Not By Genes Alone: How Culture Transformed Human Evolution and over 2 million other books are available for Amazon Kindle . Learn more


or
Sign in to turn on 1-Click ordering.
Trade in Yours
For a 2.25 Gift Card
Trade in
More Buying Choices
Have one to sell? Sell yours here
Sorry, this item is not available in
Image not available for
Colour:
Image not available

 
Start reading Not By Genes Alone: How Culture Transformed Human Evolution on your Kindle in under a minute.

Don't have a Kindle? Get your Kindle here, or download a FREE Kindle Reading App.

Not by Genes Alone: How Culture Transformed Human Evolution [Paperback]

Peter J Richerson , Robert Boyd
3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
Price: 17.50 & FREE Delivery in the UK. Details
o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o
Only 2 left in stock (more on the way).
Dispatched from and sold by Amazon. Gift-wrap available.
Want it Monday, 1 Sept.? Choose Express delivery at checkout. Details

Formats

Amazon Price New from Used from
Kindle Edition 16.62  
Hardcover --  
Paperback 17.50  
Trade In this Item for up to 2.25
Trade in Not by Genes Alone: How Culture Transformed Human Evolution for an Amazon Gift Card of up to 2.25, which you can then spend on millions of items across the site. Trade-in values may vary (terms apply). Learn more

Book Description

23 Jun 2006
Humans are a striking anomaly in the natural world. While we are similar to other mammals in many ways, our behavior sets us apart. Our unparalleled ability to adapt has allowed us to occupy virtually every habitat on earth, and our societies are larger, more complex, and more cooperative than any other mammal's. In "Not by Genes Alone", Peter J. Richerson and Robert Boyd argue that only a Darwinian theory of cultural evolution can explain these unique characteristics. "Not by Genes Alone" offers a radical interpretation of human evolution, arguing that our ecological dominance and our singular social systems stem from a psychology uniquely adapted to create complex culture. Richerson and Boyd consider culture to be essential to human adaptation, as much a part of human biology as bipedal locomotion. Drawing on work in the fields of anthropology, political science, sociology, and economics - and building their case with such fascinating examples as kayaks, clever knots, and yams that require twelve men to carry them - Richerson and Boyd convincingly demonstrate that culture and biology are inextricably linked. In abandoning the nature-versus-nurture debate as fundamentally misconceived, "Not by Genes Alone" is a truly original and groundbreaking theory of the role of culture in evolution and a book to be reckoned with for generations to come.

Frequently Bought Together

Not by Genes Alone: How Culture Transformed Human Evolution + Cultural Evolution: How Darwinian Theory Can Explain Human Culture and Synthesize the Social Sciences + Sense and Nonsense: Evolutionary perspectives on human behaviour
Price For All Three: 59.19

Buy the selected items together


Product details

  • Paperback: 342 pages
  • Publisher: University of Chicago Press (23 Jun 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0226712125
  • ISBN-13: 978-0226712123
  • Product Dimensions: 23 x 17 x 2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 124,484 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Discover books, learn about writers, and more.

Product Description

Review

"Not by Genes Alone is a valuable and very readable synthesis of a still embryonic but very important subject straddling the sciences and humanities." - E. O. Wilson, Harvard University "I continue to be surprised by the number of educated people (many of them biologists) who think that offering explanations for human behavior in terms of culture somehow disproves the suggestion that human behavior can be explained in Darwinian evolutionary terms. Fortunately, we now have a book to which they may be directed for enlightenment.... It is a book full of good sense and the kinds of intellectual rigor and clarity of writing that we have come to expect from the Boyd/Richerson stable." - Robin Dunbar, Nature"

About the Author

Peter J. Richerson is professor of environmental science at the University of California, Davis. Robert Boyd is professor of anthropology at the University of California, Los Angeles. Prolific authors and editors, they coauthored Culture and the Evolutionary Process, also published by the University of Chicago Press.


Customer Reviews

4 star
0
2 star
0
1 star
0
3.7 out of 5 stars
3.7 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Bound to inspire human science 5 Jun 2011
Format:Paperback
This is a remarkably comprehensive guide to recent research into the interaction between human culture and biology. The academic authors, an environmental scientist and anthropologist respectively who call themselves for the purpose of the book `environmental theorists', have integrated the research of many others with theories of their own. One of the strongest points of the book is its promotion of recent discoveries about the extraordinary climatic conditions that shaped humanity, literally earth-shaking information that makes new sense of human evolution but is often not taken into sufficient account. I assume that the inspiring, almost lyrical, treatment of this new information comes from the environmental scientist.

