Culture Is Influenced by Natural Selection

“If you take the long view, the question of why we say drove and not drived becomes a scientific quest for the forces that shape evolution of human culture. For a long time, we had no idea how to even begin to uncover those forces.” (Problem Child) By addressing this question that has been frequently asked by children, the authors (Erez Aiden and Jean-Baptiste Michel) of the reading incorporate phenomena from different disciplines we acknowledge in order to understand the reason behind it. By solving the question, we may find the force that shapes the evolution of our cultures.

Aiden and Michel believe that the selection for the words we use follows a rule similar to the Biology theorem established by Charles Darwin more than 150 years ago. “The reason we still say drove – whereas we’ve abandoned other irregular forms, like thrive, in droves – is that drive is far more frequent than thrive.” (The Once and Future Past) According to many linguists nowadays, the regularization of words is refer to the process where the transformation of words that is less frequently used will be forgotten by people and those words will be used based on the most popular transformation in the society. Just as the language evolution, our culture evolution follows the rules of natural selection. The selection based on the frequency of encounter implies the selection maximizing the possibility to survive. In our daily life, people adopt the most popular use of language so that the communication with the others will provoke fewer conflicts. As a result, we use different slangs or jargons to get recognized by a certain group of people. For the similar reason, it is our nature to remove the memory of the things that we do not use frequently in order to reserve the capacity to store something more important in our brain. For example, we will not try to memorize all the mathematical formulae we need to use if they will be easily accessible online.

Culture represents the different ways of life a certain group a people adopted based on their experiences, and it changes whenever people learn from trails and errors. Since the language we are using has never stopped changing, our culture will never cease to change as well.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.