swan lake Brendon Thorne/Getty Images

Comment la culture façonne l’évolution humaine

ST. ANDREWS – Existe-t-il une explication évolutionniste aux plus grandes réussites de l’humanité – technologies, sciences et arts – dont les racines pourraient remonter aux comportements animaux ? J’ai soulevé cette question pour la première fois il y a 30 ans, et je travaille depuis pour y apporter une réponse.

Nombre d’espèces animales utilisent des outils, émettent des signaux, s’imitent mutuellement, et possède une mémoire des événements passés. Certaines développent même des traditions apprises, qui impliquent la consommation d’aliments spécifiques ou la formulation de sons particuliers et comparables à des chants – autant de comportements qui se rapprochent dans une certaine mesure de la culture humaine.

Les capacités mentales de l’espèce humaine s’en distinguent toutefois considérablement. Nous vivons dans des sociétés complexes, organisées autour de règles linguistiquement codifiées, de mœurs et d’institutions sociales, et recourons intensément à la technologie. Nous concevons des machines capables de voler, des puces électroniques, ou encore des vaccins. Nous écrivons des récits, des chansons, de la poésie. Nous dansons sur Le Lac des Cygnes.

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