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10 thoughts on “Wired for Culture

  1. says:

    An interesting book that provides an extensive and highly plausible account of the evolution of culture in our species The book's central tenet selfish genes construct physical survival vehicles in our bodies and cultural survival machines solely as a means to increase their own survival may sound reductionist to some in the humanities but is well arguedMoreover the book reviews many of the important ways in which culture once it had sprang up altered the selection pressures operating on our genes Thus although culture may be a product of selfish genes to improve their chances of survival our gene pool has also been altered by the new selection pressures introduced by cultureThe book has some problems too First culture may have led to the existence of a new type of replicators memes These reproduce differently than our genes and as such may have given rise to conflicting selection pressures This problem is discussed but I think is not given the prominence it deservesSecond although the book has an extensive bibliography no notes to support claims in the text are present As such it is sometimes difficult to evaluate whether something is a plausible just so story for which alternatives could be envisaged or whether something is supported by hard facts I encountered some inadeuacies in the treatment of my own area of expertise which makes me suspect that there may be some in other areas too and leaves me unable to fully appreciate the strength of the central thesis of the book


  2. says:

    For whatever reason late spring and early summer is my slowest reading time so this one took me a while to finish It was not because it was not good or interesting The concept of what makes humans uniuely human has evolved over the years and has settled on symbolic language and culture We are the only animal that can record our thoughts or instructions in a form that someone can later reproduce almost perfectly Symbolic language allows us to pass ideas or memes amongst ourselves in a manner similar to how DNA is used to replicate genes The memes work on a cultural level rather than on a biological level as with your bodies The end result is that human culture can evolve at a dizzying rate compared to biological evolution which allows us to have unprecedented cooperation amongst ourselves So for all of our emphasis on being uniue and competitive it is really cooperation enabled by symbolic language and culture that makes us what we are


  3. says:

