Marvin Harris is an American anthropologist who was educated at Columbia University, where he spent much of his professional career. Beginning with studies on race relations, he became the leading proponent of cultural materialism, a scientific approach that seeks the causes of human behavior and culture change in survival requirements. His explanations often reduce to factors such as population growth, resource depletion, and protein availability. A controversial figure, Harris is accused of slighting the role of human consciousness and of underestimating the symbolic worlds that humans create. He writes in a style that is accessible to students and the general public, however, and his books have been used widely as college texts.