On the Origin of Tepees
The Evolution of Ideas (and Ourselves)Book - 2011
In the Selfish Gene, Richard Dawkins established not only that genes tricked us into helping them reproduce, but that ideas could also do the same thing. In Darwin's Dangerous Idea, Daniel Dennett suggested that the selfishness of our culture may explain how and why human beings evolved. Now, science writer and TV producer Jonnie Hughes has decided to test these wild notions in an eminently approachable way. Following Darwin's lead, he ventures out to observe, first hand, the natural history of ideas--the laws of variation, inheritance, and selection operating within the cultural landscape. The choice of sandwiches in a mall, the shape of cowboy hats, the evolution of barn roofs, the wording of jokes, and, of course, the differences between the teepees of different tribes, all provide insights into the ways in which cultural evolution takes place.
With a knack for finding the humor in the quirks of the American landscape, Hughes takes us on a Bill Bryson-like tour of the American West--from the Mall of America in Minneapolis to what he calls the M.A.U.L of America, Custer's last stand, stopping at roadsides, discoursing on the evolution of myriad beloved cultural institutions. He's a wonderfully funny stranger in a strange land, but he always uses his observations to explain this grand idea--that we may not be as in charge of our cultural evolution as we think.