British Academy: What it Means to be Human

What it Means to be Human: New Perspectives on the Boundaries of Human Nature

A joint event hosted by the Presidents of the British Academy and the Royal Society 

Thursday, 8 March 2012

2.00pm – 6.00pm Seminar at the British Academy, 10-11 Carlton House Terrace, London SW1Y 5AH

The afternoon seminar will be hosted by the British Academy’s President, Sir Adam Roberts, and will consist of two sessions:

1)  The Human Animal: new perspectives from Cognition, Neuroscience and Evolution
Questions to be addressed will include:

  • What new insights do recent developments in these areas variously offer on the question of where the boundaries of ‘being human’ lie?What has set us apart, and continues to set us apart from other species?
  • What do new discoveries about the workings of the brain tell us about how humans, in particular, ‘work’?

Speakers: Professor Nicky Clayton FRS, Professor Andy Whiten FBA, Professor Chris Frith FBA, FRS and Professor Steven Mithen FBA.  Chaired by Professor Cecilia Heyes FBA.

2)  The Cultural Animal: Human Society, Culture and Technology
Questions to be addressed will include:

  • How has ‘what it means to be human’ been shaped by the evolution of human cultures?How has it been shaped by new technologies, including robotics, artificial intelligence and the internet?What do the physical evidence of the past and the development of modern cities tell us about human behaviour patterns, minds and needs?
  • Will new technologies make some ethical standards that have been important in the past obsolete?

Speakers: Professor Robert Foley FBA, Professor Lord Colin Renfrew FBA, Professor Sir Alan Wilson FBA, FRS and Professor Margaret Boden FBA.  Chaired by Baroness Onora O’Neill FBA, HonFRS

Attendance at this seminar is free, but registration is required. Please click here to register.

6.30pm – 8.00pm Panel Discussion at the Royal Society, 6-9 Carlton House Terrace, London SW1Y 5AG

What it means to be human

What does it mean to be human, and what makes us so? Do our brain, how we evolved, how we communicate, or how we interact make us human? Are we really so different from the other animals?

An exploration of the boundaries of human nature chaired by Royal Society President Sir Paul Nurse PRS with four eminent panellists – neuroscientist Professor Colin Blakemore FRS, evolutionary psychologist Professor Robin Dunbar FBA, evolutionary anthropologist Professor Ruth Mace FBA, and evolutionary biologist Professor Mark Pagel FRS, each addressing, from their own perspectives ‘what it means to be human’.

Attendance at this panel discussion is free, and registration is NOT required.  For further details please visit the Royal Society’s website.



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(Sculpture by Sara Cunningham-Bell)

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