Stories and genes

The human mind serves evolutionary success, not truth.
— John Gray, Straw Dogs

Our brains are built to ensure that we will come to hold the beliefs and values of those around us.
— Matthew Lieberman, Social

We are part biological organism, part cultural
— Ian Leslie, Curious

The body itself is an information processor. Memory resides not just in brains but in every cell. No wonder genetics bloomed along with information theory.
— James Gleick, The Information

Genetics is shining a bright light on ancient origins of many species. We get clues from archaeology and history, but sometimes these clues can be misleading. The evidence is always patchy. Interrogating DNA, both modern and ancient, gives us the chance of filling in some of the gaps, by offering us another perspective on the past.
— Alice Roberts, Tamed

DNA serves two different functions. First, it preserves information. It does this by copying itself, from generation to generation … Second, however, DNA also sends that information outward for use in the making of the organism … The replication of DNA is a copying of information. The manufacture of proteins is a transfer of information: the sending of a message.
— James Gleick, The Information

For the real human story, history must comprise both the biological and cultural.
— E. O. Wilson, The Meaning of Human Existence

Society was there before you, it is there after you are gone, and you are a member of it. The myths that link you to your social group, the tribal myths, affirm that your are an organ of the larger organism, which is the landscape, the world in which the tribe moves.
— Joseph Campbell with Bill Moyers, The Power of Myth

culture has the power to shape our identity. Over time and under the right circumstances, the norms and values of the group to which we belong become our own. We internalize them. We carry them with us.
— Angela Duckworth, Grit

This meant that elements of culture themselves – ideas, languages, beliefs, songs, art, technologies – could act like genes, capable of being transmitted to others and reproduced.
— Mark Pagel, Wired for Culture

What are genes? Think of genes as little packets of instructions that tell a cell what to do. They’re hereditary instructions written in a four-letter code.
— Sergio De La Pava, The Naked Singularity

According to the developmental psychologist Erik Erikson, the defining task of a person’s middle years is to achieve generativity. This involves being able to pass on both one’s genes and one’s memes. The first refers to leaving children, the second to leaving one’s ideas, values, knowledge, and skills to the next generation.
— Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, Creativity

The need to make art may not stem solely from the need to express who you are, but from a need to complete a relationship with something outside yourself. As a maker of art you are custodian of issues larger than self.
— David Bayles & Ted Orland, Art & Fear

Art is the means by which a culture describes itself to itself. Those descriptions, in turn, form our sense of how we see ourselves in the present and in relation to the past.
— Kit White, 101 Things to Learn in Art School

The power lies not just in the knowledge, preserved and passed forward, valuable as it is, but in the methodology: encoded visual indications, the act of transference, substituting signs for things. And then, later, signs for signs.
— James Gleick, The Information

As banal as it sounds, language allows people to exchange thoughts, feelings, ideas, and emotions and to understand the point of view of their immediate neighbor. Language is about getting people together to take common action for the common good. But it is also about creating traces of our own individual existence and about writing history.
— Jan-Christopher Horak, Saul Bass

Words hold things. They bear meanings.
— Ursula K. Le Guin, ‘The Carrier Bag Theory of Fiction’

a story is an archive, packed with history
— Marina Warner, Once upon a Time

You have a way to implant thoughts and ideas from your mind directly into someone else’s mind, and they can attempt to do the same to you, without either of you having to perform surgery.
— Mark Pagel, Wired for Culture

Before written notation systems were developed, all learned information had to be transmitted from the memory of one person to that of another.
— Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, Flow

talking is the most efficient and effective means of communication; there is no quicker way to transfer an idea from one mind to another.
— David Didau, What If Everything You Knew About Education Was Wrong?

A culture that never encounters any others becomes first inward-looking, and then stagnant, and then rotten.
— Philip Pullman, Dæmon Voices

A leaf a gourd a shell a net a bag a sling a sack a bottle a pot a box a container. A holder. A recipient. The first cultural device was probably a recipient…
— Ursula K. Le Guin, ‘The Carrier Bag Theory of Fiction’

no frontier can keep a good story from roaming.
— Marina Warner, Once upon a Time

Without stories and books, we would be limited to knowing only what had happened to us or to those whom we have met.
— Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, Creativity

History, too, hands down to us intriguing stories and ideas from a cornucopia of cultures. It is our shared inheritance of curious, often fragmented artefacts that we can pick up at will and contemplate in wonder. There is much to learn about life by opening the wonderbox of history.
— Roman Krznaric, The Wonderbox