RET member Homer Wilkins wil discuss “How did our Pre-Human Ancestors Manage to Become Fully Human and What are the Implications for Current Humans and their Future?”
This talk is based on a 2013 book by Ajit Varki and Danny Brower, entitled "Denial: Self-Deception, False Beliefs, and the Origins of the Human Mind". The central thesis of the book is that denial of death was a necessary step for our almost-human ancestors to become fully human. The authors present a convincing argument that to be able to deny death, these ancestors had to become adept at some kinds of behavior usually considered to be undesirable in human society. Examples are lying, deceit, and denial of any unpleasant reality.
About 100,000 years ago a small group of these ancestors in Africa (perhaps no more than 15,000) accomplished this transition, and their descendants (modern humans) have in the meantime taken over the entire earth.
The presentation will also address other aspects of this transition, including current human problems that go back to that transition. Some of these problems are killing us individually and some may even drive our species into extinction. On the other hand, that transition provided the basis for optimism, which has been a driving force for the development of what we call human civilization.