When cultural fitness clashed with genetic fitness ... and won

A. J. Uhlmann

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Culture is a human form of adaptation. Cultural variants like values, concepts, ideologies and so forth effect behaviours in their human bearers. Do all long-lasting cultural variants necessarily effect behaviours which maximise their bearer's genetic fitness? I think not.

In this paper I have used some concepts from the field of Evolutionary Cultural Theory to analyse the Jewish retention of a distinct identity over many centuries in the face of great antisemitic pressure. It seems that in this case cultural selection has produced values which in turn have produced behaviours which are sub-optimal from the perspective of genetic fitness. Also, this example is consistent with dynamics of group selection but not with kin selection or reciprocal altruism, suggesting that culture might have modified the dynamics of human evolution.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)45-50
Number of pages6
JournalPerspectives in Human Biology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1993
Externally publishedYes


  • cultural fitness
  • genetic fitness
  • Evolutionary Cultural Theory
  • Jewish identity

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