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Natural Selection Can Act on Human Culture

pickens (49171) writes | more than 6 years ago

Biotech 1

Hugh Pickens writes "Scientists at Stanford University have shown for the first time that the process of natural selection can act on human cultures as well as on genes. The team studied reports of canoe designs from 11 Oceanic island cultures evaluating 96 functional features that could contribute to the seaworthiness of the canoes and thus have a bearing on fishing success or survival during migration or warfare. Statistical test results showed clearly that the functional canoe design elements changed more slowly over time, indicating that natural selection could be weeding out inferior new designs. Authors of the study said their results speak directly to urgent social and environmental problems. "People have learned how to avoid natural selection in the short term through unsustainable approaches such as inequity and excess consumption. But this is not going to work in the long term," said Deborah S. Rogers, a research fellow at Stanford. "We need to begin aligning our culture with the powerful forces of nature and natural selection instead of against them. If the leadership necessary to undertake critically needed cultural evolution in these areas can't be found, our civilization may find itself weeded out by natural selection, just like a bad canoe design.""

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Bad Science or Bad Reporting? (1)

europa universalis (1081469) | more than 6 years ago | (#22452658)

So if I get this right... the outcome of their research is that over time, pacific islanders tried to make better and better boats?
By not changing features that worked well and changing features that failed?
Doesn't natural selection have to be done by nature for it to be natural?
Isn't this just selection?

For what it's worth, I suspect that the original paper had to do with the applicability of the mathematical models for predicting the rate of change, or something. To imply that divergence was shaped by a winnowing process during migration from island to island, they would have demonstrate that the alterations under consideration actually had improved seaworthiness. Otherwise, the divergence is just random drift, and it's just a demonstration that the pacific islanders knew what the critical elements of outrigger design were, and didn't mess with them too much. Saying that "natural selection could be weeding out inferior new designs" is just saying "shucks, we didn't disprove our hypothesis."

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