How culture affects genes and vice versa

Why Evolution Is True

A piece in yesterday’s science section of The New York Times drew my attention to a new article by Laland et al. in Nature Reviews Genetics summarizing the intriguing reciprocal interactions between human culture and human genes. It’s an interesting article, well worth reading if you’d like to see the recently-acquired evidence for natural selection in our species, and how that selection might have been affected by our culture (and vice versa).

In principle, any species that has some kind of culture (which the authors define as “information that is capable of affecting individuals’ behaviour, which they acquire from other individuals through teaching, imitation, and other forms of social learning”) can show these mutual interactions between DNA and culture: the so-called “gene-culture co-evolution.” And any species that can change the environment through its own activities, like moles digging burrows, can be viewed through the lens of “niche construction,” in which…

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