Re: Proximal Vs. Distal (Ultimate) Causes

From: Dixon, J.C. (
Date: Fri May 24 1996 - 11:28:26 BST

What is the difference between proximal and distal causes in evolution?

The distal causes are the original distant causative factors, in the
original environment. Proximal causes can be considered as current
causative factors, which include the conscious mind and it's
influence. One way in which these two causes can be compared is in the
case of eating. For example the distal causes involved in eating, are
eating for survival which is the original reason, whereas the proximal
reasons are eating because the food tastes nice. From this example, you
can see that the distal causes are based on survival, they are from
Darwinian theories and proximal causes are 'here and now' factors.

An example of these two causes in evolution is the case of children and
sugar. Distal causes in this example is when sugar was hard to obtain
the children with a taste for sugar would find it and eat it. However
now there is plenty of sugar available, people eat the sugar. The
adverse effects of sugar is rotten teeth and obesity. As these are not
fatal factors, the gene which codes for the liking of sugar is passed
on to following generations. So the apetite for sugar can be considered
as a means to an end.

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