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Culture and Nature

The concept of culture is basic to study of anthropology. In his book Primitive Culture, British anthropologist Sir Edward Taylor wrote that culture systems of human behavior and thought obey natural laws and therefore can be studied scientifically. According to him, culture is that complex whole which includes, knowledge, belief, arts, morals, law, custom and any other capabilities and habits acquired by man as a member of society. Tylor’s definition focuses on attributes that people acquire not through biological inheritance but by growing up in a particular society where they are exposed to a specific cultural tradition. Enculturation is the process by which a child learns his or her culture.

Culture takes the natural biological urges we share with other animals and teaches us how to express them in particular ways. People have to eat but culture teaches us what, when and how. Cultural habits, perceptions and inventions mold human nature in many different directions. For example, our bathroom habits including waste elimination, bathing and dental care are parts of cultural traditions that have converted natural acts into cultural customs. Our culture and cultural changes affect the ways in which we perceive nature, human nature and the natural. Through science, invention and discovery cultural advances have overcome many natural limitations. Man has prevented and cured diseases like polio and smallpox which affected the ancestors. Through cloning scientists have altered the way we think about biological identity and the meaning of life itself. Culture have not freed us from natural threats. Hurricanes, floods, earthquakes and other natural forces regularly challenge us to modify the environment through building, development and expansion. Cultures are not haphazard collections of customs and beliefs. They are integrated patterned systems. If one part of the system changes, other parts change as well. For anthropologists culture includes much more than refinement, taste, sophistication, education and appreciation of the fine arts. The most significant cultural forces are those that affect people every day of their lives particularly those that influence children during enculturation. Culture encompasses features that are sometimes regarded as trivial or unworthy of serious study such as popular culture. As a cultural manifestation a rock star may be as interesting as a symphony conductor a comic book as significant as a book award winner. Culture is an attribute not of individuals perse but of individuals as members of groups. Culture is transmitted in society. We learn our culture by observing, listening, talking and interacting with many other people. Shared beliefs, values, memories and expectations link people who grow up in the same culture. Enculturation unifies people by providing us with common experiences. People become agents in the enculturation of their children just as their parents were for them. Although culture constantly changes, certain fundamental beliefs, values, worldviews and child rearing practices endure. We share our opinions and beliefs with many other people. Illustrating the power of shared cultural background we are most likely to agree with and feel comfortable with people who are socially ,economically  and culturally similar to ourselves.