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Darwin's Unfinished Symphony$
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Kevin N. Laland

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780691182810

Published to Princeton Scholarship Online: May 2019

DOI: 10.23943/princeton/9780691182810.001.0001

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The Dawn of Civilization

The Dawn of Civilization

(p.234) Chapter 10 The Dawn of Civilization
Darwin's Unfinished Symphony

Kevin N. Laland

Princeton University Press

This chapter traces the evolution of human civilization from nomadic hunter-gatherer societies to the advent of agriculture and its large-scale impacts on the world. It describes this history in three ages of adaptive evolution. First, there was the age in which biological evolution dominated, in which we adapted to the circumstances of life in a manner no different from every other creature. Second came the age when gene–culture coevolution was in the ascendency. Through cultural activities, our ancestors set challenges to which they adapted biologically. In doing so, they released the brake that the relatively slow rate of independent environmental change imposes on other species. The results are higher rates of morphological evolution in humans compared to other mammals, with human genetic evolution reported as accelerating more than a hundredfold over the last 40,000 years. Now we live in the third age, where cultural evolution dominates. Cultural practices provide humanity with adaptive challenges, but these are then solved through further cultural activity, before biological evolution gets moving.

Keywords:   human civilization, agriculture, hunter-gatherer society, biological evolution, cultural activities, gene–culture coevolution, environmental change, cultural evolution, cultural practices, adaptive evolution

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