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When evolutionary biology stretched out a tentacle called sociobiology and began to probe human behavior back in the 1970s there was no room for neutrality Advocates of the new science hailed the dawn of a new era in our understanding of human behavior while opponents wrung their hands with concern over the new field's potential to transform and even destroy anthropology and other social and behavioral sciences Twenty years later little has changed Anthropology and its sister disciplines are still intact and thriving though they seldom make use of insights from evolutionary biology Cultural anthropology in particular has recoiled from the biological threat by moving away from the sciences and toward the humanities During that same time a new generation of scholars in biological anthropology psychology and other fields has made great progress by using evolutionary theory to understand human behavior applying it to everything from mating and parenting to the study of mental illness The success of this research program is threatened however by its lack of a serious role for the concept of culture That Complex Whole Culture and the Evolution of Human Behavior is an effort to develop a scientific study of human behavior that is at once evolutionary and cultural In a lively readable style it deals with such serious scholarly issues as how to best define culture the question of whether culture is present in other species human universals and human diversity the relationship between culture and behavior and cultural and moral relativism It covers existing models of the relationship between cultural and biological evolution including the concept of the meme and the new science of memetics as well as the author's own work on the role of culture in human communications that draws upon the study of animal signals


10 thoughts on “That Complex Whole

  1. says:

    This book is a bit on the older side now published in 1999 so a lot of the ideas didn't feel new That being said it's still relevant and not outdated It's a good primer on evolution and behavior and quite readable