Monday, May 15, 2017

Kevin Laland — How Culture Shapes Human Evolution

Nature and nurture. Biological evolution makes cultural evolution possible.
Why, then, haven’t gorillas invented Facebook, or capuchins built spacecraft? To achieve such high levels of cognitive functioning requires not just cultural intelligence, but also cumulative culture, in which modifications accumulate over time. That demands transmission of information with a degree of accuracy of which only humans are capable. Indeed, small increases in the accuracy of social transmission lead to big increases in the diversity and longevity of culture, as well as to fads, fashions, and conformity.
Our ancestors were able to achieve such high-fidelity information transmission not just because of language, but also because of teaching – a practice that is rare in nature, but universal among humans (once the subtle forms it takes are recognized). Mathematical analyses reveal that, while it is generally difficult for teaching to evolve, cumulative culture promotes teaching. This implies that teaching and cumulative culture co-evolved, producing a species that taught relatives across a broad range of circumstances…. 
Project Syndicate
How Culture Shapes Human Evolution
Kevin Laland | Professor of Behavioral and Evolutionary Biology at the University of St Andrews, and author of Darwin’s Unfinished Symphony: How Culture Made the Human Mind.

14 comments:

Bob said...

It would be rather difficult to develop technology without writing it down somewhere. We don't possess genetic eidetic memory. We aren't telepathic. Oral tradition only goes so far.

There are cultures that encourage and discourage learning. There are cultures that encourage the arts and living in harmony. There are cultures that encourage the destruction of entire ecosystems. There are cultures that celebrate the myth of human superiority over animals or each other.

Our species may be headed for extinction, perhaps due in part to the blindness exhibited in this article.

MRW said...

We don't possess genetic eidetic memory. Speak for yourself. ;-)

MRW said...

I heard an Interview with Dr. Norman Doidge on CBC about five years ago while traveling. Doidge wrote, The Brain That Changes Itself. He said that neuroscience research since 2000-2002 had discovered something that the neuroscientists never expected.

Throughout the 20th C and for a few centuries before everyone thought that the brain determined of thought and therefore action. In other words, the brain ruled.

What the latest neuroscience has proven instead—Doidge said it was from a logarithmic advancement in brain measuring equipment—was that behavior determines the culture, and culture rewires the brain. Only needs six months to take effect.

Your individual actions determine how your brain is wired.

It’s why behaviors in children have to be monitored and corrected or ameliorated. Ditto employees, and students. Groups.

No wonder we have Snowflakes.

MRW said...

...the brain determined thought, and therefore action. You were born with your smarts largely predetermined. In other words, the brain ruled.

MRW said...

--Doidge said it was from a logarithmic advancement in brain measuring equipment since the turn of the 21st C--

Bob said...

The expression and reading of emotions would affect how your brain is wired. It's not a one-way process. An example of one-way development of the brain is first language acquisition by infants. But nearly all infants have vocal cords which they put to use to communicate.

I assume that mute infants can learn language. More difficult when they are deaf.

Can you present the 'brain rules' perspective in greater detail? Sounds counter-intuitive.

jrbarch said...

In Doidge’s second book, The Brain’s Way of Healing he mentions in the chapter on The Stages of Neuroplastic Healing thought residing in the cumulative electrical wave patterns rather than the physical neurons. (”.... the patterns are like a musical piece, and the neurons are the orchestral musicians that play the piece.) Loss of some individual neurons, from neuronal disease or death, would not necessarily lead to loss of a mental function ...”

The eye sends electrical impulses to the brain, modifying the electrical brain waves and we ‘see’. Here brain waves = mind although no reason is given why this should be so. So if a picture were to be placed in the mind and command the attention, that is what you would see, regardless of what was in front of your eyeballs. Which explains a lot!

The mind also contains something we call ‘I’ and most people defend it at all costs.

In the Ageless Wisdom, the brain is just a transponder. Mind is a body, the emotional nature is a body, and the physical body is an energy body (matrix) into which matter is attracted. Together they constitute the human persona. The self is the real user of this persona: - it’s qualities are will, love, and intelligence; it’s essence is Life. Evolution is the evolution of the self within the persona, and the evolution of the persona as a suitable vehicle for the self; as an aspect of Life. Their meeting place is the human heart.

Alone, mind can look upon a battlefield, filled with smoke, corpses, horror, blood and guts, and limbs blown everywhere – and even feel a certain sense of satisfaction – or gloat! The ‘I’ can grow to monstrous proportions. The heart is forcefully held under. The heart wants to feel joy because it seeks the self. Heart and mind are two entirely different worlds that we hold within ourselves.

People have to ask themselves, what do they want?

Bob said...

You appear to be asserting that sadism always comes from the 'I' and never the 'heart'. And for what purpose? To extol the virtues of the latter versus the former? To preserve the sanctity of one but not the other?

I wouldn't want to live in a society of wounded animals, but there are a few people who do. I can choose to believe that this is because they themselves are wounded animals, and are lashing out in pain. Or I can entertain the possibility that they are being genuine, or true to themselves. Both of these 'explanations' appear plausible to me. Both are unimportant.

Bob said...

So if a picture were to be placed in the mind and command the attention, that is what you would see, regardless of what was in front of your eyeballs. Which explains a lot!

Is that what happens autonomously when we dream?
Not just imagery, but sounds and emotions.

jrbarch said...

