What is Culture and How Does it Evolve?
What is culture? And how does it evolve? A physicist might ask this question by studying biological evolution. He would find that humans are not very diverse in terms of their traits, and that this diversity is reflected in the traits of different species. In addition, evolution is not a linear process; a person’s traits may evolve without being influenced by another person’s traits. Hence, we should look for ways to understand the evolution of culture.
In 1976, Richard Dawkins proposed the concept of memes. Like genes, memes can jump from one individual to another. Memes can also be regarded as units of culture. Thus, evolution through Darwinian means relies on the copying process between memes. The idea behind memes as cultural units is fascinating, and it may help explain why we differ in our traits from culture to culture. But whether they can change a culture is another question altogether.
As for culture, it is a set of traits and relationships that can change over time. In the twentieth century, the concept of culture became a consensus among evolutionary anthropologists, including structuralists and interpretivists. This theory explains how humans manage to adapt to their environment and overcome challenges more rapidly than their genetics. That’s how cultural evolution can make such a difference for human evolution.