Cultural Evolution

Society, Technology, Language, and Religion

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 Fran?ois, 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

Table of Contents

  1. The Ernst Strüngmann Forum
  2. List of Contributors
  3. 1. Introduction
  4. 2. Zoon Politicon: The Evolutionary Roots of Human Sociopolitical Systems
  5. 3. Human Cooperation among Kin and Close Associates May Require Enforcement of Norms by Third Parties
  6. 4. The Puzzle of Human Ultrasociality: How Did Large-Scale Complex Societies Evolve?
  7. 5. Like Me: A Homophily-Based Account of Human Culture
  8. 6. Cultural Evolution of the Structure of Human Groups
  9. 7. The Cultural Evolution of Technology: Facts and Theories
  10. 8. Long-Term Trajectories of Technological Change
  11. 9. Neuroscience of Technology
  12. 10. Scientific Method as Cultural Innovation
  13. 11. The Cultural Evolution of Technology and Science
  14. 12. The Interplay of Genetic and Cultural Factors in Ongoing Language Evolution
  15. 13. Language Diversity as a Resource for Understanding Cultural Evolution
  16. 14. Language Acquisition as a Cultural Process
  17. 15. Phylogenetic Models of Language Change: Three New Questions
  18. 16. Cultural Evolution of Language
  19. 17. The Evolution of Prosocial Religions
  20. 18. Rethinking Proximate Causation and Development in Religious Evolution
  21. 19. Religious Prosociality: A Synthesis
  22. 20. The Cultural Evolution of Religion
  23. Appendix: Developmental Issues
  24. Bibliography
  25. Subject Index