Center of Science, Policy and Society Programs: AAAS Dialogue on Science, Ethics and Religion
AAAS Dialogue on Science, Ethics and Religion
News & Events: Public LectureEvolution of the Extraordinary in Human Life
28 May 2002
How can the scientific study of evolution explain "the extraordinary" -- the human penchant for going beyond expectations and prior standards of thinking, creativity, and action? The extraordinary in human lives, including the search to transcend, characterizes not just a handful of geniuses but is more common than we might at first recognize. Standard versions of human evolutionary history, which focus on the challenges of specific habitats such as African savanna or the European ice ages, have difficulty explaining the transcendent and the uniqueness of human behavior. An alternative view, which focuses on evolution in unstable Earth environments, offers a stronger basis for understanding the tendency of our species to express novelty, alter our surroundings, transcend immediate time/space conditions, and sense the ineffable and divine as part of human life. Our complex brains, unique mental faculties, intricate social communities, and reliance on symbolic communication and imagination, all stem from a history of adaptation to uncertainty and environmental risk in our ancestral world.
- Dr. Richard Potts, National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution
- Dr. Stephen Post, Center for Biomedical Ethics,
School of Medicine, Case Western Reserve University