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Cultural Evolution - Science topic

Cultural Evolution is the continuous developmental process of a culture from simple to complex forms and from homogeneous to heterogeneous qualities.
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Dear scholars,
I have a feeling that the discussion of traditional performing arts within Cultural Evolution is almost non-existent. Maybe because the nature of traditional dance is too complex? It seems that performing arts research falls mainly either within cultural and anthropology but never within Cultural Evolution. Is it because it is impossible to discuss? What are your thoughts?
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Traditional performing arts within cultural evolution was a big topic historically for the German schools of "comparative musicology" (including dance studies). You can find many of their books and articles in English, mostly from the 1890s-1950s. In recent years, there is a bit of a revival of the topic.
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Dear Cultural Evolutionists,
I was wondering if you ever come across any discussions regarding George Herbert Mead's theories (particularly regarding I, Me and the Generalized Other) from the point of view of Cultural Evolution or in discussing Cultural Evolution. What are your thoughts on this?
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Dear Syafiq,
I am certainly not an expert on George Herbert Mead's works. However, from the vantage point of 21st century science, I'd say the following: While there will certainly be aspects in his writings pertinent to cultural evolution, he, of course, just didn't have the extensive empirical data base we have today - particularly in respect to the insights of cultural primatology, evolutionary biology, sociobiology/evolutionary psychology and the different branches of anthropology, among others. Perhaps Mead actually did go some way towards our modern understanding of "culture" as socially transmitted, group-specific behavioral traits. Nevertheless, he was simply lacking most of the data, models and theories we have today. So I would urge some caution in perhaps too hastily establishing links here (if this is what you are intending to do?).
Another, unrelated point: Wasn't one of his main (posthumously published) works mainly the result of his students' editorial work in compiling his long-time Chicago lecture on social psychology into a single book? I think I read somewhere that because of this editorial context, one should also always consult his own, original writings. Just my two cents worth...
Best,
Julius
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We have found cultures in history of human cultural evolution to rise, persist for a certain time and fall during the course of time. Almost all the civilisations faced such incident. For example Vaudeville in America which ruled the cultural arena and then substituted by film and radio. What are the reasons behind it? It may be stated that 'old is obsolete' and new always takes the place substituting old. It may be economics behind all the events in human civilisation including cultural superstructure of society. But why mankind is so ruthless to the old? Why sign of a particular culture completely abolished? Why NEW is so powerful and adoption of new is so fast?
I ask my esteem colleagues to enlighten me in this discussion. Thanks in Advance.
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The true Culture never falls Dear Dr. Aijaz Panhwar , it never goes extinct, it "transits" and I consider that no Nation owns any Culture, Nations can fall but true Cultures never fall, they are transmitted by "Historical Memory".
Thank you for your appreciation Dear Dr. Nandan Bhattacharya
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Is there any centralized database that would list and preferably also shown on a map all Eurasian and African archaeological sites from years 5000 - 1500 BCE? I would need to see, whether the appearance of archaeological sites correlates with the appearance of ancient place names.
Our team studied the geographic distribution of 15 ancient name sets to see, where they appear as place names and personal names. We found out that most of the ancient name sets seem to have their urheimat in India (e.g. Phoenician, Hyksos, Mitanni, Berber, Sea Peoples and Ethiopian) or have a very strong connection with India. The second highest density of ancient names was found in the river valleys of Volta and Niger in Africa, with relatively high density also along Danube and at the western parts of Eufrat & Tigris.
A short summary of the study is available here:
and the full study is found in here :
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I suggest you the following books:
Clark, Peter (ed.). The Oxford Handbook of Cities in World History. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013
MacEvedy, Colin. The Penguin Atlas of Ancient History. New York: Penguin Books, 1979.
MacEvedy, Colin. Cities of the Classical World An Atlas and Gazetteer of 120 Centres of Ancient Civilization. New York: Penguin Books, 2011.
Maisels, Charles Keith Maisels. Early Civilizations of the Old World. The formative histories of Egypt, the Levant, Mesopotamia, India and China. London-New York: Routledge, 2005.
