Culture has opened up a vast range of evolutionary vistas not available to noncultural species. Nonetheless, culture is as much a part of human biology as our peculiar pelvis. This approach contrasts with the common view that culture and biology are in a tug-of-war for control of human behavior. This common view probably taps into a deep vein of Western thought, which itself may be the result of evolved cognitive biases (Bloom, 2004), but it makes little sense. The ancestral condition in the human lineage is a psychology that does not permit cumulative cultural evolution. Despite earnest efforts, chimpanzees cannot be socialized to become humans and have little or no cumulative cultural evolution. Beginning early in human ontogeny, our psychology allows us to learn from others, powerfully and unconsciously motivates us to do so, and shapes the kind of traits that evolve. So it does not make sense to ask, does culture overcome biology? The right question to ask is, how do genetic and cultural inheritance interact to produce the observed patterns of human psychology and behavior (Henrich et al., 2010b)?
We thank Clark Barrett for very useful comments on a previous draft of this article, and two anonymous referees for their help. This work was supported in part by National Institutes of Health Grant RC1TW008631-02 (to R.B.) and the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research (J.H.).