Thursday 15 March 2018 - 8:00 pm to 9:30 pm
University Colloquium

Humanity’s Diary: The Genesis of the Bible

Carel van Schaik
Academy Building, Broerstraat 5, Groningen
Free ticket

The Bible is the bestselling book of all time. It has been venerated--or excoriated--as God's word, but so far no one has read the Bible for what it is: humanity's diary, chronicling our ancestors' valiant attempts to cope with the trials and tribulations of unexpected new problems.

Evolutionary anthropologist Carel van Schaik advances a new view of Homo sapiens' cultural evolution. The Bible, he argues, was written to make sense of the single greatest change in history: the transition from egalitarian hunter-gatherer to agricultural societies. Religion arose as a strategy to cope with the unprecedented levels of epidemic disease, violence, inequality, and injustice that confronted us when we abandoned the bush--and which still confront us today. Armed with the latest findings from cognitive science, behavioral biology, evolutionary biology, and archeology, Van Schaik shows how these changes can be seen as inspiring the Hebrew Bible (the Old Testament). He examines the bible as an attempt to formulate solutions for the many new problems which were seen as punishment for transgressions and for which no biological adaptations existed, in order to achieve conditions more in tune with human nature.

Carel van Schaik is a behavioral and evolutionary biologist and works as professor of biological anthropology in Zurich. He investigates the social evolution in primates, with special emphasis on how data and models inform the human condition. He is also a member of the KNAW. Together with co-author Kai Michel he wrote The Good Book of Human Nature (in Dutch Het oerboek van de mens), an evolutionary interpretation of the Bible.

This programme is organised by Young Academy Groningen and Studium Generale

Recorded Lecture: 

University Colloquium: Carel van Schaik - 15 March