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Not by Genes Alone: How Culture Transformed Human Evolution
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Top Customer Reviews
There are dozens of books available employing evolutionary thinking to humans, the large majority of which do not offer a "proper evolutionary theory" because they neglect the most obvious and unique feature of our species--our culture, information affecting behavior acquired from other humans through social transmission. This failure results from a steadfast dedication to accounting for human behavior in terms of principles applicable to the prosocial behavior of other species-- kin selection and reciprocity.Read more ›
The core argument has several elements. First, culture constrains and shapes human behaviour (social scientists may be surprised that this is not immediately evident to all). Second, that the way that culture spreads can be understood using mathematical models based on evolutionary principles: competition between different ideas and behaviours (social norms) spread through inheritance from cultural parents (parents, teachers, social leaders). Importantly, this means that culture can evolve relatively quickly, allowing populations to adapt, but can also persist within a population even where the particular idea is no longer appropriate. Finally, the authors argue that the importance of culture for humans has led to greater fitness of genetics that favour culture (eg language facilitation), which has in turn supported a greater role for culture and further genetic pressure and so on.
In many ways, Culture and Evolutionary Process is the easier book, particularly if you are comfortable with mathematics. The mathematics is not hard, just very long and extremely tedious, particularly as the authors have attempted to make it accessible to nonmathematicians.Read more ›
And that is what the book does. It studies culture from an evolutionary point of view, breaking it down to traditions and values, making these the genes of culture. Cultures evolves, adapts and sometimes even cause problems, bringing about the extinction of the culture. One culture might work better than another and overwhelm the weaker, less fit culture.
By using the ideas and knowledge that Darwin has passed down to us the authors were able to understand how genes and culture worked together to shape US. LOTS and lots of detailed, data rich, chapters. Take your time and enjoy.
Overall, this is not a popular science book, though it is more readable than most scholarly texts. What stops it being popular science is perhaps the lack of an easy-to-grasp narrative with a beginning, a middle, and an end. The more comprehensive the research gathered the harder this gap is to fill, and it is to their credit that the authors have managed to link together such wide-ranging research from so many disciplines even if the linking theory seems sometimes contradictory, unclear, and over-complex with its many types of cultural transmission "biases" which account for everything. At times they seem to be hinting that culture is a sort of test-bed for natural selection, and that software will eventually be turned into silicon, so to speak. This would be the ultimate `gene-culture coevolution'. What else can they mean in the book's conclusion (p. 235) by: "In the short run, cultural evolution, partly driven by ancient [i.e.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Book is very interesting, but focuses on the environmental factors that shaped culture, and not really any others. Read morePublished 21 months ago by Caroline Golden
This text makes some important contributions. Apparently, culture wasn't properly considered with respect by evolution (particularly human) by some disciplines at the time this... Read morePublished 21 months ago by Trisha
Greatly interested in neuroscience of the brain & said book was mentioned in
Patricia Churchland's "Touching a nerve... Read more