Cultural Evolution: Society, Technology, Language, and Religion

Cultural Evolution: Society, Technology, Language, and Religion

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Overview

Leading scholars report on current research that demonstrates the central role of cultural evolution in explaining human behavior.

Over the past few decades, a growing body of research has emerged from a variety of disciplines to highlight the importance of cultural evolution in understanding human behavior. Wider application of these insights, however, has been hampered by traditional disciplinary boundaries. To remedy this, in this volume leading researchers from theoretical biology, developmental and cognitive psychology, linguistics, anthropology, sociology, religious studies, history, and economics come together to explore the central role of cultural evolution in different aspects of human endeavor.

The contributors take as their guiding principle the idea that cultural evolution can provide an important integrating function across the various disciplines of the human sciences, as organic evolution does for biology. The benefits of adopting a cultural evolutionary perspective are demonstrated by contributions on social systems, technology, language, and religion. Topics covered include enforcement of norms in human groups, the neuroscience of technology, language diversity, and prosociality and religion. The contributors evaluate current research on cultural evolution and consider its broader theoretical and practical implications, synthesizing past and ongoing work and sketching a roadmap for future cross-disciplinary efforts.

Contributors
Quentin D. Atkinson, Andrea Baronchelli, Robert Boyd, Briggs Buchanan, Joseph Bulbulia, Morten H. Christiansen, Emma Cohen, William Croft, Michael Cysouw, Dan Dediu, Nicholas Evans, Emma Flynn, Pieter François, Simon Garrod, Armin W. Geertz, Herbert Gintis, Russell D. Gray, Simon J. Greenhill, Daniel B. M. Haun, Joseph Henrich, Daniel J. Hruschka, Marco A. Janssen, Fiona M. Jordan, Anne Kandler, James A. Kitts, Kevin N. Laland, Laurent Lehmann, Stephen C. Levinson, Elena Lieven, Sarah Mathew, Robert N. McCauley, Alex Mesoudi, Ara Norenzayan, Harriet Over, Ju¨rgen Renn, Victoria Reyes-García, Peter J. Richerson, Stephen Shennan, Edward G. Slingerland, Dietrich Stout, Claudio Tennie, Peter Turchin, Carel van Schaik, Matthijs Van Veelen, Harvey Whitehouse, Thomas Widlok, Polly Wiessner, David Sloan Wilson

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780262019750
Publisher: MIT Press
Publication date: 11/01/2013
Series: Strüngmann Forum Reports , #12
Pages: 504
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.40(d)
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

Peter J. Richerson is Distinguished Professor Emeritus at the University of California, Davis, and Visiting Professor at the Institute of Archaeology at University College London. He is the author of Not By Genes Alone: How Culture Transformed Human Evolution .

Morten H. Christiansen is Professor of Psychology and Codirector of the Cognitive Science Program at Cornell University.

Table of Contents

The Ernst Strüngmann Forum vii

List of Contributors ix

1 Introduction Peter J. Richerson Morten H. Christiansen 1

Structure of Human Groups

2 Zoon Politicon: The Evolutionary Roots of Human Sociopolitical Systems Herbert Gintis Corel van Schaik 25

3 Human Cooperation among Kin and Close Associates May Require Enforcement of Norms by Third Parries Sarah Mathew Robert Boyd Matthijs Van Veelen 45

4 The Puzzle of Human Ulrrasociality: How Did Large-Scale Complex Societies Evolve? Peter Turchin 61

5 Like Me: A Homophily-Based Account of Human Culture Daniel B. M. Haun Harriet Over 75

6 Cultural Evolution of the Structure of Human Groups Fiona M. Jordan Carel van Schaik Pieter François Herbert Gintis Daniel B. M. Haun Daniel J. Hruschka Marco A. Janssen James A. Kitts Laurent Lehmann Sarah Mathew Peter J. Richerson Peter Turchin Polly Wiessner 87

