Re: Cultural r/k Selection question

Agner Fog (
Tue, 08 Jul 1997 22:54:49 +0100

From: (Agner Fog)
Subject: Re: Cultural r/k Selection question
Date: Tue, 08 Jul 1997 22:54:49 +0100
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In-Reply-To: <>

Mark Mills asked about differences between genetic and cultural selection:

>Can you provide a thumbnail sketch of the comments you refer to (Richerson,
>Daly and Fog)?

Quote from :

- Acquired traits can be inherited (lamarckian inheritance).

- Cultural innovations are often goal-directed and anticipatory unlike genetic
mutations which are blind and random.

- Innovations occur more frequently when they are most needed.

- Cultural selection is not necessarily connected to the birth or death of
individuals. A human can re-choose or convert several times during a lifetime.

- Cultural selection may be intelligent and provident.

- Cultural selection encompasses more different mechanisms than does the
genetic process. These mechanisms may work in parallel.

- Cultural reproduction or transmission does not only go from parents to
children. It may go from any human being to anybody else. Unlike the
evolution of species, the evolution of societies is often convergent due to

- The cultural process does not have one universal and indivisible carrier of
information analogous to the gene, but several qualitatively different
entities which may be subjected to selection. Cultural information may be
stored not only in the brain, but also outside the body in books etc.

- In genetic selection, alternative alleles have to compete for the same locus.
Such a competition is absent in cultural selection because the informations
are not tied to specific loci. Cultural heritage is often cumulative, and
considerable amounts of unused information can be stored and later activated
if changed selection conditions should favor it.

- In genetic evolution, there is a very low probability for the evolution of
traits that require more than one gene to be changed simultaneously. Similar
probability-barriers in cultural evolution can be overcome by intelligent
planning. The evolution of complex functions is therefore much more probable
in cultural evolution than in genetic evolution.

- According to certain mathematical models, cultural systems may exhibit more
complicated behaviors than similar genetic systems, including multiple
equilibria, oscillating systems, and stable polymorphism (Findlay, Lumsden &
Hansell 1989a,b).

- According to some models, cultural group selection may be more effective than
genetic group selection (Boyd & Richerson 1985, Findlay 1992).
Agner Fog, Ph.D. See my electronic book: 'Cultural Selection'
Denmark at:

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