Cultural evolution


The fact that many behavioral patterns in animals do not develop by natural selection and are not genetically passed down through the generations means that their evolution does not obey the laws of biological evolution and follows the laws of cultural evolution instead. In cultural evolution, a possibility exists for horizontal passage of traits among unrelated individuals, along with (non-genetic) inheritability of acquired characteristics.

Another important feature of cultural evolution is that patterns fixed during cultural evolution may, in their consequences, be disadvantageous for their bearer as well as for the population and species. (Of course, this feature can also occur in traits fixed, e.g., by sexual selection.) Overlooking this important aspect of behavioral traits is probably the main flaw of classical socio-biology and, to a certain extent, also ethology. Both disciplines attempt to explain the origin of individual behavioral patterns from the narrow viewpoint of their contribution to the fitness of their bearers or to the efficiency of multiplication of the allele that is responsible for the particular behavioral pattern. Because of the specificity of the mechanisms of cultural evolution, this topic will be dealt with in a separate chapter (XVII).

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The classical Darwinian theory of evolution can explain the evolution of adaptive traits only in asexual organisms. The frozen plasticity theory is much more general: It can also explain the origin and evolution of adaptive traits in both asexual and sexual organisms Read more