HUMAN SUCCESS: EVOLUTIONARY ORIGINS AND ETHICAL IMPLICATIONS
The tale of the human species is a tale of evolutionary success. No large mammal – and some even claim no other single species – comes close to Homo sapiens in geographic range, domination of ecological systems, or population size.
Yet, speaking of the ‘extraordinary’ or ‘remarkable’ success of the human species raises all sorts of questions. First of all: what is precisely involved with such claims? Is an anthropocentric bias at play? Attributing a high (or highest) degree of ‘success’ to our own species raises old worries whether human values and interests are unjustifiably entering scientific discourse.
It also raises questions concerning the causes of success. What happened in human evolutionary history that has led us to this point of (apparent) success? Is this success in any way relevant for understanding who we are – for understanding human nature? To what extent is human success a temporary fluke resulting from chance factors?
Finally, in light of issues such as climate change and biodiversity destruction, it seems there is such a thing as ‘excessive’ success. How should we cope with the fact that the factors that allowed for human evolutionary success, now also threaten it? Should we perhaps seek out novel forms of success? Or control the future of human evolution by enhancing our physical, cognitive, and even moral capacities?
As these issues cut across disciplines, we invite contributions from philosophers and scientists (especially paleobiology, paleoanthropology, evolutionary psychology, and cultural evolutionary anthropology) to understand better apparent human evolutionary success.
Some questions the conference will focus on are the following:
(1) What does it mean to say that a species is ‘successful’? Is ‘success’ an anthropocentric concept? Can anthropocentrism seep into science, even today?
(2) What have been the causes of (apparent) human evolutionary success? What does this success mean for human nature – who we are?
(3) Looking forward, what does our evolutionary success imply for the future of our species? Should we reconceptualize evolutionary success?