What Makes us Human?

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Robin Dunbar

22 Oct 2008; Science Oxford.

Humans are very closely related to the other apes, and share many aspects of their anatomy, behaviour and ecology.  So why do we appear to be so different?  What are humans not simply “just another great ape”?

I will argue that the key differences lie in the world of the imagination – our ability to live in a mental universe that parallels the conventional. I suggest that the archetypical examples of this are religion and story-telling. It is these that gives us our especially human characteristics, that define what it is to be human. By placing these questions into the framework of the social brain hypothesis, I shall try to show why these capacities evolved in the human lineage, and why they are unique to modern humans.



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