

Arnon Lotem - Towards A Science Of Culture Within A Darwinian Evolutionary Framework

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