The Language of Culture

Culture is central to human success?  Well, that is exactly what author and evolutionary biologist Dr. Mark Pagel suggests in his new book Wired for Culture.

The Wall Street Journal is reporting that the thesis of Dr. Pagel’s book is that human being’s lives became dominated by culture, they could have adopted habits that did not lead to having more descendants.  However,  we did not.  We set about using culture to favor survival of those like us at the expense of other groups.

In this book, Pagel argues that, “[if our] cultures have promoted our genetic interests throughout our history,” then our “particular culture is not for us, but for our genes.”

He delineates the connection between different languages and diverging cultures.  He calls language “one of the most powerful, dangerous and subversive traits that natural selection has ever devised.”

Do you agree with that statement?

In his book, Pagel goes on to extrapolate that the parallels between genetics and linguistics are that they are both digital systems, in which words or base pairs are recombined to make an infinite possibility of messages.

He writes, “ People will risk their health and well-being, their chances to have children, or even their lives for their culture.  People will treat others well or badly merely as an accident of their cultural inheritance.”

Think about the actions and cultures of other nations.  Do you agree with that statement?

Read more about Pagel’s ideas of language and culture in his book Wired for Culture and let us know your opinion on his theories.

Below is a video of  Dr. Pagel’s ideas regarding how language transformed humanity.

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