The Language of Life: How Communication Drives Human Evolution

James Lull and Eduardo Neiva. Prometheus, $19 trade paper (260p) ISBN 978-1-61614-579-8
Drawing upon the findings of evolutionary psychology and communications theory, communications studies professors Lull (San Jose State) and Neiva (University of Alabama–Birmingham) argue that the ways humans communicate with one another are strategies for adapting and surviving and hold the key to the future success of the human species as biological and cultural creatures. Evolutionary communication, they argue, is a powerful theoretical perspective that applies to all forms of biological and social interaction. Summarizing the key concepts of Darwin’s theory of evolution, the authors explore the role that communication plays in the development of several key human phenomena, including sex, culture, morality, religion, and technological change. With sexual selection, for example, the authors say that artful seduction maximizes the potential to reproduce. The authors end on a high moral note, saying that altruism, for instance, is no longer instinctive but intentional, but it is still adaptive in an evolutionary sense. This illustrates the work’s flaw: while sometimes a lively book that serves as a helpful introduction to Darwin, it fails to combine smoothly the random processes that drive biological evolution with the human instincts that drive the goal-oriented activities of communication. Illus. (May)
Reviewed on: 03/05/2012
Release date: 05/01/2012
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