Learning and Language
DOI link for Learning and Language
Learning and Language book
While all this applies to man there is one other influence which makes his adaptation to the environment fundamentally different from that of any other animal. It is the fact that he acquires, in the course of his life, experience of a social nature. This experience has an historical aspect and, in fact, could be described as the collective adaptation of the whole species over the whole of recorded history. The behaviour and development of the child of today is determined not only by the biological adaptations made by the species in the normal course of evolution, but also by the accumulated collective experience of the whole of mankind. This is in part manifested in technological developments, which make the concrete physical environment of man in technologically advanced societies fundamentally different from the natural environment, and also in the forms of social organization and social customs which have evolved through the centuries of man's history. The enormous changes brought about by this social evolution could not have been produced by the slow mechanisms of biological adaptation, nor would evolutionary change have produced the same effect. Mammoths grew woolly coats to accommodate to the slow change in their environment brought about by the Ice Age. They took thousands of years to do this and when the ice retreated producing an environment which was incompatible with his adaptations to life in the cold, the mammoth became extinct. Man, on the other hand, adapted to
life in the Ice Age by using fire and protective clothing. Man, that is, did not change himself to cope with environmental change, but changed the environment to fit him. Consequently when the ice retreated all he had to do was to wear less and to rely less on fire to keep him warm.