The last twenty years have seen a resurgence of interest in human evolution in many aspects. A distinction can be made between 'narrow' (general acceptance that human evolution occurred, historically) and 'broad' (evolutionary ideas that stretch much further into all aspects of humanity, past and present) human evolution. The broad perspective is beginning to make its presence felt, for example, through the developments in evolutionary genetics, evolutionary psychology and behavioural ecology. There must, therefore, be, among the variety of human adaptations, natures and behaviours, phenomena which are not susceptible to an evolutionary analysis, which are beyond the bounds of evolution. The problem is, though, that we do not really know where that boundary lies. Here, the limits of human evolution are explored, using two approaches - first, finding where humans 'fit' the expectations of evolutionary principles; and second, applying evolutionary methods to particular human contexts, whilst looking for an evolutionary signal.
Robert Foley is the Director of the Leverhulme Centre for Human Evolutionary Studies at Cambridge University.