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

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).

The CompAnth series gathers dedicated CARTA Members and MOCA entry editors for discussions regarding humans and our closest evolutionary cousins (chimpanzees, bonobos, gorillas and orangutans i.e, "great apes"), with an emphasis on uniquely human features. These insights form the foundation for CARTA's "Matrix of Comparative Anthropogeny" (MOCA)" online resource and upcoming ebook entitled, "Comparative Anthropogeny (CompAnth)." Principal funding for the MOCA/CompAnth project and this public symposium has been generously provided by CARTA Major Sponsor Annette Merle-Smith.

Event Sessions

Media for each talk can be played by clicking on icons in the "Media" column, or by clicking on the individual talk titles below and then the attachment file at the bottom of the page.

Media Session Speakers
File Introduction Ajit Varki, UC San Diego School of Medicine
File The Matrix of Comparative Anthropogeny Pascal Gagneux, University of California, San Diego
File The Foundations of Cooperative Breeding Alyssa Crittenden, University of Nevada, Las Vegas
File Childhood Barry Bogin, Loughborough University
File Food for Thought: Nutrition & Diet Margaret Schoeninger, University of California, San Diego
File Symbolic Play Linda Marchant, Miami University
File Language Robert Kluender, University of California, San Diego
File Teaching: Education by Master-Apprenticeship in Chimpanzees Tetsuro Matsuzawa, California Institute of Technology
File Ancient Grandmothers, African Savannas Kristen Hawkes, University of Utah
File Brains Todd Preuss, Emory University School of Medicine, Yerkes Primate Research Center
File Skin Nina Jablonski, Pennsylvania State University
File Fire and Early Homo Sapiens Innovations Lyn Wadley, University of the Witwatersrand
File Music and Gene-Culture Coevolution Aniruddh Patel, Tufts University
File Art, Story, Mind Iain Davidson, University of New England, Australia (retired)
File Questions, Answers & Discussion All Speakers

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Event Glossary

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