    A very ambitious and enjoyable book What I got out of this book was this message All of human behavior can be explained by looking at our genes This was a great summer read because it is very accessible The dense and jargony nonfictions have their merits but there’s something to be said for a nice light nonfiction book I was a bit skeptical of some of the claims presented in the book however some explanations felt too convenient or too speculative for me It irritated me when Pagel used language implying that genescellsmemes were sentient Maybe he was just trying to be poetic or simplify things but I didn’t like it It makes it easy to lose sight of the real way natural selection works ExamplePg 71 “your skin cells are happy to die to protect you from the penetrating and deadly rays of the sun”Despite this this book is one of my all time favorites because it is very smart and very fun I marked many parts of this book with post it notes so the favorite parts section of this review is going to be very long Favorite partsPg 20“there is a well known fungus called Cordyceps that infects a species of carpenter ant The fungus finds its way to the ant’s brain where it controls the ant like a puppeteer getting it to climb to the top of blades of grass or small plants Once there the ant clamps its jaws shut and then dangles like a flag in the wind Meanwhile the fungus devours the ant from within and eventually erupts in its brain flowering out of the top of its head releasing spores to be carried off to infect some new ant or even some grazing animals”Pg 20 explanation of why super deadly diseases like Ebola are rare their victims die before they can spread the disease very farPg 21 I love this“The philosopher Daniel Dennett once uipped that perhaps ‘a scholar is just a library’s way of making another library’”Pg 41 Animals lack a theory of mind they don’t assume that others have a reason or purpose for doing the things they do Pg 49 Incredible linguistic diversity in New GuineaPg 53 “Human cultural groups have historically partitioned the landscape among themselves almost as if they were a separate biological species But why speak a different language every few miles? Why not in regions such as the tropics form one giant cooperative society?”Pg 64 “The capacity of common bacteria to reproduce is so great that if their growth went unchecked we would in a matter of days or less time ball be standing up to our waists in a mat of bacteria that carpeted the entire world”Okay besides just being an awesome mental image this brings up the uestion what would a mat of bacteria feel like? What would it even look like? Would it be black or transparent? Would it feel like like sand dirt or water? I want to knowPg 77Description of slime molds SO COOLPg 117“Similarities among perfect strangers reared apart” study Pg 121 I love this“Males of the common side blotched lizard Uta stansburiana play a pure strategy version of the rock scissors paper game in their competition to mate with females Each male has one of three different genetically determined mating strategies Polygynous males are large in size and can therefore control large territories By controlling these large territories the polygynous males can guard and exclusively mate with a number of females The polygynous males can even take females away from smaller monogamous males which having smaller territories attempt to guard just a single female But the polygynous males don’t ever take over completely A small sneaky male can take advantage of the polygynous males by snatching a liaison with one of his females when the polygynous male is not watching On the other hand the sneaky tactic does not work against the monogamous males because they can guard their single female As with the parlor game each one of these strategies can ‘beat’ a different one of the others and whenever one becomes too numerous one of the others will take advantage of it”Pg 148 Discussion of why religions existPg 155 156 “Veblen made the bold claim that rich people throughout history have advertised their wealth through acts of what he called conspicuous consumption – ostentatious and extravagant displays that genuinely reveal how much they have by showing how much they can afford to throw away on otherwise useless objects As with the peacock’s tail the waste allows us a way of glimpsing what must lie behind the flamboyance”“We are now in a position to see why religious belief can be a powerful indicator of someone’s commitment Your religion is not just a marker of group membership such as your language might be Faith is about believing things that by all known rules cannot possibly be true or verified and could even get you killed It is about acting without evidence participating in its rituals fasting a form of starvation memorizing scripture scarification crucifixion and paying of tithes Veblen and Zahavi’s insights tell us that it is the utter recklessness and costliness of adhering to religious beliefs that makes them a believable way of advertising your commitment to a group and thereby attracting altruism from others you could try to demonstrate your commitment to your group by for example helping to build a boat but its usefulness means your effort might be seen as partly for your own gain” Pg 211 just reminded me of a uestion I had back when I was in biology that never got answered Technically wouldn’t it be possible though extremely unlikely to have a sibling that despite being born from the same parents as you was genetically a stranger? Say m A m B and m C genes from mom and d A d B and d C genes from dad come together and you end up with m A d B m C and your sibling ends up with d A m B and d C? You and your sibling would be as related as your parents were This is probably a dumb thought though I haven’t had biology in a while so I probably don’t know what I’m talking about Pg 222 – Altruistic actions – actions for the good of the group—are explained as actions made for the good of the individual “It is precisely the most costly acts—the ones least likely to benefit us individually that most efficiently purchase reputations”Pg 237 I felt Pagel was overly dismissive of human’s inventiveness He took examples that supported his claims that humans are copiers and not inventors and ignored examples that did not Pg 253 Let’s modify HAR1 ourselves and create a superhuman I’m kidding kind ofPg 255 This is brilliant“Domestication is like taking up residence in a protective bubble and right across the history of evolution it is linked to things becoming simpler Single celled organisms that have taken up residence inside the cells of other organisms normally have many fewer genes than their wild ancestors They jettison genes they no longer need genes that served functions in their wild state but that are now provided by their host The structures called mitochondria that exist inside each of our cells and that produce energy are thought to be ancient bacteria that took up residence inside cells like ours over 15 billion years ago They probably had around 3000 genes when they moved in; now they have 16”Pg 280 Interesting theory on why we evolved languagePg 285 “Much of the junk DNA exists in the form of small genetic parasites called transposons that can infect our genomes in much the same sense that a virus infects our bodies They go by names such as LINE I long interspersed nuclear element SINE short interspersed nuclear element P elements and Mariner They derive the name transposon from their capability to make a copy of themselves that gets inserted at a different place in the genome It has long been a puzzle why we put up with junk DNA rather than evolve ways to remove it Some unusual cases of hemophilia and even of bowel cancer have been blamed on LINE 1 transposons moving around inside our genomes”Pg 289 digital vs continuous signalsPg 301 Pagel are you ignoring phonotactic constraints in your calculation of the number of possible English words? Also letters are not the building blocks of language phonemes are Chapter 9 Our inner “I” is an illusionPg 308 “Indeed the whole concept of personal identity is so tenuous that John Locke devoted an entire chapter to it in his Essay Concerning Human Understanding Locke came to the startling conclusion that apart from our memories we cannot even be sure we are the same person we were in the past”Pg 318 “In extreme cases the loyalties get tipped entirely to one sex even though the gene can appear in males and females You inherit a small amount of DNA in the structure known as the mitochondrion that resides in each of your cells Mitochondria are inherited solely form mothers even though mothers and fathers both have them This means that even though the mitochondrion spends exactly half of its time in each sex this small piece of DNA is at a dead end when it finds itself in a male because it knows it will not be transmitted to his offspring This puts it in direct conflict with the male’s body There are remarkable instances in the animal kingdom in which genes on the mitochondrion feminize males to such an extent that they become females thereby ensuring this mitochondrion does get transmitted”Careful there How does the DNA “know” it will not be transmitted? More accurate to say that DNA that randomly evolves the ability to feminize males survives and reproduces than the DNA that doesn’t? Intelligence without self awareness?Pg 319 Okay this is a little creepy“It gets worse Bacteria known as Wolbachia live inside the cells of some ladybird fruitfly butterfly and woodlice species As with mitochondria only mothers transmit these Wolbachia to their offspring Now females of these species lay a large clutch of brother and sister embryos each carrying the mother’s Wolbachia As with the mitochondria the Wolbachia in the male embryos are at a dead end In some ladybird species these Wolbachia commit suicide by killing the male embryos in which they reside Why? In ladybirds at least the surviving sisters who carry identical copies of the suicidal Wolbachia feast on their dead brothers This improves the sisters’ survival and therefore the survival of the Wolbachia in them”Pg 332 Interesting theory about the purpose of our consciousness For me at least language and consciousness are deeply intertwined My consciousness feels like a pile of language Pg 337 I want to read about Laland’s tournament of innovative vs copier computer programsPg 351 Rule of how to build a mound Seriously like the coolest thing I have read in a long time Just awesome


