Social Question

Nially_Bob's avatar

Do you think humans evolve socially?

Asked by Nially_Bob (3841 points ) January 22nd, 2013

For the purposes of this question the term ‘evolve’ refers strictly to the biological process of evolution and not a synonym for progress or develop. Though if you don’t believe in evolution yourself you’re still welcome to contribute your perspective.

Human societies have demonstrated significant change over the centuries, from rudimentary tribal systems, to socialist hubs, to industrialized giants; humans evidently alter their society over time. What I ponder is whether or not you, my kindly Fluther folk, consider these alterations to be simply a product of convenience (perhaps even coincidence?), or illustrative of a more fundamental change in human nature brought about by our social dynamics. More importantly, what do you think this could mean for the future of our species from a social standpoint?

As always I look forward to your thoughts :)

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15 Answers

mattbrowne's avatar

Yes, but the time spans involved are in the order of thousands of years. Cultural evolutions is much faster.

What could this mean for the future of our species from a social standpoint? It could affect hormone levels, e.g. oxytocin. Perhaps our need for hugging will decline somewhat.

glacial's avatar

In order for this to be “the biological process of evolution” as you put it, there must be a heritable genetic component to sociality. Do you think there are genes that influence the ways in which we socialize? I can’t definitively say “no”, but as @mattbrowne points out, the time scale is very short. It’s more likely that these are things that we learn and pass on to future generations.

Pachy's avatar

None at my company. ;-)

Coloma's avatar

^^^ LOL

Not especially.
Personality and temperament are the biggest factors in ones social abilities and desire for social interaction regardless of nurture and culture.
Temperament is genetically predetermined but not necessarily hereditary and will vary widely on an individual basis, cultural conditioning aside.
Our brains may have evolved to be bigger and better at complex problem solving but temperament remains the strongest factor in determining social participation. IMO.

geeky_mama's avatar

Hmmm. My first thought was “no”..but then I began thinking about the long line of OCD folks in my family and how the severity of the trait seems to be “watered-down” in the past couple of generations. (Me and my kids)
My grandfather was a doctor and was methodical and obsessive about all sorts of things – his clothes, how he ran his office, how the house was kept clean. He made people around him miserable with his controlling ways (apparently—I never saw this first hand..he was always a sweet grandpa to me).
My father inherited many of his father’s tendencies but tries to laugh them off “All good <my maiden name>s are OCD” ..and comments like that. He’s also a doctor and many of the things that make him controlling and obsessive (he loves the show Monk, btw) have made him a successful at saving lives, too.

I’m quite a bit less OCD than my dad, and my middle daughter is a tiny bit OCD (lives and dies by her lists..LOVES to create lists)..but neither of us are anywhere near the anxiety level or as controlling as my Dad or his dad.
So..maybe because of the contributions to the gene pool (my mom’s genes for me, then my husband’s genes for my daughter)..we’ve been able to “water-down” this strong/negative personality trait from my father’s side of the family?
Does that count as evolution?

HolographicUniverse's avatar

We have always been social creatures, in fact many other species are just as social therefore if you’re asking if we literally evolve socially then no.

It seems like, with reference to past civilizations like agricultural, industrial and tribal societies, you are actually inquiring about our constant change in our social structure. These changes, for instance the digital era, were simply our response and adaptation to new equipment (similar to our adaptation to an environment)
But the timespan is too short, plus the traits arent consistent enough, for one to say we evolve socially… Though through our intelligence we have created a better way to communicate (language) and greater mediums to interact

HolographicUniverse's avatar

@geeky_man
That counts as genetics…

burntbonez's avatar

I think so. Kind of like there’s DNA and then there’s mitochondrial DNA. Culture and society change very quickly. In the course of three decades in the US, the number of people living alone has increased enormously. Society is changing rapidly in its living habits and ways of relating. Technology is contributing to that and speeding up the process.

I doubt we can see what is going on. We’re too close to it. But in a few decades we’ll be able to look back and make more sense of it. We’ll see how much has changed.

Bill1939's avatar

From a biologically evolutional perspective (i.e., genetically), I doubt that we have significantly changed in 100,000 years. Humans are born with genetic predilections inclining the formation of an animal society. The focus of such a society is upon survival of self, family, and pack, with the fiercest dominating. Human nature remains the same. The “Seven Deadly Sins” are as prevalent today as they were in Mesopotamia.

As others have pointed out, the time frame for social evolution is in centuries, not the millennia needed for genetic manipulation. And while the rate of genetic evolution is relatively constant, with occasional unexplained bursts of development, social evolution seems to increase at a logarithmic rate.

glacial's avatar

@Bill1939 I take issue with several of the things you’ve said here… the one I feel the need to correct is “millennia needed for genetic manipulation”. There’s no “millennial” requirement for evolution. It is seen to occur over very short timeframes for some traits in some species.

I think I need to stop following this one. :/

flutherother's avatar

Human civilization has advanced at a phenomenal speed over the last few thousand years and is now advancing at a faster rate than ever before. I don’t think man has evolved much in that time as evolution happens over much longer time scales. Socially we are still swinging from the trees and our cities are crammed full of hairless apes.

Another thought: evolution is based on death as it proceeds through the survival of the fittest. Our civilization is designed with the opposite end in view, to make things so comfortable that no one will ever die. Maybe evolution has stopped in post industrial societies.

Coloma's avatar

^^^^ Bowing,clapping!
More like 500 years. I have read that we have “evolved” more in the last 500 yrs. than in the previous 5,000. I think evolution is stuck in many areas. Consider that the average human can reproduce in many cases, as early as 10 or 11, yet our brains are not fully developed until we are 25. Uh…there’s a really weak link in that little pocket of evolution. lol

wundayatta's avatar

We are moving forward every more quickly in terms of technology. Our technology could soon move us to places where we can upload ourselves into machines. This will allow us to go into places we could never go before, like inside volcanos or under oceans or into deep space.

Ray Kurzweil says the information singularity could happen in fifty to one hundred years. Some of us could be alive when it happens. At that point, we will be in control of our own evolution. We’ll be able to redesign our bodies and our DNA to do just about anything we want.

So, Hell Yes! We are evolving socially and will do that faster and faster. Can you believe that thirty years ago, hardly anyone had a cell phone? Hardly anyone had a PC? People were typing on typewriters mostly. Now no one knows what a typewriter is. Everyone has a cellphone. Except one person (who I know).

Our society is evolving along with technology. Things are dramatically different. The ability to get information instantly from wherever we are over the internet has changed our lives in ways we can not appreciate yet. This will happen faster and faster. We will not recognize ourselves in another twenty years.

rojo's avatar

Yep. We are social creatures, evolved from other social creatures. Doesn’t mean you will not have the occasional misfit.

Bill1939's avatar

@glacial, while a single mutation may arise at anytime, what can take thousands of years is this mutation spreading until it is present in a majority of its specie. What else did I say that you take issue with?

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