Overall, this is not a popular science book, though it is more readable than most scholarly texts. What stops it being popular science is perhaps the lack of an easy-to-grasp narrative with a beginning, a middle, and an end. The more comprehensive the research gathered the harder this gap is to fill, and it is to their credit that the authors have managed to link together such wide-ranging research from so many disciplines even if the linking theory seems sometimes contradictory, unclear, and over-complex with its many types of cultural transmission "biases" which account for everything. At times they seem to be hinting that culture is a sort of test-bed for natural selection, and that software will eventually be turned into silicon, so to speak. This would be the ultimate `gene-culture coevolution'. What else can they mean in the book's conclusion (p. 235) by: "In the short run, cultural evolution, partly driven by ancient [i.e.
Read more ›
Comment | 
Was this review helpful to you?
8 of 11 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Gently bashing the straw man 16 May 2005
By Stephen A. Haines HALL OF FAME
Format:Paperback
Some years ago, Richard Dawkins published "The Selfish Gene", explaining how gene survival was fundamental in natural selection. He also coined the term "meme" to explain the dissemination of ideas across societies. Almost immediately, there was a strident chorus of objection, based on the theme of "you can't say that about humans!" The outcry hasn't ceased, but in the case of Richerson and Boyd, it's become somewhat muted. This book is designed to gently persuade you that human evolution rests on a solid "cultural" base. Biology is under there somewhere, but for humanity, cultural impact overwhelms our genetic roots.

The authors would like to abandon the dichotomy of what's usually referred to as the "nature versus nurture" debate. That's admirable, but not only has that contest been challenged elsewhere, finding anyone adhering to either position as an absolute is difficult, if not impossible. Who claims "genes" are the sole behaviour drive? Not even religions, the most dogmatic element in our society, any longer label infants as "blank slates" to be moulded at will. Individuality and expression may be curtailed, but not constrained. Yet that curtailment, even if only mindless imitation, is the foundation of this book. Instead of the chaos of individual response to environmental pressures, "culture" guides behaviour to the extent that groups become predictable in their activities. For them, "culture" is a sort of behavioural umbrella keeping families and small communities from unravelling the fabric of society.

Richerson and Boyd gather a wide spectrum of studies to erect their cultural edifice. They examine studies of social animals, scrutinise the grim world of economics and wonder how it is that of all species, human beings filled nearly every environmental niche.
Read more ›
Was this review helpful to you?
4 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Cultural Evolution by Mechanical Adapatation? 19 May 2007
Format:Paperback
I have to admit that with a title that makes as straighforward a declaration as this one does, I anticipated an imaginative, full frontal assault against the increasing dependence on genetics, DNA, & biology to explain our human nature. Instead, Richerson & Boyd divide the pie pretty equally among genetics, culture, and environment, noting that these three factors are mutually dependent and interactive. Fair enough, but I was disappointed how far they leaned into the genetics camp and how little they credit to human creativity. In fact, they state there really is no such thing as individual creativity but only individuals who are able to carry forth mass cultural trends that have been underway for some time. "Culture usually evolves by the accumulation of small variations" (p. 50). One should note here the early emphasis on the concept of evolution because their book turns out to take Darwin's foundational principles of biological evolution and directly apply them to cultural evolution. Culture, itself, they state, is an adaptation.

Other animals have exhibited certain local behaviour patterns that others have termed cultural, but "only humans show much evidence of *cumulative* cultural evolution. By cumulative cultural evolution, we mean behaviors or artifacts that are transmitted and modified over many generations, leading to complex artifacts and behaviors" (p. 107). In this way, complex artifacts are not "invented by individuals; they evolve gradually over many generations" (p. 107). So human cultural evolution, though not inspired by "great person breakthroughs" is still unique, depending as it does on external memory storage and teaching-learning. I liked this, as I am an educator.

I also liked the point that culture and genes co-evolve.
Read more ›
Was this review helpful to you?
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.5 out of 5 stars  15 reviews
149 of 155 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Homo Sapiens 101 22 Dec 2004
By R. Stone - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
In the concluding pages of this book, Richerson and Boyd observe that universities have introductory courses in psychology, sociology, economics and political science in which students "are encouraged to think that the study of humans can be divided into isolated chunks corresponding to these historical fields." There is, however, no Homo Sapiens 1 or 101, "a complete introduction to the whole problem of understanding human behavior." The authors note that the chief reason no such course exists is "that the key integrative fields have not yet developed in the social sciences" and that "a proper evolutionary theory of culture should make a major contribution to the unification of the social sciences. Not only does it allow a smooth integration of the human sciences with the rest of biology, it also provides a framework for linking the human sciences to one another." I believe that such an evolutionary theory can and should integrate the social sciences with each other and biology and that this book could and should serve as the foundational text for Homo Sapiens 101.

