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Culture & control of human evolution

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Culture & control of human evolution. Cultural evolution. Relative rates of evolution. Biological evolution. Cultural transmission in Japanese macaques -potato washing -grain sorting. Tool use in chimpanzees. Sociobiology.

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Cultural evolution

Relative rates of evolution

Biological evolution


Cultural transmission in Japanese macaques

-potato washing

-grain sorting



Sociobiology: the systematic study of the biological bases of social behavior

ie. using evolutionary theory as a foundation for the study of social behavior

EO Wilson



Application of sociobiology to mate choice

Male mating decisions


-competitive & aggressive, promiscuous, less nurturing to children, attracted to fertile females

Female mating decisions


-less competitive, more nurturing to children, attracted to resource-rich males


Social Darwinism

Social Darwinism: social & cultural differences in human societies arise through processes of natural selection, similar to those that account for biological differences among populations & species

Herbert Spencer


Social Darwinism

Appealing to those in ‘superior’ social positions

Assumes society operates through same laws as biology

False assumption!

No evidence that what is in biology, is or ought to be in society

JD Rockefeller



Eugenics: humanity can be improved by altering human genotypes or their frequencies

ie. evolution of human traits by natural selection could be substituted by evolution through social selection

Positive eugenics - increase frequency of beneficial genes

Negative eugenics - decrease frequency of deleterious genes



Positive eugenics - increase frequency of beneficial genes

Sperm banks

Genetic engineering





Negative eugenics - decrease frequency of deleterious genes

2 - 2.5% of children born in the US are markedly defective - mentally or physically

Two reasons for prevalence of deleterious genes

1 although deleterious in homozygous condition, may produce hybrid vigor in heterozygous

2 frequency of deleterious genes is now high because natural selection has been artificially reduced


Biological vs cultural maturity

Biological efficiency decreases post-reproductive age of 20-30

Cultural efficiency increases then or later

Cro-Magnon man


Humans evolve, but also know that they evolve

-what is the goal?

-can we choose the direction of human evolution with certainty that this direction is what is best for our descendents?


Humans are graduating from being mere subjects of evolution to coauthors

We have the destiny of ourselves and many other organisms in our hands


Obligatory Darwin quote

There is grandeur in this view of life, with its several powers, having been originally breathed into a few forms or into one; and that, … from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being, evolved.

Darwin 1859