There is an interesting question as to why those in the humanities – most notably literary studies – have felt so dissatisfied with their performance as not just to re-invent themselves – which is fine and healthy – but to attempt to destroy their very rationale. I want to examine a tendency amongst some of
Continue reading A Suicidal Tendency in the Humanities
Professor Les Kaufman
Slow news days send hungry journalists back to the old springheads of mystery and metamorphosis: dark matter, how the brain really works, human cyborgs, life on other worlds. The nature of humanity’s relationship with Nature — the oldest campfire subject on the books, and kissing cousin to the meaning of life —
Continue reading Loaves, Fishes, and the Human Side of Ecosystems
The apparent differences between humans and apes are not biologically fixed, but they are biologically and culturally instantiated. Differences in maternal care patterns, which human and bonobo infants experience from the moment of birth forward, are responsible for the many of the behavioral distinctions that later emerge between the species. They are culturally instantiated and are open to change at any time. From these caregiver patterns emerge the different styles of human/ape consciousness.
Continue reading Human Language—Human Consciousness
All around us information seems to be multiplying at an ever increasing pace. New books are published, new designs for toasters and i-gadgets appear, new music is composed or synthesised and, perhaps above all, new content is uploaded into cyberspace. This is rather strange. We know that matter and energy cannot increase but apparently information
Continue reading Temes: An Emerging Third Replicator
Two Framing Ideas About Human Evolution.
Human evolutionary change has been rapid and extensive; so much so that the genetic similarity and recent divergence between the human and the chimp lineages came as a profound surprise. Three million years ago humans were relatively minor elements of a rich East African mammalian fauna. Since then, our
Continue reading The Evolved Apprentice
In “The Metaphysician’s Nightmare”, Bertrand Russell described a Hell in which there is a special torment for practitioners of each branch of scholarly inquiry. In the place in Hell reserved for statisticians, for example, a pack of monkeys walk aimlessly and endlessly on typewriters, each time creating a perfect rendition of a Shakespearean sonnet. Our
Continue reading Moral Camouflage or Moral Monkeys?
Darwin’s radical new history of the world did not give a central place to the human. It challenged human exceptionalism and emphasised what was shared, across all organisms extant and extinct. He thought of himself initially as a geologist, so was constantly alert to the ghosting presence of past life forms, visible now only as
Continue reading Late Darwin and the Problem of the Human
This is a précis of an argument that I developed in an article called “Did Darwin Write the Origin Backwards?” The article was published in 2009 and may be found on my web set at http://philosophy.wisc.edu/sober/recent.html. An expanded version of the argument is the first chapter of a book that I’m publishing at the end
Continue reading Common Ancestry and Natural Selection in Darwin’s Origin
Since Darwin’s time, the human language capacity has been a perennially cited paragon of extreme complexity that defies the explanatory powers of natural selection. And it is not just critics of Darwinism who have argued that this most distinctive human capacity is problematic. Alfred Russel Wallace—the co-discoverer of natural selection theory and in many
Continue reading On the Human: Rethinking the natural selection of human language
As a molecular anthropologist, my research involves using genetic data to address questions of anthropological interest about the origins, history, migration, structure, and relationships of human populations. I frequently am asked to give lectures to nonspecialist audiences on insights from genetics into human evolution, and invariably during the ensuing discussion period the viewpoint will be
Continue reading Does Culture Prevent or Drive Human Evolution?