Wired for Culture: The Natural History of Human Cooperation
|Author:||Mark D. Pagel|
Since humans left Africa less than a hundred thousand years ago there has been a staggering explosion of cultures. What caused this blooming of diversity? Why are there so many mutually incomprehensible languages, even within small territories? Why do we rejoice in rituals, wrap ourselves in flags, or define ourselves in opposition to others? In "Wired for Culture" Mark Pagel, one of the world's leading experts on human development, shows how our facility for culture is the key to our success as a species. Humans are usually seen as differing from other animals because of our inherent traits of consciousness, language and intelligence. But Mark Pagel shows we've had it the wrong way round. Many of these things would not exist without our propensity for culture - our ability to co-operate in small tribal societies, enabling us to pass on knowledge, beliefs and practices so that we prospered while others declined. Mark Pagel's extraordinary history of the role of culture in natural selection shows how humans developed a mind that is hardwired for culture - so that it has outstripped our genes in determining who we are, how we think and speak, who we love and kill - and how it equips us for the challenges of life in the modern world. Weaving together evolutionary biology, anthropology, natural history, philosophy and Pagel's years of observing human behaviour around the globe, this extraordinary book sheds light on everything from art, morality and affection to jealousy, self-interest and prejudice. It will change how we view ourselves, not just as individuals, but within the wider story of our species.
Selected by the Guardian as a literary highlight for 2012 Guardian Pagel's story is ... vivid and effective ... this is the best popular science book on culture so far -- Pete Richerson Nature Gorgeously written, elegantly argued, Pagel demonstrates that genes are only a small part of the human success story; minds and culture are the larger part. A compelling read that allows us to appreciate everything around us with fresh eyes -- David Eagleman, Author Of Tales Of The Afterlives And Incognito An intriguing combination of information...with an optimistic prediction of a future global society in which inventiveness and cooperation prevail -- Kirkus Reviews Pagel does an excellent job of using evolutionary biology to discuss the origins of religion, music, and art, and the readson why, cross-culturally, we generally share a sense of morality -- Starred Review Publishers Weekly The clarity of Pagel's absorbing account is enhanced by the fact that he looks at everything through the one lens: evolution. [Wired for Culture is] Impressive for its detail, accuracy and vivacity Guardian Human evolution may be the hottest area in popular science writing, ahead even of books about cosmology and the brain. Within this crowded field, Mark Pagel's Wired for Culture stands out for both its sweeping erudition and its accessibility to the non-specialist reader -- Clive Cookson Financial Times A remarkable and beautifully written book -- Matt Ridley The Wall Street Journal It's a clear and convincing read, and it wouldn't look out of place alongside Pinker and Dawkins -- Tom Chivers Telegraph
Mark Pagel is head of the Evolution Laboratory in the Division of Zoology, School of Biological Sciences, at the University of Reading, and a Fellow of the Royal Society. He is the editor-in-chief of the award winning Oxford Encyclopaedia of Evolution and co-author of The Comparative Method in Evolutionary Biology, which is regarded as a classic, as well as the author of a number of articles in Science, Nature, and other journals, and he has also been a contributor to numerous monographs. Statistical methods that Pagel has developed are used by researchers all over the world to study evolutionary trends across species.