Category Archives: Human Evolution

String Theory: should we care?

On Being “Reimagining the Cosmos” I always find myself stuck on the fence when it comes to the confrontation between physics and philosophy (and by extension religion). This episode effectively captures my ambivalence. On the one hand, I like that … Continue reading

Posted in A Minor Post, Adaptation, Behavior, Belief, Consciousness, Emotion, Ethics, Evolutionary Psychology, Human Evolution, Human Uniqueness, Neuroscience, Philosophy, Physics, Psychological Adaptation, Psychology, Radio & Podcasts, Religion | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Okay, I admit it: I am a bit of a Neanderthal

The Economist “The genetic contribution Neanderthal man made to modern humanity is clearer” Although this article makes a bigger deal than it should about the “human construct” of the species concept (evolutionists are already well aware of the gradations of isolation … Continue reading

Posted in A Minor Post, Articles, Evolution, Extinction, Genetics, Homo species, Human Evolution, Human Uniqueness, Phylogenetics, Speciation | 1 Comment

Was Teilhard de Chardin the real inventor of an evolutionary approach to culture?

On Being “Teilhard de Chardin on The “Planetary Mind” and Our Spiritual Evolution” We often give credit to Richard Dawkins — who is undeniably the inventor of the term “memetics” — for introducing an evolutionary approach to cultural change. But as … Continue reading

Posted in A Minor Post, Biography, Cooperation, Cultural Evolution, Ecosystem Ecology, Evolution, Geology, Homo species, Human Evolution, Human Uniqueness, Memetic Fitness, Radio & Podcasts, Religion, Wallace Darwin Project | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Taking risks for the data

The cover story of November’s National Geographic is about the death of storm chaser Tim Samaras, who was killed along with two of his collaborators (including one of his sons) during a monster tornado outside Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. Samaras is … Continue reading

Posted in A Major Post, Articles, Genetics, Human Evolution, Human Nature, Human Uniqueness, Play, Risk & Uncertainty | Leave a comment

New fossil finds provide unique insight into the variation found in “Man the Hunted”

The New York Times “Skull Fossil Suggests Simpler Human Lineage” It is interesting how terrible fossils are: generally, they represent only a part of one individual who was part of one population in one place at one point in time. Not … Continue reading

Posted in A Minor Post, Data Limitation, Homo species, Human Evolution | Leave a comment

“Brainchildren” — another way to conceptualize our devotion to cultural fitness

The Chronicle of Higher Education “Bringing up brainchildren” This is such a fun and insightful essay on the relationship between our pursuits that yield — alternatively — genetic and memetic fitness. It effectively captures the wish of the intellectual producer … Continue reading

Posted in A Minor Post, Articles, Cultural Evolution, Gene-Culture Coevolution, Memetic Fitness | Leave a comment

Barash the gene accountant on that little economic driver called “reproduction”

The Chronicle of Higher Education “Sex on the Mind” Ugh. How do I decompose this enough? I have always had a fear that David Barash is more pundit than academic, but this column is really scary. There is complete agreement among … Continue reading

Posted in A Major Post, Articles, Evolutionary Psychology, Genetics, Human Evolution, Mating systems, Reproductive Fitness, Sex and Reproduction | Leave a comment

New research suggests that chimpanzees understand that cooperation produces benefits

WMAC Northeast Public Radio “Academic Minute: Dr. Alicia Melis, University of Warwick – Cooperation and Chimpanzees” Chimps’ ability to take the perspective of others has been questioned, but this set of experiments seems to show that chimps can mentally put … Continue reading

Posted in A Minor Post, Behavioral Ecology, Cooperation, Human Uniqueness, Primates, Radio & Podcasts, Reciprocity, Web | Leave a comment

An anecdote that illustrates the tremendous power of human network reciprocity

NPR Morning Edition StoryCorps “How One Man Continues To ‘Just Pass It On’” The story of this man’s life and how he has reacted to the kindness of a stranger nicely encapsulates the very powerful nature of human network reciprocity. … Continue reading

Posted in A Minor Post, Behavior, Cultural Evolution, Evolutionary Psychology, Human Uniqueness, MSCI-463, The Evolution of Cooperation, Radio & Podcasts, Reciprocity, Social Networks, Social Norms | Leave a comment

Additional evidence that obesity may be due to environment, not just habits

NPR Shots “Gut Bacteria We Pick Up As Kids Stick With Us For Decades” NPR Shots “Staying Healthy May Mean Learning To Love Our Microbiomes” NPR Shots “Diverse Gut Microbes, A Trim Waistline And Health Go Together” NPR Shots “How … Continue reading

Posted in A Minor Post, Coevolution, Cultural Evolution, Health & Medicine, Human Evolution, Mismatch Theory, Mutualism, Radio & Podcasts | Tagged | Leave a comment

A tour of your diverse microbiome, and the things that might deplete that diversity

