First, an apology for the sporadic posting lately. I’m in the last weeks of a major leap to full-time freelancing, and hence busier than a cat in a room full of rocking chairs.
In the past few months, I’ve run across several articles about new insights into what makes us uniquely human. In no particular order, here they are:
- This review of Mothers and Others by Sarah Blaffer Hrdy, published in American Scientist, examines Hrdy’s theory that cooperative parenting laid the basis for the social and emotional factors that gave rise to our defining characteristics.
- A different take is described in this article from New Scientist, which discusses the possibility that, unintuitive as it may seem, very small-scale warfare might have played a positive role in the evolution of altruism.
- Focusing on human culture as a defining aspect of who we are, this press release from EurekAlert looks at research that indicates that it was population density that triggered our transformation into the tool-using, art-making animals we are today. This research explains the gap between the time we became anatomically modern and the (varying) times we became culturally sophisticated in a way we recognize as human.
- Another take on this idea is provided in this article from the Telegraph, which discusses the question of whether leaving the hunter-gatherer lifestyle behind in favor of farming was actually a bad move.