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What explains the staggering diversity of cultures in the world? Why are there so many languages, even within small areas? Why do we rejoice in rituals and wrap ourselves in flags? In Wired for Culture Mark Pagel, the world's leading expert on human development, reveals how our facility for culture is the key to what makes us who we are.
Shedding light on everything from art, morality and affection to jealousy, self-interest and prejudice, Pagel shows that we developed culture – cooperating together and passing on knowledge – in order to survive. Our minds are hardwired for culture, and it still determines how we speak, who we love, why we kill and what we think today.
Mark Pagel is head of the Evolution Laboratory in the Division of Zoology, School of Biological Sciences, at the University of Reading, and a Fellow of the Royal Society. He is the editor-in-chief of the award winning Oxford Encyclopaedia of Evolution and co-author of The Comparative Method in Evolutionary Biology, which is regarded as a classic, as well as the author of a number of articles in Science, Nature, and other journals, and he has also been a contributor to numerous monographs. Statistical methods that Pagel has developed are used by researchers all over the world to study evolutionary trends across species.
"Expresses an infectious sense of wonder at the uniqueness of our species; it is hard not to be affected by his enthusiasm"
– Sunday Times
"Pagel's story is [...] vivid and effective [...] this is the best popular science book on culture so far"
– Pete Richerson, Nature
"Gorgeously written, elegantly argued, Pagel demonstrates that genes are only a small part of the human success story; minds and culture are the larger part. A compelling read that allows us to appreciate everything around us with fresh eyes"
– David Eagleman, author of Tales of the Afterlives and Incognito
"An intriguing combination of information [...] with an optimistic prediction of a future global society in which inventiveness and cooperation prevail"
– Kirkus Reviews
"Pagel does an excellent job of using evolutionary biology to discuss the origins of religion, music, and art, and the readson why, cross-culturally, we generally share a sense of morality"
– Starred Review, Publishers Weekly
"The clarity of Pagel's absorbing account is enhanced by the fact that he looks at everything through the one lens: evolution. [Wired for Culture is] Impressive for its detail, accuracy and vivacity"
"Human evolution may be the hottest area in popular science writing, ahead even of books about cosmology and the brain. Within this crowded field, Mark Pagel's Wired for Culture stands out for both its sweeping erudition and its accessibility to the non-specialist reader"
– Clive Cookson, Financial Times
"A remarkable and beautifully written book"
– Matt Ridley, The Wall Street Journal
"It's a clear and convincing read, and it wouldn't look out of place alongside Pinker and Dawkins"
– Tom Chivers, Telegraph