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In your view, is culture independent of genetics?

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Showing 1-25 of 597 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Nov 20, 2012 8:04:38 PM PST
'probabilist says:
In your view, is culture independent of genetics?



In reply to an earlier post on Nov 20, 2012 9:02:45 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Nov 20, 2012 9:04:21 PM PST

Sometimes it is and sometimes it isn't. Take Islam, I don't think one would deny it is a culture. But this culture transcends boarders or environments, i.e. can live in Antarctica and still be a Muslim just as much as in Saudi Arabia. Its not affected by those environmental conditions. But a culture like the Eskimo. Their culture is not independent of their genetics. They belong to one enviroment specifically, and that enviroment will affect those who survive and don't, and thus their genetics to help form who the Eskimo are. Take a look at genetic test of Eskimo and Muslims, you will notice the difference. Muslims can be white while Eskimo can't (generally, except for a random mutation).


In reply to an earlier post on Nov 20, 2012 9:04:47 PM PST
Astrocat says:
I don't agree, Litter. I think the culture in Indonesia is vastly different than the culture in Saudi Arabia, and yet both are nearly 100% Muslim.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 20, 2012 9:12:49 PM PST
Nancy Davison,

What's the cultural difference between one Muslim and another Muslim within the Muslim culture? For example, go to Mecca during time of the Pilgrimage and you won't see any difference in culture between these Muslims who live in different environments. They dress the same and perform the same rituals, and say the same prayers in the Arabic language.


In reply to an earlier post on Nov 20, 2012 9:21:50 PM PST
Astrocat says:
Litter, I don't see how you can say that. Look at Saudi Arabia and the culture there, the way women are treated, and then look at Indonesia and see the vast differences. Food, language, music, family structures, they're all different.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 20, 2012 9:25:12 PM PST
Nancy Davison,

There is a simple reason I can say that. It is possible for you to be a Saudi Arabian person and not be a Muslim. Likewise, it is possible for you to an Indonesian person and not be a Muslim. They will take part in the Indonesian culture or the Saudi Arabian culture, but that does not mean they will take part in the Muslim culture. They're not even Muslim to take part in it like a person who doesn't speak sign language can't partake in that culture or language.


In reply to an earlier post on Nov 20, 2012 9:27:49 PM PST
Astrocat says:
Okay, Litter, I think we're talking about two different things. Culture, to me, is the whole nine yards, not just the religious component. Indonesian Muslims are just as Muslim as Saudi Arabian Muslims in the sense of the "five pillars" part of their religion. But their marriage customs, the education of girls, and all the other facets of culture are very different in the two nations.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 20, 2012 9:33:16 PM PST
Nancy Davison,

The religious component is what makes someone a Muslim in the first place, which is a culture. And of course Indonesian Muslims are just as much Muslims as a Muslim in any other country, this is because they share the same culture regardless of country of origin or country residing in. This is similar to how a black Indonesian is just as black as any black Kenyan.

Muslims not only have the 5 pillars, they all accept the Qua'ran, at least. That is one thing they all share amongst Muslims in any country. This, again, points out that it is not dependent on any specific geographical location to have this culture.


In reply to an earlier post on Nov 20, 2012 10:49:33 PM PST
Astrocat says:
Okay, I don't see religion as "a culture", I see it as a component of culture in some areas.

I don't at all think a black Indonesian is the same as a black Kenyan, and, in fact, looking at pictures of people from both places, the color is quite different, so it's not true that "a black Indonesian is just as black as any black Kenyan". Moreover, the idea that because they're both "black" (in fact, they're not) they're members of the same culture - if that's what you're saying - is obviously incorrect.

Yes, Muslims do share a belief in the Qur'an, but Christians share a belief in the Bible, and there's no way you can say all Christians share the same culture. Nor do all Buddhists share the same culture, nor do all Jews share the same culture. You simply can't back up that claim, Litter.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 20, 2012 11:06:52 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Nov 20, 2012 11:07:32 PM PST
AxeGrrl says:
I'm not sure how anyone could argue that ANY human endeavour (including culture) is completely independent of genetics. Which isn't to say that genetics is the sole or even 'most' influential contributer to human culture(s).......

but human biology (including genetics) informs ALL human endeavour/behaviour. To me, the more precise question would be 'to what extent?' and/or 'how?'

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 20, 2012 11:13:04 PM PST
Nancy Davison,

Actually, it is just as true that a black Indonesian is just as black as any Kenyan, or else they would both be black and not black, which is impossible.

You might as well say that All Muslims do not share what is necessary to be Muslim, or likewise with your example of Christians or Buddhist, which is absurd because it would mean that there are no Muslims or Christians, or Buddhist, which is contrary to the fact that Christians, Muslims, and Buddhist, do in fact exist. So if you want to go counter to the facts for your position, you can do that.


