The Cultural Contribution to Evolvability Special Issue: Niche Construction, Plasticity, and Inclusive Inheritance: Rethinking Human Origins with the Extended Evolutionary Synthesis, Part 1

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Kevin Lala
Michael J. O'Brien


Abstract. Evolvability is an emerging and synthetic topic that is making an impact in a variety of evolutionary fields. Although several definitions of evolvability have earned currency, most share a focus on the capacity or potential of systems to evolve. The suggestion that this capacity depends in part on the complexity of the focal organism’s development, and hence that different organisms evolve in fundamentally different ways, is a key point of contention in debates over the importance of evolutionary developmental biology and the merits of an extended evolutionary synthesis. Here we sketch the important contributions that human and nonhuman cultural processes make to the capacity to evolve and suggest that the cultural contribution to evolvability is key to understanding human and hominin evolution.

Keywords:  adaptation, culture, evolvability, extended synthesis, learning, niche construction

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