Sociobiology, Evolutionary Psychology, and Behavioral Ecology


-Edward O. Wilson, “The Morality of the Gene” (1975)
-Jerome Barkow, “The Elastic Between Genes and Culture” (1989)
-Rebecca Bliege Bird, Eric Alden Smith, and Douglas -W. Bird, “The hunting handicap: costly signaling in human foraging strategies” (2001)

Presentation slides for Sociobiology 

Discussion Items based on -Edward O. Wilson, “The Morality of the Gene” (1975)

In what ways do you think that Wilson’s quote, “A chicken is only an eggs way of making another egg” is accurate? In what ways does it seem inaccurate? Provide examples.

What do you think the purpose of forming religious groups and tribes is relating to gene flow? Do you think Wilson is correct, in that we cooperate in these groups in order to pass on our genes?

Discussion Items based on -Jerome Barkow, “The Elastic Between Genes and Culture” (1989)

Central to this article’s arguments is a conception of culture transmission and of biological evolution as intimately linked yet conceptually distinct. I view culture transmission and biological evolution as the two ends of an elastic band. Each pulls on the other. Processes at one end tend to generate fitness-reducing, socially transmitted information; processes at the other tend to eliminate such information. Because both the “stretching” and the “pulling back” take place continually, at no time is any culture likely to be entirely fitness enhancing for all of its participants, nor is any culture likely to be entirely genetically maladaptive. I will refer to culture’s tendency to move in fitness-reducing directions as culture stretch. Processes tending to alter culture in fitness-enhancing ways will be termed culture revision.


Do you think that genes and culture is like an elastic band as Barkow claims?

Is culture dependent on genes?

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  • Art M  On April 1, 2014 at 12:51 pm

    In relation to gene flow, creating religious and cultural groups does make sense because religious groups tend to isolate themselves whenever they are surrounded by other or larger religious groups. They want to stay close together in order to maintain their traditions alive. It reminds me of how Jewish groups Europe and Christian groups in the Middle East stuck together to maintain their religious and cultural practices. Whenever one person in the group met someone from the dominant religion, whether a European Christian or Middle Eastern Muslim, they usually convert to the other religion to be accepted to the community. That would be how gene flow would happen in culture.

    Culture isn’t dependent on genes because it sets up the assumption that culture is or has a biological factor to it. Although we know that all humans are capable to learn culture, and that alone seems to support the notion that there is a biological factor to it, the assumption makes it seem as though we are born with a culture that our parents, grandparents, or ancestors are born with. If that was true then there wouldn’t be any culture change between parent and child or have people born to or assimilate to a different culture than their families.

  • pthoj91  On May 15, 2014 at 12:32 pm

    I do not think culture is dependent on genes. Culture is always moving. Culture is very broad and there is a lot of ways to define culture itself. I however do believe that culture could adapt to other cultures and a culture can become acculturated together.

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