Technology and Science

7 The Cultural Evolution of Technology: Facts and Theories Robert Boyd Peter J. Richerson Joseph Henrich 119

8 Long-Term Trajectories of Technological Change Stephen Shennan 143

9 Neuroscience of Technology Dietrich Stout 157

10 Scientific Method as Cultural Innovation Robert N. McCauley 175

11 The Cultural Evolution of Technology and Science Alex Mesoudi Kevin N. Laland Robert Boyd Briggs Buchanan Emma Flynn Robert N. McCauley Jürgen Renn Victoria Reyes-García Stephen Shennan Dietrich Stout Claudio Tennie 193

Language

12 The Interplay of Genetic and Cultural Factors in Ongoing Language Evolution Stephen C. Levinson Dan Dediu 219

13 Language Diversity as a Resource for Understanding Cultural Evolution Nicholas Evans 233

14 Language Acquisition as a Cultural Process Elena Lieven 269

15 Phylogenetic Models of Language Change: Three New Questions Russell D. Gray Simon J. Greenhill Quentin D. Atkinson 285

16 Cultural Evolution of Language Dan Dediu Michael Cysouw Stephen C. Levinson Andrea Baronchelli Morten H. Christiansen William Croft Nicholas Evans Simon Garrod Russell D. Gray Anne Kandler Elena Lieven 303

Religion

17 The Evolution of Prosocial Religions Edward Slingerland Joseph Henrich Ara Norenzayan 335

18 Rethinking Proximate Causation and Development in Religious Evolution Harvey Whitehouse 349

19 Religious Prosociality: A Synthesis Ara Norenzayan Joseph Henrich Edward Slingerland 365

20 The Cultural Evolution of Religion Joseph Bulbulia Armin W. Geertz Quentin D. Atkinson Emma Cohen Nicholas Evans Pieter François Herbert Gintis Russell D. Gray Joseph Henrich Fiona M. Jordon Ara Norenzayan Peter J. Richerson Edward Slingerland Peter Turchin Harvey Whitehouse Thomas Widlok David S. Wilson 381

Appendix: Developmental Issues 405

Bibliography 409

Subject Index 477

What People are Saying About This

Andy Clark

Cultural evolutionary studies explore selection, change, transmission, and inheritance in a variety of settings, including social systems, technology, language, and religion. Do such studies offer an integrated perspective capable of making sense of such superficially diverse phenomena? What kinds of models are required, and how can we distinguish the good ones from the bad? This volume provides a perfect window onto these important debates. A must-read for anyone interested in the scientific study of human behavior.

From the Publisher

This ambitious and wide-ranging collection provides challenging theoretical discussions of the mechanisms of cultural evolution, including its complex relationship with biological evolution. It includes some comprehensive and reliable surveys of the current state of knowledge in four relevant domains—social structure, technology, language, and religion—that do not shirk from identifying unsolved problems. It is thus a promising basis on which the ongoing study of cultural evolution can proceed.

—J ames R. Hurford, Emeritus Professor of Linguistics, University of Edinburgh

Cultural evolutionary studies explore selection, change, transmission, and inheritance in a variety of settings, including social systems, technology, language, and religion. Do such studies offer an integrated perspective capable of making sense of such superficially diverse phenomena? What kinds of models are required, and how can we distinguish the good ones from the bad? This volume provides a perfect window onto these important debates. A must-read for anyone interested in the scientific study of human behavior.

—A ndy Clark, FRSE Professor of Logic and Metaphysics, University of Edinburgh

Endorsement

Cultural evolutionary studies explore selection, change, transmission, and inheritance in a variety of settings, including social systems, technology, language, and religion. Do such studies offer an integrated perspective capable of making sense of such superficially diverse phenomena? What kinds of models are required, and how can we distinguish the good ones from the bad? This volume provides a perfect window onto these important debates. A must-read for anyone interested in the scientific study of human behavior.

—Andy Clark, FRSE Professor of Logic and Metaphysics, University of Edinburgh

James R. Hurford

This ambitious and wide-ranging collection provides challenging theoretical discussions of the mechanisms of cultural evolution, including its complex relationship with biological evolution. It includes some comprehensive and reliable surveys of the current state of knowledge in four relevant domains—social structure, technology, language, and religion—that do not shirk from identifying unsolved problems. It is thus a promising basis on which the ongoing study of cultural evolution can proceed.

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