Around 45,000 years ago, something happened. We dragged ourselves away from our origins by creating culture, with tools and art and abstract thought and our newly minted minds. The cognitive revolution gave us a sense that we are special, and specially created, distanced from nature. Writers, scientists, philosophers and religions have marvelled at our brilliance for millennia. Yet we are apes, wedded to the rest of creation by genes, anatomy, and physiology, all rooted in a shared evolution. All species are unique, but are we more unique than other animals?
This question is at the root of who we are. Things we once lorded as uniquely human are not. We are not the only species that communicates, makes tools, solves puzzles, has fashions, plans for the future, regrets past decisions, goes to war, grieves for lost lives, farms, uses manipulative mind control, and has sex for reasons other than to make new versions of ourselves. We are the only ones who do all of these things.
The Book of Humans is a guidebook to this paradox: what sets us apart from nature, but places us within it. Darwin began the process of inching us back into the natural world but in this dazzling new book, Adam Rutherford will look at how we occupy an exceptional place within the animal kingdom, demystify the complex behaviours we once thought just belonged to us and, in turn, enrich our understanding of what it means to be human.
With illustrations by Alice Roberts