October 4, 2018, by khyx2lyn

Psychology Lecturer Releases New Book

School of Psychology associate professor Steve Stewart-Williams has just published his second book with Cambridge University Press. It’s called The Ape That Understood the Universe, and it’s about two important areas of modern psychological science: evolutionary psychology and cultural evolutionary theory.

“The title just popped into my head one morning when I was waking up,” says Dr Stewart-Williams. “It just appeared: ‘The Ape That Understood the Universe.’ I thought ‘That’s a good title for a book!’ But it was a few years before I started writing it.”

The title fits, he explains, because it references the two main themes of the book. “The Ape” part covers the biological side of things: how biological evolution has shaped our basic nature. The “Understood the Universe” part covers the cultural side. The fact that our species has some basic understanding of the universe around us is purely a product of our cultural capacity: We’re not born with this knowledge and we could never put it together by ourselves. Instead, our knowledge of the universe is a product of “cumulative cultural evolution.” The same is true of every other aspect of culture.

Dr Stewart-Williams begins the book with a question: How would an alien scientist view our species? What would it make of our sex differences, our sexual behaviour, our parenting practices, our altruistic tendencies, and cultural phenomena such as art, music, and science? He then presents “The Alien’s Report”: a hypothetical scientific report on our species by the puzzled alien scientist. The remainder of the book attempts to answer the questions raised in the Alien’s Report, using the tools of evolutionary psychology and cultural evolutionary theory.

 

If you’re interested, you can read more about the book here: www.cambridge.org/apethatunderstood

 

…and you can read the first chapter here: http://assets.cambridge.org/97811084/25049/excerpt/9781108425049_excerpt.pdf

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