NPR Morning Edition “From Birth, Our Microbes Become As Personal As A Fingerprint” It’s a bit corny, but this is a great tour of our diverse microbiome. It is critical that people start to recognize how potentially-damaging overuse of antibiotics … Continue reading

Posted in A Minor Post, Coevolution, Human Evolution, Mismatch Theory, Mutualism, Radio & Podcasts, Reciprocity | Tagged | Leave a comment

My review of “Origins of Altruism and Cooperation” is published in QRB

I am excited to report that my review of Origins of Altruism and Cooperation was just published in the Quarterly Review of Biology. Although it requires some work to get through, this collection presents a really important counter-narrative to the … Continue reading

Posted in A Major Post, Altruism, Behavior, Books, Cooperation, Cultural Evolution, Empathy, Group Selection, Human Evolution, Human Uniqueness, Kin Selection, Multilevel Selection, My publications, Primatology, Reciprocity, Social Networks, Social Norms | Leave a comment

Think the Milgram Experiments tell us something definitive about human nature? Think again!

WNYC The Leonard Lopate Show “The Untold Story of the Notorious Milgram Psychology Experiments” This great feature uncovers two major sources of scientific distortion: Milgram himself selectively reported his results in order to tell a more sensational story; and Media depictions, … Continue reading

Posted in A Minor Post, Altruism, Behavior, Emotion, Empathy, Ethics, Human Nature, Methods, Psychology, Radio & Podcasts, Scientific Fraud, Social Norms | Leave a comment

Mammal monogamy still a mystery, but maybe more than a numbers game

National Public Radio Morning Edition “For Some Mammals It’s One Love, But Reasons Still Unclear” Although brief, I appreciate how this article lays out the three hypotheses for monogamy: Monogamous co-parenting increases the survival rate of offspring as compared to parenting … Continue reading

Posted in A Minor Post, Behavior, Behavioral Ecology, Competition, Cooperation, Evolution, Genetics, Human Uniqueness, Mating systems, Radio & Podcasts, Sex and Reproduction | Leave a comment

New theory explaining the prevalence of homosexuality focuses on epigenetics

The Quarterly Review of Biology ”Homosexuality as a Consequence of Epigenetically Canalized Sexual Development” What makes this theory so compelling is how it addresses the “heritable but not at all clearly genetic” problem of explaining the very high prevalence of homosexuality … Continue reading

Posted in A Minor Post, Articles, Epigenetics, Human Evolution, Sex and Reproduction | Leave a comment

The potential for human evolution has increased along with the population size of our species

Wired “Humanity’s Recent Evolution” Of course increased genetic diversity just makes evolution more possible… but there still still needs to be some viable selective force to do something with all this variation. One could argue that the amount of variation … Continue reading

Posted in A Minor Post, Genetics, Human Evolution, Mismatch theory, Population Genetics, Web | Leave a comment

Dumb radio ads provide smart insight into the diverse nature of human societies

Do everyday people have any sense of their place in the world? Human beings live in incredibly complex societies undergirded by convoluted economies and overwhelmingly diverse cultures. Do we have a sense of how these societies came to be, or … Continue reading

Posted in A Major Post, Behavior, Cooperation, Economic sustainability, Ethics, Gene-Culture Coevolution, Group Selection, Human Evolution, Political Science, Public Policy, Radio & Podcasts, Social Diversity | Leave a comment

Dog license dataset opens up huge potential for understanding the dog-human mutualism

WNYC “NYC’s Top Dogs: Mapping Names & Breeds in the City” WNYC “Dogs of NYC” Data sets like these, even flawed by their incompleteness (only 20% of dogs in New York City are registered) are fascinating. The human relationship with dogs has … Continue reading

Posted in A Minor Post, Canids, Coevolution, Gene-Culture Coevolution, Geography, Human Evolution, Human Uniqueness, Mutualism, Public Policy, Radio & Podcasts, Web | Leave a comment

Is selective rejection of science really a problem?

In a recent short opinion piece (Scientific American “Creation, Evolution and Indisputable Facts“), Jacob Tanenbaum argues that selectively rejecting evolutionary biology is dangerous to the scientific culture of America. He rightly points out that our populace does not reject science … Continue reading

Posted in A Major Post, Adaptation, Altruism, Articles, Belief, Cooperation, Evolution, Gene-Culture Coevolution, Human Evolution, Human Uniqueness, Religion, System Stability | Tagged , | 1 Comment

Do our brains require endurance activity in order to function?

The New York Times “Exercise and the Ever-Smarter Human Brain” While I think that the finding that brain size and capacity for endurance are linked is interesting and important, I am a bit baffled by this article’s take on the … Continue reading

Posted in A Minor Post, Adaptation, Articles, Brain size, Development, Evolution, Gene by Environment Interactions, Gene-Culture Coevolution, Human Evolution, Human Uniqueness, Mismatch Theory, Neuroscience, Phenotypic Plasticity | Leave a comment