Published by the Center for the Study of The Great Ideas (founded in 1990 by Mortimer J. Adler and Max Weismann)
In association with the The Adler-Aquinas Institute and Aquinas School of Leadership
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Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Only human

Jason Kelly interviews Russell Tuttle, author of Apes and Human Evolution, in the latest issue of the University of Chicago Magazine.
"In his book, as he has throughout his career, Tuttle extracts data from fragmentary remnants in the fossil record and competing scientific interpretations to address a big question: 'What makes us human?' ...

"Figure 13.4, titled 'In Conclusion,' shows a bonobo on the left and a human on the right. A bubble above the bonobo reads, 'We feel, fear, and think.' Above the person: 'We feel, fear, think, and believe.'

"'That’s the whole conclusion of the book,' says Tuttle, who rejects a commonly held notion in evolutionary biology that equates humans and apes. The symbolic language unique to Homo sapiens, he writes, makes it possible 'to convey information and to share ideas and beliefs'—the basis of human culture. Morality and ideology emerge from that cultural framework, shaping political, spiritual, moral, and social notions, which make up the belief systems that define human life. By contrast, Tuttle adds, 'no one has shown that chimpanzees in nature have pervasive shared symbolically mediated ideas, beliefs, and values.'"

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