[Blueboard] April 4 public lecture: Human evolution and human populations by Richard Walker

Department of Philosophy [LS] philosophy.soh at ateneo.edu
Tue Apr 4 09:12:00 PHT 2017

*The Department of Philosophy*

School of Humanities

Ateneo de Manila University

cordially invites you to a lecture


What makes us human?

Biology, cognition and population

by *Richard Walker*

*March 28*: Human evolution and biology (5-6:30 pm, Faura AVR)

*March 30*: Human evolution, human cognition and human culture (5-6:30 pm,
SEC C 201)

*April 4*: Human evolution and human populations (April 4, 2017, 5-6:30 pm,
SEC C 201)


Humans have existed for just 200,000 years – 0.005% of the history of life
on earth. Yet in this short time they have colonized nearly every
ecological niche on the planet. What is the secret of this extraordinary
success? For decades, scientists traced it to allegedly unique capabilities
of the human brain and of human cognition. But today we know those
capabilities are not unique. In fact, the human brain looks like a scaled
up version of the chimpanzee brain and there is practically no human
capability that is not present in other animals, at least in elementary
form. More recent theorists have explained humans’ success by a unique
capacity for “cumulative cultural evolution”. Unlike other animals, it is
claimed, humans can learn from each other and use each other’s ideas and
inventions as building blocks for their own innovations. Humans, unlike
other animals, can improve their skills without changing their biology.
This is undoubtedly true, but there are aspects of human evolution it
cannot explain. For example, if all humans have the same capability for
culture, how is it, that areas of the world have developed more complex
cultures than others? In recent years, anthropologists have developed new
theories suggesting that the emergence of human culture depends on the
unique size and structure of, human populations. Here, I explore these
competing theories, and present my own research on the “epidemiology” of
human culture.

Richard Walker is a staff scientist in the Blue Brain Project – a large
scale neuroscience project, hosted by EPFL Switzerland, whose goal is to
build biologically detailed simulations of the rat brain and ultimately the
human brain. His research focuses on computer models of the relationship
between the brain, culture and human evolution. In previous work, he led
the writing of the winning research proposal, which led to the creation of
the Human Brain Project – a 1 billion euro FET Flagship Program in which
the Blue Brain Project is a leading partner, and was for a long time the
project’s public spokesperson.

*Lectures are open to public and free of charge. You may contact Tony
<apapina at ateneo.edu> at local 5360 for inquiries.*
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