Woolf, Greg. The Life and Death of Ancient Cities: A Natural History. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2020.
Yoffee, Norman. Myths of the Archaic State Evolution of the Earliest Cities, States, and Civilizations. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004.
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What distinguishes fine art from narrative art? Is this distinction (Bourdieu) important to maintain? For whom? Why? All of these issues in Art History are heating up due to recent shows of van Gogh's painting that cite letters to his mother and sister (primarily) in which he explains why he painted Bedroom in the Yellow House at Arles as one prominent example. van Gogh states the painting was inspired by his reading of George Eliot's Felix Holt the Radical and was vG's attempt to recreate these spartan surroundings of the novel's protagonist Felix Holt, yet to do so in bright colors.
Why have traveling shows often omitted van Gogh's Le Borinage paintings, esp. shows coming to the US? And another mystery, why is the work of Vincent van Gogh with the miners sometimes referred to as an unhappy early period that van Gogh more happily grew out of when he learned to paint better. What subjectivity holds these views and why are they the foregrounded view, at least in English-language studies of van Gogh at this time.
Will rhetorical analysis added to the standard formal approaches to painting aid in gaining a more parallax view of this painter and of art history in general?
Your comments are most welcome.
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D.E. Morant Sometimes artists' intentions are significant, sometimes not. But as you suggest, de-narrativized abstraction has it own narratives; however, they are not the Rorschach-type narratives you suggest but rather the theoretical narratives described by Tom Wolf in The Painted Word.
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What sorts of things does imaginative literature teach us? Is imaginative literature a luxury or an essential aspect of the human experience? Should the teaching of imaginative literature be included in educational curricula as a required subject, or, at least, an elective?
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It is a simple fact that everything we feed is growing. And a second simple fact is that we only become to know what we are able to believe in. So it is very important to deal with imaginative literature to feed our Imagination!
The process of becomming able to to things is: Conception (Imagination) followed by perception, followed by action(radius).
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When it comes to research findings and related conclusions, it is depending on what is subjective (i.e., subjectivity) and what is objective (i.e., objectivity). As i may claim, subjectivity is changing from one to one, as well from society to another, and from time to time, depending on social as well cultural evolution and change.
When it comes to objectivity, new innovations and new productions in technologies lead to new readings and different data, Hence, do we have to take findings in research and related conclusions as final? Or what?
Please, your kind contribution to the initiated discussion.
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Group subjectivity or belief systems indeed can change from society to society. But even in the same group if what is measured is not based on data, it is subjective. Objectivity of means that it doesn't matter who the individual is or the culture group, the fact stays the same.
What you are measuring whether subjective or objective, you must do it in an objective matter. You can measure opinions which are very subjective, but you can count them. So in research you have to consider all data and deal with them in a objective manner.
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The first high-level cultural magazine in Algeria, defining a new modern identity for Algerian culture, breaking off with colonization subculture, claiming for a Berberian culture's recognition but keeping on with the French language, mixed up with Arab texts. I really wish this kind of initiatives may prosper in all ex-colonies worldwide. Thanks to the courageous promoters, but I'm sure it will trigger more projects that style.
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Definitively, it's a pity Bourdieu isn't here anymore!
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we know that,the flowering hormone is  a type of  protein. i wonder if any progress has been made nature of this protein.
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Dear Dr. Abbas
Florigen is a systemic signal that promotes flowering. Its molecular nature is a conserved FLOWERING LOCUS T (FT) protein that belongs to the PEBP family. Recent work identified FT orthologues as originators of florigen and their polypeptides as the likely systemic agent.
