Human beings are a very different kind of animal. We have evolved to become the most dominant species on Earth. We have a larger geographical range and process more energy than any other creature alive. This astonishing transformation is usually explained in terms of cognitive ability—people are just smarter than all the rest. But in this compelling book, Robert Boyd argues that culture—our ability to learn from each other—has been the essential ingredient of our remarkable success.
A Different Kind of Animal demonstrates that while people are smart, we are not nearly smart enough to have solved the vast array of problems that confronted our species as it spread across the globe. Over the past two million years, culture has evolved to enable human populations to accumulate superb local adaptations that no individual could ever have invented on their own. It has also made possible the evolution of social norms that allow humans to make common cause with large groups of unrelated individuals, a kind of society not seen anywhere else in nature. This unique combination of cultural adaptation and large-scale cooperation has transformed our species and assured our survival—making us the different kind of animal we are today.
Based on the Tanner Lectures delivered at Princeton University, A Different Kind of Animal features challenging responses by biologist H. Allen Orr, philosopher Kim Sterelny, economist Paul Seabright, and evolutionary anthropologist Ruth Mace, as well as an introduction by Stephen Macedo.
"Scaffolding" is a concept that is becoming widely used across disciplines. This book investigates common threads in diverse applications of scaffolding, including theoretical biology, cognitive science, social theory, science and technology studies, and human development. Despite its widespread use, the concept of scaffolding is often given short shrift; the contributors to this volume, from a range of disciplines, offer a more fully developed analysis of scaffolding that highlights the role of temporal and temporary resources in development, broadly conceived, across concepts of culture, cognition, and evolution.
The book emphasizes reproduction, repeated assembly, and entrenchment of heterogeneous relations, parts, and processes as a complement to neo-Darwinism in the developmentalist tradition of conceptualizing evolutionary change. After describing an integration of theoretical perspectives that can accommodate different levels of analysis and connect various methodologies, the book discusses multilevel organization; differences (and reciprocality) between individuals and institutions as units of analysis; and perspectives on development that span brains, careers, corporations, and cultural cycles.
Colin Allen, Linnda R. Caporael, James Evans, Elihu M. Gerson, Simona Ginsburg, James R. Griesemer, Christophe Heintz, Eva Jablonka, Sanjay Joshi, Shu-Chen Li, Pamela Lyon, Sergio F. Martinez, Christopher J. May, Johann Peter Murmann, Stuart A. Newman, Jeffrey C. Schank, Iddo Tavory, Georg Theiner, Barbara Hoeberg Wimsatt, William C. Wimsatt
The Unpredictable Species boldly upends scientifically controversial yet popular beliefs about how our brains actually work. Along the way, this compelling book provides insights into a host of topics related to human cognition, including associative learning, epigenetics, the skills required to be a samurai, and the causes of cognitive confusion on Mount Everest and of Parkinson's disease.
Most scientific explanations are causal. This is certainly the case in evolutionary biology, which seeks to explain the diversity of life and the adaptive fit between organisms and their surroundings. The nature of causation in evolutionary biology, however, is contentious. How causation is understood shapes the structure of evolutionary theory, and historical and contemporary debates in evolutionary biology have revolved around the nature of causation. Despite its centrality, and differing views on the subject, the major conceptual issues regarding the nature of causation in evolutionary biology are rarely addressed. This volume fills the gap, bringing together biologists and philosophers to offer a comprehensive, interdisciplinary treatment of evolutionary causation.
Contributors first address biological motivations for rethinking evolutionary causation, considering the ways in which development, extra-genetic inheritance, and niche construction challenge notions of cause and process in evolution, and describing how alternative representations of evolutionary causation can shed light on a range of evolutionary problems. Contributors then analyze evolutionary causation from a philosophical perspective, considering such topics as causal entanglement, the commingling of organism and environment, and the relationship between causation and information.
John A. Baker, Lynn Chiu, David I. Dayan, Renée A. Duckworth, Marcus W Feldman, Susan A. Foster, Melissa A. Graham, Heikki Helanterä, Kevin N. Laland, Armin P. Moczek, John Odling-Smee, Jun Otsuka, Massimo Pigliucci, Arnaud Pocheville, Arlin Stoltzfus, Karola Stotz, Sonia E. Sultan, Christoph Thies, Tobias Uller, Denis M. Walsh, Richard A. Watson
In Cracking the Aging Code, theoretical biologist Josh Mitteldorf and award-winning writer and ecological philosopher Dorion Sagan reveal that evolution and aging are even more complex and breathtaking than we originally thought. Using meticulous multidisciplinary science, as well as reviewing the history of our understanding about evolution, this book makes the case that aging is not something that “just happens,” nor is it the result of wear and tear or a genetic inevitability. Rather, aging has a fascinating evolutionary purpose: to stabilize populations and ecosystems, which are ever-threatened by cyclic swings that can lead to extinction.
When a population grows too fast it can put itself at risk of a wholesale wipeout. Aging has evolved to help us adjust our growth in a sustainable fashion as well as prevent an ecological crisis from starvation, predation, pollution, or infection.
This dynamic new understanding of aging is provocative, entertaining, and pioneering, and will challenge the way we understand aging, death, and just what makes us human.
No one wants to overeat. And certainly no one wants to overeat for years, become overweight, and end up with a high risk of diabetes or heart disease--yet two thirds of Americans do precisely that. Even though we know better, we often eat too much. Why does our behavior betray our own intentions to be lean and healthy? The problem, argues obesity and neuroscience researcher Stephan J. Guyenet, is not necessarily a lack of willpower or an incorrect understanding of what to eat. Rather, our appetites and food choices are led astray by ancient, instinctive brain circuits that play by the rules of a survival game that no longer exists. And these circuits don’t care about how you look in a bathing suit next summer.
To make the case, The Hungry Brain takes readers on an eye-opening journey through cutting-edge neuroscience that has never before been available to a general audience. The Hungry Brain delivers profound insights into why the brain undermines our weight goals and transforms these insights into practical guidelines for eating well and staying slim. Along the way, it explores how the human brain works, revealing how this mysterious organ makes us who we are.