  4. says:

    If I can only use one word to encapsulate the message which the authors tries to convey in this book the word would be CYNICISM The author tries to rationalize human behaviors of all kinds whether it be a disposition to subscribe to a certain religious belief ideology culture or having acts of altruism etc using the notion of cynicism suggesting that every acts of humans be it good or evil are motivated by self interestIn one example the author presented the case of social amoebas and uses that as a basis to decipher the reason for altruistic acts by humans which again is a reason that stems from the notion of cynicism But how can one liken humans' behaviors to the behaviors of cellular organisms?Humans are fundamentally different because of our emotions and conscience which are absent in many if not all other organisms Therefore I believe humans are capable of genuine emotions we are capable of kindness ready to give help without expecting anything in return Conversely we are capable of apathy People who believe in a certain religion may have first hand experience of a spiritual encounter Nonetheless this book is worth a read as the arguments though flawed are presented in a concise manner and the concepts are thought provoking


  5. says:

    A book in my favourite genre social science well explained and up to date but not overly simplified Took me uite a long time to finish not because of the book but because I had to put it aside for other books to be read first Pagel's style of writing is very pleasant with a good sense of style Some of his witty remarks came uite close to political commentary but luckily not to an annoying degree Cultural evolution is a hot topic that can be used to explain almost anything Pagel stands clear from political opportunism and focuses on his core topic what makes us the humans fundamentally different from the rest of the animal kingdomThis uestion although very much worth discussing oddly enough slightly undermines the whole idea of culture My reading of culture is that it is just a tool box for coping in a shared sense of reality Pagel's reading is different as he seems to think that culture is matter of sophistication development and progress By the same token I personally regard the humans not as fundamentally different from animals but only as an astonishing example of the mammal species Pagel's viewpoint seems to be hierarchial and he values animal cultures whether or not they attain the same ualities as the human version does Obviously they never do and theregy Pagel is slightly trapped in a viscious circleNevertheless I very much enjoyed reading this highly enlightening book One of its jewels is in its excellent list of references I am doubtful whether the Kindle edition was the best choice On one hand I made many notes and highlights and will propably return to the book for references but on the other hand I would have liked to uickly page back to earlier chapters just to check things out I also wonder whether the paper versions had any illustrations the topic could certainly have deserved some


  6. says:

