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Evol Anthropol. 2012 Sep-Oct;21(5):182-94. doi: 10.1002/evan.21328.

What makes us human? Answers from evolutionary anthropology.

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Loyola University Chicago, IL, USA.


Today, scholars from numerous and highly diverse fields are not only addressing the question of what makes us human, but also seeking input from other disciplines to inform their answers to this fundamental issue. However, for the most part, evolutionary anthropologists are not particularly prominent in this discussion, or at least not acknowledged to be. Why is this the case? One reason may be that although evolutionary anthropologists are uniquely positioned to provide valuable insight on this subject, the responses from any one of us are likely to be as different as the research specializations and intellectual experiences that we bring to the table. Indeed, one would anticipate that a paleoanthropologist would not only have different views than a primatologist, geneticist, or behavioral ecologist, but from other paleoanthropologists as well. Yet if asked by a theologian, psychologist, or political scientist, and perhaps most importantly, by any curious person outside the walls of academia, do we have a response that most evolutionary anthropologists could agree on as reflecting our contributions to the understanding of being and becoming human? Our introductory textbooks usually begin with this fundamental question, yet seldom produce a concise answer.

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