Evolution of Suicide

Evolution of Suicide Researchers have known for two centuries now that male suicide occurs at a much higher rate than female suicide.  Can a cultural explanation alone explain this disparity?  What do evolutionary theorist know about suicide?  And can it help us decrease the male suicide rate? Full Article: Evolution of Suicide on The Advanced … Continue reading Evolution of Suicide


Change is in you

Last year I had a chance to visit the Fauna Foundation, a sanctuary in Montreal for chimpanzees “retired” from research laboratories and entertainment.  The Fauna Foundation received a lot of press after writer Andrew Westoll wrote The Chimps of Fauna Sanctuary, which is an account of his time as a volunteer at the sanctuary (I recommend reading it!).  This sanctuary serves an important function because they offer peace and relative freedom to chimpanzees that have only known a caged existence as test subjects in biomedical facilities.  As an outspoken critic of this research, I am enormously grateful for these sanctuaries.  In biomedical facilities, chimpanzees often live in unsanitary conditions without areas for foraging or an ability to interact with other members of their own species.  Many chimpanzees that are eventually transferred to sanctuaries suffer from post-traumatic stress syndrome.

That is why I was very happy to…

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The Real Culture Wars

The Real Culture Wars When we think of culture, we tend to think about material products of human civilization and/or variation of traditions, rituals, and beliefs between different human populations.  And of course, these are products of human culture.  But does culture distinguish humans from all other animals?  Are any other animals cultural?  If so, … Continue reading The Real Culture Wars

Check out my latest post for the Jane Goodall Institute of Canada.

Change is in you

Humans care about fairness.  I know for me personally, if there are a limited number of resources (e.g., food, shelter), I would feel bad making a decision that gave me more resources at the expense of a close friend or family member.  Of course, that is an anecdotal example of human fairness, but it has been studied scientifically!

Researchers have studied this scientifically by designing “the ultimatum game.”  This game tests whether humans always act in their material self-interest.  In the game, one person must decide how to divide a sum of money and/or resources between two people.  The first person (proposer) makes a proposal, and the second player (responder) either accepts or rejects the proposal.  If the responder rejects the proposal, both players receive nothing.  When human adults play this game, they typically split the resources equally.  This demonstrates that humans are sensitive to fairness.  However, primatologists are still…

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21st Century Neanderthals

21st Century Neanderthals A few months ago I pondered what it would have been like if other species within the genus Homo had survived into contemporary times.   I hypothesized that based on our poor track record of violent conflict modern humans would have treated them very poorly.  We may have a chance to see if I am right, … Continue reading 21st Century Neanderthals

Thoughts on the Future pt. 2

Thoughts on the Future pt. 2 I frequently encounter thoughts from people about the future that follow a classical dystopian futuristic narrative.  Although creating these narratives may serve an important function, they do not adequately explain our likely future trajectory.  Throughout the 21st century, we need to start to rethink how our species evolves, and … Continue reading Thoughts on the Future pt. 2

Change is in you

Since becoming involved in Roots and Shoots, I’ve become more knowledgeable of and engaged by the many parallels between chimps and humans. Did you know that it was Jane Goodall who discovered that chimps are omnivores like us?! Before she observed chimps eating a bush pig, people thought that chimps were vegetarians. Like humans, chimps are highly social animals who have strong bonds to their community groups as well as family members. Young chimps have a particularly strong relationship with their mother and even sleep in their mother’s nest for the first five years of their lives! They also have both opposable thumbs (like us) and opposable big toes – a difference that makes them well suited to clinging to branches as they swing through the trees!

Even though there are many aspects of our behaviours that make us similar to one another, Roots and Shoots has also led…

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The Importance of Evolutionary Anthropology

The Importance of Evolutionary Anthropology As an evolutionary anthropologist, I am constantly confronted with the public perception that anthropology has no practical utility.  Throughout America and Canada, there is a disturbingly negative perception of anthropological inquiry.  This is why Governor Rick Scott was confident to proclaim that anthropology was not a vital interest to the … Continue reading The Importance of Evolutionary Anthropology

The Adaptation Program

The Adaptation Program Yesterday, I read a famous scientific article on adaptation by evolutionary biologists Stephen J. Gould and Richard Lewontin, titled “The Spandrels of San Marco and the Panglossian Paradigm: A Critique of the Adaptationist Programme” (Gould & Lewontin, 1979).  Gould & Lewontin criticize what they call the “adaptationist programme” school of thought within … Continue reading The Adaptation Program

Good Job: What Does Hubski Badge?

Good Job: What Does Hubski Badge?By Cadell Last (Hubski user: theadvancedapes)Introduction Hubski is a social network and link-aggregating service that has built a strong and growing community.  They have accomplished this by promoting thoughtfulness and providing an enriching environment for discussion.  Over the past two weeks, several Hubski users (e.g., JakobVirgil, rozap, theadvancedapes) have conducted studies … Continue reading Good Job: What Does Hubski Badge?