Biological, Cultural & Technological Evolution


There are three main areas of change that have significantly affected human populations over time, resulting in the transformation of our hominin ancestors into modern humans

  • These three factors are allĀ interrelated, a change to one may precipitate a change in another


Biological Evolution

Biological (or genetic) evolution occurs through genetic variation and reproduction, and involves the transfer of genes from one generation to the next

  • One example of biological evolution in human populations is the differences in shapes and features of indigenous populations living in contrasting climates and environmental conditions
    • Populations adapted to colder, sub-zero temperatures (such as the Inuit eskimos) tend to have broader hips and short, thick extremities (reduces surface area : body mass ratio, facilitating heat conservation), as well as more fat deposits (insulation)
    • Populations adapted to warmer temperatures (such as Australian aborigines) tend to have increased skin pigmentation to better cope with the damaging effects of solar radiation


Cultural Evolution

Cultural evolution occurs through the development of customs and languages, and involves the transfer of information either within a generation or across many generations

  • Any unit of cultural information, such as a practice or an idea, that gets transmitted verbally or by repeated action from one mind to another, is called a meme
  • Examples of cultural evolution include the change in lifestyle of modern humans from nomadic hunter-gatherers to permanent settlers who domesticated animals and adopted agricultural practices
  • Evidence of human culture, such as musical instruments, cave paintings and burial practices, can be seen as early as the Lower Palaeolithic period


Biological vs Cultural Evolution


Technological Evolution

Technological evolution refers to the changes over time in technology that give humans increased control over their environment

  • Examples include the change from stone tools to metal tools, the development of industrial technologies (such as steam and electric power), agricultural and medicinal procedures, communication resources (such as the internet) and space travel


A History of the Technological Evolution of Humans