For me, sadism is an absence. I think of love as an energy because that is the way I experience it. I think of peace as an energy because that is the way I experience it. I think of clarity as an energy because that is the way I experience it. They are all aspects of the one thing; the one experience. Without the presence of this energy in the human persona, there is hate, war, confusion, idolatry. Without light in a room, there is darkness; you can’t shovel it out. Without this ‘electricity’ conditioning the brain wave patterns there is just mind, concepts and the ‘I’. You can’t conceptualise it in some way and have sadism and ignorance disappear. You can’t write a book about it and have it disappear. You have to usher in a little light. People need this energy in the same way the body needs food. That is Life.

From Kabir: - ‘when you dream that is a dream. When you awaken to the world, that too is a dream’. But Kabir knew what was inside of him. The ‘Light’ within him illuminated everything; and dreams were a dream and the world was a dream. And Kabir laughed and sang and wrote poetry – he was very happy and very politically incorrect! Australian aboriginals have their ‘dreamtime’. Doesn’t mean we shouldn’t have airports and farms and a monetary system. For me, love is the emerging evolutionary conditioning energy that will renew the world, including the human persona and their ‘brain waves’. Introduce a few ‘heart waves’. Raise Tom’s ‘level of collective consciousness’ and ‘float all boats’. Maybe one day too we will have a laugh and enjoy being alive. We don’t give up on Hope.

Bob said...

I'm sure there are examples of sadism where a key factor was absence. I believe there are examples where the sadist is energized by the experience. And there are examples of indifference. Sadism is not the norm in human behavior, but it exists as part of its variability. Psychopathy and schizophrenia occur in a segment of the population. Psychopathy is prevalent in individuals who engage in criminal behavior. These are human beings with alternative motivations.

I know that love is an energy because that is how people describe it. I need not experience it myself. I have no ambition, but it is obvious that it energizes people. I could say my indifference to love and ambition make me a low energy person.

You don't die when you are indifferent to life, but your will to survive is weakened.

If the world consisted solely of individuals and their personal lives, I believe the world would be a kinder and gentler place. But group psychology, culture and society are huge influences, and often affect us negatively. War and political violence isn't a personal affect.

jrbarch said...

@ Bob

That’s a pretty honest comment above Bob. I can understand.

From a rational point of view, any human being coming into this world would take one look around and decide it is all too much. The greed and the lust; the crazies with their phallic rockets and comprador Generals, the predators and instigators of human suffering - the stunning ignorance and rampant exploitation of sex and desire. The manipulation of society and groups within society because of the level of consciousness. It’s a lunatic’s asylum.

Rationality says to wrap yourself up in a blanket somewhere and keep your head down. But there is also a part of you that does not want to do that.

That same part of you looks out upon the world and sees something beautiful in creation; and something noble and honourable in human beings – if only it could be empowered. If you learn to look within, you see this same beauty and integrity from within. The beauty in you sees the beauty without; you learn appreciation and gratitude. Peace too, is a power. And you wonder why this possibility of peace cannot be a reality. Are we human beings incapable of peace? A lot of people think so.

They are wrong. Because peace already exists within each and every one of us. It already exists. Raj Vidya is the Knowledge of how to make that peace manifest. Peace would be mankind’s greatest achievement. Peace on a human face, makes that human face shine and smile, and come alive. Peace is not a luxury – it is mandatory because our heart says so. Mind may not say so – but what does mind know about peace?

Our existence is not hidden under some rock somewhere. You and I have a heart and a voice. Deploy! And we do! When the heart allows the mind to form a partnership, it shakes all of the foundations.

The door to the cage is always open. The conditioning of this world shoved us in there and there is no reason under the sun why we should accept it. We should win back; reclaim our freedom, and our human territory. We are human beings; not the plaything of some society.

Dance on their heads (like Kali) I say and breathe your freedom in and out and enjoy. Get in touch with your own humanity and your own self. It knows exactly what to say.

They can’t bottle and sell that.

jrbarch said...

Thought for the day: "Time is constant; you are the variable".

Bob said...

I don't live in a lunatic asylum. I don't rub shoulders with the rich and powerful. The people I live amongst are ordinary Nova Scotians. Their troubles are interpersonal. Relatively few of them are involved in politics or part of political movements. If I'm threatened or fall victim to violence it will have been violence nurtured through poverty.

It's long been clear that being in the physical presence of other people is a draining experience. This is a common description of introversion/extroversion. Extroverts are energized by being in the company of others. I much prefer to be by myself where it's quiet. My alone time is when I can 'recharge my batteries', so to speak.

The beauty of nature is what I see. I'm less interested in the affairs of human beings, for that is not where my heart lies. I understand that human beings are a social species, and that their relationships with other humans is very important to them. This is from a rational viewpoint. I'm an exception to that rule. Less than 1% of the population would feel and behave as I do.

I know peace each and every day. It is interrupted by noise, to which I am unduly sensitive, but not by bombs or strife. I have never witnessed the sort of violence that soldiers do.

Why is it peaceful here, apart from domestic disputes? Because we are not starving? Even the homeless are not violent, although they are more likely to be victims.
Is it the rule of law? Is it our relative lack of power over others? Is it our relatively homogeneous society? Is it the long winters?

I'm originally from Quebec and not a true Maritimer, but I can take vicarious pleasure in this song:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y6RoqZeM3oE

Many people say that change must come from below, from the shared experience of ordinary people. I believe peace is possible at the political level, if it stems from those without power, who have never known power. However, my perspective is a rural one. Most people today live in cities and that is where movements rise and fall.

We are in a cage, in a system that encourages activities that are beneficial and destructive. It is why Chinese gold prospectors seek their fortune in Ghana, resulting in jobs for Ghanaians at the cost of destroying the local environment. It is why both ambitious and desperate people seek education and jobs in the cities or in faraway places. As one woman put it: "This is how the world works."

Can we change that world or are we fated to be changed by it?