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On the Origin of Tepees Why Some Ideas Spread While Others Go Extinct by Jonnie Hughes

On the Origin of Tepees Why Some Ideas Spread While Others Go Extinct

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Sue Baker's view...

Does Cultural Evolution echo Biological Evolution? Jonnie Evans is an enthusiast for this theory and to test his ideas sets out for the American Great Plains to study the evolution of Tepees and much more besides. He is a persuasive and enthusiastic guide and this absorbing book makes us look at human activity with a new eye. Many books on scientific theory can be dull and a struggle to read, fear not – this is a lively – and often very funny narrative, fizzing with ideas – a joy to read.

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Who is Sue Baker


On the Origin of Tepees Why Some Ideas Spread While Others Go Extinct by Jonnie Hughes

Adopting the part of a cultural Darwin, science writer and filmmaker Jonnie Hughes goes on a road trip through the exotic American Midwest to observe the natural history of ideas. As he dissects the variation and inheritance of odd bits of culture, he tours the supersized Mall of America and investigates the invention of the cowboy hat. He considers the fashion for low-riding jeans and moustaches, the average 28.99 words in good jokes, the myriad ways to tie shoelaces, why Coke wins the cola wars only when you can see the label, and, naturally, the distinctive features of various tepees. Original, witty, and engaging, On the Origin of Tepees will change how you view your ideas and the world.


On the Origin of Tepees is not your usual sort of book. Jonnie Hughes, a British TV and radio science guy, is like a carnival barker on serious weed. He is like Carl Sagan without segues, Jacques Cousteau without the hat, Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom without the kingdom ... Wait, wait, I've got it: On the Origin of Tepees reminds me of a mind-blowing book I was given in first grade. It was called Animals Do the Strangest Things , and it called into question pretty much everything I'd been told so far (at 6) vis-a-vis evolution; namely that people were in charge of animals, people were smarter than animals, people were more inventive than animals and, of course, people were funnier and nicer than animals (none of which turned out to be true). Hughes wants us to understand the world differently; to understand the evolution of ideas and how those ideas shape the choices we make (individually and as a species) and our cultural evolution. He has chosen to do this in what he considers a surreal landscape -- America. Now don't get huffy: This is not Baudrillard exclaiming over the American materialist wasteland, or even de Tocqueville marveling in his paternal way over our fabulous optimism; this guy is totally comfortable (maybe too comfortable) with the idea that, grand theories aside, we are not in control of our evolution, any more than the hammerheaded fruit bat, the oarfish, or the naked mole rat. We need new goggles with which to see ourselves and through which to fully appreciate Darwin's work. Hughes has got some. -- Los Angeles Review of Books

About the Author

Jonnie Hughes

Jonnie Hughes is a filmmaker in the BBC Natural History Unit and Head of Development for BBC Earth, where . His documentaries have been shown on the BBC, Discovery, and National Geographic Channel. He studied ecology and evolution at the University of Leeds. He lives in Bristol and this is his first book.

Author photo © Ben Wallis

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Book Info

Publication date

5th July 2012


Jonnie Hughes

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Oneworld Publications


304 pages


Biography / Autobiography
Reading Groups
The Real World
eBook Favourites

Popular culture
Popular science



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