Re: USA Today - interview with Gugatkin and de Waal on animal culture

From: Scott Chase (
Date: Fri Jun 08 2001 - 14:12:26 BST

  • Next message: Scott Chase: "Re: USA Today - interview with Gugatkin and de Waal on animal culture"

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    From: "Scott Chase" <>
    Subject: Re: USA Today - interview with Gugatkin and de Waal on animal culture
    Date: Fri, 08 Jun 2001 09:12:26 -0400
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    >From: "Wade T.Smith" <>
    >To: "Memetics Discussion List" <>
    >Subject: Re: USA Today - interview with Gugatkin and de Waal on animal
    >Date: Thu, 7 Jun 2001 21:18:29 -0400
    >Hi Ray Recchia -
    > >His and de Waal's accounts may just be persuasive enough to
    > >convince humans it's finally time to open the door and allow animals into
    > >the culture club.
    >Or, perhaps, to remove "culture" from the behavior club....
    Why? What would be wrong with using the word "culture" if defined in terms
    of "nongenetic behavioral transmission" (see de Waal. 2001. The Ape and the
    Sushi Master. Basic Books. New York, p. 237). The big problem would not be
    in using the word "culture", but employing this term in a way that
    anthropocentrically places humans within a charmed circle, removed from the
    "lowly" animals.

    One problem I could see would be the casting of cultural capacity in terms
    of homology versus analogy. If other apes such as our chimp cousins can
    exhibit traces of culture it would't be much of a leap to consider something
    homologous underlying this, but if we attribute fish, insects or other
    groups phylogenetically far removed from us with culture, then we might
    consider if we are talking about the same phenomenon or something
    superficially similar that has arisen via convergence.

    If a sort of non-genic transmission of behavior that could have been called
    culture existed in the common ancestor we shared with these other groups,
    then homology might enter the picture. Did the stem group of the metazoans
    have culture? It might be less contentious to think about the stem of the
    human and non-human apes exhibiting something cultural. Crude tool usage by
    chimps makes one wonder how unique the "third chimp" (sensu Diamond) really

    With no background in anthropology or primatology, I'm just babbling forth,
    chewing my cud so to speak.

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