Comparative Anthropogeny: Exploring The Human-Ape Paradox

Event Date (Pacific Time): 
Saturday, Oct 24, 2020 -
12:00pm to 5:00pm
Event Chairs:

Pascal Gagneux, University of California, San Diego
Alyssa Crittenden, University of Nevada, Las Vegas

This is an online-only event. Talks will also be recorded and posted on here for viewing soon after the event has concluded. Please check this event page, as well as CARTA’s Facebook (@ucsdcarta) and Twitter (@CARTAUCSD) accounts for updates.


CARTA’s Fall 2020 symposium, Comparative Anthropogeny: Exploring the Human Ape-Paradox, examines humans as a uniquely evolved, "biologically enculturated," species as juxtaposed with our closest living relatives, the "great apes" (chimpanzees, bonobos, gorillas, and orangutans). By definition, each species is unique as it represents the outcome of independent evolution. Yet, humans appear to be a remarkable outlier as we have numerous characteristics so far un-described in any other primate. Why should this be? Unlike other species, the evident animal nature of humans is interwoven with a distinctly human cultural fabric, forming the paradox of "biological enculturation": a species that is both "biologically cultural" and "culturally biological". In humans, "biological enculturation" is so pervasive that disentangling the cultural and biological components is impossible.

This symposium will address several important distinctly human "biologically enculturated" characteristics, both in relation to each other and in contrast to our evolutionary cousins. Goals include transdisciplinary interactions, improved self-understanding, promotion of ethically sound studies to explain known differences, and the generation of new, potentially unexplored, insights on uniquely-human specializations. Given the interest in understanding our evolution, this symposium will also help to organize how and in what sequence distinctly human physical, mental, social, and cultural features evolved. Such understanding may help explain the origin of our species and how it came to now directly shape the planet, giving rise to the Anthropocene (a proposed geological epoch distinguished by human influence on climate and the environment).

REGISTRATION FOR LIVE, ONLINE EVENT: As always, this online-only event is FREE and open to the public, however, please register to express your interest. To register, go to the bottom of this event page.

LIVE WEBCAST: This is an online-only event. Pre-recorded talks will stream beginning at 12:00 PM (Pacific), followed by a live-streamed Q&A where our speakers will answer audience questions beginning around 3:50 PM (Pacific). The Q&A will be also be recorded and posted along with the talks on the event page for viewing soon after the symposium has concluded.

PARTICIPATION: Questions for our speakers may be submitted prior to or during the event by using the Google Form link here. We hope to answer as many of these questions as possible during the event, but may extend our Q&A to another date and format if there is overflow!

SPONSORSHIP OPPORTUNITIES: You can STILL take a more active part in CARTA and help us ensure the sustainability and accessibility of these symposia. Please email for sponsorship opportunities, which have been modified due to the virtual format. We hope you will partner with us in our exploration of the origin of humans and the implications for the past, present, and future of our species!

ABSTRACTS for each talk and SPEAKER BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCHES can be found by clicking on the individual talk titles or speaker names below, or in the documents available for download at the bottom of the page. Several speakers have created videos to introduce themselves and their talks. For written abstracts, click on the sessions names in the "Event Sessions" table below.

Dr. Gagneux talks about his work before chairing the symposium

Dr. Crittenden talks about her research before chairing the symposium, where she will also speak about "The Foundations of Cooperative Breeding"

Dr. Bogin introduces his talk "Childhood"

Dr. Kluender introduces his talk "Language"

Dr. Matsuzawa introduces his talk "Teaching"

Dr. Hawkes introduces her talk "Ancient Grandmothers, African Savannas"

Dr. Wadley introduces her talk "Fire & Early Homo Sapiens Innovations"


Event Sessions

Time (Pacific) Session Speakers
12:00-12:03 PM CARTA Welcome Ajit Varki, UC San Diego School of Medicine
12:03-12:06 PM Opening Remarks Pascal Gagneux, University of California, San Diego
12:06 - 12:19 PM The Foundations of Cooperative Breeding Alyssa Crittenden, University of Nevada, Las Vegas
12:19 - 12:40 PM Childhood Barry Bogin, Loughborough University
12:40 - 1:08 PM Nutrition & Diet Margaret Schoeninger, University of California, San Diego
1:08 - 1:25 PM Symbolic Play Linda Marchant, Miami University
1:25 - 1:44 PM Language Robert Kluender, University of California, San Diego
1:44 - 2:01 PM Teaching Tetsuro Matsuzawa, Kyoto University
2:01 - 2:17 PM Ancient Grandmothers, African Savannas Kristen Hawkes, University of Utah
2:17 - 2:34 PM Brains Todd Preuss, Emory University School of Medicine, Yerkes Primate Research Center
2:34 - 2:55 PM Skin Nina Jablonski, Pennsylvania State University
2:55 - 3:10 PM Fire and Early Homo Sapiens Innovations Lyn Wadley, University of the Witwatersrand
3:10 - 3:31 PM Music and Gene-Culture Coevolution Aniruddh Patel, Tufts University
3:31 - 3:50 PM Art, Story, Mind Iain Davidson, University of New England, Australia (retired)
3:50 - 5:00 PM Audience Questions & Answers All Speakers

Event Glossary

A glossary for this event is available as a Searchable List and a PDF icon PDF.