Citizen Action Monitor

Genes vs Culture — There is strong evidence for a genetic component in human behavior – Nate Hagens (17)

A big hope for this century is that our culture will move towards something more sane, more rational, more humane.

No 2300 Posted by fw, June 14, 2018

To access links to all other posts in this series, click on the Tab titled “Where Are We Going? by Dr. Nate Hagens” in the top left margin. 

“The whole culture can move in an emergent, non-linear way far faster that just an individual can evolve. So, one of the big hopes this century is that our culture – and I don’t know how this happens – but our culture moves towards something more sane, more rational, more humane and people get on board because it’s the right thing to do, and because that’s the direction that our species took.”Nate Hagens

Today’s post, Pt 17, continuum 16, is the final entry in the Human Behavior category. In my opinion, Dr Hagens’ explanation of Genes vs Culture is imprecise. In speaking of ‘genes’, in his characteristic terse fashion,  he talks in lay terms of “walking forward, but our eyes are looking backward.” Presumably, he knows what he means – he just isn’t communicating his understanding very well to the rest of us.

Hagens goes on to boldly declare that “a whole culture can move in an emergent, non-linear way.” But, he quickly concedes: “I don’t know how this happens.” (Among competing evolutionary theorists, the nature of cultural evolution has long been a subject of much debate).

And the Resilience.org Supplement is equally ambiguous on genes versus culture:

“Our genes tell us what we need, but culture dictates how we get it. We can get at least a good portion of ‘what we want and need’ using less stuff with less damage. That’s the agenda of the gene.”

Hagens’ one line that will stick with me is his hope that “… our culture moves towards something more sane, more rational, more humane and people get on board because it’s the right thing to do, and because that’s the direction that our species took.”

Below is the embedded video of Hagens’ 60-minute address, followed by an 18-minute Q&A session. My transcript of Pt. 17, continuum 16, runs from 26:58 to 28:11.

Alternatively, a video of Hagens’ talk, along with a “loosely related” essay on the talk, are available by clicking on the following linked title. This version, published by Resilience.org, also includes excellent readers’ comments, including responses by Hagens.

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Where are we going? by Nate Hagens, Resilience.org, May 8, 2018

TRANSCRIPT (from 26:58 to 28:11)

[HUMAN BEHAVIOR]

26:58[Continuum 16: Genes vs Culture] – Genes versus Culture. A lot of these things relate to the agenda of the gene. We are biological organisms. We’re walking forward but our eyes are looking backward. We are not trying to destroy the planet. We’re not trying to do bad things. We’re trying to get the same feelings that our successful ancestors got.

27:24 – But, at a different level, we have me versus us, us versus them – but we also have the whole culture. And the whole culture can move in an emergent, non-linear way far faster that just an individual can evolve. So, one of the big hopes this century is that our culture – and I don’t know how this happens – but our culture moves towards something more sane, more rational, more humane and people get on board because it’s the right thing to do, and because that’s the direction that our species took.

28:02 – The graphic here is of Polynesian canoes [that] culturally evolved [over time]. The ones that got better and were able to island-hop were selected for. And that was a cultural thing, not a genetic thing.

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[Resilience.org Supplement] — Genes vs Culture – Human nature does not change in the short term- our great, great+ grandchildren living in 200 years will be subject to all the same drives and constraints I just mentioned.  But culture can manifest emergent behaviors — both positive and negative – that can happen on much shorter timelines, even less than a decade in some cases.  Our genes tell us what we need, but culture dictates how we get it. We can get at least a good portion of ‘what we want and need’ using less stuff with less damage. That’s the agenda of the gene.

*****

About Dr. Nathan John Hagens – Hagens, 51, worked on Wall Street at Lehman Brothers and Salomon Brothers for 10 years before closing his own hedge fund in 2003 to develop a systems synthesis approach to the human predicament. At present, Dr. Hagens is a professor at the University of Minnesota where he teaches a systems synthesis Honors seminar called Reality 101, A Survey of Human Predicament. The readings and lectures cover literature in systems ecology, energy and natural resources, thermodynamics, history, anthropology, human behavior, neuroscience, environmental science, sociology, economics, globalization/trade, and finance/debt with an overarching goal to give students a general understanding of how our human ecosystem functions as a whole.

Visit Nate Hagens’ personal website at The Monkey Trap.

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