Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Energy and the Evolution of Culture Life: Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness

On Saturday Oct. 12, 2013 from 2-3  Nancie L. Gonzalez will present a talk on the topic of Energy and the Evolution of Culture Life:  Nancie a Ph.D. anthropologist (Univ. of Michigan) is  Professor Emeritus from the  Univ. of Maryland, College Park. She has conducted ethnographic and ethnohistorical research on marriage and family patterns in a number of societies, including the American Southwest, the Caribbean, Central America, China, and the West Bank and has published widely since the 1960s.  She lives in Richmond, Virginia. Below is a small abstract of the talk.

We start by defining culture broadly as that body of acts, objects, ideas and sentiments that depend upon symbols and abstract thought for their existence.  This view also asserts that culture distinguishes humans from all other life forms, and that the symboling ability developed after certain brain mutations occurred in ancestral primates. Articulate speech was one of those that proved successful in developing and passing on to new generations ways to improve the quest for life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.  Some other animals can learn cultural symbols, but they are not known to invent them.

            Using data from archaeological sites and ethnography in societies ranging from preliterate foragers to modern, industrial, urban civilizations, this talk argues that the key to cultural evolution has been the kind and amount of energy humans have harnessed and controlled at different points over the past 200,000 years.  Non-cultural animals, including early hominids, had only the energy of their bodies at their disposal, and had to depend upon their biological makeup for food, defense, and the acquisition of mates for reproduction and care of the young.  Beginning with the domestication of plants and animals, and ending with the discovery and exploitation of fossil fuels and atomic energy, it is suggested that the globalized society we now know has perhaps sowed seeds of its own destruction and may not continue to persist as we know it until and unless new forms of energy are discovered and harnessed.

1 comment:

Don Wharton said...

I am so glad that you were able to get arrange this. It was my pleasure to invite her to join WASH and I made it clear to Stuart and others that Nancie was a tremendous find for our community. It will be a joy to see her again.