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The traditional view of human evolution holds that our ancestors gradually evolved from South and East African fruit eaters to scavengers or hunters by purely biological adaptation to changing environmental conditions. Likewise, social scientists assumed that cultural characteristics evolved exclusive of biological influences. In recent decades, however, it has become clear that this picture is far too simple. In fact, biological and cultural evolution are not separate phenomena but instead interact in a complicated manner. One example is the progressive development over the past 10,000 years of lactose tolerance in adult humans—a genetic mutation selected for in populations that herd animals and consume dairy. The authors review this and several other examples of the interplay between genes and culture.
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