This is the fourth and final entry on Edward Wilson's "On Human Nature". The first is Edward Wilson: On Human Nature, the second is Edward Wilson and Sociobiology, and the third is Edward Wilson: Sociobiology and Humans.
- After discussing the biological aspects of materialism and sociobiology, then relating it to how this theory could affect humans, it is now time to discuss some large topics that need clarifying. These will include the difference between biological evolution and cultural evolution, and how sociobiology affects very important human institutions.
Cultural Vs. Biological Evolution
- We will start with a necessary clarification, that between biological and cultural evolution.
Our devoted readers will remember a reference made earlier to the possibility that Marilyn Monroe and her busty blond look could have been a determining factor in biological evolution. That because of the huge cultural influence she had, more blond women with big boobs (or manufactured thusly) would get the better mates and change the gene pool to their favor.
Thus we would see this type of woman as having a greater likelihood of passing her genes along, and maybe in the future we would have more and more Pams. This is not the case that sociobiology makes exactly (though this is possible). The blond haired, big boobed traits and especially the plastic surgery to attain them are examples of cultural evolution. In this case, the evolution of what is "sexy" or "looked for" in a woman, physically. In fact, the vast majority of human biological evolution occurred in times never recorded and the explosion of cultural evolution has since been far outpacing any biological evolution.
"We can be fairly certain that most of the genetic evolution of human social behavior occurred over the five million years prior to civilization...On the other hand, by far the greater part of cultural evolution has occurred since the origin of agriculture and cities approximately 10,000 years ago. Although genetic evolution of some kind continued during this latter, historical sprint, it cannot have fashioned more than a tiny fraction of the traits of human nature...It follows that human sociobiology can be most directly tested in studies of hunter-gathering societies and the most persistent preliterate herding and agricultural societies."
-So there is a reason that culture has not deviated the human nature to an amazing degree, because most of it evolved far ago when culture was not as strong a force. And we are still able to see amazing similarities (as stated specifically in the last entry) in all human civilizations, without certain cultures differing greatly genetically.
-This does not mean that no biological evolution is occurring at all, just that the major features will most likely remain the same. Just recently, scientists from the University of Chicago found many forms of evolution in humans that affect things like the ability to digest milk in Europeans, or specific sugars in East Asians. These minor changes to help survival in specific places and due to specific cultural practices are exciting. More on this will surely be coming as the genetic field prospers.
-Many of the major institutions that people would consider "cultural" or completely disconnected from biology, actually can be easily explained by sociobiology, "religions are like other human institutions in that they evolve in directions that enhance the welfare of the practitioners...the benefit can arise as the sum of the generally increased fitness of all the members."
Once you understand the tenets of sociobiology, it is easy to see how adhering to a religion would help pass along genetic traits. Becoming a member of such a strong and enormous group is a dream for genes.
- This institution of religion serves to promote certain biological traits, "xenophobia, the dichotomization of objects into the sacred and profane, hierarchical dominance, intense attention toward leaders, charisma, trophyism, and trance induction are among the elements of religious behavior most likely to be shaped by developmental programs and learning rules." Since forms of religion have been around since before "time", and have only prospered since, it makes sense that these genetic predispositions would be very powerful.
- Even Martyrdom (not pictured to avoid promotion of activity) makes sense evolutionarily. Once you understand that evolution is not about spreading individual genes at all costs, but also involves spreading your close familial genes or group genes, the existence of martyrdom is obviously a positive move for your genes. Because people revere the martyr and it helps promote their ideals and spread their religion; the martyr is a powerful force evolutionarily. "The loss of genes suffered through the deaths of disciplined individuals can be more than balanced by a gain of genes attained through expansion of the benefited group."