Aug. 26: Models of Cultural Evolution (required)

Readings will be posted here. This is also where you will write most forum posts. If you aren't sure which readings are required, just check the schedule.
User avatar
ShawnMiller
Site Admin
Posts: 123
Joined: Wed Jul 22, 2015 2:59 pm
Contact:

Aug. 26: Models of Cultural Evolution (required)

Postby ShawnMiller » Wed Aug 19, 2015 1:16 pm

Models of Cultural Evolution” by Elliott Sober (1992)

uwogisele
Posts: 19
Joined: Tue Aug 04, 2015 11:50 am

Re: Aug. 26: Models of Cultural Evolution

Postby uwogisele » Fri Aug 21, 2015 2:11 pm

From the example of the Kamikaze pilot example, I was thinking of a slightly different explanation. "Boyd and Richerson postulate that cultural transmission favors common characteristics and works against rare ones". Cultural transmission may not be about choosing between what's common or not. In some cases, people choose what they choose to do because that's all they have ever seen. For instance, people in cults. I remember seeing a documentaries on cults in America and the authorities wanted to rescue a lot of young women from the older men that they were being married to, and the young women would angrily deny help. They saw the help from the authorities as an "intrusion" on their way of life! These people in the cult didn't choose their beliefs on the basis of favoring what's common over what's rare; they "chose" their beliefs because those where beliefs that imposed on them. I think cultural transmission is sociology issue and just like most sociology issues it's hard to "prove" why people do what they do, because they are many things at play.

twilliams
Posts: 20
Joined: Tue Aug 04, 2015 10:36 am

Re: Aug. 26: Models of Cultural Evolution

Postby twilliams » Sat Aug 22, 2015 7:52 pm

This is kind of off topic, but the kamikaze example as an instance of altruism is annoyingly naive. If you trace the series of causes in the logic of "ancient warrior mentality" in the "dying honorably for your country" sort of way, it is undoubtedly not altruistic. The reason they did this is because they thought they are being heroes for doing so, and society immortalizes its heroes. They thought they'd go down in history; especially in Japan which is very family-centric, where having a famous relative becomes a respected bragging right, these soldiers sacrificed themselves to achieve fame. For all intents and purposes, they sought to turn themselves into memes and spread them throughout their culture; of course they had no notion of meme theory, but you don't need to in order to understand how fame works. This is still a perfect example of how "memes" can over power favorable genetic traits, such as not blowing yourself up, but it is certainly not altruistic. But on that note, a question arises, where does this mentality come from? Some other animals don't have a concept of pride; if pride is intrinsic to humans genetically, is this actually a product of genetic evolution after all?

euriekim
Posts: 21
Joined: Mon Aug 03, 2015 6:54 pm

Re: Aug. 26: Models of Cultural Evolution

Postby euriekim » Sat Aug 22, 2015 10:17 pm

"Cavalli-Sforza and Feldman's idealized representation of the demographic transition in Europe. Mortality rates decline; then, after a time lag, the birth rate declines also." (24) I found it interesting that culture and teachings from parents or peers could influence the decline of the birth rate. It seems as though society has a knowledge or a sense of when to lower or heighten birth rates. It makes sense for the birth rate to follow the trend of the death rate in order to prevent species endangerment (BR<DR) or overpopulating and not having enough resources (BR>DR).

lksalinero
Posts: 22
Joined: Mon Aug 03, 2015 7:01 pm

Re: Aug. 26: Models of Cultural Evolution (required)

Postby lksalinero » Tue Aug 25, 2015 10:36 pm

Sober’s statement “Culture is often a more powerful determiner of change than biological evolution because cultural changes occur faster,” (35) is an ambitious claim. “Culture is more powerful than biological evolution,” seems to be such a broad sweeping proclamation. Yet the more I considered it, the more true it seemed, at least when considering changes in the human race in recent history and looking to the future. Though I don’t think this claim can be applied to all of human evolution, or to all possible organisms with culture.

