Genetic Origins

As an aspiring anthropology popularizer I frequently encounter people who ask me why anthropology needs to be popularized.  Anthropologists collect data, analyze the results, publish in academic journals, and eventually some of their findings will be used to update undergraduate textbooks.  What is the point of trying to engage with the rest of the world? […]

Evolution of Suicide

Researchers have known for two centuries now that male suicide occurs at a much higher rate than female suicide.  Can a cultural explanation alone explain this disparity?  What do evolutionary theorist know about suicide?  And can it help us decrease the male suicide rate?

The Real Culture Wars

When we think of culture, we tend to think about material products of human civilization and/or variation of traditions, rituals, and beliefs between different human populations. And of course, these are products of human culture. But does culture distinguish humans from all other animals? Are any other animals cultural? These questions have produced a “culture […]

Are Chimpanzees Fair?

Humans care about fairness.  Scientists have revealed that humans allocate resources fairly with close friends and family members when their are limited resources (e.g., food, shelter).  However, primatologists are still unsure of whether our closest relatives, chimpanzees and bonobos, behave in the same way.  Recent research may have shed some light on this perplexing question.

A New Era

Last year I had a chance to visit the Fauna Foundation, a sanctuary in Montreal for chimpanzees “retired” from research laboratories and entertainment.  The Fauna Foundation received a lot of press after writer Andrew Westoll wrote The Chimps of Fauna Sanctuary, which is an account of his time as a volunteer at the sanctuary (I recommend reading […]

21st Century Neanderthals

A few months ago I pondered what it would have been like if other species within the genus Homo had survived into contemporary times.   I hypothesized that based on our poor track record of violent conflict modern humans would have treated them very poorly.  We may have a chance to see if I am right, because Harvard geneticist and synthetic biology pioneer George Church claims he could bring Neanderthals into the 21st century.

Universality of Preadaptation for the Human Condition

Originally posted on  the Scientific American Guest Blog (16/01/13) I have often wondered about whether key human adaptations (e.g., bipedalism, large brain size, opposable thumbs) represented universal traits for the development of high intelligence and technological complexity.  In (2012) by evolutionary biologist Edward O. Wilson, he posits that they are.  Wilson argues that highly intelligent, technologically […]

Thoughts on the Future pt. 2

I frequently encounter thoughts from people about the future that follow a classical dystopian futuristic narrative.  This narrative has a very simple logical structure: if x, y, and z technologies (e.g., genetic engineering) allow us to something (e.g., live much longer), and all of our current problems remain the same (e.g., climate change, increasing population […]

Are Western Chimpanzees a New Species of Pan?

Originally published on Scientific American’s guest blog (Dec 13, 2012) What if I told you there were populations of chimpanzees that made spears to hunt, lived in caves, and loved playing in water?  These are behaviors usually associated with ancient humans, not chimpanzees.  However, recent research has revealed that there are populations of western chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes verus) […]

The Importance of Evolutionary Anthropology

As an evolutionary anthropologist,
I am constantly confronted with the public perception that anthropology has no
practical utility.  Throughout
America and Canada, there is a disturbingly negative perception of
anthropological inquiry.   However, the
perspective that anthropology has no practical utility is ill informed,
narrow-minded, and dangerous for the future growth of the global economy, as
well as various aspects of social development.