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Does evolution act on Societies?

Genetics as it applies to evolution, molecular biology, and medical aspects.

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Does evolution act on Societies?

Postby Rjwils30 » Tue Jun 13, 2017 6:01 am

When we think of evolution we often think about how it affects the genes of the individual. Have there been any studies on how the collective gene pool of a society might have been selected for? Could the 'distribution' of both physical traits like strength and psychological traits like intelligence be an evolutionary construct? For example, if a society had a high occurance of highly intelligent people it might not have enough people who are content to perform the laborious work of the society. Perhaps the rarity of highly intelligent people is a function of an optimal distribution that allows a society to innovate without compromising the day to day functioning.

If this is true you could argue that societies are much like an organism with adaptive capabilities. Perhaps due to the long gestational period of humans collective societal evolution might be a more expedient way to adapt to changing circumstances and stresses. As it relies less on the individuals ability to adapt and more on slight demographic changes.

The idea that societies function as an organism perhaps lends some insight into the cooperation that humans who by individual evolutionary selection should be in competition with eachother. Perhaps humans understand there own genetic limitations and employ the help of others to externally bolster their inherent genetic capacity.

All this is just hypothesizing and should only be seen to apply directly to early humans who were under more direct selective stresses. If there is any truth to this one might find these societal distributions In modern day society by looking at certain metrics like IQ and even jungian personality types across different societies and cultures.

One last point in thinking along these lines is if societies are evolutionarily selected they might be competitive with eachother. This inter-societal competition could be the early history of war and perhaps be a form of societal selection where the stronger or smarter society is able to wipe out the other. This thought stems from my observation of all the conflict in the world between societies and cultures and whether we are inherently motivated to compete with those that are different from ourselves.

This is all very broad but I thought i would just mind dump to see if anyone could give me some insight into any of these thoughts.
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Re: Does evolution act on Societies?

Postby claudepa » Tue Jun 13, 2017 12:12 pm

I am not a specialist of evolution nor a genetician but a biologist. So my answer is more based on my general knowledge of biology.A field of genetics is called genetics of populations. When you say that evolution affects the genes of the individual, yes and no. Because the selected genes of one individual are transmitted to the offspring. This is the basis of Darwinism. So they can affect sooner or later the whole society. I take an example: A general hypothesis among evolutionists is that man comes from Africa. Then there was migrations in other parts of our planet. So it is likely that these men had a pigmentated skin to protect them from sun. When they migrated in area with less sun exposure mutations occured that gave a benefit with a non pigmentated skin which allows the synthesis of vitamin D which is essential for bones. It is possible that these mutations affected only a few individuals several hundred thousand years ago. Also it is known that somes genes are generally different in various populations. Forensic science knows this, which by DNA analysis can give the origin of people. Now I do not express myself in the science field but in the philosophical one. I believe that wars are probably related, I do not know exactly how, to the darwinian human nature. One possibility would be that genes allowing to kill the ennenies were selected by evolution. But I believe that in the success of a society, at all levels, economic, military, scientific... the genetic diversity of people is the dominant element at the gene level. Combination of brains thinking differently is I believe better that combination of brains thinking the same way.
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Re: Does evolution act on Societies?

Postby Rjwils30 » Tue Jun 13, 2017 3:32 pm

Thanks for the reply! You are correct, genes don't act on the individual but the individuals ability to pass those genes to their progeny.

I suppose what I'm wondering is whether distributions of certain genes within a population can be selected for. in other words a distribution of specific morphological or pscycholocal traits in a population. Much like bee or ant colonies which have specific distributions of workers and drones that are optimized to improve the fitness of the colony and which in turn affects the fitness of the individual. Could a distribution of types exist within a human population?

I understand that populations (especially endemic ones) have unique genes that enable adaptation to certain localized stresses. i think I'm wondering not whether specific gene variation exists between populations but whether a distributed expression of genes reprinted by typologies within a population can be selected for.
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Re: Does evolution act on Societies?

Postby claudepa » Wed Jun 14, 2017 4:23 pm

I do not know if science would be able to answer this question. Newspapers regularly give a list of countries where life is supposed to be the better with a ranking from the best to the worst. That is very subjective. Researchers could try, if it is ethically allowed, to correlate this subjective ranking to DNA polymorphism in a statistically significant random subpopulation of each country. It would be probably be considered as fake science ! Like the research of specific genes for Nobel prizes or for people living until 100 years where, as far as I know, there are no results or controversial results , it is very very complex involving genetics, epigenetics, environment.
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