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Evolution and the human family: Track 1

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Can Darwin's theory of evolution be applied to cultural institutions like the family? If so, how can it help us to understand how family structures have evolved? If not, what are the limitations of a Darwinian approach? In this album, Ruth Mace, Professor of Evolutionary Biology at UCL in London, reveals how she uses a Darwinian approach to study diverse human populations. In particular, she focuses her discussion on family size, exploring how Darwinian concepts such as evolutionary trade-offs can help explain why modern families are getting smaller and smaller. The tracks on this album were produced by The Open University in collaboration with the British Council. They form part of Darwin Now, a global initiative celebrating the life and work of Charles Darwin and the impact his ideas about evolution continue to have on today’s world. © The British Council 2009.

By: The iTunes U team (Programme and web teams)

  • Duration 30 mins
  • Updated Thursday 1st April 2010
  • Introductory level
  • Posted under Across the Sciences
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Track 1: Evolution and the family

A short introduction to this album.


© The Open University 2010


Tracks in this podcast:

Track   Title Description
1 Evolution and the family    A short introduction to this album. Play now Evolution and the family
2 How families have evolved    What happens when you apply Darwin to human social structures? Ruth Mace explains the value of this approach. Play now How families have evolved
3 Dismantle the family with Darwinian tools    The comparative method can be used to investigate how culture relates to environment. The reproductive pattern of human females is a particularly interesting puzzle for evolutionary biologists. Play now Dismantle the family with Darwinian tools
4 Why are families getting smaller?    The current decline in family size seems to contradict the Darwinian model of inclusive fitness but it can be explained as a tradeoff between the cost of bringing up children and the number of children in a family. Play now Why are families getting smaller?
5 The limits of a Darwinian approach to the family    Does technology lead behaviour or does behaviour lead technology? Ruth Mace argues that the pill was invented to serve a Darwinian need. Play now The limits of a Darwinian approach to the family

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