Avoidance of disease

Avoidance of disease - From the ethnoecological point of...

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Avoidance of disease : Among human populations various kinds of beliefs lead to behavior that can reduce (or increase) the risk of contracting infectious disease One recurrent element in many (but not all) cultures is avoidance of prolonged contact with body or possessions of deceased Thus, corpses are often buried or removed to distant location (e.g., platform); possessions of deceased often destroyed; in many cases house where death occurred is abandoned or even destroyed, and sometimes entire population moves All these steps have effect of reducing chance of transmission of infection (if dead person died from infectious disease) Since these steps are taken for essentially supernatural (e.g., avoidance of harmful ghosts) or unexplained customary reasons ("that is our tradition"), and usually without any indigenous theory of infectious disease, they seem unlikely to have arisen via rational decision-making to prevent spread of disease
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Unformatted text preview: From the ethnoecological point of view, we take these beliefs at face value, and note that actions of believers follow logically from the beliefs An evolutionary perspective pushes us to ask why such beliefs persist and spread, however (an example of asking "Why?" questions to complement "How?" ones) One evolutionary hypothesis is that once such beliefs arose (for whatever reason), those who adopted them would have a somewhat higher probability of surviving, hence more offspring on average (who in turn would be likely to culturally inherit these beliefs, thus increasing their frequency in the population over time) This is just a way of saying that memes ( cultural variants) can be favored by natural selection, if they spread & persist because people who hold such beliefs have higher average number of descendants, who in turn inherit the beliefs...
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This note was uploaded on 11/22/2011 for the course ANT ANT2000 taught by Professor Monicaoyola during the Fall '10 term at Broward College.

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