A watershed book that masterfully integrates insights from evolutionary biology, genetics, psychology, economics, and more to explore the development and workings of human societies “There is no good reason why human societies should not be described and explained with the same precision and success as the rest of nature.” Thus argues evolutionary psychologist Pascal Boyer in this uniquely innovative book. Integrating recent insights from evolutionary biology, genetics, psychology, economics, and other fields, Boyer offers precise models of why humans engage in social behaviors such as forming families, tribes, and nations, or creating gender roles. In fascinating, thought-provoking passages, he explores questions such as, Why is there conflict between groups? Why do people believe low-value information such as rumors? Why are there religions? What is social justice? What explains morality? Boyer provides a new picture of cultural transmission that draws on the pragmatics of human communication, the constructive nature of memory in human brains, and human motivation for group formation and cooperation.
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About the Author
Pascal Boyer is the Henry Luce Professor of Collective and Individual Memory and professor of anthropology and psychology at Washington University in St. Louis.
Table of Contents
Introduction: Human Societies Through the Lens of Nature 1
Six Problems in Search of a New Science
1 What Is the Root of Group Conflict? Why "Tribalism" Is Not an Urge but a Computation 33
2 What Is Information For? Sound Minds, Odd Beliefs, and the Madness of Crowds 66
3 Why Are There Religions? … And Why Are They Such a Recent Thing? 93
4 What Is the Natural Family? From Sex to Kinship to Dominance 125
5 How Can Societies Be Just? How Cooperative Minds Create Fairness and Trade, and the Apparent Conflict between Them 163
6 Can Human Minds Understand Societies? Coordination, Folk Sociology, and Natural Politics 203
Conclusion: Cognition and Communication Create Traditions 245