Darwin and Archaeology: A Handbook of Key Concepts

By Gary M. Feinman; John P. Hart et al. | Go to book overview

Chapter 8

Descent

Scott MacEachern


INTRODUCTION

Descent: 7a. The fact of “descending” or being descended from an ancestor or ancestral stock; lineage. b. of animals and plants; in Biology extended to origination of species ( EVOLUTION 6c). c. (figurative). Derivation or origination from a particular source.

Oxford English Dictionary

Thus, on the theory of descent with modification, the main facts with respect to the mutual affinities of the extinct forms of life to each other and to living forms, are explained in a satisfactory manner. And they are wholly inexplicable on any other view.

Darwin 1859:334

In the sense of this chapter, common usage of the term descent involves a set of factors, both material and temporal. Descent entails the existence of both an ancestral source, a process by which copies of that source are generated through time, and the resulting offspring of that source. The entities involved may be human beings reckoning their ancestry through their parents and grandparents, biological organisms undergoing evolutionary change, behaviors changing through time, versions of a computer program being modified for final release, or abstract systems of thought subjected to critique and amendment. Descent is thus a genealogical concept, an account of the persistence of a lineage of related entities through time. Furthermore, observation of the world and the more formal strictures of information theory imply that processes of copying are not perfect over

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Darwin and Archaeology: A Handbook of Key Concepts
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Foreword vii
  • Table of Key Words xv
  • Chapter 1 - Introduction 1
  • Chapter 2 - Adaptation 15
  • References 26
  • Chapter 3 - Biological Constraints 29
  • References 46
  • Chapter 4 - Cause 49
  • References 65
  • Chapter 5 - Classification 69
  • Chapter 6 - Complexity 89
  • Chapter 7 - Culture 107
  • References 123
  • Chapter 8 - Descent 125
  • Chapter 9 - History 143
  • Chapter 10 - Individuals 161
  • References 180
  • Chapter 11 - Learning 183
  • References 198
  • Chapter 12 - Models 201
  • Chapter 13 - Natural Selection 225
  • Chapter 14 - Population 243
  • About the Contributors 257
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