Here Wilson mellows down his
original stand on the mind as a mere gene-transporting
machine and attempts a unified theory of biology and social sciences, from genes
to mind to culture, positing a strong coupling between genetic and cultural
Culture is the product of the interaction of all the mental and physical artifacts of a population. Human culture is a form of "euculture", which involves reification (the production of concepts and the continous reclassification of the world, including the ability to symbolize) besides teaching, imitation and learning (which are present in many other animals). A culture is perceived through its "culturgens" (behaviors and artifacts), the basic units of inheritance in cultural evolution. Each individual is genetically endowed with epigenetic rules to process culturgens. These rules assembly the mind of the individual. They include genetically determined sensory filters and cognitive faculties, and affect the probability of transmitting a culturgen as opposed to another. Epigenesis is defined as the process of interaction between genes and the environment during development. Epigenetic rules affect both primary functions such as hearing and secondary functions such as mother-infant bonding and incest avoidance.
One or more culturgens are favored by the epigenetic rules. Eucultural species evolve towards a type of cultural transmission in which a dual shift occurs in time ("gene-culture coevolution"): change in the epigenetic rules due to shifts in the genes frequency and change in culturgen frequencies due to the epigenetic rules. The two shifts exhert a mutual influence.
The epigenetic rules exhibit genetic variation, thereby contributing to the variance of cognitive traits within a population. The fitness of the individuals differ depending on their minds' behaviors. Therefore the population as a whole tends to shift towards the most efficient epigenetic rules.
The general model is one in which the offspring learn to "socialize" from their age peers and parent generation. They evaluate the culturgens and assimilate them depending on their epigenetic rules; and then use the outcome to exploit the environment.
The authors review evidence from daily habits that suggest a relation between genes and culture.
TM, ®, Copyright © 2005 Piero Scaruffi