Ever-Expanding Horizons: The Dual Informational Sources of Human Evolution

Ever-Expanding Horizons: The Dual Informational Sources of Human Evolution

Ever-Expanding Horizons: The Dual Informational Sources of Human Evolution

Ever-Expanding Horizons: The Dual Informational Sources of Human Evolution

Excerpt

The genesis of this volume can be traced back some eighteen yeas to my reading of an article by V. R. Potter (1964) in Science, in which he discussed briefly the notion that ideas are the cultural analogue of DNA, that is, that ideas are the source of cultural information as well as the basic units of cultural evolution. I had, by that time, begun to put together lecture material which eventually was published as The Natural History of Man (Swanson 1973). Potter's point of view continued to intrigue me, and although I had dealt with the problem only briefly and rather casually, I coined the term sociogene to identify those ideas that, maturing into shared concepts and interacting with the expressed information encoded in DNA, led to the emergence of the human phenotype with which we are all familiar. I still find the term appropriate.

Recently a number of well-known biologists as well as anthropologists have dealt with the nature, origin, and transmission of the elements that constitute culture in all its varied aspects. One can find both consensus and disagreement in these writings, a circumstance not wholly unexpected because the general subject matter is embraced by the hybrid and controversial term sociobiology. But this is all to the good, for as Nan Fairbrother (1956) once said in another connection:

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