2009)—presented the proceedings of a Sackler Colloquium that kicked off the bicentennial celebration of Darwin’s birth and the sesquicentennial of The Origin of Species. The current book registers the proceedings of a Sackler Symposium that was timed to help close the bicentennial celebration by addressing the modern Darwinian legacy as it relates to human evolution and the human condition. Thus, the papers in this collection are devoted to “anthropogeny” (Varki et al., 2008): understanding the evolutionary origins of humans and their biological and cultural traits.
Actually, Darwin barely mentioned Homo sapiens in the Origin of Species, coyly stating only that “much light will be thrown on the origin of man and his history.” More than a decade later, however, Darwin addressed human evolution at considerable length in The Descent of Man and Selection in Relation to Sex (1871a) wherein can be found many thoughtful passages, such as, “Man may be excused for feeling some pride at having risen, though not through his own exertions, to the very summit of the organic scale; and the fact of his having thus risen, instead of having been aboriginally placed there, may give him hopes for a still higher destiny in the distant future.” Of course, much has been learned about humanity’s evolutionary origins and biological conditions since Darwin’s time, not least from the evidence of paleontology, comparative vertebrate biology, and genomics. In the chapters of this book, leading evolutionary biologists and philosophers of science reflect upon and commemorate the Darwinian Revolution as it relates to the human condition at levels ranging from the molecular to the theological. Chapters in these proceedings are organized into three parts: (I) Human Phylogenetic History and the Paleontological Record, (II) Structure and Function of the Human Genome; and (III) Cultural Evolution and the Uniqueness of Being Human. The diverse topics addressed in these chapters give some indication of the vast breadth and depth of modern scientific research on Darwinian evolution of the human state.