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#originoflife

I am presently reading “Spatial Networks” by Marc Barthelemy. I am interested in how spatial networks differ from non-spatial ones. For a road network, measures like degree don’t work because an intersection is constrained by the number of roads that it can intersect. This is peculiar to roads but I am wondering what constraints a distance metric in general can impose on a network. Would a network including statistical or information distance be considered a spatial network? I realize that linear distance along a road is not a true distance as it doesn’t always fit the triangle inequality. I am wondering if a ratio of Euclidean distance to linear distance would somehow fix things. Does anyone care to comment?

“History is a pack of tricks we play on the dead” Voltaire

Tobler’s First Law of Geography is: “… everything is related to everything else, but near things are more related than distant things.” In spatial statistics this is formalized in the notion of correlation, near objects in space are more correlated than far objects. This applies to time also, near events in time are more correlated than distant events in time. Using Steven Jay Gould’s famous “tape of Evolution” thought experiment for human history, rewind the tape back a week and then replay history. Would we notice much difference? Rewind it a thousand years? We might notice a difference. certain things correlate further back in time than others. Evolution gives us correlations going back billions of years. Species millions of years. Human cultures are much shorter, “Western Culture” as a global culture only goes back a few hundred years and for the most part was violently imposed upon the world. Archeology has returned to listening to the stories of remaining native peoples and in North America it has been shown that these peoples are direct ancestors to the peoples of the great pueblos of the southwest and the mound builders of the eastern woodlands. The concerns, participation, support, and stories of native people are now an important part of archeology. One critique of ethnographic studies is that it is difficult to tell just how far back current beliefs, stories, and practices can go, the past is a foreign country even to those whose ancestors lived it. This is a reasonable critique. It is hard for a society that has downloaded its knowledge first into writing and now onto silicon, to understand passing cultural knowledge strictly through memory. Any trial lawyer will tell you about how fallible human memory is yet cultures survived and thrived without writing. Just how was this accomplished?

Stephen Jay Gould once stated that human cultural evolution is Lamarkian rather than Darwinian. Lamarkian can be a trigger word for some biologists so I will refrain from defending it. There are differences. Cultural transmission is much different than genetic transmission and the method of transmission is different, not discrete like genes, there is no evidence of memes like Dawkins has suggested. In addition, there are no lineages as such. Darwin had no idea of transmission either. Dawkins’s attempt at memes is based on the fact that humans are biological entities subject to Darwinian evolution and culture is a human phenotype and thus is subject to Darwinian evolution. This idea has been accepted and rejected at different times by the social sciences, mainly because of the stigma of Social Darwinism and the failure of Darwinian Evolution to provide coherent answers. Yet, culture is still a biological artifact, like an ant hill is a biological artifact so somehow this conceptual gap needs to be closed.

Lewens, Tim. “Cultural Evolution.” In The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, edited by Edward N. Zalta. Metaphysics Research Lab, Stanford University, 2020. plato.stanford.edu/archives/su.

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