Re: Cultural r/k Selection question

Ton Maas (
Mon, 14 Jul 1997 23:02:41 +0200

Message-Id: <v03102800aff0415a7f2e@[]>
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Date: Mon, 14 Jul 1997 23:02:41 +0200
From: Ton Maas <>
Subject: Re: Cultural r/k Selection question

>- Acquired traits can be inherited (lamarckian inheritance).

Exactly. No Weissmannian barriers here. Mind you, there *is* Lamarckian
inheritance in the genetic domain as well, but only at the level of the
population (statistic effects) and *not* the individual.

>- 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.

Brain/outside the body may be a tricky distinction. See my earlier posting
on boundaries. In the case of a blind man with a cane, where does the body
end and the stick begin? The way you phrase it opens the way to regarding
books etc. as "independent" phenomena, while in reality they only make
sense to writers and readers. It might be wise to consider them
non-existent when they are not written or read.

>- In genetic selection, alternative alleles have to compete for the same
> 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
> 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.
> probability-barriers in cultural evolution can be overcome by intelligent
> planning. The evolution of complex functions is therefore much more
> in cultural evolution than in genetic evolution.

Seems to me "intelligent planning" is a rare commodity :-)
(It's a pity my book on natural learning hasn't been translated into
English yet, because it offers some more elaborate insights into the
problems of "conscious purpose" in cultural evolution.)


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