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Donald Johanson on What Makes Us Human? by Donald Johanson

Donald Johanson on What Makes Us Human?

by Donald Johanson


Title Details

Running Time
1 Hr.


What Makes us Human? By any measure, humans are an outlier species, albeit a very successful one. We dominate the planet and live in more sophisticated, complex societies than any other creature. All animals are unique, but humans are the most unique of all. Why?

Dr. Donald Johanson, noted anthropologist and discoverer of the famous 3.2 million year old skeleton named Lucy (Australopithecus afarensis), whose discovery lead to the redrawing of our family tree, believes the time has come to define the evolutionary roots of what it means to be human. The powerful paradigm of evolution explains why humans look the way they do. How can we apply this same paradigm to explain why we have become the preeminent species on the planet?

Dr. Johanson believes that humanness has resulted from three attributes unique to us, which have interacted in a powerful manner: our reliance on cumulative culture, our symbolically constructed world, and our unsurpassed capacity for cooperation.

In addition to Lucy's ongoing importance to human origins studies, she led Dr. Johanson to his questions about humanness in today's world, and believing that, more than ever before, it is critical that we reflect on how the three attributes contribute to our place in nature and assess our responsibilities to the planet.

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