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Thanks to recent research on how population levels, demographics, and the environment affect cultural evolution, the debate as to what gave rise to “modern human behaviour” has made substantial progress.  Continuing archaeological investigations from various sites in South Africa, such as Blombos, Diepkloof, Sibudu, and Pinnacle Point, dating to the Middle Stone Age, seem to confirm the importance of such criteria by pushing the date when behavioural flexibility occurred closer to when anatomically modern humans first appeared. As a result, the relevance of neuro-cognitive factors as a means of determining the behavioural profile of anatomically modern humans has been challenged.  However, as culture mainly concerns the manipulation and exchange of information according to context and as the brain is primarily an information processing organ, perhaps it is premature to discount the role of neuro-cognition to this debate. Neuro-cognition may therefore still be relevant in relation to providing the preconditions for culture and behavioural flexibility.  Thus, by assimilating neurocognitive factors with population levels, demographics and the environment are we at last on the brink of resolving Renfrew’s “sapient paradox”?
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Derek, here is the key couple of paragraphs from the Biological Theory paper I mentioned.
"We do not think that anything in cognitive science shows that we can simply “read-off” hominin cognition from behaviour or from artefacts. Even if skilled behaviour is not driven by explicit representation in semantic memory, we still need a positive account of implicit representation and its interaction with explicit information (which often plays an important role in teaching and error diagnosis). One of the puzzling features of human evolution is the lack of any clear correlation between the appearance of new hominin species and marked changes in the technical, ecological, and social lives of hominins (with the possible exception of the correlation between the evolution of erectus and Acheulian technology). This lack of correlation has been much discussed with respect to our species. The supposed problem is that Anatomically Modern Humans appeared in the historical record hundreds of thousands of years before Behaviourally Modern Humans. Indeed, on a recent estimate our species has existed for about 300k years (Hublin, Ben-Ncer et al. 2017), while most discussions place the emergence of Behaviourally Modern Humans within the last 100k years (Henshilwood and Marean 2003). If this is so then for more than half of our biological existence, the technical competence, ecological role and social lives of members of our species seemed akin to their Middle Stone Age contemporaries and ancestors rather than to their conspecific descendant. From about 50 kya, after a long and patchy transition period, our forager ancestors’ social, economic, and technical lives fell into the range of variation of historically known foragers. Yet those ancient humans are of the very same species as us. So why did it take so long for the Modern Mind to join the Modern Body? This is Renfrew’s “sapient paradox”  (see e.g. Renfrew 2008) however if either  niche construction approaches or 4E views of cognition are on the right track there is no reason to expect innovations in material technology, foraging, or social life to be correlated with speciation patterns. Reasons for this include (i) the cognitive capacities of individuals do not depend solely on their individual phenotypes, let alone on their neocortex, for they depend on their access to external supports as well; and (ii) the informational resources of communities are not a simple reflection of the cognitive capacities of individuals in those communities (and it is often communities, through collective action, that leave material traces). How the community is networked, and the patterns of informational cooperation (and lack of cooperation) are equally important.
As a consequence, there is no paradox in the “sapient paradox”. This makes the methodological problems more acute for cognitive archaeology. Those who emphasise the cognitive importance of niche construction also think that cumulative cultural evolution impacts on how we think, not just what we think; the defenders of extended and distributed approaches to cognition converge on the conclusion that there can be very significant cognitive differences within species. This potential variation in human actions and hence capacities stems from multiple factors: cognitive capacities depend not just on  genetic endowment, but also on the material and social supports that scaffold their cognition. There is no reason at all to suppose that (for instance) norms of teaching and information sharing, or the availability of material supports for cognition, are roughly constant across genetically similar communities that are nonetheless widely separated in space and time. If all of that is right, we cannot, for instance, aggregate data on material culture and economic lives across Neanderthal sites to form a composite picture of “the Neanderthal Mind” (Wynn and Coolidge 2004, Wynn, Overmann et al. 2016). Even idealising away from genetic evolution in the Neanderthal lineage, there is no “the Neanderthal Mind”.  At best, there is a spectrum of variation, a space of possible Neanderthal Minds. There is a certain reluctance amongst the archaeological sympathisers of 4E cognition to embrace this consequence. Thus John Gowlett, Clive Gamble and Robin Dunbar sign up to many of its signature ideas, while wanting to hang onto the idea that relative neocortex volume constrains social complexity (indexed as maximum group size) (Gamble, Dunbar et al. 2014). The seriousness of this challenge depends on how profoundly these extra-somatic factors influence cognition, and on when those factors began both to be important in hominin evolution and vary from community to community. Great ape intelligence may be embodied, but it is presumably neither extended nor embedded."
