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Evolution and Culture

Human characteristics like self-preservation, reproduction and greed are biological imperatives. These are not just based on biological evolution. Humans are social creatures and the ways in which they create, maintain and change culture, from personal to international relationships can have just as much of an influence on our behaviour and evolutionary instinctive reactions. Whereas the emerging human body evolved to fit its ecological niche to survive as a living creature, the emerging human mind evolved to fit its cultural niche to survive as a social creature.¹

Unfortunately, culture does not fossilize in the same way that bone and stone do. Evolutionary scientists have to make educated guesses based on knowledge of archaeology, the brain, sociology and history. Just like any other living organism, human's culturally evolved as adaptations to their environments and using archaeological records, scientists can discover alterations in human structure and behaviour as the environment changed.¹ Many scientists believes that our primate ancestors behaved similarly to the great apes of today, which is a helpful assumption to guide a researcher in this field.¹

Three basic elements of human cultural evolution include cooperation, the camp and a mutual dependence on each sex.¹ These were characteristics of human culture that began to separate protohumans from great apes. These built the foundation for humans to have the rich and expansive cultures and subcultures that exist in human society today.

Theories in contemporary study of evolution and culture include Ibn Khaldun's Organic Society, Comte's Law of Three Stages and Hegel's Stadial Theory. Those in this field study unilineal and multilineal evolution models in the creation of both universal and distinct culture histories.

A comparison of the multilineal and unilineal theories of cultural evolution.
Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons



1.Taflinger, Richard F. Human Cultural Evolution. Retrieved from
Title Image Credit: Steve Snodgrass /

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