Built for speed, not for comfort. Darwinian theory and human culture.

P. J. Richerson, R. Boyd

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

44 Scopus citations


Darwin believed that his theory of evolution would stand or fall on its ability to account for human behavior. No species could be an exception to his theory without imperiling the whole edifice. The ideas in the Descent of Man were widely discussed by his contemporaries although they were far from being the only evolutionary theories current in the late nineteenth century. Darwin's specific evolutionary ideas and those of his main followers had very little impact on the social sciences as they emerged as separate disciplines in the early Twentieth Century. Not until the late twentieth century were concerted, sophisticated efforts made to apply Darwinian theory to human behavior. Why such a long delay? We argue that Darwin's theory was rather modern in respects that conflicted with Victorian sensibilities and that he and his few close followers failed to influence any of the social sciences. The late Twentieth Century work takes up almost exactly where James Baldwin left off at the turn of the century.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)425-465
Number of pages41
JournalHistory and philosophy of the life sciences
Issue number3-4
StatePublished - 2001
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • History
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • History and Philosophy of Science


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