From Consilience: The Unity of Knowledge by Edward O. Wilson|
(Alfred A. Knopf)
There is only one way to unite the great branches of learning and end the culture wars. It is to view the boundary between the scientific and literary cultures not as a territorial line but as a broad and mostly unexplored terrain awaiting cooperative entry from both sides. The misunderstandings arise from ignorance of the terrain, not from a fundamental difference in mentality. The two cultures share the following challenge. We know that virtually all of human behavior is transmitted by culture. We also know that biology has an important effect on the origin of culture and its transmission. The question remaining is how biology and culture interact, and in particular how they interact across all societies to create the commonalities of human nature. What, in final analysis, joins the deep, most genetic history of the species as a whole to the more recent cultural histories of its far-flung societies? That, in my opinion, is the nub of the relationship between the two cultures. It can be stated as a problem to be solved, the central problem of the social sciences and the humanities, and simultaneously one of the great remaining problems of the natural sciences.
At the present time no one has a solution. But in the sense that no one in 1842 knew the true cause of evolution and in 1952 no one knew the nature of the genetic code, the way to solve the problem may lie in knowledge within our grasp. A few researchers, and I am one of them, even think they know the approximate form the answer will take. From diverse vantage points in biology, psychology, and anthropology, they have conceived a process called gene-culture coevolution. In essence, the conception observes, first, that to genetic evolution the human lineage has added the parallel track of cultural evolution, and, second, that the two forms of evolution are linked. I believe the majority of contributors to the theory during the past twenty years would agree to the following outline of its principles:
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Culture is created by the communal mind, and each mind in turn is the
product of the genetically structured human brain. Genes and culture are
therefore inseverably linked. But the linkage is flexible, to a degree still
mostly unmeasured. The linkage is also tortuous: Genes prescribe epigenetic
rules, which are the neural pathways and regularities in mental development by
which the individual mind assembles itself. The mind grows from birth to death
by absorbing parts of the existing culture available to it, with selections
guided by the epigenetic rules inherited by the individual brain.
Reprinted by permission of Alfred A. Knopf, New York, New York, USA. From Consilience: The Unity of Knowledge by Edward O. Wilson. Copyright © 1998 by Edward O. Wilson. All rights reserved.