Most of the traditional causes of belief—faith, revelation, dogma, authority, charisma, conventional wisdom, the invigorating glow of subjective certainty—are generators of error and should be dismissed as sources of knowledge. ...
To begin with, the findings of science entail that the belief systems of all the world’s traditional religions and cultures—their theories of the origins of life, humans, and societies—are factually mistaken. ...
Though the scientific facts do not by themselves dictate values, they certainly hem in the possibilities. By stripping ecclesiastical authority of its credibility on factual matters, they cast doubt on its claims to certitude in matters of morality.
- STEVEN PINKER, Science Is Not Your Enemy, New Republic, August 6, 2013

Diderot grasped more firmly than anyone else of his time the significance of the emerging secular worldview that is now commonly associated with modernity: reason, not tradition or the word of God, is the only tool that can be trusted for investigating the world, and human nature is the best foundation for morality, social and sexual relations, and government.
- Lynn Hunt, The Man Who Questioned Everything, New York Review of Books, MARCH 7, 2019

For some time now, the most widely accepted answer to the question of why humans, among all animals, have so successfully adapted to environments across the globe is that we have big brains with the ability to learn, improvise, and problem-solve.

Henrich has challenged this “cognitive niche” hypothesis with the “cultural niche” hypothesis. He notes that the amount of knowledge in any culture is far greater than the capacity of individuals to learn or figure it all out on their own. He suggests that individuals tap that cultural storehouse of knowledge simply by mimicking (often unconsciously) the behavior and ways of thinking of those around them. We shape a tool in a certain manner, adhere to a food taboo, or think about fairness in a particular way, not because we individually have figured out that behavior’s adaptive value, but because we instinctively trust our culture to show us the way. When Henrich asked Fijian women why they avoided certain potentially toxic fish during pregnancy and breastfeeding, he found that many didn’t know or had fanciful reasons.
- ETHAN WATTERS, WE AREN’T THE WORLD, Pacific Standard, FEB 25, 2013

How learning from others drove human evolution, domesticated our species and made us smart [[cover]] ...
The reason Franklin’s men could not survive is that humans don’t adapt to novel environments the way other animals do, or by using our individual intelligence. None of the 105 big brains figured out how to use driftwood, available on King William Island’s west coast where they camped, to make the re-curve composite, bows that Inuit use when stalking Caribou. They further lacked the vast body of cultural know-how about building snow houses, creating fresh water, hunting seals, making kayaks, spearing salmon and tailoring cold-weather clothing. [p. 26]
- Joseph Henrich, The Secret of Our Success, in press 2014, Princeton University Press, 2015

We owe our success to our uniquely developed ability to learn from others. This capacity enables humans to gradually accumulate information across generations and develop well-adapted tools, beliefs, and practices that are too complex for any single individual to invent during their lifetime.
- Robert Boyda, Peter J. Richerson, and Joseph Henrich, The cultural niche: Why social learning is essential for human adaptation, PNAS Early Edition, approved March 29, 2011

Show php error messages