There are dozens of books available employing evolutionary thinking to humans, the large majority of which do not offer a "proper evolutionary theory" because they neglect the most obvious and unique feature of our species--our culture, information affecting behavior acquired from other humans through social transmission. This failure results from a steadfast dedication to accounting for human behavior in terms of principles applicable to the prosocial behavior of other species-- kin selection and reciprocity. In an attempt to not stray from "orthodox" neo-Darwinism, neo-Darwinians have failed to fully acknowledge, let alone explain, the most salient feature of our species--a fact that "social contructivists" use to dismiss evolutionary theory. Richerson and Boyd recognize the "ancient social instincts" of kin altruism and reciprocity but they also acknowledge and give appropriate attention to what they call the "tribal social instincts." These instincts, which probably emerged during the dramatic climate variations of the late Pleistocene, allow members of our species to identify with, dedicate themselves to, and take normative direction from, groups of people that include hundreds to thousands of people beyond kin and friends. These tribal instincts are accommodated in complex societies such as our own through "work-arounds," institutions such as religious organizations, political parties, voluntary associations and other symbolically marked groups that exploit our inclination toward particularistic community attachment. Originally, though, these instincts coevolved in a ratcheting process with our language, capacity for perspective taking, morality, religion and "culture" broadly conceived. We are a thoroughly unique groupish species and the only species on which group selection of cultural variants has played a role. As Richerson and Boyd argue, genes and culture have coevolved within our species. Culture has been primary in the environment selecting features of our genotype. Those humans incapable of cooperating in tribal settings were ostracized and were unlikely to find mates. They were less likely than cooperators to survive and reproduce. Culture has molded our genetic make-up just as our genes have directed the development of our culture.

I do not have space here to outline Richerson and Boyd's theory of cultural evolution beyond noting that population thinking plays as prominent a role as it did in Darwin's thought. I can say that unlike their landmark book, Culture and the Evolutionary Process (1985), this book is accessible to any adult with a three digit IQ. I can also note that the authors are both modest and civil toward those with whom they disagree--characteristics that portray their training in the natural sciences instead of the social sciences. They are quick to acknowledge when empirical evidence is currently lacking to substantiate claims they are making, and they are always generous to their intellectual opponents. For example, they acknowledge Richard Dawkins' contributions to evolutionary theory, while demonstrating the deficiencies of his "meme" theory of culture; they faithfully reproduce the arguments of evolutionary psychologists concerning domain-specific mental modules, while showing the dangers of overly-adaptationist accounts of our mental mechanisms; and in their discussions of various religious groups--Mormons, Catholics, the Amish, Hutterites, and the earliest Christians--Richerson and Boyd are deeply respectful of religious believers, something utterly missing in the writings of non-believers such as Richard Dawkins. This respectful attitude issues not from an impulse to pander but, rather, from an appreciation for our species-wide groupish tendencies and the accomplishments of symbolically marked groups, religious and otherwise.

Perhaps the largest contribution this book will make if it attains the number of readers it deserves is that it provides Darwinians and social constuctivists in the social sciences and the humanities grounds for common discussion and possible agreement. This is no small feat given the tendency of these symbolically marked groups to deem their in-group members angelic and those in the out-group moronic, if not demonic.
Brad Lowell Stone
25 of 28 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Genes and Culture working together. 1 Mar 2006
By Michael Valdivielso - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Not By Genes Alone by Peter J. Richerson and Robert Boyd explains something that should seem simple. Genes made us, we made culture, so genes shaped culture. Yet culture also helped shape us, so genes and culture interact together and work together to make us. But HOW do you do research on culture and link it to genes? Well, if culture also acts like genes, then what you want to do it treat it like genes.

And that is what the book does. It studies culture from an evolutionary point of view, breaking it down to traditions and values, making these the genes of culture. Cultures evolves, adapts and sometimes even cause problems, bringing about the extinction of the culture. One culture might work better than another and overwhelm the weaker, less fit culture.

By using the ideas and knowledge that Darwin has passed down to us the authors were able to understand how genes and culture worked together to shape US. LOTS and lots of detailed, data rich, chapters. Take your time and enjoy.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Difficult but rewarding treatment of culture 18 Mar 2012
By Jen Badham - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Richerson and Boyd present the same argument in (at least) two books. Culture and the Evolutionary Process is the earlier mathematical treatment. Not By Genes Alone is the later nonmathematical version, though it is informed by the same mathematical models as the earlier work. I am reviewing them together because the key concepts are the same, I read them almost together, and which version you prefer will probably depend on your background.

