Over the last 150 years biology has been transformed by the adoption of Darwinian evolutionary theory to such an extent that, as the well-known geneticist Theodosius Dobzhansky once put it, “nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution”. The extension of Darwin’s insights to humans has been more halting and controversial. However, there has been a major upsurge of interest in the evolutionary analysis of human phenomena in recent years, and it is now abundantly clear that Darwinian theory can be productively applied to many of the puzzles that scholars in the humanities and social sciences have long sought to explain, such as cognition, emotion, ethics, culture, and religion. It is also obvious that humans are fundamentally a cultural species, having socially transmitted traditions that play a significant role in human thought and behavior. A constructive consensus is therefore emerging that applies an evolutionary perspective to all aspects of human thought and activity, while fully recognizing the importance of cultural variability and cultural learning. Given the growing popularity and success of human evolutionary studies as a field, there is now every reason to think that such a synthesis will be one of the central research agendas of the 21st century.
Our purpose in establishing the Centre for Human Evolution, Cognition, and Culture (HECC) is to create a research and training hub that will simultaneously advance understanding of the human species within the framework of Darwinian evolutionary theory, and encourage evolutionary scientists to incorporate cultural learning and cultural evolution in explanations of human thought and behavior. The Centre will accomplish these goals by fostering collaborative relationships among faculty, postdoctoral fellows and graduate students at UBC and SFU, and between these individuals and researchers in other parts of British Columbia and around the world; by supporting cutting-edge research projects, especially those that are interdisciplinary in nature; by providing undergraduates, graduate students and postdoctoral fellows with world-class training that transcends traditional disciplinary boundaries; and by disseminating the results of its members’ research to academics in other fields, policymakers and the public both directly and through the media.
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