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Lesson 02 - York Moodle Site

Sep 29 Lesson # 04 Baseline

Here are two important points of information that will apply throughout the course: 

  • anything that is marked in bold and yellow should be read and considered important information and when I present more information than you can easily absorb - concentrate on the stuff in yellow
  • anything that is marked in bold and italic  is information taken from  a source. I will always provide the url of the source in clickable form, so that you can go to the source and check it out. You might consider using this method in your assignment answers.
Today's Lesson will  cover the following topics:
  1. What are the traits that make us human?
  2. Baselines - some of the traits that make us human are shared with other organisms. What separates us from them? Are some of traits uniquely human ones and if so where did they originate?

What makes us Human?

I would like you to explore on the net some definitions of what make us human. There are features described in the readings below that deal with various aspects of anatomy, physiology, sociology, anthropology, communications, technology, culture, self-awareness, ethics and religion.  You may decide that none of these facets include that something special that makes us human. There is no right answer. I will post some of the answers you come up with as well as my own definition of what makes us human after Assignment #4 has been handed in. What sites will you use? Some of the ones listed below make a good starting point. Search engines including Google, Gogle Scholar, Bing and Dogpile (see Freebies) or others of your own choice, may lead you to other interesting sites. The net is a mobile and active source of information. I would like you to use it.

Some Common Search Engines


One word of caution is in order. A Nobel laureate and the twelve year old kid next door may both have web-sites dealing with the same subject. It is your job to learn how to filter the information you gather. How do you do that? Generally sites that are run by a  recognizable educational institution are less likely to present really far out material than those that are "free" and untraceable. This does not always hold true!  So you must develop a "crap" filter. This usually comes with experience and exposure to a wide variety of sites dealing with similar material. Is there a way in which you can be sure one site is "good" and another one is "questionable" - No! But those sites that are quoted a lot are likely to be of greater value than those that are not. Of course your first assignment gave you all of the various ways of determining what makes a "good" site.

I would like you to start with a brief essay by Richard Dawkins "Apes with Big Brains" in the New Statesman. This is a pretty good overview of some of the things that we have to consider when we try to establish what makes us different. from the rest of the animal world.

Then  have a look at the next three Url's:

1.   What makes us Human and the associated TED talk by Thomas Suddendorf. 

2.   Answers from evolutionary anthropology - Evolutionary Anthropology: Issues, News, and Reviews Volume 21, Issue 5, Article first published online: 16 OCT 2012
Here a number of evolutionary anthropologists give their versions of what it means to be human. And there are many, many different ideas.  Do you need to read all of this article - no, but pick and choose those ideas and  thoughts that might match your own. Remember there is no single correct answer.

3.  Richard Hookers description of 10 Human Physical Characteristics:

  1. Brain size
  2. Erect posture and bi-pedalism
  3. The human skin as a heat diffusion device
  4. The hand with its uniquely opposable thumb
  5. The face and eyes
  6. Jaw and teeth
  7. The throat and the position of the larynx
  8. The subtle forms of sexual differences or dimorphism
  9. Neoteny
  10. The retardation of maturation in human offspring
4. - Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History - What does it mean to be human? -
  1.  Walking Upright
  2. Tools & Food
  3. Bodies
  4. Brains
  5. Social Life
  6. Language & Symbols
  7. Humans Change the World
Catagorize these traits. You might use some of them to help answer Q1 in the assignment.

5. Finally there is your Textbook -  Required Reading for this Lesson -  
A. Introduction
B. The Primate Baseline

  • Tools
  • Traditions
  • Motherhood
  • Warfare
  • Homeland

Currier, Richard L.
Unbound : how eight technologies made us human, transformed society, and brought our world to the brink - First edition. 
Arcade Publishing, New York, 2015
ISBN 978-1-62872-522-3 (hardback) - ISBN 978-1-62872-546-9 (E-book)
CB478.C87 2015  -  303.4-dc23  -  201501402

This book can be ordered as an e-book [or hardcover if you want to pay more] online at
Visit the author’s website at

Email or phone me with urgent matters.