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Darwin's Unfinished Symphony:
How Culture Made the Human Mind
Kevin N. Laland

Book Description | Table of Contents
Chapter 1 [in PDF format]


"This well-researched book establishes how cognitive processes are essential for ‘cumulative’ learning, finding links ‘between teaching, language, and cumulative culture.’ After years of studying human culture and the human mind, Laland concludes that other evolutionarily advanced animals do not possess human attributes, as is often claimed."--Choice

"[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

"An excellent and thorough discussion of how human culture in feedback loops adapted the mind to tackle ever increasing complex social and technological problems. . . . I highly recommend Kevin Laland's book Darwin's Unfinished Symphony for biologists and students in the humanities alike. After decades of work and thought the book captures and explains in detailed, lucid prose important findings in cultural evolution and the extended evolutionary synthesis."--Gregory F. Tague, Consciousness Literature and the Arts


"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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File created: 9/19/2017

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