Done with "Wired for Culture" by Mark Pagel (2012). It was weird how old the author was when writing that and how long he had been doing anthropology, because the whole thing felt very reddit and superficial to me, like a guy who is normally doing something else entirely dabbling with anthropology. I don't believe I have deep knowledge about history and anthropology, but I was already familiar with literally anything the author brought up (muh Zipf's law, muh prisoners' dilemma, muh ethics Gedankenexperiment with guys tied to a train track, muh six degrees of separation), and at more detail than what's presented in the book. The author is soaked in capitalist ideology and American chauvinism. This shouldn't be surprising and I shouldn't be mad about it. I don't expect purity and I don't get mad about stains of ideology sauce here and there. We are all bound by the times and places we live in after all, but I still have the expectation that people who
1. are old and
2. have an interest in anthropology and
3. have been to many different countires in their lives
have gained some ability to stretch their necks more than most.
Maybe the guy had fast puberty or something. It looks like his personality and outlook was firmly locked in place already at an early age. He sees everything through burger goggles that are firmly screwed to his head. In one place he muses that Esperanto isn't more widespread than English because language evolution made English so easy to learn!! In the end there is a sermon that communism is bad because human nature:
<Equally, and for the same reasons, no one could plan our societies, and there could not be a predetermined number of people in a society with a predetermined number in each of many different occupations. What if all of a sudden the society needed more of one particular commodity? When societies have been designed—Moore’s Utopia, Pol Pot’s Year Zero, the vast sprawling social housing estates of Western European social democracies, or the hugely controlling and interfering theocracies of the world—they have usually proved far from utopian.
The weirdest aspect, which I picked up early in the book and it really runs throughout the whole thing, is his hateboner for Neanderthals. A common theory is that they died out because they burned more calories and couldn't spawn children at the same rate as us. But he constantly repeats that surely the Neanderthal people vanished because they weren't smart enough. Bigger Neanderthal cranium? Doesn't explain nothing, they still had some areas of the brain that were smaller and this is crucial! Also, they didn't have complex rituals like burials. They did have burials. OK, it looks like they had, but umm that's just because nobody likes stinky corpses lying around and the flies and so on, those weren't REAL burials man! Also they didn't have tools and ornaments etc. Really, none at all? Weeeelll uhm those few they had were probably gifts from their homo sapien friends! … And on and on it goes with that guy. He mentions a mutation in a specific gene sequence (FOXP2) that he himself says is crucial to language in humans which is also present in Neanderthal samples in the same version – and since that doesn't strictly prove that they had language, he thinks that makes it OK to proclaim they most likely didn't have it. It's outright pathological. What is the deal with this guy? The most parsimonious explanation is that he and his wife had a time-travel adventure and she boinked a Neanderthal man.