Dwight Read – The theme of my talk centers on the evolutionary changes
Dwight Read – The theme of my talk centers on the evolutionary changes that distinguish human stems from those of our non-human primate ancestors—are we simply the next step in the phylogenetic sequence that leads to our evolutionary development as a species, or did the innovation that we refer to as culture introduce a definitive turn in that evolutionary sequence? I will develop an answer to this question by tracing out the evolutionary pathway from our non-human primate ancestors to the beginnings of the culture-based systems of social organization that characterize human societies. In this account, I assess the validity of each of two main ways to characterize that evolutionary pathway. The first sees us as simply an extension of the evolutionary pattern observable in the phylogenetic sequence leading to our species through our hominin ancestry, including elaboration on the rudiments of culture found among the non-human primates, especially the chimpanzees. The second views the transition to human societies as analogous to a phase shift, hence models of the evolutionary development of social systems among the non-human primates do not provide, by themselves, a secure foundation for understanding the subsequent evolutionary development of the relation-based systems of social organization that characterize human societies, with their likely beginning in the Upper Paleolithic. I conclude by discussing some of the implications the latter has for models of for the evolution of human social and cultural systems.
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