User avatar
KelseyBS
Posts: 21
Joined: Mon Aug 03, 2015 5:56 pm

Re: Aug. 26: Models of Cultural Evolution (required)

Postby KelseyBS » Tue Aug 25, 2015 10:37 pm

Just looking at the graph (p. 26) showing the number of children born in different classes of families through time, I wonder what are the causes and implications of the data here. Are the families that are having less children becoming wealthier from spending less while those continuing to have more children become poor by comparison? Are the wealthier families having less children because they no longer need as many to help them with family business? Is having less children beneficial to families, but only the wealthier families have access to education giving them the knowledge to have less children.

ktoporovskaya
Posts: 19
Joined: Tue Aug 04, 2015 10:44 am

Re: Aug. 26: Models of Cultural Evolution (required)

Postby ktoporovskaya » Tue Aug 25, 2015 10:56 pm

The author’s topics are evolutionary and social sciences ideas. He credits social sciences for Darwin’s theory of evolution. When it comes to selection there are two influences in a selection process. One, differential fitness, is that the different characteristics can influence individual’s ability to survive and reproduce. Another one is that there must be some heritability where the offspring resembles the parent. I like that he points out that resemblance of the offspring does not necessary mean genetic, the behavior that the parent teaches the offspring is just as important for survivability. It is a unique idea to consider that fitness can be determined by culture. And unlike genes, which we can not control or clearly see the outcome, culture can shape a path for a society to follow.

eridolfi
Posts: 25
Joined: Tue Aug 04, 2015 1:07 pm

Re: Aug. 26: Models of Cultural Evolution (required)

Postby eridolfi » Wed Aug 26, 2015 8:48 am

I have issues with describing biological evolution and cultural evolution using the same words because of self interest. Though altruism exists in other species, it diminishes individual fitness to an extent. Correct me if I am wrong but it seems like evolution is individual centric for the most part. There also seem to be some contradictions, such as calling kamakaize pilots altruistic or the creation of xenophobia. It seems contrary to me that if humans have this desire to learn from each other, why would they avoid others.

msnelmida
Posts: 20
Joined: Mon Aug 03, 2015 1:41 pm

Re: Aug. 26: Models of Cultural Evolution (required)

Postby msnelmida » Wed Aug 26, 2015 10:27 am

So the example of having a larger family follow off from Darwin's theory for evolution regarding fitness than smaller family has been used in this article as well as the other article with TIm Lewens. Also if I am understanding the graph correctly on page 26 it shows a trend through time that family sizes are approaching a lower point. I just want to know if this can be contributed to a sort of carrying capacity of the environment this population live in. Like realizing that it is becoming harder to support a larger family than before? It also shows family size stabilizes at a certain point as well coming from an average of 5 children to 2 children.

fdtran
Posts: 23
Joined: Mon Aug 03, 2015 5:49 pm

Re: Aug. 26: Models of Cultural Evolution (required)

Postby fdtran » Wed Aug 26, 2015 10:44 am

I liked that the author discussed the coexistence of cultural and biological evolution and connected to many of the things that we've talked about in class. I particularly liked the quote, "It isn't that the biologists and the social scientists are in conflict; rather, they are talking past each other." I do agree that biological and cultural evolution do coexist but experts in either area often look past one another and their impact.

Bowen Tan
Posts: 26
Joined: Mon Aug 03, 2015 5:57 pm

Re: Aug. 26: Models of Cultural Evolution (required)

Postby Bowen Tan » Wed Aug 26, 2015 11:44 am

I like the opinion that fitness is measured by how many babies an organism produces. However, it seems the natural selection only depends on the phenotype and looks nothing to do with genes. It only requires babies resemble their parents. But genes determine not only the phenotypes, but also some ability we can't measure directly like the reproduction ability. And the fitness is not a thing which only depends on one generation.

herrerajen
Posts: 22
Joined: Tue Aug 04, 2015 9:15 am

Re: Aug. 26: Models of Cultural Evolution (required)

Postby herrerajen » Wed Aug 26, 2015 11:49 am

Sober ends his article with the bold claim that "it isn't that biologists and social scientists are in conflict; rather, they are talking past each other" (p. 36). As a sociology major, I have never come across cultural evolution to explain sociological/anthropological phenomena. I've briefly come across the concept of 'incest taboo' in Gayle Rubin's article (https://genderstudiesgroupdu.files.word ... -women.pdf). In her article she argues that the incest taboo encourages the traffic of women as 'gifts.' Never have I heard about the proposal that the incest taboo is advantageous because it diminishes the chances that children will be born with deleterious recessive genes in double dosage.

