Darwin-L Message Log 5:187 (January 1994)

Academic Discussion on the History and Theory of the Historical Sciences

This is one message from the Archives of Darwin-L (1993–1997), a professional discussion group on the history and theory of the historical sciences.

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<5:187>From hantuo@utu.fi  Thu Jan 27 17:45:51 1994

To: Darwin-L@ukanaix.cc.ukans.edu
From: hantuo@utu.fi (Hanna Tuomisto)
Subject: re: DARWIN-L digest 130
Date: 	Fri, 28 Jan 1994 01:54:07 +0200

Michael Alvard wrote:
>I don't see a problem at all.  It could simply mean that from an evolutionary
>point of view indivduals in teh technologically developed world who reproduce
>less than folks in the less developed nations are less fit, and are being
>selected against by natural selection.

I agree in principle. But I don't think there needs to be any form of
'natural' selection 'against' anybody here. Rather, I see this as a typical
case where the fate of human genes depends less on the properties of the
genes themselves than on memes. The main reason why technologically
developed countries have low birth-rates seems to be a combination of two
things: people prefer to have few children, and they have the means to
control the number of children they get. Therefore the reproduction rate is
not dependant on genetic fitness, but it is a result of a concious choice
made by each individual on the basis of cultural values and economical
possibilities. And since cultural values are not inherited but learned, the
situation as such should not have any effect on human evolution.

Of course, some hereditary things may be so strongly correlated with the
cultural/economical situations, that they behave as if they were selected
for or against.  For example, it so happens that almost all people in
developing countries have black hair. It would seem far-fetched to claim
that black hair as such increases the 'fitness' of these people, but still
the proportion of black-haired people in the human population is increasing
rapidly. The same applies to any genetically heritable characteristics that
happen to be common among people from developing countries but are rare
among people from the industrialized countries. When differential
reproduction prevails, the overall genetic heritage will eventually
converge towards those populations that increase fastest, even though the
reasons for that increase would have no genetic basis whatsoever.
Afterwards, of course, the common types will be labeled as the 'successful'

The situation gets a lot more complicated when the spread of cultural and
economical aspects is looked at, because these are not transferred in a
simple Mendelian fashion. Therefore it would be useless to try to find
"genetic determinants" of "undevelopment". Many cultural practices differ
between industrialized and non-industrialized countries, but I don't
believe that genes have got anything to do with it.

Hanna Tuomisto

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