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The earliest modern humans as proposed in the southern Cape is what I am fascinated by, and how human-plant synergistic relationships and co-evolution might have played a vital part in development modern cognition. Of course earlier primates/hominids and hominims lead up to this and their plant use just as fascinating!
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Hello:
I work with the human species in general, specifically homo sapiens. Although in the second volume of my work I put the bosquimans as the living example of the longest evolution of our evolution and, therefore, as a model for others. Thak you for you interest
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I'm interested in the historical research, from the 19th century or so.
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Hi John. I'm afraid you have the dates wrong for the work on the structure of DNA. The discovery of the structure of the DNA double helix was made in 1953. By then, there was already strong evidence that DNA was the chemical basis of heredity, since the work of Avery, McLeod and McCarty was published in 1944. The Hershey-Chase experiment was published in 1952.
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Any links or references that point to some concrete examples are very welcome.
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Dear Orlando,
Thank you for your suggestions! This is exactly the kind of book I am looking for. In this case, I have read it already and I referred to it in my working notes. I also agree about your differentiation of specific domains like the beautiful or aesthetic, the cognitive, and the moral. In this regard, I find Habermas's formal pragmatics very useful.
Please let me know, if you have something else.
All the best,
Michael
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I intend to read about the criticism leveled to divergence time estimation of languages based on both lexicostatistics (glottochronology) and methods of comparative linguistics such as maximum parsimony. Could you introduce me some critical papers?
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Dear Colleague,
The literature is vast. If you wish to focus on criticism, articles by Don Ringe (with various coauthors) may be useful. On a different note, the book "Historical Linguistics and Lexicostatistics"  ed. by V.V. Shevoroshkin and Paul Sidwell (Melbourne, 1999) could provide you with food for thought (especially the chapters by Sergei Starostin, Harald Sverdrup).
I attach a paper which contains relevant details of the maths applied in the revised version of glottochronology (my co-author, V. Blazek is the mathematician :-)).
Hope, this helps.
Best regards,
Irén H.
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I'd like to ask those colleagues to help me with my inquiry whose field has to do with pragmatics, sociolinguistics, cultural evolution, memetics, etc.
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I am trying to figure out what archaeologists and others mean when they say "demographic exhaustion". It is hard to find any specifics on *exactly* what processes are being invoked.
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You may find some useful references in the works of  Norma McArthur, formerly at the Australian National University. There was a period in European colonial history  (eg New Caledonia) when the colonised population was so disrupted, divided, demoralised and decimated by the colonists' diseases that birth rates fell to perilously low levels. Could this be the meaning? However, this is clearly not the Lapita people... about whom try Jack Golson, Daniel Frimigacci, Matthew Spriggs....
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Do you have any experience with big history/ universal history exhibitions as well as courses for high school classes, especially:
- comparison of natural and cultural processes which work at different time scales (from years to billions of years)
- look at historical events (e.g. political turnovers, economical crises) from different points of view, i.e. study of written reports vs natural archives/ scientific data
- evolution as a (meta)concept that includes biological evolution, but also evolution of the universe, planetary evolution, abiogenesis, cultural evolution, evolution of mind
- answer to the question whether and to what degree history is determined by changes in environmental conditions (e.g. climatic forcing)
- transition from humans as minor constituents of land ecosystems to humans as ecosystem modellers and from early artefacts to written language
BTW: Is "big history" already out of fashion due to certain weak points (i.e. re-introduction of anthropocentrism and historicism into scientific discourse)?
