Monday, March 19, 2012

Wired for Culture: The Natural History of Human Cooperation

Mark Pagel stopped by the RSA to talk about the ways in which the human brain is wired for creating community and culture through cooperation.

This talk is part of his promotional tour for his new book, Wired for Culture: Origins of the Human Social Mind. At the bottom, I have included his 2011 TED Talk on how language - as a social technology - shaped human evolution.

Wired for Culture: The natural history of human cooperation

1st Mar 2012

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RSA Thursday

Head of the University of Reading’s Evolution Laboratory and one of the world’s leading experts on human development - Mark Pagel - uses evolutionary biology, anthropology, natural history, philosophy and years of observing human behaviour around the globe to shed light on our species’ capacity for culture, cooperation and community.

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?

Humans are usually seen as differing from other animals because of our inherent traits of consciousness, language and intelligence. But have we 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.

Join Mark Pagel at the RSA when he will demonstrate how 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.

See what people said on Twitter: #RSAPagel

Here is the TED Talk:
Biologist Mark Pagel shares an intriguing theory about why humans evolved our complex system of language. He suggests that language is a piece of "social technology" that allowed early human tribes to access a powerful new tool: cooperation.

Using biological evolution as a template, Mark Pagel wonders how languages evolve.

Full bio » 

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