The core argument has several elements. First, culture constrains and shapes human behaviour (social scientists may be surprised that this is not immediately evident to all). Second, that the way that culture spreads can be understood using mathematical models based on evolutionary principles: competition between different ideas and behaviours (social norms) spread through inheritance from cultural parents (parents, teachers, social leaders). Importantly, this means that culture can evolve relatively quickly, allowing populations to adapt, but can also persist within a population even where the particular idea is no longer appropriate. Finally, the authors argue that the importance of culture for humans has led to greater fitness of genetics that favour culture (eg language facilitation), which has in turn supported a greater role for culture and further genetic pressure and so on.

In many ways, Culture and Evolutionary Process is the easier book, particularly if you are comfortable with mathematics. The mathematics is not hard, just very long and extremely tedious, particularly as the authors have attempted to make it accessible to nonmathematicians. Each section is well organised with an introduction that explains what the mathematics is going to demonstrate, and a conclusion about the implications of the mathematical results. Not By Genes Alone dispenses with the mathematics and makes the same arguments with examples and text. However, there is a sense throughout that the authors are responding to some unseen critics of their theory and there are many very detailed arguments about issues that don't appear to be important to the main thrust of the argument. This is probably also because Not By Genes Alone was written much later and the authors' thinking has evolved. All this detail interferes with readability and makes it unclear for whom the book is intended. However, the later book has the advantage of more thoroughly discussing the implications of the theory.

I enjoyed both books, though I found them both hard work and heavy going (for different reasons). I also think that the main argument is important and has deep implications for how we understand the role of culture and social sciences. While I would normally subtract a star due to the difficult reading, I am adding one for the importance of the ideas. This means 4 stars for Culture and Evolutionary Process, and 5 stars for Not By Genes Alone. The difference is because the earlier work does not sufficiently flesh out the implications.
77 of 111 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Gently bashing the straw man 16 May 2005
By Stephen A. Haines - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Some years ago, Richard Dawkins published "The Selfish Gene", explaining how gene survival was fundamental in natural selection. He also coined the term "meme" to explain the dissemination of ideas across societies. Almost immediately, there was a strident chorus of objection, based on the theme of "you can't say that about humans!" The outcry hasn't ceased, but in the case of Richerson and Boyd, it's become somewhat muted. This book is designed to gently persuade you that human evolution rests on a solid "cultural" base. Biology is under there somewhere, but for humanity, cultural impact overwhelms our genetic roots.

The authors would like to abandon the dichotomy of what's usually referred to as the "nature versus nurture" debate. That's admirable, but not only has that contest been challenged elsewhere, finding anyone adhering to either position as an absolute is difficult, if not impossible. Who claims "genes" are the sole behaviour drive? Not even religions, the most dogmatic element in our society, any longer label infants as "blank slates" to be moulded at will. Individuality and expression may be curtailed, but not constrained. Yet that curtailment, even if only mindless imitation, is the foundation of this book. Instead of the chaos of individual response to environmental pressures, "culture" guides behaviour to the extent that groups become predictable in their activities. For them, "culture" is a sort of behavioural umbrella keeping families and small communities from unravelling the fabric of society.

Richerson and Boyd gather a wide spectrum of studies to erect their cultural edifice. They examine studies of social animals, scrutinise the grim world of economics and wonder how it is that of all species, human beings filled nearly every environmental niche. They accept the complexity of human society as naturally hierarchical. That organisation, coupled with a strong imitative/cooperative sense enabled our species to readily adapt to so many ecological niches. Where some say, "If it works, don't fix it!", Richerson and Boyd counter, "If it works, imitate it!" Human beings, they contend, are better imitators than other species because we can judge long-term impacts of actions. This talent, coupled with language, provides our unique adaptability in varied environments. We can test for success and pass our findings to our neighbours. This gives groups within our species both unique abilities and the means to improve them. Not all of humanity is but one culture. It's a melange of groups, each culture representing a regional or social norm.

