Consilience: The Unity of Knowledge - From Genes to Culture Summary & Analysis

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From Genes to Culture Summary and Analysis

All human behavior is influenced by culture that reflects the genetic history of the species. Psychological concept of gene-culture co-evolution involves cultural evolution with both evolutions being linked. The mind absorbs parts of the existing culture during its growth. Culture uses various elements, such as fear of snakes to create narratives and metaphors. Shamans enrich cultures through their experience of serpents in their dreams.

Evolution by natural selection creates new mixes of alleles which are changes in DNA sequences that improve survival. Genes assuring higher survival increase in populations that prevail over those with lower survival rates. Societies are created by culture while culture creates societies. Culture can be defined as behavior constructed by a specific language with language instincts and large vocabulary. It is difficult to determine when symbolic language evolves to create culture, but natural elements of culture, such units of culture emerge with concepts as part of complex behaviors or ideas. Culture evolves when different parts of the brain become responsible for meaning and perception along with semantic and episodic memory.

There are competing perceptions on the way cultures evolve. Nurturists stress the impact of the environment while hereditarians consider heritability of intelligence and personality as critical. Nurturists and heraditarians think that differences between cultures are due to history and environment. Human genetics responsible for behavior is one of the links between genes and culture. There are 1200 disorders caused by genes. Mutation in single genes causes changes in traits. Both environment and hereditary conditions are responsible for disorders.

Cultures evolve from a similar basis. Later differences are the products of genes, senses, learning, and social behavior. Inherited neurobiological traits allow for certain perceptions of the world. Both animals and humans are innately prepared to learn certain behaviors. While senses impose epigenetic rules that are "regularities of sensory perception and mental development that animate and channel the acquisition of culture" (Wilson, p. 157), sensations are broken into units. The structuralist approach proposes that oppositions in concepts such as life and death create myths and symbols. Such oppositions are linked into compositions that create cultures.

Only one gene mutation that causes dyslexia has been identified so far. Genes determine epigenetic rules that allow the acquisition of culture that determines in the end which genes survive. Linguistic complexities are critical to the way cultures develop. Color vocabulary has been much quicker adopted in cultures where such vocabulary was limited when the principal color terms were grouped with the terms they knew. The way cultures recognize colors differ.

This section contains 430 words
(approx. 2 pages at 400 words per page)
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