Mel Konner


Melvin (Mel) Konner teaches anthropology and behavioral biology at Emory University. His MD and PhD are from Harvard, where he also taught. He did field research for two years on infancy and early childhood among Ju/’hoansi (!Kung) San (Bushman) hunter-gatherers of the Kalahari in northwestern Botswana. His eleven books include The Tangled Wing: Biological Constraints on the Human Spirit; Becoming a Doctor; Why the Reckless Survive, and Other Secrets of Human Nature; The Jewish Body; The Evolution of Childhood: Relationships, Emotion, Mind; and most recently, Women After All: Sex, Evolution, and the End of Male Supremacy. He is a co-author of The Paleolithic Prescription, the first book about the so-called “Paleo” diet. He is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and was inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2016. He has written for Nature, Science, The New England Journal of Medicine, Child Development, The New York Review of Books, The New York Times, Newsweek, and many other publications both academic and general, and has been writing a monthly column for The Wall Street Journal since October 2015. He has testified twice at U.S. Senate hearings related to health care. Find him at and on Twitter, @TangledWing.

Childhood Evolving: The Acquisition of Culture in the Context of Human Evolution

This talk, drawing on Konner’s book The Evolution of Childhood (Harvard 2010), will review knowledge of the evolution of human ontogeny and how it brought about human uniqueness. We will consider broad principles of the evolution of ontogeny, the social context of development in higher primates, and the uniquely human process of enculturation added to primate socialization during the evolution of our species. Hunter-gatherer childhood will be considered as the basic human cultural adaptation for development, illustrating uniquely human enculturation and serving as the foundation for other enculturation processes. Finally, we will consider a proposed Culture Acquisition Device universal and unique to our species, based on psychological and psychosocial laws.

Mel Konner’s website can be found here.