Re: Cultural r/k Selection question

Arel Lucas (
Mon, 14 Jul 1997 17:41:16 -0700

Date: Mon, 14 Jul 1997 17:41:16 -0700
From: Arel Lucas <>
Subject: Re: Cultural r/k Selection question

Agner Fog wrote:
> 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 :
> (snip)

Agree at first glance with most of this posting, but I do have two

> - 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
> diffusion.

It is interesting that there can be interspecies cultural transmission.
There is an account (I would have to look it up.) of a study of one
African tribe and the passage of culture from mother-daughter,
father-son. Termiting is a father-son process, and the interviewer was
told that this skill was learned from chimpanzees.

> - 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.
> I think this is true in many or most cases, but I would argue that there
do seem to be areas of the brain which are "hard-wired" in the sense that
specific kinds of behavior emanate from these areas. One study showed an
area of the brain to be involved in religious behavior, in that when this
area was destroyed religious conversion was impossible. (Again I would
have to look it up.) Of course some belief systems we call religions are
not religions at all for competitive purposes--Hinduism, Taoism and
Buddhism, for instance. Other belief systems appear to be inherently
competitive and exclusive--strains of Christianity, Communism and Islam,
for instance. I would argue that, where specific areas of the brain are
dedicated and cultural transmission/memes appear to be active in that
area, competition does or may come into play.

Arel Lucas

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