Category Archives: Cultural evolution

Why Humanist Values Will Prevail: A Cultural Evolutionary View

Our geopolitical world seems increasingly unstable, and some see this instability as a threat to Humanist values. But I’m optimistic that these values will ultimately prevail. Before I justify that optimism, let me clarify what I mean by Humanist values. … Continue reading

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Cultural Evolution, Insight, and Fundamental Theories of Consciousness

To answer the question of whether or not evolution is (or could be) conscious, we must first consider what makes something conscious. Approaches to consciousness can be divided into two camps. Reductionist approaches attempt to explain how consciousness could arise … Continue reading

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The Ape that Understood the Universe: How the Mind and Culture Evolve

The Ape that Understood the Universe is the story of the strangest animal in the world: the human animal. It opens with a question: How would an alien scientist view our species? What would it make of our sex differences, … Continue reading

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How Culture Makes Us Smarter

Cumulative culture gives us knowledge and tools far beyond our individual powers. Cumulative culture doesn’t just gift our species technology that none of us could have invented; it literally makes us smarter. The products of cumulative culture include not only … Continue reading

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The emergence of hierarchical structure in human language

We propose a novel account for the emergence of human language syntax. Like many evolutionary innovations, language arose from the adventitious combination of two pre-existing, simpler systems that had been evolved for other functional tasks. The first system, Type E(xpression), … Continue reading

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Why does culture sometimes evolve via sudden bursts of innovation?

Human beings inherit many genetic traits directly from their parents. However, cultural traits – tools, beliefs and behaviors that are transmitted by learning – can be passed on not only by parents but also teachers and peers. Many animals have … Continue reading

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Cultural evolution: Subsistence and social learning

Social learning is a crucial building block of human culture, but how and why do people vary in their propensity to learn from others? Experiments in Ethiopia suggest that pastoralists rely more on others’ knowledge than do horticulturalists. Every day … Continue reading

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Cultural evolution of normative motivations for sustainable behaviour

An emerging literature on the evolution of culture can offer new explanations for how norms encourage or obstruct sustainable practices. In particular, the dual-inheritance theory describes how interactions between genetic and cultural evolution give rise, in part, to prosociality. Based … Continue reading

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Analysis of interdisciplinary cultural evolution

The science of cultural evolution is unified in its application of evolutionary logic to socially transmitted behavior, but diverse in methodologies and assumptions. Qualitative reviews have encouraged integration by illuminating points of divergence and fostering interaction. This effort would be … Continue reading

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How Agriculture was Invented During the Stone Age

It is believed that women were the “inventors” of agriculture, as they began applying observations to their gathering in order to maximize their returns. Plant varieties were chosen for their nutritional value and ease of production, and locations were chosen … Continue reading

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