14 May 2009 - 16 May 2009 All day Leverhulme Centre for Human Evolutionary Studies, Fitzwilliam Street, Cambridge



Alex Mesoudi, Queen Mary, University of London
Michael Lamb, Department of Social and Developmental Psychology, Cambridge
Robert A. Foley, Leverhulme Centre for Human Evolutionary Studies, Cambridge

Djuke Veldhuis, Leverhulme Centre for Human Evolutionary Studies, Cambridge


In the 150 years since the publication of Charles Darwin’s The Origin of Species, the biological sciences have been transformed and synthesised by the theory of evolution. Darwinian evolutionary theory provides a common, unifying framework that links a diverse range of biological disciplines, from anatomy to molecular genetics to palaeontology. The same cannot be said for the humanities and social sciences (e.g. sociocultural anthropology, archaeology, psychology, sociology, economics, history, politics, linguistics), which have often been strongly resistant to the use of evolutionary theory to explain aspects of human thought, behaviour, society and culture. Perhaps as a result, the social sciences remain fragmented and often theoretically incompatible. This conference will explore the possible reasons for this resistance to evolutionary theory in terms of the cultural transmission of scientific knowledge. We will ask whether opposition to Darwinian evolutionary theory in the social sciences and humanities is due to the theory of evolution being rejected entirely, and if so, whether the reasons for this rejection are the same as for many members of the public. Or perhaps many social scientists accept that evolution is relevant to the study of non-human species but not to the study of humans, in which case we will explore the reasons for this human/non-human distinction. Finally, we will examine the idea of evolution itself: how it is understood by academics and lay-persons, and the potential barriers to accurate understanding.





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