The word “culture” is sometimes recruited as a proxy for “race” in common parlance, and the familiar story of race predisposes us to understand the differences between European and Asian populations in biological, rather than cultural, terms. Culture is a significant shaper of human cognition, motivation, and emotion. The story of race as a biological thing that humans either have or are is not only inaccurate, but also it serves to distort our understanding of human nature. Another way of saying this is that human difference really matters — but not in the way most people think it does.
Continue reading A Story in Two Parts, With An Ending Yet To Be Written
When it comes to birds, difference looms in classifications of “things that fly”—in particular at the most inclusive levels termed in scientific biological classification the class, order, and family. But might the nature of particular birds bring them into the spotlight for attention regardless of culture, setting them up for similar conception (discrimination, naming, specificity in taxonomy), even if perception inevitably is fundamentally cultural?
Continue reading The Nature and Culture of Birds
All around us information seems to be multiplying at an ever increasing pace. New books are published, new designs for toasters and i-gadgets appear, new music is composed or synthesised and, perhaps above all, new content is uploaded into cyberspace. This is rather strange. We know that matter and energy cannot increase but apparently information
Continue reading Temes: An Emerging Third Replicator
Since Darwin’s time, the human language capacity has been a perennially cited paragon of extreme complexity that defies the explanatory powers of natural selection. And it is not just critics of Darwinism who have argued that this most distinctive human capacity is problematic. Alfred Russel Wallace—the co-discoverer of natural selection theory and in many
Continue reading On the Human: Rethinking the natural selection of human language
At odd moments, often when I’m distracted, it occurs to me that a song or a piece of music has been repeatedly running through my head. It’s an experience nearly everyone has. Sometimes it’s invigorating to realize that you have been striding through the day to the chords of Beethoven, but it’s often quite irritating
Continue reading Science and the Humanities
As a molecular anthropologist, my research involves using genetic data to address questions of anthropological interest about the origins, history, migration, structure, and relationships of human populations. I frequently am asked to give lectures to nonspecialist audiences on insights from genetics into human evolution, and invariably during the ensuing discussion period the viewpoint will be
Continue reading Does Culture Prevent or Drive Human Evolution?