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WHAT MAKES US HUMAN?

Emeritus Professor and Senior Scholar Anwar Suleman Mall, Department of Surgery, UCT

The creationist view positions ‘man’ at the top, the highest form of creation, with full jurisdiction over land and sea whilst Darwin’s theory of evolution and natural selection (1859) places humans squarely in the animal kingdom, with living forms having a common ancestry. The mid-twentieth century was the period of the great synthesis between evolutionary theory and modern genetics. Modern thinking about who and what we are was radically transformed, even beyond the realm of biology.  Despite humans having far fewer genes than originally thought and sharing 98% of our genome with ape cousins, human achievements confound the imagination. The question then remains, just what is it that makes us human? This course will discuss humans’ early beginnings to our recent appearance on this planet as conscious beings in contemplation of mortality.

 

LECTURE TITLES

1. An overview of and introduction

2. The raging debate – are we merely glorified apes?

3. From organism to human to person

4. The living brain and mind

5. Triumphs, disasters and the future

 

Recommended reading

Gawande, A. 2015. Being Mortal: Illness, Medicine and what matters in the end. London: Profile Books.

Meredith, M. 2011. Born in Africa: The Quest for Origins of Human Life. Cape Town: Jonathan Ball.

Rose, S. 2006. The 21st Century Brain: Explaining, Mending and Manipulating the Mind. London: Vintage books.

Tallis, R. 2011. Aping Mankind. Neuromania, Darwinitis and the Misrepresentation of Humanity. Durham: Acumen Publishing.

 

 

Date: 7 – 11 January 
Time: 6.45 pm
COURSE FEES Full: R550,00  Staff and Students R275,00
Venue:  LT1 Kramer Law Building UCT