Overall, I think that Sober proposes a very enlightening proposal. In the context of the incest taboo, it would be interesting to reveal the intersectional arguments from different social sciences and biological theories.

kgbaidoo
Posts: 19
Joined: Tue Aug 04, 2015 4:56 pm

Re: Aug. 26: Models of Cultural Evolution (required)

Postby kgbaidoo » Wed Aug 26, 2015 12:14 pm

On the 19th page of his article ,Sober claimed that " evolution by natural selection does not require genes.It simply requires that offspring resemble their parents.I find it very hard to believe that evolution by natural selection does not require genes.How ore offspring going to resembles their parent if they did not pass any genetic information on to them. I know natural selection is the differential reproduction and survival of individual that differ in phenotype but all I am asking is that how is there variation between the fitness of individuals if there is no mutation in the genes passed down to then from their parents.He cited an example about children learning how to be incest avoiders from their parents.How can you confuse the notion of incest with natural selection? I think Sober was confusing memes or cultural evolution with biological evolution here.

tschristoffel
Posts: 20
Joined: Mon Aug 03, 2015 7:37 pm

Re: Aug. 26: Models of Cultural Evolution (required)

Postby tschristoffel » Wed Aug 26, 2015 12:18 pm

I think it would do good to the article if the terms "altruism" and "selfishness" were more precisely defined, as there is some ambiguity to these terms. For example, a person who gives money to homeless person could be described as both altruistic, by sacrificing his or her own money for the good of another, and selfish if the act was done because it gives him or her satisfaction. It seems that many altruistic actions are motivated by selfishness, such as wanting something in return. If a seemingly altruistic act is done out of selfishness, is it selfish, altruistic, or can it be both?

anjames
Posts: 19
Joined: Tue Aug 04, 2015 7:51 am

Re: Aug. 26: Models of Cultural Evolution (required)

Postby anjames » Wed Aug 26, 2015 12:19 pm

eridolfi wrote:I have issues with describing biological evolution and cultural evolution using the same words because of self interest. Though altruism exists in other species, it diminishes individual fitness to an extent. Correct me if I am wrong but it seems like evolution is individual centric for the most part. There also seem to be some contradictions, such as calling kamikaze pilots altruistic or the creation of xenophobia. It seems contrary to me that if humans have this desire to learn from each other, why would they avoid others.


Well, evolution acts on populations. It's not quite right to say an individual evolves, though there is an element of evolution working through individuals.
I agree on kamikaze pilots being a condtradiction that Sober wasn't aware of. As for xenophobia, I was thinking of it as extreme conformism to the point of fearing anything not common to the group. They want to learn with each other, but not the other other people. Though I feel like that doesn't work with the 100% altruistic and 100% selfish transmission goal unless it's like the whole group is the unit being acted on. Like all of them are selfish as a unit, not as individuals? I don't know.

User avatar
ShawnMiller
Site Admin
Posts: 123
Joined: Wed Jul 22, 2015 2:59 pm
Contact:

Re: Aug. 26: Models of Cultural Evolution (required)

Postby ShawnMiller » Wed Aug 26, 2015 12:52 pm

msnelmida wrote:So the example of having a larger family follow off from Darwin's theory for evolution regarding fitness than smaller family has been used in this article as well as the other article with TIm Lewens. Also if I am understanding the graph correctly on page 26 it shows a trend through time that family sizes are approaching a lower point. I just want to know if this can be contributed to a sort of carrying capacity of the environment this population live in. Like realizing that it is becoming harder to support a larger family than before? It also shows family size stabilizes at a certain point as well coming from an average of 5 children to 2 children.

Sober claims that in this case the decline can't be understood in terms carrying capacity (according to C&F); that is what he means when he writes that they "are not tempted to appeal to the theory of optimal clutch size due to Lack" (24).

