Article ID: CBB321466457

Historical Links between Ethnobiology and Evolution: Conflicts and possible resolutions (2020)


In recent years there have been several attempts to examine Ethnobiology from an evolutionary perspective. I discuss several potential sources of confusion in applying Evolutionary concepts to Ethnobiology. Ethnobiological discussions of evolution have focused more on changes in human populations, or on human impacts upon plants used by humans for a variety of purposes, than on the processes typically emphasized in discussions by biologists studying evolution. There has been little acknowledgment of how the field of biological evolution is changing in the 21st Century. In this article I focus on recent developments in evolutionary thinking that could be effectively integrated into Ethnobiological concepts. These include: 1) The increased importance of individual organisms in understanding both population dynamics and microevolutionary change (i.e. natural selection). This change in focus creates the potential for incorporating understandings from Indigenous people who recognize a different set of dynamics that govern how both plant and animal populations are regulated, leading to new insights into how conservation practices should be enacted; 2) Niche Construction, which is a 21st century concept that argues that organisms shape their own environments and those of other species. This approach creates a new way of looking at how Natural Selection can act upon a wide range of organisms; and finally, 3) Reticulate Evolution, in which different species exchange genetic material as a result of behavioral or physiological interactions with major evolutionary consequences. These concepts relate strongly to fundamental Indigenous conceptions of ecosystem functioning, including the ideas that All Things are Connected and that All Life Forms are Related. I argue that Ethnobiology and Indigenous Knowledge are strongest in dealing with phenomena linked to behavior and ecology, which are fields being neglected by many contemporary molecular approaches to understanding evolution. Attempts to deal with Conservation in a world subject to climate change would be greatly improved by working closely with Indigenous peoples and incorporating concepts from these traditions into practices on a global scale.

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Authors & Contributors
Ruse, Michael
Hall, Brian K.
Glickman, Stephen E.
Bunney, Sarah
Hamilton, William Donald
Davis, Frederick Rowe
Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences
History and Philosophy of the Life Sciences
Journal of Experimental Zoology. Part B, Molecular and Developmental Evolution
Journal for General Philosophy of Science
Social Studies of Science
Oxford University Press
Island Press
W.H. Freeman/Spektrum
Cambridge University Press
American Philosophical Society
Belknap Press of Harvard University Press
Natural selection
Conservation biology
Darwin, Charles Robert
Gulick, John Thomas
Hamilton, William Donald
Carr, Archie Fairly
Mendel, Gregor Johann
Bentley, Arthur Fisher
Time Periods
19th century
20th century
21st century
20th century, early
20th century, late
18th century
Great Britain
United States
Yellowstone National Park
United States. Dept. of Agriculture

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