inherently change much more quickly than the slow pace of natural selection, cultural evolution can, and does, happen many orders of magnitude faster than biological evolution. A famous example of cultural evolution is the development of canoes in Polynesia 3000 years ago. Anthropologists followed the progression of functional features on outrigger canoes that could have an impact on the seaworthiness or fish-catching potential of the boats. The canoes were not biological organisms reproducing via genes, but products of cultural transmission of knowledge and technology; but the process also has many parallels with biological evolution. The anthropologists used similar methods to those which test human genetic code to reveal which genes are shaped by evolutionary forces, to show that the design element changes to the functional canoe slowed over time as selection weeded out the inferior (cultural) designs. Both biological change and cultural change operate on the same basic dynamics of variation, selection and heritability. The takeaway is this: We are not just a product of our genes, but rather our genes and our mutable cultures interacting with our environment. The type of changes that our 21st century environment will make to our descendants ’ genes is an open question. What we are focusing on is whether our culture can mutate to make an adequate and timely response to the fact that we are at the early stages of what looks to become the sixth great extinction, while we simultaneously face energy-based limits to growth, and a host of other inconvenient truths. This is the urgent question. TaaL: I ’ m taking this space to answer a feedback the human authors have received: My comments seem repetitive and even a bit negative to some readers. That ’ s not my intention: my main message is the very good news that your species could last a long time and be very happy if it does certain reasonably simple things. In speaking honestly, though, about the physical world that exists, rather than the various fantasy worlds which don ’ t, I may occasionally tread upon the toes of imaginary Christmas ponies which are invisible to me. For this I can only apologize and offer imaginary sugar cubes. Moreover, if you happened upon a person whose hair was on fire, but who only wanted to discuss where to find a good meal, you would probably feel an ongoing obligation to repeatedly point out that his hair was, indeed, on fire until that subject dawned on him. That situation would not imply that you were inherently obsessed with burning hair, but rather that it had imposed upon you an ethical onus to be repetitive .
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