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Darwin's Unfinished Symphony: How Culture Made the Human Mind Hardcover – 21 Mar 2017

5.0 out of 5 stars 1 customer review

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 464 pages
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press (21 Mar. 2017)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0691151180
  • ISBN-13: 978-0691151182
  • Product Dimensions: 16.5 x 3.8 x 24.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars 1 customer review
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 253,339 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product description


Winner of the 2017 British Psychological Society Book Awards, Best Academic Monograph

Winner of the 2018 PROSE Award in Biological Science, Association of American Publishers

One of Forbes.com's 10 Best Biology Books of 2017, chosen by GrrlScientist

Selected for Askblog's Books of the year 2017

Darwin was certainly aware of the importance of human culture, but under Mr. Laland's sophisticated interpretation, cultural innovations did not merely respond to environmental challenges but also helped create the elaborate surroundings within which natural selection made us what we are today. Besides illuminating the interaction between biological and cultural evolution, he gives suitable attention to recent discoveries in the new field of 'cognitive ethology, ' which has revealed astounding mental capacities on the part of our animal relatives. . . . Mr. Laland is one of those rare biologists who have personally studied the processes--notably in fishes and rats--whereby animals learn and transmit their learning and who has also applied mathematical models to the spread of cultural traditions among human beings and other species. The evolution of learning is a well-trodden research path, but Darwin's Unfinished Symphony may be the first book-length integrated account of the evolution of teaching.---David Barash, Wall Street Journal

In Darwin's Unfinished Symphony Kevin Laland makes a powerful case that culture drove much of our species' genetic evolution over the past few million years. . . . Darwin's Unfinished Symphony makes a compelling case that elegantly seats humans within the natural world, while at the same time explaining our peculiar uniqueness.---Joseph Henrich, Science

[B]rilliant.---Judy Siegel-Itzkovich, The Jerusalem Post

As Laland reveals, human endeavour is a vast, cooperative effort that cannot be explained by natural selection alone. . . . Our success, he argues, is not down to language, tool-use, empathy or any other single factor, but rather a 'whirlpool' of cultural and biological processes. In this book, he scours the animal kingdom for clues to why we are a species apart.---Stuart Blackman, BBC Wildlife Magazine

Kevin Laland's ambitious new book is, to my mind, the best account yet. . . . A richly rewarding and powerfully argued book.---Steven Rose, Times Higher Education

Darwin's Unfinished Symphony is accessible to the general reader and well researched. It is an enjoyable and valuable place to begin or to top up your understanding of our enigmatic existence.---Mark Pagel, New Scientist

From the Back Cover

"With relentless determination and passion, Laland has accumulated a wealth of data and ideas from his experimental studies of social learning in many species. Spanning many disciplines, he weaves a rich, sophisticated, and ever-changing tapestry, showing us how the coevolution of cultural practices and products has shaped both the most mundane and extraordinary aspects of human life."--Eva Jablonka, Tel Aviv University

"A most enjoyable and rewarding book that investigates many of humans' greatest achievements--from language to art--from the perspective of animals and evolution. Ranging across many different topics, Laland brings together processes of biological and cultural evolution in unique and fascinating ways to explain what it means to be human."--Michael Tomasello, codirector of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology

"Kevin Laland's wonderful book explores the evolutionary origins of human culture. He argues that what separates us from the rest of the animal kingdom is our particular talent for precisely imitating others, coupled with our ability to transfer potentially huge amounts of information across time and space. As such, culture is the key to explaining the 'entangled bank' of human nature--Darwin would be proud."--Nicky Clayton, University of Cambridge

"Kevin Laland is one of the pioneers in the modern study of cultural evolution. Darwin's Unfinished Symphony draws on his large and important body of work, showing how culture--socially transmitted knowledge--is what has made humans so successful as a species."--Robert Boyd, coauthor of Not by Genes Alone: How Culture Transformed Human Evolution

"Truly impressive. Laland presents a new theory of cognitive evolution that is deeply grounded in evolutionary theory and comparative analyses, but which doesn't make the twin mistakes of exalting humans at the expense of other species or overplaying the continuity between the two. He also demonstrates beautifully why human cultural evolution has remained an evolutionary puzzle for so long."--Louise Barrett, author of Beyond the Brain: How Body and Environment Shape Animal and Human Minds

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Top customer reviews

25 February 2018
Format: Hardcover|Verified Purchase

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Amazon.com: 4.4 out of 5 stars 6 reviews
Aran Joseph Canes
5.0 out of 5 starsToo Insightful to Ignore
10 March 2017 - Published on Amazon.com
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33 people found this helpful.
Roger Sweeny
4.0 out of 5 stars5 Stars for Content
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5.0 out of 5 starsTruly astounding
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j olson
3.0 out of 5 starsLots of ideas, but short on evidence
29 October 2017 - Published on Amazon.com
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2 people found this helpful.

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