Explaining Culture Scientifically

Edited by Melissa J. Brown

University of Washington Press


What exactly is culture? The authors of this volume suggest that the study of one of anthropology's central questions may be a route to developing a scientific paradigm for the field. The contributors - prominent scholars in anthropology, biology, and economics - approach culture from very different theoretical and methodological perspectives, through studies grounded in fieldwork, surveys, demography, and other empirical data. From humans to chimpanzees, from Taiwan to New Guinea, from cannibalism to marriage patterns, this volume directly addresses the challenges of explaining culture scientifically. The evolutionary paradigm lends itself particularly well to the question of culture; in these essays, different modes of inheritance - genetic, cultural, ecological, and structural - illustrate evolutionary patterns in a variety of settings.

Explaining Culture Scientifically is divided into parts that address how to think about culture, modeling approaches to cultural influences on behavior, ethnographic case studies addressing the question of culture's influence on behavior, and challenges to the possibility of a scientific approach to culture. It is necessary reading for scholars and students in anthropology and related disciplines.

From the publisher ↗