Natural Selection, Scale, and Cultural Evolution Essay

Natural Selection, Scale, and Cultural Evolution Essay

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Evolution can be seen throughout all aspects of life, but for each aspect evolution does not occur in the same process. In his article entitled “Natural Selection, Scale, and Cultural Evolution,” Dunnell emphasizes and explains why evolution has made such a small impact on archaeology. Cultural evolution and biological evolution are not the same. Biological evolution uses theoretical propositions that explain the mechanisms of biological adaptation and evolution. The laws of cultural evolution “are not theoretical propositions but rather empirical generalizations” (Dunnell, 1996: 25). Cultural evolution does not explain the differences among the occurrences cultural phenomena. Dunnell’s main goal is to effectively formulate ways to integrate evolutionary characteristics and anthropological theory (Dunnell, 1996).
Dunnell believed that evolutionary biology is a better method to explain evolution in cultural anthropology and archaeology rather than cultural evolution. The main problem with biological evolution is the dilemma of altruistic behavior in humans, which is the exact opposite of natural selection. Dunnell states that altruistic behavior is “the ultimate of the selfish principles” (Dunnell 1996: 26). The original solution to the issue of altruistic behavior was thought to be to change the scale of which natural selection works from that of the individual to the group. However, Dunnell gives three reasons why this change usually would not work. First, the individual, not the group, is the mean by which the reproductivity occurs. Second, the individual is the mean by which observable characteristics show themselves. Finally, changes in higher levels of ranking in society, such as that of the group, are too slow for ...


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...a “culture” (Dunnell 1988).
After a forty years absence, the cultural evolution method was revived in the mid-twentieth century. At first, many rejected the revival of this method, even though they were still using some aspects of the method, i.e. the stages of a cultures development. The twentieth century cultural evolution method differed from the earlier model in a few ways, but the main difference was in the definition of “progress.” During the nineteenth century, “progress” was broadly defined as “the betterment or similarity to modern European culture” (Dunnell, 1988; pg 176-177). During the twentieth century, however, “progress” took the definition of “ the increase in the amount of energy captured by society” (Dunnell, 1988; pg 177). This simply means that the “least developed” cultures used less energy than “more developed” cultures (Dunnell, 1988).

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Natural Selection, Scale, and Cultural Evolution Essay

- Evolution can be seen throughout all aspects of life, but for each aspect evolution does not occur in the same process. In his article entitled “Natural Selection, Scale, and Cultural Evolution,” Dunnell emphasizes and explains why evolution has made such a small impact on archaeology. Cultural evolution and biological evolution are not the same. Biological evolution uses theoretical propositions that explain the mechanisms of biological adaptation and evolution. The laws of cultural evolution “are not theoretical propositions but rather empirical generalizations” (Dunnell, 1996: 25)....   [tags: Natural Selection Essays]

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