Since cultural evolution is fueled by the creative efforts of human minds which, by anyone’s definition, are conscious, it would seem that consciousness plays a central role in cultural evolution.
Wrangham's new book on the evolution of cooperation gets many things right. But he errs in thinking that he can develop his thesis without invoking group selection.
In a world that is being ripped apart by polarized views and fake news, scientific discourse might be the last bastion of constructive disagreement based on respect for objective knowledge.
Rather than being evicted from the womb before their heads are too big, a new hypothesis argues that human babies are born when their growth rates become too costly for their mothers’ metabolism to support.
Human psychology evolved over millions of years in relatively stable environments in small-scale communities. But, in the modern world, evolutionary mismatch can occur where a trait adapted for one environment is out of place where we live today.
In order for us to understand culture, it is in relation to our environments, both biological—as stressed by evolutionary psychology—and social—as stressed by cultural evolution. A well validated theoretical perspective can generate insights and explanations that lab experiments alone cannot provide.
If field sites are cross-cultural, multi-method, and collaborative across disciplines, however, they can improve the quality of our field, and help us make major steps toward understanding the evolution of human behavior.
If sociologists come to recognize that sociality and group process underlie the evolution of our species and are inherent in our biology, the use of field sites will become not just a means of framing sociological research but a clarion call for transdisciplinary recognition of the centrality of our discipline.
Cultural evolution research faces many challenges in the years to come. One of the most fundamental, perhaps, is to establish the extent to which cultural evolution is Darwinian.
Together with commentaries by authors with diverse perspectives on field research, we hope to catalyze the formation of field sites for the study of cultural evolution around the world.
The human capacity to transmit large amounts of learned information across generations is now properly seen as both a product of genetic evolution and a process of evolution in its own right.