Humans possess an extraordinary capacity for cultural production, from the arts and language to science and technology. But recent research suggests that our culture is not only a magnificent end product of the evolutionary process, it was also a key driving force behind it. The truly unique characteristics of our species – our intelligence, language, teaching, and cooperation – are not adaptive responses to predators, disease or other external factors. Rather, humans are creatures of their own making. Drawing on his acclaimed popular-science book Darwin’s Unfinished Symphony: How Culture Made the Human Mind, which drew huge crowds at the 2017 Hay book festival, Professor Kevin Laland describes how studying animal behavior – including painting elephants, dancing cockatoos, and innovating orangutans – sheds new light on human origins. In a whistle-stop tour through three decades of research, Laland explains how the cultural activities of our ancestors transformed the evolutionary dynamic, to generate a species unlike all others.

40-minute talk + 20-minutes Q & A

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