Beyond boundaries: interlacing evolution, epigenetics, creativity and diversity in understanding being and becoming human – Agustín Fuentes (Boundaries: Public Lecture)
Anthropology, University of Notre Dame
Abstract: Human evolutionary history is ongoing, human creativity is expanding, and human populations continue to grow. Getting a handle on “the human” in the Anthropocene is no easy matter. Inter- or even trans-disciplinary approaches are necessary, and crossing boundaries, ideologies and perspectives is more urgent than ever. But the dialogues needed to best engage these themes, especially those across the presumed humanities-sciences divide, have not caught up. These are not easy undertakings—where does one start? I suggest that the interface of contemporary evolutionary theory, emerging data on physiological and epigenetic systems, and human social complexity is a good place to begin. We are in a time of radical expansion of our ability to understand the processes and patterns of evolutionary change in bodies and behavior. Simultaneously, we are immersed in amazingly rich dialogues about the human across the social sciences and the humanities. Linking these emerging trends offers insight and a potentially fruitful landscape for discourse and advancement. In this lecture I will summarize what I see as core information for this endeavor and, via examples, offer a few possibilities for interfaces that might help us better assess and understand the moving target that is the human.
Fuentes completed a B.A. in Zoology and Anthropology and an M.A. and Ph.D. in Anthropology at the University of California, Berkeley. His current foci include cooperation and bonding in human evolution, ethnoprimatology and multispecies anthropology, evolutionary theory, and public perceptions of, and interdisciplinary approaches to, human nature(s). Fuentes’ books include Race, Monogamy, and Other Lies They Told You: Busting Myths About Human Nature (California, 2012), Evolution of Human Behavior (Oxford, 2009), and Biological Anthropology: Concepts and Connections (McGraw-Hill, 2006; 2d ed. 2011).