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"Big History" as an exhibition or educational concept indeed works well on a high school level.  In the U.S., the Mount Rushmore National Memorial has served as a source of multiple educational concepts in many U.S. high schools. That memorial, situated in Keystone, South Dakota, consists of four busts, 18 meters high each, of four major U.S. presidents: George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln. These busts were artistically blasted by T.N.T. out of a mountainside by Gutzon Borglum and 400 workers.  These particular presidents could symbolize the birth, growth, development, and conservation of the U.S.  Hence the monument could teach historical events on a grand scale. Moreover, numerous animals and plants lodge in and on the monument, and could provide study of the ecosystem.  
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I am currently elaborating a lineage explanation of a modern human behavioural trait: psychedelic pharmacophagy (or the beneficial ingestion of "mind-manifesting" substances).
The purpose is to show how small changes in biological and cultural mechanisms can take us from ancestral ape's rudimentary capacities for tolerating and sometimes exploiting secondary metabolites to modern humans' capacity to instrumentalize psychedelics in order to enhance cognition and social  bonding. In other words, I want to explain the origins of such an evolutionary novelty by making plausible certain trajectory of change through phenotypic space.
For this purpose, I would like to examine articles that have tried to do something similar, i.e. elaborate a lineage explanation of a behavioral trait (and not a physiological or morphological one like, say, the eyes) in order to have some examples to use as paradigmatic input.
Any advice and suggestions will be greatly appreciated.
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Thank you, Michael, very interesting reply; dear Jose Manuel, surely you know Terence McKenna's proposals regarding the genesis of the human mind based on consumption of psychostimulants (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Terence_McKenna). One of my colleagues, the neurophysiologist Rafael Castro (jrafacastro@gmail.com) would certainly be very interested in speaking with you about possible collaboration.
On the evolution of human behavior, and adding some physiological and neurobiological references, perhaps you might be interested in a crazy proposal that I posted in May on "Advances in Anthropology" (Love is the cause of human evolution), because in it I make a brief comment about the human proclivity to pharmacological and non-pharmacological addictions that might fit well with your work on the psychedelic pharmacophagy, good luck.
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Feldman and Zhivotovsky's phenogenotype work showed the possibility that culture could independently affect phenotypes. Why not study inherited culture as it relates to genetic inheritance (as a more comprehensive theory would not necessarily be missing the missing heritability, for instance)?
I just worry your ceding the important distinction (ultimate vs proximal) to all things genetic as "ultimate". Chronological order does not imply ontological priority, does it?
Why do we consider the inheritance of culture as a different process than the inheritance of genes? Do genes and ideas not both live in me, reproduce in me, and effect me and each other? Seems to me the influence of the environmentalism debate that most needs to be shoved out: culture is within us as much as it is around us in our niche.
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Thanks for the answer Nikolaus.  Unfortunately, I think too many people dismiss vertical cultural information transfer because of the prevalence of horizontal information transfer.  Do parents and children not normally exchange ideas in an indistinguishable after the fact way to which they exchange genes?
What precludes any signature of Mendelian inheritance from a cultural locus / meme?
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Cognitive dissonance is a discomfort caused by holding conflicting cognitions (knowledge). It is among the most studied topics in contemporary psychology. Most people usually avoid this discomfort by discarding a contradictory knowledge. But any two pieces of knowledge contradict each other to some extent (otherwise they would be identical and would not be needed). It follows that when language was evolving and knowledge started accumulating fast, cognitive dissonances should have proliferated. They should have stopped evolution in its tracks.
What made evolution possible?
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the neural correlates for cognitive dissonance is dorsolateral PFC and ACC to my knowledge. as the frontal cortex in humans came later in evolution, the CD would have not been peresent in species not having PFC or less developed PFC.
somatic marker hpothesis(damasio1991) and risk as feelings(lowenstein) suggests that the relationship between the cognition and emotional system is not efficient like the connections between emotion to cognition. CD suggets that discomfort(emotion) is the results of cognition. this process will be very slow and weak. i dont know what is the effect of anticipated and anticipatory emotions on CD. but it seems that the CD evoking emotion is overestimated.
even in terms of attitude, cognition does not always lead to affect for example i have cognition: pulution is bad but if we see polution due to a factory, the bad feeling associated with it will vary people to vary, even many will not have emotions for the event that is expected by the cognition.