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Paläontologisches Institut

Research projects

Overview by leaders > Project detail...

Prof. Dr. Marcelo Sánchez
Evolutionary Theory and Human Affairs
September 2013 to December 2024
Funding sources
SNF, Programm NFS/NCCR, Universität Zürich (position pursuing an academic career), SNF (Personen- und Projektförderung), Foundation
SNF Agora; Cogito Foundation
Prof. Dr. Marcelo Sánchez Universität Zürich Paläontologisches Institut und Museum Karl Schmid-Strasse 4 CH-8006 Zürich (Switzerland)
world map
Evolutionary Biology addresses fundamental questions about origins and changes in time and provides scientific explanations to issues concerning biodiversity, extinction, disease and other subjects. In the past, the theory of evolution has had a profound impact on the social sciences, often through the pejorative and frequently misunderstood term of Social Darwinism. Today it becomes clearer than ever that any serious attempt to understand social and cultural phenomena must take evolutionary theory into account. The conceptual and methodological tools of evolutionary biology have greatly expanded. No biologist would deny the importance of the theory of the role of natural selection in evolution. But focusing on Darwin's original idea overshadows some of the most important developments in the past 150 years and their significance for research in the human and social sciences.
This project aims at creating new symposia, museum exhibits, overview publications and original research on subjects pertaining to methods and concepts in evolutionary biology and its relevance in human affairs. This includes the use of phylogenetic methods in the study of historical changes in material culture (e.g. musical instruments), the creation of venues that facilitate interactions across disciplines, and the communication of research results on evolution that connect the discoveries and concepts to the relevance of our understanding of human biological and cultural evolution.
Evolution, Culture, Music, Language, Phylogeny
Sánchez-Villagra MR (2022) Claude Lévi-Straus as a humanist forerunner of cultural macroevolution studies. Evolutionary Human Sciences 4:E31

McKay CJ, Sommer-Trembo C, Sánchez-Villagra MR (2022) The portrayal of animal interactions in nature documentaries by David Attenborough and Bernhard Grzimek. Evolution: Education and Outreach 15 (1):15. doi: 10.1186/s12052-022-00171-5.

Aguirre-Fernández G, Barbieri C, Graff A, Perez de Arce J, Sánchez-Villagra MR (2021) Cultural macroevolution of musical instruments in South America. Humanities and Social Sciences Communications 8:208

Aguirre-Fernández G, Blasi D, Sánchez-Villagra MR (2020) Panpipes as units of cultural analysis and dispersal. Evolutionary Human Sciences 2:E17

Sánchez-Villagra MR, van Schaik CP (2019) Evaluating the self-domestication hypothesis of human evolution. Evolutionary Anthropology 28:133-143