News

Lectures seek answers to life’s big questions

An eminent anthropologist with an interest in the evolution of human nature is to deliver a six-part public lecture series.

Professor Agustin Fuentes, of the University of Notre Dame, will explore what makes us human during this year’s Gifford Lectures in the University’s Playfair Library.

During the series, the renowned expert – affectionately known as a rock star scholar – will consider questions that have captivated philosophers for centuries. Who are we? What makes us human? Why do we believe? And does belief matter?               

Gifford Lectures 2018

26, 27 February and 1, 5, 6 and 8 March 2018

5.30 - 6.30pm

Playfair Library, Old College, South Bridge, Edinburgh, EH8 9YL

Tickets are free of charge but need to be booked in advance.

Click here for tickets.

Gifford Lectures blog

During Professor Fuentes’ visit, an interactive blog will be hosted by postgraduate student Andrew Johnson, who is studying for a PhD in Systematic Theology at Edinburgh.

A post will be published after each lecture, reflecting on what was discussed and encouraging others to comment.

Audience members will be encouraged to pose questions during the lectures – in person or via email or using the twitter hashtag #GiffordsEd.

Questions submitted will be put forward during the online discussion period that follows each talk.

Exploring belief

Professor Fuentes says that meaning, imagination and hope are as central to the human story as bones, genes, and ecologies.

By exploring our evolution, the emergence of our capacity to create, innovate and collaborate, he believes that we can develop better understandings of human nature. As he seeks answers to why we believe, he hopes that humanity will be better able to contemplate its future.

Esteemed expert

Professor Fuentes completed a PhD in Anthropology at the University of California, Berkeley, and is now The Edmund P. Joyce C.S.C. Professor of Anthropology at Notre Dame.

The how and why of being human is the focus of his research. This work explores both the big questions and the small details of what makes humans and our closest relatives tick.

His work has shed light on some of the most common misconceptions about human nature, specifically in the areas of race, sex and aggression.

His lively approach has led a number of his peers to describe him as something of a rock star in his field.

He is the author of Evolution of Human Behaviour, which examines how and why humans evolved behaviourally. He has written Health, Risk and Adversity, which provides a comparative approach to the analysis of unequal health outcomes.

His book The Creative Spark which argues that our evolved capacity for creativity and imagination makes humans distinctive.

Revered lectureship

The Gifford Lectures have been delivered since 1888 by a succession of distinguished international scholars. They explore the links between nature and religion.

The lecture series was established under the will of Adam Lord Gifford (1820-1887), a Senator of the College of Justice at the University.

Previous speakers include former Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams; the Chairperson of the United Nations Internal Justice Council, Catherine O’Regan; leading French intellectual Bruno Latour; and world-renowned psychologist Steven Pinker.

Related links

Attend Professor Fuentes’ Gifford Lectures

Gifford Lecture Series

Gifford Lectures Edinburgh blog

Professor Agustin Fuentes