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Edinburgh University: Gifford Lectures – Professor Dr Agustin Fuentes #1/6 – Why We Believe: evolution, making meaning, and the development of human natures – Who are we? Belief, evolution, and our place in the world


About this lecture series – Why We Believe: evolution, making meaning, and the development of human natures

Humans can see the world around them, imagine how it might be different, and translate those imaginings into reality…or at least try to. Humans believe. Meaning, imagination, and hope are as central to the human story as are bones, genes, and ecologies. Neither selfish aggression nor peaceful altruism dominates human behavior as a whole. We are a species distinguished by our extraordinary capacity for creative cooperation, our ability to imagine possibilities and to make them material, and our powerful aptitudes for belief, hope, and cruelty. In the 21st century significant shifts in our understanding of evolutionary biology and theory, radical expansions in the archeological and fossil records, and increasing collaboration across multiple fields of inquiry alter our capacities to investigate the human niche, how humans shape and are shaped by the world. Via exploring our evolution, the emergence of our capacity to create, innovate, and collaborate we develop better understandings of human natures and the answers as to why we believe. And, hopefully, to better contemplate the possibilities of human futures.  


About this lecture

This first lecture sets the stage for understanding the development of human natures and our capacity for belief by introducing the theme and narrative structure of the series. Then, by laying out our evolutionary history, we embark on an answer to “who we are” that is different today than it was even a decade ago. Starting with our shared primate heritage we situate humans among the other primates, uncovering the deep roots of our distinctive sociality and of our considerable creative and imaginative abilities. Then, via a highly condensed multi-million year journey, we survey the hominin lineage, the range of human-like relatives, illustrating a distinctive, and complicated, history of changing physiques and capacities facilitating the emergence of the human lineage.




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