Earlier this year I went along to the Cultaptation Conference at St Andrews. Despite being a fascinating event, there appears to nothing on the blogsphere pertaining to the speakers and their talks. In fact, this generally holds true for cultural evolution: there are no dedicated blogs reporting what is undoubtedly a serious scientific endeavour. As a remedy I’m going to dedicate several future blog posts to the conference. Until then, here are the talk abstracts for some of my personal highlights:
Here’s some stuff I’ve been reading over the last month or so:
- Babel’s Dawn discusses Michael Arbib’s paper, Invention and Community in the Emergence of Language: Insights from New Sign Languages.
- Over at Neurophilosophy there is an overview of a fascinating paper on the Universal Grammar of birdsong (also check out my comment, it’s the first one under JW).
- John Hawks talks about some of my favourite topics: learning, population size, and modern human behaviour.
- The recent resurgence of the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis and Lera Boroditsky are the topics of discussion over at Mind Hacks.
- Deric Bownds’ MindBlog mentions the “origins of altruism toward one’s own social group and the emergence of cultural complexity“.
- Evolution can occur in less than 10 years… In guppy fish.
- Researchers at Brown find: “A front portion of the brain that handles tasks like decision-making also helps decipher different phonetic sounds“.
- And lastly, Dienekes’ anthropology blog discusses a paper that investigates the role of drift and selection in the shaping of human skulls, concluding “that neutral processes have been much more important than climate in shaping the human cranium”.
Okay, so that brings you up to date with my reading from May through to July. Next round up will cover August. How fascinating :-/
In the year of Darwin, I’m not too surprised at the number of articles being published on the interactions between cultural change and biological evolution — this synthesis, if achieved, will certainly be a crucial step in explaining how humans evolved. Still, it’s unlikely we’re going to see the Darwin of culture in 2009, given we’re still disputing some of the fundamentals surrounding these two modes of evolution. One of these key arguments is whether or not culture inhibits biological evolution. That we’re seeing accelerated changes in the human genome seems to suggest (for some) that culture is one of these evolutionary selection pressures, as John Hawks explains:
Continue reading “How do biology and culture interact?”
As part of my assessment this term I’m to write four mock peer-reviewed items for a module called Current Issues in Language Evolution. It’s a great module run by Simon Kirby, examining some of the best food for thought in the field. Alone this is an interesting endeavour, after all we’re right in the middle of a language evolution renaissance, however, even cooler are the lectures, where students get to do their own presentations on a particular paper. I already did my presentation at the start of this term, on Dediu and Ladd’s paper, which went rather well, even if one of my slip ups did not go unnoticed (hint: always label the graphs). So, over the next few weeks, in amongst additional posts covering some of the presentations in class, I’ll hopefully be writing articles on these four five papers: