Culture and the Evolutionary Process of Human Beings Research Paper

Excerpt from Research Paper :

Archeology

THE ROLE OF CULTURE AND ENVIRONMENT IN THE EVOLUTION OF HUMANITY

Understanding the evolution of humanity has been one of the most critical quests for most individuals in the current society. The intersection between environmental influences and culture creates an area of social interest with a focus on human evolution. Empirical research shows that the society plays a significant role in shaping the evolution of human beings as evidenced by psychological analysis of human evolution. The extraordinary cooperative nature of human beings raises more questions on the perceived changes of human behavior and interaction over time (Hawkes, Paine, & School, 2006). Among the factors that drive human beings to strive to understand their evolution, include paleoanthropology results that provide unique information that provides significant evidence to the aspects of human evolution postulated to have occurred millions of years ago. Results from fossil studies such as increasing brain size and the emergence of culture show a strong relationship between culture and environment in influencing the evolution of human beings (Boyd, 1988).

Structure of the research paper

This study analyzes the relationship existing between culture and the environment in contributing to the evolution of humanity. In specific, the research will answer questions related to the research question such as

What is the relationship between culture and the evolution of humanity?

What is the relationship between the environment and human evolution?

What are the impacts of the relationship between culture and environment has on human evolution?

The research paper will illuminate a light on the relationship between culture and environment in influencing the evolution of humanity. The analysis will draw concepts from different theories/models developed to explain the relationship and the use of different research materials including journals, articles, and books. The study takes thematic review where each of the above research topics will be analyzed separately to show the relationship.

Thematic literature review

Relationship between culture and the evolution of humanity

Culture is a factor not unique to human beings. Mammal species such as monkeys transfer their cultural information from one generation to the next. It happens to human beings who learn their culture from interacting with the people in the environment. Sociologists recognize that, culture has different uses and meanings depending on the perspectives of the targeted population. However, most acknowledge that, culture refers to a range of behavioral patterns acquired from the environment. It is a fragile phenomenon necessary for human survival. Culture changes from generation to generations because it only exists in our minds and changes with time. Groups in society have unique needs. The behavior among such groups is under a constant influence by other groups and external factors resulting in the degradation of the cultural values (Symons, 1980).

Culture has affected the evolution of human beings in a degree that is unprecedented in other animal species. Shoemaker, (1996) acknowledges that, culture has influenced human evolution in many ways affecting their lives both negatively and positively. Religious attitude and social attitudes influence the functioning of cultural alleles. Social beliefs of population growth, abortion, and birth control have changed significantly over time. Social attitudes about social structures such as families and marriage partners have changed over time translating to the evolution of the human beings. Cultures such as military culture have influenced the reproductive fitness of individuals globally since the early ages. Travel technology has facilitated the mixing of people from different parts in culture mix. This causes the evolution of human beings as the culture mix influence their behavior, beliefs, and values. Travel technology has resulted in the mixing and mating of people from different parts of the world. This results in decline and isolation of the human population, which translates its effects in the evolution of human beings (Hawkes, Paine, & School, 2006).

Evolution of human beings occurred under the influence of five major forces, which include mutation, culture, the mating structure of the population, natural selection, and genetic drift. Evolutionary biologists acknowledge that, natural selection, culture, genetic drift, and mutation have a significant impact on the evolution of human beings. Others are not considered to have a significant effect in most of the traditional texts (Darlington, 1978). Long before the introduction of agriculture, human beings migrated to occupy different regions around the world. Surviving in the new region was favorable for individuals with generic and cultural adaptation. Inability to adopt the desired cultural knowledge resulted in the emergence of individuals with a new culture different from the ones such people had.

As time went by, human beings kept developing more cultural adoption, thereby influencing the evolution of the human beings. The current society faces numerous changes that date back to the earlier years. Cultural diversities witnessed in various social organizations, kinship structures, mating partners, and group's sizes have undergone significant transformations. The transformations have changed the cultural ideologies influencing the behavior of people over time. As a result, it led to the evolution of humanity to the present time (Croll & Parkin, 2002).

While explaining the relationship between culture and evolution of humanity, Symons, (1980) used gene culture co-evolutionary theory to explain the ways in which culture contributes to the evolution of human beings. According to the gene culture co-evolutionary model, human beings acquire knowledge from interacting with others in the society. The theory states that, cultural evolution results from genetically transformed psychological adaptations that facilitate the acquisition of beliefs, practices, mental models, and strategies from other members of the society. This results in the introduction of new ideas and behaviors that influence one's behavior, thereby contributing to their evolution over time. Cognitive adaptations contribute to the growth of a second system of cultural evolution that transmits genetic inheritance and behaviors that affect human learning. The transmitted traits and acquired behaviors influence the behavior of individuals in the society, thereby influencing human evolution as these behaviors and characteristics are constant changes from biological and environmental influences (Foley, 1995).

Apart from this, cultural evolution has a strong influence on the evolution of human beings as it alters social and physical environment that is under constant interaction with the human beings. This result in a culture-gene co-evolution that changes social learning and depletion of the learning skills acquired from the ancestral group (Croll & Parkin, 2002). As a result, the newly developed culture-gene evolution shapes human genome that translates to the evolution of humanity. Cultural brain hypothesis states that, the evidence of expanding human brain shows the impact of culture in the evolution of humanity. According to the hypothesis, culture creates tools that provide human beings to improve their health and outcomes by embracing effective strategies perceived useful to human beings (Henrich & Boyd, 1998).

Herrmann et al. (2007) defined culture as information stored in the mind of an individual and obtained by imitating other people's behaviors. Since culture is transferable from one person to another and people vary in their learning capabilities from what they gain, this may cause behavioral differences as witnessed among them in the society. As such, this supports the fact that, human beings are social beings who can cooperate even with strangers. Aspects like culture and travel foster interaction with strangers with a diverse cultural background. Combining the cultures result in the development of a "super culture" that influences people's behavior across different regions globally. Cultural evolution has led to the development and changes in the behavior of social institutions that led to change in the affective and cognitive behavior of the social organizations. This change extends its influence on the evolution of human beings (Henrich & Boyd, 1998).

Empirical researches conducted by different scholars' shows that, culture and genes are two forms of inheritance, which the offspring gain from their ancestors. The offspring acquires cultural and genetic legacy expressed in terms of artifacts and behavior. During its transfer, knowledge changes across generations leading to the rise of new genomes and cultures that shape humanity (Eagly & Wood, 1999). According to genetic theory, culture and genes change in response to natural selection and drift. This change results in the transmission of varied cultural behaviors, values, and beliefs that influence the behavior of people significantly across different populations. Culture shapes our material world. Its processes can affect the change frequencies of alleles in response to selection. There is a marked variance in the consistency of the knowledge transferred from the person. This might result in the production of an unusual strong natural selection consistent with the needs of the society over time.

In efforts to explain the relationship between culture and evolution of humanity, Ley, Peterson, & Gordon, (2006) used the niche construction theory to explain the relevance of culture in contributing to the evolution of human evolution. According to the niche theory, human beings strive to respond to the social needs by embracing behaviors that allow them to conform to the needs of the society. The design and culture affect human evolutionary path by modifying the selection. This causes the fixation of alleles that could otherwise be deleted leading to the extinction…

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