User avatar
ShawnMiller
Site Admin
Posts: 123
Joined: Wed Jul 22, 2015 2:59 pm
Contact:

Re: Aug. 26: Models of Cultural Evolution

Postby ShawnMiller » Wed Aug 26, 2015 12:55 pm

twilliams wrote:This is kind of off topic, but the kamikaze example as an instance of altruism is annoyingly naive. If you trace the series of causes in the logic of "ancient warrior mentality" in the "dying honorably for your country" sort of way, it is undoubtedly not altruistic. The reason they did this is because they thought they are being heroes for doing so, and society immortalizes its heroes. They thought they'd go down in history; especially in Japan which is very family-centric, where having a famous relative becomes a respected bragging right, these soldiers sacrificed themselves to achieve fame. For all intents and purposes, they sought to turn themselves into memes and spread them throughout their culture; of course they had no notion of meme theory, but you don't need to in order to understand how fame works. This is still a perfect example of how "memes" can over power favorable genetic traits, such as not blowing yourself up, but it is certainly not altruistic. But on that note, a question arises, where does this mentality come from? Some other animals don't have a concept of pride; if pride is intrinsic to humans genetically, is this actually a product of genetic evolution after all?

The kamikazes are altruistic in a Darwinian sense in that their self-sacrifice hurts their fitness, which is measured in offspring. As you point out, however, that doesn't mean that their actions were selfless or high-minded since they may have had ulterior motives.

SamGarcia25
Posts: 19
Joined: Tue Aug 04, 2015 10:17 am

Re: Aug. 26: Models of Cultural Evolution (required)

Postby SamGarcia25 » Wed Aug 26, 2015 1:03 pm

In the 19th century demographic change example that the author writes about, Elliott Sober claims that when death rate decreased and birth rate decreased that the this trait spread in spite of its biological fitness and not because of it. I know he said this in the context of "having babies" being more evolutionary beneficial, but it does not make sense to me. Maybe he mentioned it and I missed it in the reading, but he didn't consider the possibility that having less children would increase biological fitness by allowing women to develop other survival skills in the time they'd be taking care of more children; these other skills could be taught to the few offspring rather than having the mother take a chance on heredity and large numbers of children.

pkshah
Posts: 21
Joined: Mon Aug 03, 2015 11:59 pm

Re: Aug. 26: Models of Cultural Evolution (required)

Postby pkshah » Wed Aug 26, 2015 1:20 pm

I thought that it was really interesting when Sober talked about how the atomization of cultural traits in cultural evolution gets rid of important context. I think that this is very true. Furthermore, the point was driven home when he made an analogous example regarding sickle cell anemia. Originally, I was of the opinion that cultural evolution should be able to be abstracted into basic cultural units; consequently, there should be no need to consider the context with regards to cultural evolution. These small components that are at play react differently with various different other atomizations of social learning.

Michelle Tarango
Posts: 18
Joined: Mon Aug 03, 2015 5:59 pm

Re: Aug. 26: Models of Cultural Evolution (required)

Postby Michelle Tarango » Wed Aug 26, 2015 1:32 pm

I thought Sober's three patterns for natural selection were interesting and gave me something to think about. However, I don't think that there is any one model that correctly describes the pattern of natural selection. Instead, I think a combination of the three patterns acts in different ways upon organism groups, changing the trait frequencies in the population.

eugenekim
Posts: 21
Joined: Mon Aug 03, 2015 6:59 pm

Re: Aug. 26: Models of Cultural Evolution (required)

Postby eugenekim » Wed Aug 26, 2015 1:45 pm

An interesting aspect about the article that I have never considered is the idea that evolution of natural selection does not require genes. It could also be transmitted from parents teaching their children ,which goes back to Dawkins ideas of memes. However, I do not completely agree with the author on his idea of incest being an idea passed through culture. Humans, I believe have an innate disliking towards incestual behavior that is not passed down from parent but rather is instilled from before birth that has manifested itself into an idea.

jjquintanilla
Posts: 19
Joined: Tue Aug 04, 2015 1:18 am

Re: Aug. 26: Models of Cultural Evolution (required)

Postby jjquintanilla » Wed Aug 26, 2015 1:52 pm

I personally do not have a full understanding of where the argument of the article is taking me, but I understood and see the argument pointed out by Alexander. He made an interesting point with regards to how the environment plays a role on how society behaves. He believed that the environmental condition which surround humans forces humans to make behavioral choices which will be more advantages over others. I think that this is true because although he provides analogies which prove his point, on a more historical note, there have been societies which develop as a result of their surrounding environment. Historically speaking, societies with large amount of land focus on agriculture as their primary economy, while perhaps island societies focus on seafaring as their means of survival. Hence, I completely agree with Alexander when he points out the that environment forces humans to make the appropriate decision to ensure their survival.

