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Human Nature, Mind, and Culture


“What a strange machine man is!
You fill him with bread, wine, fish, and radishes,
and out comes sighs, laughter, and dreams.”
Nicholas Kazantzakis

The evolution of the human from non-human apes entailed acquiring the capacity to communicate in symbolic language, which launched the ongoing process of cultural evolution. Offered below are links to websites, videos, and books that present accessible accounts of our current science-based understandings of the human and human culture. If you have suggestions of additional materials, please contact us at: RNAcomments@gmail.com.


13.7 Cosmos and Culture

Becoming Human (Institute of Human Origins)

Center for Evolutionary Psychology

Emergent Cognition

(Smithsonian Museum of Natural History)

The Evolution Institute

What does it mean to be human?



Online video



A Natural History of Human Thinking Michael Tomasello
Amythia: Crisis in the Natural History of Western Culture Loyal D. Rue
Behave: The Biology of Humans at Our Best and Worst Robert Sapolsky
Being You: A New Science of Consciousness Anil Seth
Beyond Words: What Animals Think and Feel Carl Safina
Bonobo: The Forgotten Ape Frans de Waal and Frans Lanting
Braiding Sweetgrass Robin Wall Kimmerer
Brainscapes: The Warped, Wondrous Maps Written in Your Brain—And How They Guide You Rebecca Schwarzlose
Braintrust: What Neuroscience Tells Us About Morality Patricia Churchland
Catching Fire: How Cooking Made Us Human Richard Wrangham
Chimpanzees and Human Evolution Martin Muller et al.
Consciousness and the Brain: Deciphering How the Brain Codes Our Thoughts Stanislas Dehaene
Darwin’s Bridge: Uniting the Humanities and Sciences, Joseph Carroll, Dan McAdams, E.O. Wilson (editors)
Demonic Males: Apes and the Origins of Human Violence Richard Wrangham and Dale Peterson,
Feeling & Knowing: Making Minds Conscious Antonio Damasio
Good Natured: The Origins of Right and Wrong in Humans and Other Animals Frans de Waal
Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies Jared M. Diamond
How to Be Animal: A New History of What It Means to Be Human Melanie Challenger
Humankind: A Hopeful History Rutger Bregman
In Search of Memory: The Emergence of a New Science of Mind Eric R. Kandel
Kindred: Neanderthal Life, Love, Death and Art Rebecca Sykes
Lone Survivors: How We Came to Be the Only Humans on Earth Terrence W. Deacon
Macroevolution: Pattern and Process Steven Stanley
Neanderthal Man: In Search of Lost Genomes Svante Pääbo
Neither Ghost nor Machine: The Emergence and Nature of Selves Jeremy Sherman
Origins of Modern Mind: Three States in the Evolution of Culture and Cognition Merlin Donald
Our Beleaguered Species: Beyond Tribalism Elizabeth Crouch Zelman
Primates and Philosophers: How Morality Evolved Frans de Waal
Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind Yuval Noah Harari
Self Comes to Mind: Constructing the Conscious Brain Antonia Damasio
Spirit Unleashed: Reimagining Human-Animal Relations Anne Benvenuti
Survival of the Friendliest: Understanding Our Origins and Rediscovering Our Common Humanity Brian Hare and Vanessa Woods
The Better Angels of our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined Steven Pinker
The Dawn of Everything: A New History of Humanity David Graeber and David Wengrow
The Goodness Paradox: The Strange Relationship Between Virtue and Violence in Human Evolution Richard Wrangham
The Hidden Spring: A Journey to the Source of Consciousness Mark Solms
The Moral Animal: Why We Are, the Way We Are: The New Science of Evolutionary Psychology Robert Wright
The Myth of Mirror Neurons: The Real Neuroscience of Communication and Cognition Gregory Hickock
The Neuroscience of Religious Experience Patrick McNamara
The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion Jonathan Haidt
The Spell of the Sensuous: Perception and Language in a More-Than-Human World David Abram
The Story of Us: A New Look at Evolution Lesley Newson, Peter Richerson
The Symbolic Species: The Co-evolution of Language and the Brain Terrence W. Deacon
The World Before Us: The New Science Behind Our Human Origins Tom Higham






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