This conference, led by Jonathan Marks on April 14, 2014, brought together scholars from various fields and perspectives in anthropology to discuss the transformation of an anatomical human into a behavioral human, which seems to have taken place between about 100,000 and 50,000 years ago, a timespan notably impoverished of data, but whose eventual products would become art, kinship, morality, religion, and the myriad other features of what we call “humanity.” Some scholars have postulated an invisible, unknown genetic mutation lying at the root of this transformation, rendering a deus ex machina explanation. However, as other scholars have suggested, these humans existed at the origin of a great learning curve. Although biologists and evolutionary psychologists have reduced the origin of morality and religion to altruism and cooperation, morality and religion more likely emerged from the classic anthropological domains of the sacred, the profane, and the taboo. In this conference, participants were asked to confront these ideas and to discuss the origins of human intellectual and social life that constitute the transformation of an anatomical human person into a human being, or perhaps into a human “becoming.”
This programming was made possible with generous funding from the John Templeton Foundation.