Niche Construction Article A

Niche Construction Article A - Journal of Evolutionary...

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Journal of Evolutionary Psychology, 5(2007)1–4, 51–66 DOI: 10.1556/JEP.2007.1003 1789–2082 © 2007 Akadémiai Kiadó, Budapest THE NICHE CONSTRUCTION PERSPECTIVE: Implications for evolution and human behaviour KEVIN N. LALAND *1 , JEREMY R. KENDAL 2 AND GILLIAN R. BROWN 3 1 School of Biology, University of St Andrews, UK 2 Department of Anthropology, University of Durham, UK 3 School of Psychology, University of St Andrews, UK Abstract. The vibrancy of the field of evolution and human behaviour belies the fact that the majority of social scientists are deeply unhappy with evolutionary accounts of human behaviour. In part, this reflects a problem within evolutionary biology: neo-Darwinism fails to recognize a fundamental cause of evolutionary change, “niche construction”, by which organisms modify environmental states, and consequently selection pressures, thereby acting as co-directors of their own, and other species’, evolution. Social scientists are rarely content to describe human behaviour as fully determined by naturally-selected genes, and view humans as active, constructive agents rather than passive recipients of selection. To be aligned with this viewpoint, evolutionary biology must explicitly recognize the changes that humans bring about in their world to be drivers of evolutionary events. Learning and culture have played important evolutionary roles, by shaping the pattern and strength of selection acting on our ancestors. The incorporation of niche construction as both a cause and a product of evolution enhances the explanatory power of evolutionary theory and provides what ultimately will prove to be a more satisfactory evolutionary framework for understanding human behaviour. Here we spell out some of the important implications of the niche-construction perspective for the field of evolution and human behaviour. Keywords: evolution, niche construction, natural selection, evolutionary psychology, human behavioural ecology INTRODUCTION The human genome has now been sequenced, and attention has moved on to secondary analyses of the data that have come out of the project. One such set of * Corresponding author: KEVIN N. LALAND, School of Biology, University of St Andrews, Bute Medical Building, Queen's Terrace, St Andrews, Fife, KY16 9TS, UK.
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KEVIN N. LALAND, JEREMY R. KENDAL AND GILLIAN R. BROWN JEP 5(2007)1–4 52 analyses are attempts, by mathematically-minded geneticists, to detect statistical signatures in the genome of recent, rapid selection – genes favoured by natural selection over the last 100,000 years (WANG et al. 2006; VOIGHT et al. 2006). While relatively sensitive statistical tests for positive selection have been developed, such methods are in their infancy, and far from perfect: they do not, for instance, detect such genes that have gone to fixation (WANG et al. 2006). Nonetheless, thus far, such analyses reveal nearly two thousand human genes that
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Niche Construction Article A - Journal of Evolutionary...

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