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The evolution of (almost) everything

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Artefacts, species and genes have this in common: they are extremely diverse – a diversity that is the result of what Darwin called “descent with modification”. In other words, they evolve. If that’s so, then it seems that we should be able to study their dynamics, and the forces that shape them, using many of the same tools. In this talk, I’ll focus on the evolution of modern culture. Using various time-series models, I’ll argue that many kinds of modern culture – pop-music, books, medicine – are surprisingly conservative. But also how directional cultural selection shapes the thing we love most: the science we do. I’ll finish by alluding to how these same tools can be used to study the dynamics of biological communities. My message is that there is a general theory of evolution that embraces everything except, perhaps, rocks and the stars.

This talk is part of the Zoology Departmental Seminar Series series.

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