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The nature–culture divide refers to a theoretical foundation of contemporary anthropology. Early[clarification needed] anthropologists sought theoretical insight from the perceived tensions between nature and culture. Later, the argument became framed by the question of whether the two entities function separately from one another, or if they were in a continuous biotic relationship with each other.
In eastern society nature and culture are conceptualized as dichotomous (separate and distinct domains of reference). Some consider culture to be "man's secret adaptive weapon":393 in the sense that it is the core means of survival. It has been observed that the terms "nature" and "culture" that can not necessarily be translated into non-western languages, for example, the Native American John Mohawk[year needed] describing "nature"[clarification needed] as "anything that supports life".
It has been suggested that small scale-societies can have a more symbiotic relationship with nature[by whom?]. But less symbiotic relations with nature are limiting small-scale communities' access to water and food resources. It was also argued that the contemporary Man-Nature divide manifests itself in different aspects of alienation and conflicts. Greenwood and Stini argue that agriculture is only monetarily cost-efficient because it takes much more to produce than one can get out of eating their own crops,:397 e.g. "high culture cannot come at low energy costs".
The nature–culture divide is deeply intertwined with the social versus biological debate, since it both are implications of each other. As viewed in earlier forms of Anthropology, it is believed that genetic determinism de-emphasizes the importance of culture, making it obsolete. However, more modern views show that culture is valued more than nature because everyday aspects of culture have a wider impact on how the humans see the world, rather than just our genetic makeup. Older anthropological theories have separated the two, such as Franz Boas, who claimed that social organization and behavior is purely the transmission of social norms and not necessarily the passing of hereditable traits. Instead of using such a contrasting approach, more modern anthropologists see Neo-Darwinism as an outline for culture, therefore nature is essentially guiding how culture develops. When looking at adaptations. anthropologists such as Daniel Nettle believe that behavior associated with cultural groups is a development of genetic difference between groups. Essentially, he states that animals choose their mates based on their environment, which is shaped by directly by culture. More importantly, the adaptations seen in nature are a result of evoked nature, which is defined as cultural characteristics which shape the environment and that then queue changes in phenotypes for future generations. To put simply, cultures that promote more effective resource allocation and chance for survival are more likely to be successful and produce more developed societies and cultures that feed off of each other.
On the other hand, transmitted culture can be used to bridge the gap between the two even more, for it uses a trial and error based approach that shows how humans are constantly learning, and that they use social learning to influence individual choices. This is seen best about how the more superficial aspects of culture still are intertwined with nature and genetic variation. For example, there are beauty standards intertwined into the culture because they are associated with better survival rates, yet they also serve personal interests which allows for individual breeding pairs to understand how they fit into society. Additionally, cultural lags dissolve because it is not sustainable for reproduction, and cultural norms that benefit biology continue to persevere. By learning from each other, nature becomes more intertwined with culture since they reinforce each other.
Since nature and culture are now viewed as more intertwined than ever before, which makes the divide between the two seems obsolete. Similarly, the social scientists have been reluctant to use biological explanations as explanations for cultural divisions because it is difficult to construct what "biological" explanations entail. According to social scientists like Emile Durkheim, anthropologists and especially sociologists have tended to characterize biological explanations in only a physiological and cognitive sense within individuals, not in a group setting. On the other hand, there is a heavier focus on the social determinism as seen in human behavior instead. Furthermore, even as divide between nature and culture has been narrowed there is a reluctance to define biological determinism on a large scale.
- Greenwood, David J and William A. Stini (1977) Nature, Culture, and Human History, New York: Harper and Row, 393–408
- Strathern 1980
- Nelson, Melissa K., 2008, Original Instructions: Indigenous Teachings for a Sustainable Future, Rochester: Collective Heritage Institute
- Bakari, Mohamed El-Kamel (2014). "Sustainability and Contemporary Man-Nature Divide: Aspects of Conflict, Alienation, and Beyond", Consilience: The Journal of Sustainable Development 13(1), 125-146.
- Braun and Castree 1998
- Sherry Ortner (1972) Is Female to Male as Nature is to Culture?, Feminist Studies 1(2): 5-31
- Bennett, Tony (2015-01-26). "Cultural Studies and the Culture Concept". Cultural Studies. 29 (4): 546–568. doi:10.1080/09502386.2014.1000605. ISSN 0950-2386.
- Nettle, Daniel (2009). "Beyond nature versus culture: cultural variation as an evolved characteristic" (PDF). Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute. 15: 223–240.
- Mortenson, Erik (2011). "Bridging the Nature/Culture Divide". Topia. 33: 254–257.
- Bowring, Finn (2015-05-07). "The individual and society in Durkheim" (PDF). European Journal of Social Theory. 19 (1): 21–38. doi:10.1177/1368431015585042. ISSN 1368-4310.