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On the Origin of Tepees

On the Origin of Tepees

The Evolution of Ideas (and Ourselves)

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Throughout history, we humans have prided ourselves on our capacity to have ideas, but perhaps this pride is misplaced. Perhaps ideas have us. In this book, science writer and documentary filmmaker Jonnie Hughes investigates the evolution of ideas, taking a look at how they seem to have lives of their own. Adopting the role of a cultural Charles Darwin, Hughes travels across the Midwest with his brother to observe firsthand the natural history of ideas—the patterns of their variation, inheritance, and selection in the cultural landscape. In place of Darwin’s oceanic islands, Hughes visits the “mind islands” of Native American tribes. Instead of finches, Hughes searches for signs of natural selection among the tepees.

With a knack for finding the humor in the quirks of the American cultural landscape, Hughes takes us on a tour from the Mall of America in Minneapolis to what he calls the “maul” of America—Custer’s last stand—stopping at roadsides and discoursing on sandwiches, the shape of cowboy hats, the evolution of barn roofs, and more. Original, witty, and engaging, On the Origin of Tepees offers a fresh way of understanding both our ideas and ourselves.
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  • Free Press | 
  • 320 pages | 
  • ISBN 9781439110249 | 
  • June 2012
List Price $19.99
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Video

Jonnie Hughes discusses The Evolution of Ideas (and Ourselves)

Science writer and television journalist Jonnie Hughes travels the American West to explain how human culture evolves.

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