On the Origin of Tepees: The Evolution of Ideas (and Ourselves)

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Simon and Schuster, Aug 9, 2011 - Science - 320 pages
3 Reviews
Why do some ideas spread, while others die off? Does human culture have its very own “survival of the fittest”? And if so, does that explain why our species is so different from the rest of life on Earth?

Throughout history, we humans have prided ourselves on our capacity to have ideas, but perhaps this pride is misplaced. Perhaps ideas have us. After all, ideas do appear to have a life of their own. And it is they, not us, that benefit most when they are spread. Many biologists have already come to the opinion that our genes are selfish entities, tricking us into helping them to reproduce. Is it the same with our ideas?

Jonnie Hughes, a science writer and documentary filmmaker, investigates the evolution of ideas in order to find out. Adopting the role of a cultural Charles Darwin, Hughes heads off, with his brother in tow, across the Midwest to observe firsthand the natural history of ideas—the patterns of their variation, inheritance, and selection in the cultural landscape. In place of Darwin’s oceanic islands, Hughes visits the “mind islands” of Native American tribes. Instead of finches, Hughes searches for signs of natural selection among the tepees.

With a knack for finding the humor in the quirks of the American cultural landscape, Hughes takes us on a tour from the Mall of America in Minneapolis to what he calls the “maul” of America—Custer’s last stand—stopping at road-sides and discoursing on sandwiches, the shape of cowboy hats, the evolution of barn roofs, the 28.99 wording of jokes, the wearing of moustaches, and, of course, the telling features from tepees of different tribes. Original, witty, and engaging, On the Origin of Tepees offers a fresh way of understanding both our ideas and ourselves.
 

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User Review  - Cheryl_in_CC_NV - LibraryThing

Perfect for me. ? I've been fascinated with the Idea of memes ever since I read The Meme Machine. ? I strongly believe they're real, and that more research needs to be devoted to them. ? Maybe Hughes ... Read full review

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User Review  - dark_phoenix54 - LibraryThing

Science writer Jonnie Hughes sets out on a trip across Middle America and Canada with his brother to explore the evolution of the tepee (how long did it take him to figure out a subject that would ... Read full review

Contents

The New World
19
Evolution Minnesota
39
Variation North Dakota
52
Inheritance South Dakota
65
Mind Out?
103
Finding the Edges
114
June 25 1876
127
America Making
141
A Beginners Guide to Tepee Taxonomy
155
Bound by Imagination
177
The Genes of Culture
205
The Past
227
The Present
259
Notes
277
Index
287
Copyright

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About the author (2011)

Jonnie Hughes is a science writer and filmmaker with over twelve years experience in communicating science to a broader public on radio, television, in print, and face-to-face. He is an award-winning writer and documentary filmmaker and regular contributor to Geographical Magazine, BBC Wildlife Magazine, The Guardian, and The Times. His films have aired on National Geographic, Discovery, BBC One and Two, and Channel 5. He has won the Association of British Science Writers and the Wellcome Trust Awards for science writing and a BBC Radio One Award for factual radio and the American Genesis Award for Best Popular Television Documentary. He lives in London, England.

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