Human socio-cultural evolution in light of evolutionary transitions: introduction to the theme issue

Yohay Carmel*, Ayelet Shavit, Ehud Lamm, Eörs Szathmáry

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Human societies are no doubt complex. They are characterized by division of labour, multiple hierarchies, intricate communication networks and transport systems. These phenomena and others have led scholars to propose that human society may be, or may become, a new hierarchical level that may dominate the individual humans within it, similar to the relations between an organism and its cells, or an ant colony and its members. Recent discussions of the possibility of this major evolutionary transition in individuality (ETI) raise interesting and controversial questions that are explored in the present issue from four different complementary perspectives. (i) The general theory of ETIs. (ii) The unique aspects of cultural evolution. (iii) The evolutionary history and pre-history of humans. (iv) Specific routes of a possible human ETI. Each perspective uses different tools provided by different disciplines: biology, anthropology, cultural evolution, systems theory, psychology, economy, linguistics and philosophy of science. Altogether, this issue provides a broad and rich application of the notion of ETI to human past, present and perhaps also future evolution. It presents important case studies, new theoretical results and novel questions for future research. This article is part of the theme issue ‘Human socio-cultural evolution in light of evolutionary transitions’.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages4
JournalPhilosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Issue number1872
StateE-pub ahead of print - 2023


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