1st IAST Distinguished Lecture

The first Lecture held on September 19, 2013,  at the University Toulouse 1 Capitole.

Robert BOYD, Anthropologist from UCLA & Arizona State University, talked on

"How Culture transformed Human Evolution"

Robert Boyd's Interview


Paul Seabright's Interview


Abstract : The human species is exceptionally good at adapting. Since emerging from Africa only 60,000 years ago, humans have spread to virtually terrestrial habitat, utilizing a wider range of subsistence and social systems than any other mammal. The usual explanation for our capacity for rapid adaptation is that we have superior cognitive ability---we are just smarter than the average bear. In this talk I will argue that our capacity of rapid adaptation also depends on our unique ability to acquire important components of their behavior by observing the behavior of others. This ability allows human populations to rapidly evolve superb culturally transmitted adaptations to local conditions that that are far beyond the inventive capacity of individual human cognition. To take advantage of these adaptations, individuals have to be credulous, for the most part adopting the beliefs, values, and technologies that they observe around them, and this means that maladaptive ideas can spread. Thus, cultural adaptation entails a trade-off: it vastly amplifies our ability to generate complex local adaptations, but it also leads to outcomes that seems at odds with normal accounts of adaptive evolution.

The Lecture Recording

in english

in french


  • November 21 : Tim CLUTTON-BROCK, Zoologist from Cambridge University
    talked on "The Origins of Society"

    More information and videos

  • December 19 : Walter SCHEIDEL, Classical Historian from Stanford University
    talked on "The Origins of inequality"

    More information and videos

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