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Native American
sociology
On the Origin of Tepees: The Evolution of Ideas (and Ourselves)
 
 
Author
Jonnie Hughes.
Publisher Free Press  
Format hardcover
Product Dimensions 9.3 x 6.25 x 1 inches
ISBN 9781439110232
Pages/Publication Date 302/2011
Daedalus Item Code 22222
This item is not available.
Description
We humans have long prided ourselves on our capacity to have ideas, but perhaps this pride is misplaced—perhaps ideas have us. British science writer and filmmaker Jonnie Hughes here investigates the evolution of ideas and considers how they seem to have lives of their own. He adopts the role of a cultural Charles Darwin, trekking with his brother across the American cultural landscape, from the Mall of America in Minneapolis to what he calls the "maul" of America, Custer's last stand. Stopping at roadsides and discoursing on sandwiches, the shape of cowboy hats, the evolution of barn roofs, and the invention of tepees, Hughes observes firsthand the natural history of ideas.

"Hughes, an award-winning science writer and documentary maker, explores how big ideas begin, evolve, and converge—and whether culture, like biology, follows any Darwinian dictates of natural selection.... Hughes intersperses his technical discussions of genetics and biology with sketches—of tepees and such oddities of the animal kingdom as naked mole rats, hammerhead fruit bats, oarfish—and snapshots from the road that keep the reading brisk, personal, and pleasurable. This ambitious book braids together studies in biology, psychology, history, linguistics, geology, and philosophy into an impressively succinct and readable taxonomy of human culture."—Publishers Weekly (starred review)

"On the Origin of Tepees is not your usual sort of book. Jonnie Hughes, a British TV and radio science guy, is like a carnival barker on serious weed. He is like Carl Sagan without segues, Jacques Cousteau without the hat, Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom without the kingdom … Wait, wait, I've got it: On the Origin of Tepees reminds me of a mind-blowing book I was given in first grade. It was called Animals Do the Strangest Things, and it called into question pretty much everything I'd been told so far (at 6) vis-à-vis evolution; namely that people were in charge of animals, people were smarter than animals, people were more inventive than animals and, of course, people were funnier and nicer than animals (none of which turned out to be true). Hughes wants us to understand the world differently; to understand the evolution of ideas and how those ideas shape the choices we make (individually and as a species) and our cultural evolution. He has chosen to do this in what he considers a surreal landscape—America. Now don't get huffy: This is not Baudrillard exclaiming over the American materialist wasteland, or even de Tocqueville marveling in his paternal way over our fabulous optimism; this guy is totally comfortable (maybe too comfortable) with the idea that, grand theories aside, we are not in control of our evolution, any more than the hammerheaded fruit bat, the oarfish, or the naked mole rat. We need new goggles with which to see ourselves and through which to fully appreciate Darwin's work. Hughes has got some."—LAReview of Books

 
 
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