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Thread: Has "cultural evolution" made any successful predictions?

  1. #1 Has "cultural evolution" made any successful predictions? 
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    It seems to me that the whole "cultural evolution" thing is based on a sloppy, unhelpful analogy with evolution by natural selection.

    Is there any actual evidence that culture has "evolved", rather than just "changed over time"?

    I can't think of any examples.


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    Is there any actual evidence that culture has "evolved", rather than just "changed over time"?
    You'd probably better explain what you think the difference is, because it's not obvious what you mean.


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    Quote Originally Posted by Lynx_Fox View Post
    Is there any actual evidence that culture has "evolved", rather than just "changed over time"?
    You'd probably better explain what you think the difference is, because it's not obvious what you mean.
    Well, there's a field called cultural evolution, which posits that memes or cultural units go through a kind of natural selection, or at least something analogous to it. So, just as evolution works by natural selection's winnowing of genetic variation, cultural evolution works through the differential survival of replicating entities.

    To be honest, I think it's a bit of a stretch. I don't think culture really works that way.
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    What I mean is I don't see the difference between what you call change and evolution. As long as your careful about direct comparisons I think there's value in extending Dawkin's analogy of genes and lifeforms to memes and culture. You could further view globliization as analogous to our social evolution from isolated family and tribe to cities. The Depot who Marshall's Arabic Nationalism to "take back," the most Southern privince of Iraq, is punished by the global community who recognizes that provinces as the sovereign nation of Kuwait....much like a man who steals an adult daughter might be punished by society for kidnapping. Certainly cultures thrive or struggle in the context of their environments--the US growing anti-intellectual movement, might for example, condemn American culture to be a 2nd rate nation in by mid 21st century, while a forward-looking scientific culture (think Northern Europe) might allow them to thrive.

    Such analogies are useful frameworks for thinking about things, so long as we're careful not to take them too far.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lynx_Fox View Post
    What I mean is I don't see the difference between what you call change and evolution. As long as your careful about direct comparisons I think there's value in extending Dawkin's analogy of genes and lifeforms to memes and culture. You could further view globliization as analogous to our social evolution from isolated family and tribe to cities. The Depot who Marshall's Arabic Nationalism to "take back," the most Southern privince of Iraq, is punished by the global community who recognizes that provinces as the sovereign nation of Kuwait....much like a man who steals an adult daughter might be punished by society for kidnapping. Certainly cultures thrive or struggle in the context of their environments--the US growing anti-intellectual movement, might for example, condemn American culture to be a 2nd rate nation in by mid 21st century, while a forward-looking scientific culture (think Northern Europe) might allow them to thrive.

    Such analogies are useful frameworks for thinking about things, so long as we're careful not to take them too far.
    Agreed. The main thing is not to take them too far, because I think the process by which all those things happens isn't very much like natural selection.

    You could view the way societies thrive or collapse based on a kind of darwinian struggle, but it's a very loose analogy. What I'm wondering is, is there ANY value in looking at culture in terms of its "evolution", beyond just being a cute metaphor?

    Hmmm.
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    evolution is nothing more or less then change over time, thus it seems a little like you are arguing from a bit of a strawman.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Paleoichneum View Post
    evolution is nothing more or less then change over time, thus it seems a little like you are arguing from a bit of a strawman.
    Welllll, I kind of see what you mean, but the change takes place in specific ways. There's a vernacular loose meaning of "evolve" and there's a biologist's definition, and they differ,

    E.g. from a biological perspective, evolution is "the non-random survival of randomly varying coded instructions for how to survive” [Dawkins], and 3 things are required:
    1. Variation in a trait
    2. Heritability
    3. Variation in reproductive success
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    One other point. The title suggest predictions as important. While studying complex natural systems, confirmation of hypothesis are often better described as consistency with observation rather than prediction. Most cases of evolution happen in such complex environments. It's that's probably an analogy that extends safely to memes and "cultural evolution."
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lynx_Fox View Post
    One other point. The title suggest predictions as important. While studying complex natural systems, confirmation of hypothesis are often better described as consistency with observation rather than prediction. Most cases of evolution happen in such complex environments. It's that's probably an analogy that extends safely to memes and "cultural evolution."
    Would you mind elaborating a little bit? I'm not fully sure I follow.
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    In simple cases or under conditions we can tightly controlled conditions successful hypothesis testing also requires successful prediction. Many natural cases are neither simple nor do we have the ability to control the conditions--in those cases hypothesis testing for predictability is unrealistic so scientist turn to other strategies such as simulations or consistency with many observations. To use a simple evolutionary example, one can run a simulation of a few genes on some hypothetical life--lets say a four legged animal with a gene for neck lenght and a tree that grows fruits near the top that have genes for tallness and speed of growth. You can run the simulation and see the genes for neck size produce longer and longer neck size in a sort of arms race with the increasing tallness of the fruit tree. We see similar parallels in the natural world such as giraffe size, cheetah and antelope speed etc. The problem for predictions are many though, just for starters lenght of time to see evolution compared to a scientist lifespan, a myriad of competing genes and circumstances such as head blood pressure limits to giraffe brain height, a really tall animal is also more visible and easier for a predator to find, a really tall animal is less maneuverable when escaping that predator--all the foods and predator are going through their own evolutionary adaptations to changes in their environment including that of the giraffes. In short it becomes too complex to be predictive but not so complex that it can't be analyzed for observations consistent with the hypothesis. Most natural sciences are like this--including my own (atmospheric science).
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    I don't see how you can view human evolution separately from cultural evolution. Among other things, our technology is part of our culture, and obviously has an impact on our ability to survive.
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    The cultural evolution never happened,
    what you saw was a business activity.
    To raise it in products.

    Economy productions needed more consumers to buy,
    and be connected a diferent way for waste money and effort.

    As the interactions becomes puppets activity,
    behaviour to act the easy money,the chances to play the toys at hands.

    Predicted what was imposed to do,
    to uncover and to hide within,safety on a try.
    What's next remains to be seen.
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