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10 Biological and Social Phases of Big History: Similarities and Differences of Evolutionary Principles and Mechanisms

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1 Note that in the biological macroevolution the ‘borrowing’ is found mostly at lower levels of the biological evolution, whereas it is found much less frequently at higher levels. The opposite situation is observed in social macroevolution – in general, the older the society, the lower its bor-
rowing rate (incidentally, this accounts to a considerable extent for a low rate of change in the majority of ancient societies).

2 We denote as megaevolution all the process of evolution throughout the whole of Big History, whereas we denote as macroevolution the process of evolution during one of its particular phase.

3 This is typical, for example, for a very interesting and controversial article by Mesoudi, Whiten, and Laland Towards a Unified Science of Cultural Evolution (2006), where we clearly deal with an attempt to impose the Darwinian methodology on the study of social evolution. The importance of the above-mentioned differences (including such fundamental differences as the absence in social evolution of a clear distinction between genotype and phenotype) is downplayed by a statement that those differences are either illusory or unimportant (Ibid.: 345). Such an approach also reduces the value of a rather interesting methodology that they propose.

4 It appears appropriate to mention that the genomes of the humans and the chimpanzees differ by ten major genome reorganizations. A few years ago it turned out to be possible to sequence the genome of the rhesus macaque (a special issue of the Science was devoted to this subject; see in
particular Rhesus Macaque... 2007). This is the third primate genome that was sequenced (after the human and chimpanzee genomes). Up to that moment, when detecting differences between
the genomes of the humans and the chimpanzees, specialist could not determine which of those differences emerged in the human evolutionary line, and which appeared in the evolutionary line of the chimpanzees. The reading of the rhesus macaque genome substantially facilitated this task. The comparison with the macaque genome allowed detecting that three of those differences happened in the human evolutionary line, whereas the other seven occurred in the evolutionary line
of the chimpanzees (see Markov and Naymark 2009 for more detail).

5 However, there are cases when societies create new societies rather similar (with basically the same ‘memotype’) to the ‘maternal’ ones, for example, with the establishment of settler colonies. See the next section for more information on the differences in ways of information transmission.

6 See also Heylighen's (2011) contribution to the first issue of the Almanac.

7 Because the systems of transmission of traits within biological and social systems are rather different; because of the higher degree of complexity of social systems, and so on.

8 See Lekevičius 2009, 2011 for more detail on the problems of the evolution of ecosystems. Note that one of those articles, in addition, contains a discussion of analogies between the evolution of ecosystems and the evolution of capitalist society.

9 There is, however, a major difference: any large enough society usually consists of a whole hierarchy of social systems (e.g., with respect to a typical agrarian empire these would be: nuclear family – extended family – clan community – village community – primary district – secondary district – province), so that it can hardly be compared with a single biological organism (though both systems can still be compared functionally, as is correctly noted by Hallpike [1986]).

10 We could mention various flocks and packs of animals as examples of such amalgamations with one level of organization.

11 More complex superorganic amalgamations may be found in the biological evolution among less complex organisms. This trend seems to be opposite to what is observed in the social evolution, though, say, village communities in more complex societies tend to be less complex than in more simple ones (see, e.g., Korotayev 1995; 2003: 75–90; Korotayev et al. 2000, 2011).

12 The biological evolution is predominantly additive/cumulative, whereas the social evolution is predominantly displacing (see above).

13 However, there is also an opinion that the importance of mutations for evolution has been exaggerated, whereas the main source of new genetic material for major morphobiological reorganizations was provided by the gene duplication (see, e.g., Shatalkin 2005: 30). The gene duplication may indeed be a source of new material; yet the studies that try to prove that the morphobiological reorganizations are, first of all, results of duplications have been conducted just for 15 years, and at the moment we are rather dealing with accumulation of data in this field, that is why we still prefer to keep to the classical point of view on the role of mutation in the process of biological evolution.

14 Close results are arrived at by Dawkins (1993) in his theory of the ‘evolution of memes’.

15 As one of the differences between social and biological evolution is connected with the absence in the former of clear equivalents of genotype and phenotype (see, e.g., Mesoudi, Whiten, and Laland 2006: 344–345), it appears quite evident that the expressions ‘sociocultural genotype’ and ‘sociocultural phenotype’ should be regarded as metaphors rather than as exact scientific terms.