"Group selection" is the offshoot of an older, flawed, evolutionary concept - "species selection". With the idea of "species selection" quickly demonstrated as false, group selection arose to replace it. A close look at group selection reveals that it's but another mechanism to keep humanity separated from the remainder of the animal kingdom. If you downplay any similarities between us and other beasts, you are able to retain a "divine spark" or other metaphysical notions for humanity. And only humanity. Richerson and Boyd's use of animal behaviour studies to ameliorate this distinction are a welcome addition to social studies. However, these examples are carefully selected and interpreted by the authors. They aren't set in an evolutionary context, but are given solely as a contrast to the also carefully chosen aspects of human behaviour. The book raises a number of interesting questions, but answers few of them satisfactorily. [stephen a. haines - Ottawa, Canada]
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Bound to inspire human science 5 Jun 2011
By Hugh Small - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
This is a remarkably comprehensive guide to recent research into the interaction between human culture and biology. The academic authors, an environmental scientist and anthropologist respectively who call themselves for the purpose of the book `environmental theorists', have integrated the research of many others with theories of their own. One of the strongest points of the book is its promotion of recent discoveries about the extraordinary climatic conditions that shaped humanity, literally earth-shaking information that makes new sense of human evolution but is often not taken into sufficient account. I assume that the inspiring, almost lyrical, treatment of this new information comes from the environmental scientist.

Overall, this is not a popular science book, though it is more readable than most scholarly texts. What stops it being popular science is perhaps the lack of an easy-to-grasp narrative with a beginning, a middle, and an end. The more comprehensive the research gathered the harder this gap is to fill, and it is to their credit that the authors have managed to link together such wide-ranging research from so many disciplines even if the linking theory seems sometimes contradictory, unclear, and over-complex with its many types of cultural transmission "biases" which account for everything. At times they seem to be hinting that culture is a sort of test-bed for natural selection, and that software will eventually be turned into silicon, so to speak. This would be the ultimate `gene-culture coevolution'. What else can they mean in the book's conclusion (p. 235) by: "In the short run, cultural evolution, partly driven by ancient [i.e. pre-human primate] and tribal social instincts and partly by selection among culturally variable groups, gave rise to the institutions we observe. In the longer run, cultural evolutionary processes created an environment that led to the evolution of uniquely human social instincts." Even if they are not propounding a theory that natural selection is using culture to beta test its new releases, they certainly seem to link nature and nurture more closely than other authors. On the same page they say "Without the ancient social instincts, we can't explain the many features of our social systems that we share with other primates". But we can. There are other ways to explain how dominance and bullying could arise in human societies a million years after it had vanished from the ancestral genome. This is the distinction between `homologous' and `analogous' evolution which the behavioural ecologists have emphasised.

The authors sometimes rely on a view of genetic evolution which was showing its age even at the time of publication. They claim to find cultural analogues of group selection, for example, which nowadays does not always mean one group out-competing another group. On page 208 they assemble the evidence that foragers frequently indulged in group combat, in support of Darwin's view that it led to the evolution of the social instincts, but admit that the data refers to either horticulturists or to foragers who were being forced into a small and smaller space by colonists.

The authors hold that `thinking about culture using Darwinian tools opens many new avenues for investigation.' One of these avenues that the authors have followed is `cultural maladaptation' analogous to what Richard Dawkins calls `misfirings' or `Darwinian mistakes'. The main human cultural maladaptation, in Richerson and Boyd's book, is the demographic transition: the reduction in fertility in developed countries. "Modern low fertility does not maximise fitness" (p. 173), and "The evolutionary potential of culture makes possible ... spectacular maladaptations, such as the collapse of fertility" (p. 115). At first one wonders if they are taking a position on the world population question, but it is more likely that they are disappointed that a simple model of more successful parents passing on both their genes and their high culture as a single package - allowing pure `coevolution' - is not applicable. Some would say, taking a more modern view of natural selection, that the differential reduction in fertility may not be a maladaptation at all; the eusocial insects manage to limit reproduction to certain castes and the ants alone now constitute a biomass equal to humans. Until recently it was thought that this behaviour could only evolve in closely-related populations, but recent research has shown that relatedness may not be the driving force behind eusociality. It is well within the bounds of possibility that humans have invented a culture which maximises fitness by allotting the tasks of having children and teaching them to different castes: a division of labour if you will admire the pun.

In the final analysis, what makes this book great is that the authors have assembled a remarkable collection of research and have gone to the trouble of interpreting it and taking positions. These positions will engage the attention of the thoughtful reader who can question them on the basis of the evidence presented. Whatever new theory and research in gene-culture coevolution captures our imagination in years to come, it will have been inspired by this book.
Were these reviews helpful?   Let us know
Search Customer Reviews
Only search this product's reviews

Customer Discussions

This product's forum
Discussion Replies Latest Post
No discussions yet

Ask questions, Share opinions, Gain insight
Start a new discussion
Topic:
First post:
Prompts for sign-in
 

Search Customer Discussions
Search all Amazon discussions
   


Look for similar items by category


Feedback