Re: Paper on chimp culture

Mark M. Mills (
Fri, 18 Jun 1999 12:09:49 -0400

Date: Fri, 18 Jun 1999 12:09:49 -0400
From: "Mark M. Mills" <>
Subject: Re: Paper on chimp culture
In-Reply-To: <>


>By demonstrating
>cultural diversity, the authors work supports the theory that complex
>learned traits cannot be attributed simply to genetic factors alone. That
>point might be important in an era when some hard-core sociobiologists and
>evolutionary psychologists attempt to attribute as much behavior as
>possible to genetically based instinct.

Precisely. It weakens arguments supporting a unique human cultural
revolution (divine intervention or alien visitation). Instead, one can
paint a picture of evolutionary change accounting for both biological and
cultural diversity.

Further, it suggests the pre-human existence of a genetically based
capacity to seek out and memorize particular experiences prior to
adulthood. These memorized experiences produce actions. As a sum, they
produce a culture milieu. Culture, as we humans define it, exists in other
primate species.

This produces the strange case of primate 'childhood.' Primate babies are
born 'unfinished' when compared to other animals. Most behavior patterns
required to achieve adult reproductive success depend on successful
acquisition of cultural norms.

Thus, there is a complex evolutionary path to explore with regards to
primate culture. First, there is the genetic evolution of the memory
locations and instinctive drive to fill the memory spots. Second, there is
a co-evolution of cultural milieu available to the developing individual.
Third, there is the evolution of body form to advance cultural success.
This includes the enhanced vocal ability, rotator shoulder joint, expanding
brain size, etc. Culture and genetics become inextricably mixed. Our
human bodies reflect our ancient cultural heritage.

In my model, I call the hypothesized memory locations 'memes.' These
memory locations are 'genotypes.' The cultural behaviors we observe are


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