Wednesday, August 4, 2010

325. Some Thoughts on Evolution, Natural and Cultural: 9

If evolution, and even life itself, can be understood in terms of a "complementary" relation between the materialist viewpoint of biological science and the non-materialist viewpoint of the conscious observer, then on what side of the dichotomy does culture reside? The following questions immediatly come to mind: To what extent is culture the product of processes set in motion by natural selection and to what extent could it be understood as the product of a kind of collective consciousness? What is the difference between the unique perspective afforded by the individual mind of a particular observer, and the shared perspectives of the members of a collective? To what degree can certain aspects of animal (including human) behavior be considered either instinctive or cultural -- and what, if any, would be the difference?

Is bird song essentially biological, or essentially cultural?
Early experiments by Thorpe in 1954 showed the importance of a bird being able to hear a tutor's song. When birds are raised in isolation, away from the influence of conspecific males, they still sing. While the song they produce resembles the song of a wild bird, it lacks the complexity and sounds distinctly different. (Wikipedia)

Is bird song associated with natural selection?
Scientists hypothesize that bird song has evolved through sexual selection, and experiments suggest that the quality of bird song may be a good indicator of fitness.

If bird songs are learned rather than simply produced via instinct (as are insect songs for example), does that make them cultural, at least in part?

If bird songs are produced instinctively, does that make them biological?

What bearing might this have on the vocalizations of primates?

What bearing might this have on the vocalizations of humans?

(You can see where I'm going with this.)

More later.

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