The Five Cs intertwine and reinforce one another

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A note for Lesson no. 7, "Our Brains Can Create Reality," in Seven and a Half Lessons About the Brain by Lisa Feldman Barrett.
Some context from page 119 is:

In humans, however, the Five Cs intertwine and reinforce one another, which lets us take things to a whole other level.

The appendix adds:

One evolutionary perspective, known as the “modern synthesis,” combines the science of genes (beginning with Mendelian genetics) and Darwin’s theory of natural selection [...]. The other perspective, known as the “extended evolutionary synthesis,” involves the various Cs and draws on findings that identify other sources of information transfer that are stable across generations [...].

The entwining of the Four or Five C’s is what the evolutionary biologist Kevin Laland calls the “cultural drive hypothesis.” The hypothesis goes something like this: our ancestors learned to control fire to cook food, which reduced the size of the gut; plus, they figured out how to cooperate, copy each other, and so on. Together these innovations allowed them to live longer and grow bigger, more complex brains, which eventually allowed them to develop culture. Culture and biology then mutually influenced one another (e.g., culture-gene co-evolution), so that humans became even more efficient at copying each other, more cooperative, and so on, which, in turn, influenced human biology via cultural selection of genes, epigenetic influences on gene expression, and so on.[1][2]

Here's a brief reading list for anyone who would like an accessible introduction to some of the ideas on both sides of the evolution debate. To read more about the modern synthesis, have a look at works by the evolutionary biologists Ernst Mayr, Julian Huxley, and John B. S. Haldane. To learn more about the extended evolutionary synthesis, in addition to Kevin Laland’s book,[1] have a look at works by Stephen Jay Gould, David Sloan Wilson, Sarah Hrdy, and the following works.[3][4][5][6][7][8]

A illustrative example of the debate between the modern synthesis and the extended evolutionary views can be found in a paper published by biologist and mathematician Martin Nowak and his evolutionary biology colleagues Corina Tarnita and Edward O. Wilson,[9] along with the subsequent dialogue that ensued.[10]


  1. 1.0 1.1 Laland, Kevin N. 2017. Darwin’s Unfinished Symphony: How Culture Made the Human Mind. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
  2. Muthukrishna, Michael, Michael Doebeli, Maciej Chudek, and Joseph Henrich. 2018. “The Cultural Brain Hypothesis: How Culture Drives Brain Expansion, Sociality, and Life History.” PLoS Computational Biology 14 (11): e1006504.
  3. Jablonka, Eva, and Marion J. Lamb. 2014. Evolution in Four Dimensions: Genetic, Epigenetic, Behavioral, and Symbolic Variation in the History of Life. Cambridge, Massachusetts: MIT Press.
  4. Laland, Kevin N., Tobias Uller, Marcus W. Feldman, Kim Sterelny, Gerd B. Müller, Armin Moczek, Eva Jablonka, and John Odling-Smee. 2015. “The Extended Evolutionary Synthesis: Its Structure, Assumptions and Predictions.” Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences 282: 20151019.
  5. Lewontin, Richard. 2001. The Triple Helix: Gene, Organism, and Environment. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
  6. Müller, Gerd B. “Why an Extended Evolutionary Synthesis is Necessary.” Interface Focus 7 (5): 20170015.
  7. Richerson, Peter J. 2006. Not By Genes Alone: How Culture Transformed Human Evolution. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
  8. Tomasello, Michael. 2019. Becoming Human: A Theory of Ontogeny. Cambridge MA: Harvard University Press.
  9. Nowak, Mark A., Corina E. Tarnita, and Edward O. Wilson. “Inclusive Fitness Theory and Eusociality.” Nature 466: 1057–1062.
  10. Various authors. 2011. “Brief Communications Arising From Nowak et al (2010).” Nature 471: E1-E10.