In reply to an earlier post on Nov 21, 2012 6:42:25 AM PST
Mickey says:
I thin this is an interesting question. I suspect culture is mostly independent of genetics, but I can't say with certainty there's no connection.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 21, 2012 7:26:47 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Nov 21, 2012 7:27:39 AM PST
No. There are interactions between genes and culture. For an overview, see the Wikipedia article "Dual Inheritance Theory". Some relevant passages:

Genes and culture coevolve
Cultural traits alter the social and physical environments under which genetic selection operates. For example, the cultural adoptions of agriculture and dairying have, in humans, caused genetic selection for the traits to digest starch and lactose, respectively.[4][5][6][7][8][9] As another example, it is likely that once culture became adaptive, genetic selection caused a refinement of the cognitive architecture that stores and transmits cultural information. This refinement may have further influenced the way culture is stored and the biases that govern its transmission.
DIT also predicts that, under certain situations, cultural evolution may select for traits that are genetically maladaptive. An example of this is the demographic transition, which describes the fall of birth rates within industrialized societies. Dual inheritance theorists hypothesize that the demographic transition may be a result of a prestige bias, where individuals that forgo reproduction to gain more influence in industrial societies are more likely to be chosen as cultural models.[10][11]

Genetic influence on cultural evolution

Genes have an impact on cultural evolution via psychological predispositions on cultural learning. Genes encode much of the information needed to form the human brain. Genes constrain the brain's structure and, hence, the ability of the brain to acquire and store culture. Genes may also endow individuals with certain types of transmission bias (described below).

Cultural influences on genetic evolution

Culture can profoundly influence gene frequencies in a population. One of the best known examples is the prevalence of the genotype for adult lactose absorption in human populations, such as Northern Europeans and some African societies, with a long history of raising cattle for milk. Other societies such as East Asians and Amerindians, retain the typical mammalian genotype in which the body shuts down lactase production shortly after the normal age of weaning. This implies that the cultural practice of raising cattle for milk led to selection for genetic traits for lactose digestion.[18] Recently, analysis of natural selection on the human genome suggests that civilization has accelerated genetic change in humans over the past 10,000 years.[19]

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 21, 2012 1:34:52 PM PST
Harry Marks says:
arpard fazakas -

Yes, coevolution is clearly an important part of the picture.

I was amused by the "prestige bias" explanation of the demographic transition. I do not fault its relevance or insightfulness. But when I put the question to our biology teacher, a woman, she said, "That is easy. Culture trumps biology. Women want the chance to have an interesting job just like men, so they have smaller families." Which struck me as orders of magnitude more insightful than all the deterministic explanations I had heard.

Call it prestige bias to want an interesting job, if you like. I call it a side effect of high intelligence, in an environment with birth control and interesting jobs.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 21, 2012 2:11:45 PM PST

Ultimately, I think no; culture is a creation of humans, moderated by their learning and communication. Both of those traits are dependent on genetics. Creatures with lesser abilities to communicate or learn have less culture, both physical and intellectual. Chimps, for example, develop standards of behavior within geographically distinct groups (an intellectual level of culture); but their physical culture, the tools they use, are ad hoc and perishable except for the hammer-stones they sometimes use to crack tough nuts.

Posted on Nov 21, 2012 2:44:57 PM PST
Well, a persons genetic makeup determines that certain cultural ideas will be favourable or unfavourable to them. So, genetics can play a part in which memes a person adopts or rejects.

If a wider view is taken on the subject, however, it is clear that a person is a product of the cultural climate in which they are born and raised. The genetic code contained in their cells is of no bearing on that fact.

If we take an even wider view of this -- very interesting -- subject, it is clear that OF COURSE genetics and culture cannot be totally independent. For example, the physiology of a species will allow its members to perfom certain actions, but -- on the other hand -- it will render them unable to perform certain types of actions, too. In other words, if the genetic code of a species does not allow its members to grow hands with which to grip -- or even manufacture -- a fork to eat with, then the culture of that species cannot reasonably be expected to contain a fork meme.
Bogus is the name, debating is the game!

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 21, 2012 8:50:55 PM PST
[Deleted by Amazon on Sep 25, 2014 12:26:22 PM PDT]

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 21, 2012 9:00:29 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Nov 21, 2012 9:01:12 PM PST
Joe W says:
You don't think that experience, reason, indoctrination and habituation have an effect on the average level of empathy or racism that individuals in a culture possess? If so, then it cannot be all genetics.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 21, 2012 9:44:01 PM PST
Jack Vix says:
Exactly. Our mind and body are created by our genes. We're the vehicles for our genes. Culture is the result of genetic fecundity, expression, and selfishness.

Posted on Nov 22, 2012 7:29:28 AM PST

As an interesting side light, here's an article from Science Daily: <>

I want to wonder if the handaxe isn't the origin of our current, and very ancient, "heart" symbol for love and romance?

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 22, 2012 3:07:36 PM PST
[Deleted by Amazon on Sep 25, 2014 12:26:23 PM PDT]

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 22, 2012 3:13:19 PM PST
[Deleted by Amazon on Sep 25, 2014 12:26:23 PM PDT]

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 22, 2012 4:12:05 PM PST
S. Kessler says:
Nancy, you do realize you're trying to have a rational discussion with someone who has used as his screen name the remnants of what a cat poops and pees in, right? Scooping lives to argue forthe sake of arguments. No amount of pointing out how he is factually wrong in his basic premises will ever change that.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 22, 2012 5:51:39 PM PST
Astrocat says:
S. well, I was trying to see past the litter box, but I am beginning to see that his arguments are pretty much all over the board, and seem to be for the sake of arguing, not at all to share insights or gain new ones. Thanks for the heads up.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 22, 2012 6:51:41 PM PST
S. Kessler says:
Not at all. I've gone head to head with the litter guy before and learned the hard way how futile it is to try to get him to respond rationally. His is the picture next to the definition of troll in the dictionary.
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Initial post:  Nov 20, 2012
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