Queen's University

What Are We? Exploring the Evolutionary Roots of our Future

Cover for book by Queen's University researcher Dr. Lonnie Aarrssen. illustration depicts people lifting the lid of a giant person's head and examining "what's under the hood"Humans are fascinated with themselves.
What are we? Do our lives mean something?

Our obsession with these questions is why the arts and humanities exist, and yet, their long history of success is built on a celebrated pluralism of interpretation for the human experience. Ironically, the ‘What are we?’ question is required here to remain essentially unanswered—an enduring and revered mystery.

Evolutionary biology has, with wide consensus in recent decades, given us a very clear and certain perspective of what we are: We are an animal among many millions of others, the vast majority of which have long been extinct—a species that is only about 300,000 years old, but descended from a long lineage, most of which was not human. These discoveries have given us what the arts and humanities never could, and never aspired to find: vital insights into how and why human nature, social life, and culture have come to be what they are, and so uniquely different from other species. 

This book is a survey of these insights from Darwinism, with insights that have never been met with enthusiasm from the general public, nor from many professionals. However, a deeper, more concise, and more broadly public understanding of our evolutionary roots has never been more urgent. We are now faced with the daunting task of surviving the impending collapse of modern civilization, and the challenges of designing a new, more sustainable and more humanistic model for our descendants. Our greatest limitation may be that we don’t really know ourselves very well at all. (Read More)