16 On the other hand, there is a hypothesis that such a mechanism may have existed at the earliest phases of biological evolution. What is more, scientists have experimentally obtained RNA molecules that can perform certain stages of reverse translation (Nashimoto 2001).

17 On the other hand, we observe another trend in connection with some sorts of regulation mechanisms. One should not think that the only evolutionary mechanism in social evolution is a conscious change of existing objects. There is also an opposite trend that may be denoted as institutionalization. In many cases certain relationships are fixed by customs or laws in order to avoid excessive variation/equivocality that may often be harmful for a social system. For example, one could observe the development of rather rigid marriage institutions, various legal codes and constitutions that can be only altered with significant difficulties (that are usually consciously established by respective norms aimed at the provision of the stability of respective codes and constitutions). In this respect the trend toward the canalization of changes may be also traced in the social macroevolution.

18 It appears that this is relevant not only for the biological and social phases of Big History, but also to all its preceding phases.

19 When we make such comparisons, we compare genotype with that totality of sociocultural information (it may be denoted as ‘memotype’), which is transmitted from generation to genera-
tion and determines main characteristics of social systems. In social systems, in addition to biological generations, parents and children, we find other types of continuity (that could be sometimes even more important) like institutional and legal continuity whose role increases constantly. That is, we observe the growth of the importance of information transmission in the framework of institutions, corporations, organizations, and so on, that is conducted not between biological generations (from parents to children), but, say, from an experienced worker to an inexperienced one, or from a teacher to a pupil. In addition the emergence of external information carriers (in form of books, electronic records, and so on) allows conducting a distance transmission of information without any direct contact between respective people, which, incidentally, contributes to the growth of the sociocultural evolution rate. Actually, as a result, in complex social systems the number of information transmission channels grows by orders of magnitude
(especially with the emergence of external information carriers). In some sense, this growth already starts with the development of social life among the animals.

20 Such a mechanism (in the form of scientific methods and genetic engineering) was finally developed in the course of sociocultural evolution; this mechanism, however, could still hardly be called perfect.

21 We do not have a full explanation of this phenomenon, but one may think about the application to the macro- and even megaevolution of the law of the negation of the negation, which in this case may be interpreted in the following way: ‘From a free borrowing of information to its rigid isolation and canalization, and then again to its free (but now conscious) borrowing’. ‘From contraposition of biological (genetic) and social mechanisms of evolution (within the process
of anthropogenesis and sociogenesis) to genetic evolution controlled by the humans.’

22 On the other hand, a large anthill or termitary may well be compared with a large village com-

23 In this way, a more flexible reaction to unknown situations develops; this may be compared with multifunctional institutions in human societies that while remaining apparently the same institutions may allow social systems to behave differently in different situations, whereas respective institutions would experience certain changes with the change of situations. Thus, army may be relatively small during the time of peace, and then it would grow sharply in size as a result of mobilization, whereas its functions also substantially change. The same can be said about the flexibility of the family, the village community and many other social groups and institutions.

24 It appears necessary to note that in both cases the ability to learn does not replace entirely the genetically determined concrete adaptations; the former is added to the latter. In the immunity system of higher organisms, the system of innate immunity is preserved in addition to a new system of adaptive (acquired throughout the life) immunity; similarly, in the behavior of higher animals, behavioral patterns developed throughout the life through the learning are combined with innate genetically determined behavioral traits.

25 This social intellect is also called the ‘Machiavellian intellect’, e.g., Byrne and Whiten 1988.

26 See, e.g., Stringer 1990; Bar-Yosef and Vandermeersch 1993; Pääbo 1995; Gibbons 1997; Holden 1998; Culotta 1999; Kaufman 1999; White et al. 2003; Lambert 1991; Zhdanko 1999;
Klima 2003: 206.

27 There are sufficient grounds to maintain that the biological evolution of the humans did not stop 200–150,000 BP; it did not stop either after the Upper Paleolithic Revolution (see, e.g., Alexeev 1984: 345–346; 1986: 137–145; Yaryghin et al. 1999, vol. 2: 165; Borinskaya 2005; Borin-
skaya and Korotayev 2007). Thus, the above-mentioned factor must have played some role in
the biosociocultural evolution of Homo sapiens sapiens.

28 With a possible exception of some highly specialized hunters (usually of large aquatic animals), gatherers, and fishers – for example, some social systems described ethnographically for
the North-Western Coast of America (see, e.g., Averkieva 1978; Shnirelman 1986).

Evolution: A Big History Perspective 2011 158–198

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