    Interesting book about our genetic human evolution and our cultural social evolution A long dry academic and textbook y book Three and a half stars Genes ruled the evolution of life for billions of years But then a hundred eighty thousand years ago culture began competing with genes to guide humanoid evolution These humans could copy improve and learn from others Culture explains the difference between us and chimpanzees who after millions of years still crack the same nuts with the same rocks Eighty thousand years ago upright apes emerged from a million years on the African savanna The new species lived in larger family groups whose societies developed art skills customs beliefs and language By roaming and exploring the world beyond the savanna humans adapted to their new environments expanding the culture Culture itself makes adaptations And that starts with our fortuitous accident of getting born into one culture while our neighbors live in a slightly different one While our genes share a common path into the future we enjoy free will to live and join the cultures of our choice writes Pagel This book argues that because of culture we developed language empathy and intelligence as well as attributes such as charity and empathy The book tells how culture sculpted our minds and behavior Arts music and culture cover the spheres most people think of as culture that moves consoles and entertains The memories of these experiences lodge in our brains


  7. says:

    I didn't exactly finish this I read about 14 then samples from the remaining chapters in the hopes that it would get better It didn't Even though I agree with some of Pagel’s conclusions his arguments made me cringe Much cherry picking of data so even when I agreed with the conclusion I found myself thinking of counter examples that came fairly readily to mind Much illustration by false analogies the ueen in an ant colony does not rule the colony in the same way as a human monarch rules a nation Another review on Goodreads said that the reviewer thought that the book showed that All of human behavior can be explained by looking at our genes while the review uoted on the back of the book was closer to what I thought the theme was that our genes enabled culture but after that cultures produced wide variance in human behaviour But the confusion is not surprising I'm going to re read Not by Genes Alone which I remember as being a much better book on this topic rather than spend any time on this mess of a book


  8. says:

    The book annoyed me on several levels It seems like a book for logic if you can accept this than this other thing is true and so forth constructing a foundation for his theory It seems like a science book letting me know only some of the facts only the ones who will support his theory and not the other ones Talking about totipotent cells and their divisions and at some point when? probably influenced by the local conditions they decide to transform in pluripotent to specialize a little It is like the genes have some intelligence and it's up to them to become or not pluri or multi or uni potent cells He covered up the fact that there are seuences of DNA that control the number of divisions and which genes come to be expressed though he talked lengthly about the random insertions of DNA The social part did not convince me


  9. says:

    What this book is about Left unchecked these ploys kin selection would have caused our societies to collapse before they god off the ground To make our societies work then we had to acuire the social and psychological systems that could somehow overcome and tame selfish instincts born of millions of years of evolution by natural selection to cheat exploit dupe and even murder’s one rivals These systems are our culture Is it worth reading? Yes do read the chapters Ultra sociality and the Cultrual Survival Vehicle and Local Rules and the Emergence of Self Organization but feel free to skip everything else


  10. says:

    Informative thought provoking I took notes


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FREE DOWNLOAD Ë PDF, DOC, TXT or eBook ê Mark Pagel