JustinN
Posts: 17
Joined: Wed Aug 05, 2015 2:17 pm

Re: Aug. 26: Models of Cultural Evolution (required)

Postby JustinN » Wed Aug 26, 2015 1:55 pm

I think the concept of having students in cultural evolution as being analogous to having children in biological evolution is a good way of describing cultural success in our current environment. Many people attribute cultural successful in terms of the number of followers or suscribers they have to their ideas and personality. It's analogous to the emperors of our history having dozens of children to further their empire.

Nancy Galeno
Posts: 18
Joined: Tue Aug 04, 2015 1:03 pm

Re: Aug. 26: Models of Cultural Evolution (required)

Postby Nancy Galeno » Wed Aug 26, 2015 1:57 pm

I found it interesting how the author talks about evolution by natural selection in terms that does not have to do with genes. Whenever I think of evolution I usually think about genes. I found that his example of avoiding incest to hold truth in it. Although it is advantageous to us as a species to not have incest to avoid getting copies of the same recessive deleterious gene, it is not something that we do because of our genes. It is a heritable trait that we get from our parents and social environment that we copy, just like a meme.

Selestine
Posts: 18
Joined: Tue Aug 04, 2015 9:15 am

Aug. 26: Models of Cultural Evolution (required)

Postby Selestine » Wed Aug 26, 2015 1:58 pm

I do agree with Alexander when he sees that genetic differences as being crucial to the process of evolution but environmental differences as characterizing the product of that evolution.So I would say that the surrounding environment does have a great impact in changing some of the behaviors/traits that humans have. And as a result the genes that are responsible for certain behaviors get changed/suppressed.

dianalee
Posts: 19
Joined: Mon Aug 03, 2015 8:39 pm

Re: Aug. 26: Models of Cultural Evolution (required)

Postby dianalee » Wed Aug 26, 2015 1:59 pm

"Altruists and selfish individuals exist in each of several groups. Within each group, altruists do less well than selfish people. However, groups of altruists go extinct less often and found more colonies than groups of selfish individuals," This is an inserting point. Altruism is important for group survival. Selfishness may increase an individual fitness to a degree but for long term, altruism play a big part in group survival and fitness.

lemacias
Posts: 18
Joined: Tue Aug 04, 2015 9:04 pm

Re: Aug. 26: Models of Cultural Evolution (required)

Postby lemacias » Mon Aug 31, 2015 11:27 am

I really like the perspective of Richard Alexander about human beings behave so as to maximize their fitness. I truly believe that sometimes not the environment only a ts on a persons behavior but also that the human genome has evolved in such a way that the person itself is the one selecting their own fitness behavior. The invisible hand explanation, or even our cultural norms have a limit when shaping a persons way to reproduce, grow, and behave. The ultimate end comes with genetic determinism.

pattyt
Posts: 14
Joined: Fri Aug 07, 2015 12:00 pm

Re: Aug. 26: Models of Cultural Evolution (required)

Postby pattyt » Mon Aug 31, 2015 12:38 pm

lksalinero wrote:Sober’s statement “Culture is often a more powerful determiner of change than biological evolution because cultural changes occur faster,” (35) is an ambitious claim. “Culture is more powerful than biological evolution,” seems to be such a broad sweeping proclamation. Yet the more I considered it, the more true it seemed, at least when considering changes in the human race in recent history and looking to the future. Though I don’t think this claim can be applied to all of human evolution, or to all possible organisms with culture.

I agree with what is said here. Especially in our contemporary society, his Sober's claim about cultural change occurring gadget completely applies. However it had not, and may not, always hold true. The other thing that i didn't like is that he doesn't completely tie evolutionary science and culture. He discusses it but i feel he could have done more with it.

lgomez
Posts: 11
Joined: Mon Aug 10, 2015 1:13 pm

Re: Aug. 26: Models of Cultural Evolution (required)

Postby lgomez » Wed Dec 07, 2016 10:39 pm

I myself went through a phase of "why do we even care about 'soft' sciences, biology is clearly superior" and it took me a while and a bit of experience to come out of it. This article helped give me concrete examples of just how and why we need both sciences. This is similar too to Griesemer and the "how" and "why" explanations.


Return to “Readings”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 1 guest