PerspectiveEvolution

Culture, Genes, and the Human Revolution

Science  24 May 2013:
Vol. 340, Issue 6135, pp. 929-930
DOI: 10.1126/science.1236171

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Summary

State-of-the-art DNA sequencing is providing ever more detailed insights into the genomes of humans, extant apes, and even extinct hominins (13), offering unprecedented opportunities to uncover the molecular variants that make us human. A common assumption is that the emergence of behaviorally modern humans after 200,000 years ago required—and followed—a specific biological change triggered by one or more genetic mutations. For example, Klein has argued that the dawn of human culture stemmed from a single genetic change that “fostered the uniquely modern ability to adapt to a remarkable range of natural and social circumstance” (4). But are evolutionary changes in our genome a cause or a consequence of cultural innovation (see the figure)?