Ple we kill in war But how did our species develop a mind that is hardwired for culture and why?Evolutionary biologist Mark Pagel tracks this intriguing uestion through the last 80000 years of human evolution revealing how an innate propensity to contribute and conform to the culture of our birth not on Interesting book about our genetic human evolution and our cultural social evolution A long dry academic and textbook y book Three and a half stars Genes ruled the evolution of life for billions of years But then a hundred eighty thousand years ago culture began competing with genes to guide humanoid evolution These humans could copy improve and learn from others Culture explains the difference between us and chimpanzees who after millions of years still crack the same nuts with the same rocks Eighty thousand years ago upright apes emerged from a million years on the African savanna The new species lived in larger family groups whose societies developed art skills customs beliefs and language By roaming and exploring the world beyond the savanna humans adapted to their new environments expanding the culture Culture itself makes adaptations And that starts with our fortuitous accident of getting born into one culture while our neighbors live in a slightly different one While our genes share a common path into the future we enjoy free will to live and join the cultures of our choice writes Pagel This book argues that because of culture we developed language empathy and intelligence as well as attributes such as charity and empathy The book tells how culture sculpted our minds and behavior Arts music and culture cover the spheres most people think of as culture that moves consoles and entertains The memories of these experiences lodge in our brains A Little Learning propensity to contribute and conform to the culture of our birth not on Interesting book about our genetic human evolution and our cultural social evolution A long dry academic and textbook y book Three and a half stars Genes ruled the evolution of life for billions of years But then a hundred eighty thousand years ago culture began competing with genes to guide humanoid evolution These humans could copy improve and learn from others Culture explains the difference between us and chimpanzees who after millions of years still crack the same nuts with the same rocks Eighty thousand years ago upright apes emerged from a million years on the African savanna The new species lived in larger family groups whose societies developed art skills customs beliefs and language By roaming and exploring the world beyond the savanna humans adapted to their new environments expanding the culture Culture itself makes adaptations And that starts with our fortuitous accident of getting born into one culture while our neighbors live in a slightly different one While our genes share a common The Good Neighbour path into the future we enjoy free will to live and join the cultures of our choice writes Pagel This book argues that because of culture we developed language empathy and intelligence as well as attributes such as charity and empathy The book tells how culture sculpted our minds and behavior Arts music and culture cover the spheres most Catch Me Before I Fall people think of as culture that moves consoles and entertains The memories of these experiences lodge in our brains

READ Wired for Culture

Wired for Culture

Ly enabled human survival and progress in the past but also continues to influence our behavior today Shedding light on our species’ defining attributes from art morality and altruism to self interest deception and prejudice Wired for Culture offers surprising new insights into what it means to be hum What this book is about Left unchecked these ploys kin selection would have caused our societies to collapse before they god off the ground To make our societies work then we had to acuire the social and psychological systems that could somehow overcome and tame selfish instincts born of millions of years of evolution by natural selection to cheat exploit dupe and even murder’s one rivals These systems are our culture Is it worth reading? Yes do read the chapters Ultra sociality and the Cultrual Survival Vehicle and Local Rules and the Emergence of Self Organization but feel free to skip everything else Buddho progress in the The Burning Boys past but also continues to influence our behavior today Shedding light on our species’ defining attributes from art morality and altruism to self interest deception and A Little Learning prejudice Wired for Culture offers surprising new insights into what it means to be hum What this book is about Left unchecked these The Good Neighbour ploys kin selection would have caused our societies to collapse before they god off the ground To make our societies work then we had to acuire the social and Catch Me Before I Fall psychological systems that could somehow overcome and tame selfish instincts born of millions of years of evolution by natural selection to cheat exploit dupe and even murder’s one rivals These systems are our culture Is it worth reading? Yes do read the chapters Ultra sociality and the Cultrual Survival Vehicle and Local Rules and the Emergence of Self Organization but feel free to skip everything else

FREE DOWNLOAD Ë PDF, DOC, TXT or eBook ê Mark Pagel

A uniue trait of the human species is that our personalities lifestyles and worldviews are shaped by an accident of birth namely the culture into which we are born It is our cultures and not our genes that determine which foods we eat which languages we speak which people we love and marry and which peo An interesting book that provides an extensive and highly plausible account of the evolution of culture in our species The book's central tenet selfish genes construct physical survival vehicles in our bodies and cultural survival machines solely as a means to increase their own survival may sound reductionist to some in the humanities but is well arguedMoreover the book reviews many of the important ways in which culture once it had sprang up altered the selection pressures operating on our genes Thus although culture may be a product of selfish genes to improve their chances of survival our gene pool has also been altered by the new selection pressures introduced by cultureThe book has some problems too First culture may have led to the existence of a new type of replicators memes These reproduce differently than our genes and as such may have given rise to conflicting selection pressures This problem is discussed but I think is not given the prominence it deservesSecond although the book has an extensive bibliography no notes to support claims in the text are present As such it is sometimes difficult to evaluate whether something is a plausible just so story for which alternatives could be envisaged or whether something is supported by hard facts I encountered some inadeuacies in the treatment of my own area of expertise which makes me suspect that there may be some in other areas too and leaves me unable to fully appreciate the strength of the central thesis of the book