1st Edition

On Human Nature The Biology and Sociology of What Made Us Human

By Jonathan H. Turner Copyright 2021
    320 Pages 16 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    320 Pages 16 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    In this book, Jonathan H. Turner combines sociology, evolutionary biology, cladistic analysis from biology, and comparative neuroanatomy to examine human nature as inherited from common ancestors shared by humans and present-day great apes. Selection pressures altered this inherited legacy for the ancestors of humans—termed hominins for being bipedal—and forced greater organization than extant great apes when the hominins moved into open-country terrestrial habitats. The effects of these selection pressures increased hominin ancestors’ emotional capacities through greater social and group orientation. This shift, in turn, enabled further selection for a larger brain, articulated speech, and culture along the human line. Turner elaborates human nature as a series of overlapping complexes that are the outcome of the inherited legacy of great apes being fed through the transforming effects of a larger brain, speech, and culture. These complexes, he shows, can be understood as the cognitive complex, the psychological complex, the emotions complex, the interaction complex, and the community complex.

    1 Humans by Nature?  2 Before Humans: Looking Back in Evolutionary Time  3 Why Humans Became the Most Emotional Animals on Earth  4 Why and How Did the Human Family Evolve?  5 Interpersonal Skills for Species Survival  6 The Elaboration of Humans’ Inherited Nature  7 The Evolved Cognitive Complex and Human Nature  8 The Evolved Emotions Complex and Human Nature  9 The Evolved Psychology Complex and Human Nature  10 The Evolved Interaction Complex and Human Nature  11 The Evolved Community Complex and Human Nature  12 Human Nature and the Evolution of Mega Societies: Implications for Species and Personal Survival on Planet Earth


    Jonathan H. Turner is 38th University Professor of the University of California System; Research Professor, University of California, Santa Barbara; and Distinguished Professor at the University of California, Riverside. He is also Director of the Institute for Theoretical Social Science, Santa Barbara, California. He is the author of hundreds of research articles and the author of more than 40 distinguished books, including most recently The New Evolutionary Sociology (with Richard Machalek).

    "This is the best book yet written on social evolution. Jonathan Turner synthesizes his life-work, from cladistics of human great ape ancestors, reconstructing the biological steps that made humans much more emotionally responsive, simultaneously allowing greater brain size and more flexible social arrangements with strangers. Blending symbolic interaction and interaction ritual, early humans developed internalized symbols, self-control, and group references. These let humans build larger, more complex, stratified, and impersonal organization—turning against original individualistic, freedom-loving human nature and submitting it to the social cage. Turner traces the conflict of biological human nature and social organization into postmodern societies and peeks at our future."

    Randall Collins, University of Pennsylvania

    "This remarkable book is both unusually comprehensive and at the same time highly readable. After a slow start, sociology is now being integrated with the findings of evolutionary biology, with Jonathan Turner in the lead. This treatment of human nature and its evolution is powerfully eclectic, using theories and data ranging from primate ethology to theories of emotion to brain science, and includes some pleasant surprises in the form of American Pragmatism and the work of Mead and Cooley. A provocative synthesis."

    Christopher Boehm, Professor of Biological Sciences, University of Southern California

    "Jonathan Turner can be counted among the few in American sociology who ask huge questions, master sprawling literatures, and defy the imperialism of radical social constructivism. He takes nature seriously and wants to know what nature means for humanity. This book continues and extends Turner's decades-long project of systematically understanding and explaining foundational concerns about humanity—that is, us, we ourselves. Not everyone will agree with his story, but I commend it as important and fascinating nonetheless. At a time when the authority of science itself is increasingly publicly questioned, Turner admirably models a long-view scholar taking genuinely interdisciplinary science seriously."

    Christian Smith, William R. Kenan, Jr. Professor of Sociology, University of Notre Dame

    "This book by the internationally well-known sociologist, Jonathan Turner, is the one that I personally have been waiting for. Turner is a path-breaking intellectual in evolutionary sociology, neurosociology, and the sociology of emotions. On Human Nature is the ultimate summary of his brilliant theory of what made us human. His vision is truly breathtaking!"

    Armin W. Geertz, Professor Emeritus, Aarhus University

    "Jonathan Turner is one of few social theorists who cross disciplinary boundaries in a serious way, engaging biology, anthropology, evolution, genetics, brain science, psychology, and sociology. Rejecting the tautological logic of the 'just-so stories,' so often associated with evolutionary work, Turner reveals the labyrinth-like complexity of human nature. Turner is a sure-footed guide through these labyrinths, rendering his insights useful for thinking about a wide variety of social phenomena. Ultimately, Turner's Human Nature is a cutting-edge work that should matter to all social scientists."

    Erika Effler-Summers, University of Notre Dame