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.