Read Jonnie Hughes's On the Origin of Tepees
, and you will be stocked with enough topics of conversation to make you the star of every dinner party for the rest of the year. Hughes lays out a smorgasbord of intriguing tidbits to savor, from facts about the unparalleled social lives of naked mole rats, to imagined vistas of the American West when it was populated by millions of buffalo, to bracing new ideas about what it means to be human. As the author's radical vision of cultural Darwinism begins to take shape in your mind, you may find yourself rushing to host your own party, just for a chance to talk and argue over his fascinating meme's-eye view of humanity (a meme is, in essence, a contagious idea - see Beyond the Book for more on this). You may even have to start a supper club.
Hughes takes on the complex task of attempting to square the development of human...
Beyond the Book
According to the Oxford English Dictionary, a meme (pronounced meem) is, "n. An element of a culture that may be considered to be passed on by non-genetic means, esp. imitation". A meme is a nugget of meaning, the smallest building block of an idea, the basic unit of culture. What a gene is to biology, some say, the meme is to anthropology. Just as an advanced organism, like an elephant, has a complex genetic code built up over millennia, so too does a cultural production such as Darwin's On the Origin of Species
. In this case, an accretion of small ideas evolved over time and combined in new ways. In Jonnie Hughes's On the Origin of Tepees
, memes are the building blocks of all human skill and knowledge. Like genes, they want to replicate. They want to be passed down,...