1. Joined
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    13 Sep '16 22:161 edit
    Looking for guidance on these questions:

    Wikipedia defines (biological) evolution as "change in the heritable characteristics of biological populations over successive generations."

    Agree with this nontechnical definition?

    Are there characteristics of populations that change in non biological ways?

    What I am getting at is the idea of cultural evolution, a kind of change in cultural institutions, change that exhibits variation and selection, loosely called survival of the fittest.

    Could it be that species that have cultural institutions that evolve, have underlying heritable biological characteristics that select for capacity to adapt cultural institutions to their benefit? In short, is there a change-tolerant or even change-friendly gene?
  2. Joined
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    14 Sep '16 06:442 edits
    they were talking about Darwinian biological evolution, not any other kind of evolution.

    It is a common misconception that Darwinian biological evolution is just all about "the survival of the fittest". If that was true, peacock feathers would never have evolved. It is more about "survival of the genes that give the greatest reproductive advantage". Of course, generally, just one of the minimal requirements for something to reproduce is that it must survive at least just long enough to have a chance to do so. There are some exceptions though such as with worker ants and worker bees etc where it is more about helping someone else reproducing similar genes to your own.
  3. Joined
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    14 Sep '16 08:16
    Originally posted by humy
    they were talking about Darwinian biological evolution, not any other kind of evolution.

    It is a common misconception that Darwinian biological evolution is just all about "the survival of the fittest". If that was true, peacock feathers would never have evolved. It is more about "survival of the genes that give the greatest reproductive advantage". Of cours ...[text shortened]... rker bees etc where it is more about helping someone else reproducing similar genes to your own.
    clarification;
    "There are some exceptions"
    should have been;
    "There are some exceptions to evolution being about the individual reproducing"
  4. Cape Town
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    14 Sep '16 08:52
    Originally posted by JS357
    What I am getting at is the idea of cultural evolution, a kind of change in cultural institutions, change that exhibits variation and selection, loosely called survival of the fittest.
    Cultural evolution is a well known and well studied phenomena and applies to all aspects of culture including warfare, religion and more.

    Could it be that species that have cultural institutions that evolve, have underlying heritable biological characteristics that select for capacity to adapt cultural institutions to their benefit? In short, is there a change-tolerant or even change-friendly gene?
    Yes and no. I would say that humans and other species that experience cultural evolution do have genetic characteristics that enable them to use culture to their advantage. I doubt that those genes are unique to some populations or that successful cultures are successful because of particular genes.
    Cultural evolution is, after all, the concept that culture can evolve independent of genes.

    (And never say 'gene' singular for such things as there are almost always many genes involved.)
  5. Cape Town
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    14 Sep '16 08:582 edits
    Originally posted by humy
    It is a common misconception that Darwinian biological evolution is just all about "the survival of the fittest". If that was true, peacock feathers would never have evolved.
    It is less a misconception about it being all about 'survival of the fittest' and more a misconception about what 'fittest' means in the context. To be 'fit' in this context means able to survive and reproduce in the environment in which the organism is. So peacocks that can attract mates are 'fitter' than peacocks that can't. The term refers to 'fit for the purpose' rather than 'physical fitness'. As you note, it does not fit well with the mechanism of kin selection and often under-recognised aspect of evolution.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Survival_of_the_fittest

    Darwin and others noted that 'survival of the fittest' had some advantages over 'natural selection' as the latter suggests a conscious selection process (another common misconception), wheres the reality is more like a sieve in some cases and a competition in others.
  6. Standard memberDeepThought
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    15 Sep '16 01:101 edit
    Originally posted by JS357
    Looking for guidance on these questions:

    Wikipedia defines (biological) evolution as "change in the heritable characteristics of biological populations over successive generations."

    Agree with this nontechnical definition?

    Are there characteristics of populations that change in non biological ways?

    What I am getting at is the idea of cultural evolu ...[text shortened]... nstitutions to their benefit? In short, is there a change-tolerant or even change-friendly gene?
    I think your other points have been well answered, I'm looking at the last sentence:
    Could it be that species that have cultural institutions that evolve, have underlying heritable biological characteristics that select for capacity to adapt cultural institutions to their benefit? In short, is there a change-tolerant or even change-friendly gene?
    I'm not sure that this is quite the right way of thinking about it. Genes contain all the instructions necessary to create a human (or other creature) with its own individual characteristics, not all of which are specified by the genome - the specific pattern of fingerprints is essentially random although that we have finger prints is genetic. So genes code for specific arrangements of tissues. The arrangements of muscles, bones, and tendons give us particular potential abilities and these abilities allow behaviours. If our hips were a little different then walking would be much harder. A culture is a collection of behaviours, the behaviours themselves are in general not genetically determined, but the physical characteristics that allow them are.

    I was reading about the changes in stone age cultures on Wikipedia. About 200 kya prepared stone cores start appearing. In this method one first prepares a core and then fashions it into whichever tool one wants. This requires that one plans, one has to visualize the intermediate step and see how it connects with the end product. Early homonins probably did not have the mental equipment to do this, see Brodmann area 10 which is huge in humans compared with chimps. Chimps cannot fashion stone tools, it was tried with a female chimp, she got the idea but didn't get that one has to vary the angle and striking force, she eventually became frustrated and smashed the striking stone onto the tool stone which broke it into pieces and she picked out a shard which was good enough. So cultural changes can be connected to genetic changes, but only over evolutionary time spans.

    I'm a little wary of the concept of cultural evolution. Cultures are capable of being completely revolutionized in really small time-spans. Even in theories such as punctuated equilibrium genetic evolution takes some time as the new genes have to become generalized within the population. But I do not think that there is likely to be a genotype that produces individuals who are more or less accepting of cultural change.
  7. Cape Town
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    15 Sep '16 08:35
    Originally posted by DeepThought
    I'm a little wary of the concept of cultural evolution.
    After some thought I think I may be confusing culture with learning. Styles of fighting spread in an evolutionary manner, ie those methods that work, are picked up by neighbouring groups. But that is essentially knowledge not culture. The problem is that many aspects of culture are also knowledge.
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