2.b.2 – What has changed moving from animal to human culture?

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January 20, 2010 — Riccardo Sabellotti - Giacinto Sabellotti


What has changed moving from animal to human culture?

Even if we are unable to accurately reconstruct the evolutionary steps of human culture in the prehistoric era, it is of paramount importance to reflect on cultural peculiarities that distinguish us from the animals, with particular reference to our closest cousins, namely the monkeys:
–  innovations in human culture easily accumulate; for example, the first light bulb was the fruit of the genius of Edison, but also of those who invented and perfected the working of glass and metal, and those who discovered electricity; all this knowledge, accumulating, have allowed Edison to create his most famous invention. A specific and fundamental aspect of human culture is of being a cumulative culture; in animals this phenomenon is an unknown or exceptional event;
– in man, the physical development of children is much slower and this requires the parents to take care of them for many years; during this long period, however, children have the time to learn the great and complex cultural heritage accumulated by their community; for teaching is also used specialized personnel outside the family;
– human communities are much more numerous than those of monkeys and in these we find numerous forms of cultural specializations that form a very complex system based on collaborative work;
– the social structure of human group is very different from that of monkeys; this is not one big family, but a cluster of small nuclei, usually made up of one male and one female with limited number of children .
– an important aspect of human culture is the creation of sophisticated instruments in constant change; it is to be reminded that this is possible thanks to the ability to manipulation;
– a considerable part of human culture is made up of abstract concepts such as numbers, honor, justice and responsibility;
– human beings communicate with words; language is the main transmission channel with which the human cultural heritage, made of complex and abstract concepts, is transmitted;
– another form of particularly developed communication is the one based on facial gestures; the human face has been modified to be used as a reporting tool: the human eyes show the whites around the iris and this allows to follow the look and nuances of expressions also at a considerable distance; the eyebrows, thick and isolated on the skin without hair, are used as a visual warning sign in a thousand expressions; the same goes for the lips that have a border and a clearly marked color and can enhance their every little movement .
Currently no evolutionary needs that have caused these changes are known, we can only make conjectures on the basis of the use currently done, or done in the recent past, of these innovations.




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