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Books and edited volumes

Sense and Nonsense: Evolutionary Perspectives on Human Behaviour (2nd Edition

Kevin N. Laland and Gillian R. Brown (2011, Oxford University Press)

41xnWkkNgzL._Evolutionary theory is one of the most wide-ranging and inspiring scientific ideas, and it offers a battery of methods that can be used in interpret human behaviour. However, researchers disagree about the best ways to use evolution to explore humanity, and a number of schools have emerged. Sense and Nonsense presents the ideas, methods, and findings of five such schools – sociobiology, human behavioural ecology, evolutionary psychology, cultural evolution, and  gene-culture co-evolution. In this revised and updated edition, Laland and Brown provide a balanced and rigorous analysis that scrutinizes both the evolutionary arguments and the allegations of the critics, carefully guiding the reader through the mire of confusing terminology, claim and counter-claim, and polemical statements. The aim of the book is to allow readers to assess the legitimacy of claims made about human behaviour, and to make judgments as to what is sense and what is nonsense.

Evolution and human behavioural diversity: theme issue of Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B (2011, vol 366)

Edited by Gillian Brown, Thomas Dickins, Rebecca Sear and Kevin Laland (2011)


Human beings persist in an extraordinary range of ecological settings, in the process exhibiting enormous behavioural diversity within and between populations. People vary in their social, mating and parental behaviour and have diverse beliefs, traditions and institutions. The aim of this themed issue is to ask how evolutionary theory can help us to understand this diversity.

In the introductory article, we provide a background to the debate surrounding evolutionary approaches to human behaviour. We examine how diversity has been viewed by the sub-disciplines within the human evolutionary behavioural sciences, focusing on the human behavioural ecology, evolutionary psychology and cultural evolution approaches. These sub-disciplines have traditionally varied in the emphasis placed on human universals, ecological factors, and socially learned behaviour. We reaffirm that evolutionary theory provides an essential framework for understanding human behaviour, and argue that greater integration between the sub-fields is critical to developing a satisfactory understanding of behavioural diversity.

Sense and Nonsense: Evolutionary Perspectives on Human Behaviour, 1st Edition

Kevin N. Laland and Gillian R. Brown (2002, Oxford University Press)

S_NComments on the first edition:

‘This is a remarkable book’. Paul Harvey, Times Higher Education Supplement

‘I recommend that everone with some influence or interest in popular culture read this book’. Mark Pagel, New Scientist

‘Lucid and balanced, Sense and Nonsense will hopefully reach a broad audience.’ Sarah Hrdy

‘This is a superb book’. Johan Bolhuis, Trends in Ecology and Evolution

‘Kevin Laland and Gillian Brown are superb pilots for these treacherous waters. They have provided us with a lucid, sane and very intelligent alternative to the embattled rhetoric of recent debates. It is an altogether excellent book.’ Patrick Bateson