Human Distinctiveness: Wisdom's Deep Evolution


July 6–9, 2017

Evolution Of Wisdom Panel

How can we understand the human capacity for wisdom, where did it come from, and how did it emerge? This conference is the culmination of a transdisciplinary research project supported by a grant from the John Templeton Foundation and led by Celia Deane-Drummond (Theology) and Agustín Fuentes (Anthropology) at the University of Notre Dame. The collaborative project between theology and evolutionary anthropology investigates the basic parameters of the evolutionary origins of human wisdom, defined as the pattern of successful complex decision-making in navigating social networks and dynamic niches in human communities. The project seeks to uncover ways of assessing and measuring the development of a distinctively human capacity for navigating social and material worlds, and to provide a concrete measurement for a kind of collaborative temporally and communicatively complex engagement with the social landscape. The research project also aims to explore how the integration of theological approaches into these questions might shape, facilitate, and change the ways these questions about human wisdom are answered.


Evolution Of Wisdom Speaker Jeremy Kendal

Fiona Coward, Bournemouth University
Jennifer French, University College London
Niels Gregersen, University of Copenhagen 
Tim Ingold, University of Aberdeen
Maureen Junker-Kenny, Trinity College Dublin
Jeremy Kendal, Durham University
Karen Kilby, Durham University
Wentzel van Huyssteen, Princeton Theological Seminary and University of Stellenbosch
Aku Visala, University of Helsinki


Registration is closed.
Registration includes evening receptions, coffee/tea breaks, and two lunches. It will close after the maximum number of participants is reached. However, interested parties may still attend the public lectures at no charge.

  • Early Bird General Registration (before May 31) – $100
  • Early Bird Graduate Student Registration (before May 31) – $50
  • General Registration (after June 1) – $150
  • Graduate Student Registration (after June 1) – $100

All registered participants are responsible for their own travel, lodging, and transportation arrangements.


University of Notre Dame (U.S.A.) in England
1-4 Suffolk Street
London, SW1Y 4HG


Thursday, July 6, 2017

15:00 Registration and Coffee/tea refreshments

16:00 Welcome, Introduction, and Special Issue of Philosophy, Theology and the Sciences

16:45 Break

17:00 Keynote 1: Niels Gregersen, "Wisdom Theology as an Axial Phenomenon: The Case of the Jesus Tradition"

18:30 Opening Reception


Friday, July 7, 2017

09:15 Panel Session: Culture, Reason, Cognition

09:20 – 09:45 Culture: Jeremy Kendal

09:45 – 10:10 Reason: Maureen Junker-Kenny

10:10 – 10:35 Cognition: Aku Visala

10:35 – 11:00 Discussion

11:00 Break

11:20 Short Papers 1: Wisdom and Representation

11:20 – 11:45 Marc Kissel, "How Did Hominins Become Human: Using the Database of the Worldwide Instances of Symbolic Data Outlining Modernity (WISDOM) to Understand the Process of Modern Human Origins"

11:45 – 12:10 Dylan Belton, "In Search of Wisdom’s Roots: Re-Thinking the Organic"

12:10 – 12:35 Adam Willows, "Timeless Wisdom"

12:35 – 13:00 Stewart Clem, "Transcending Language: What we can learn from Charles Taylor and Rowan Williams"

13:00 Lunch

14:00 Break

17:00 Public Lecture 1: Tim Ingold, "Evolution in a Minor Key"

           Response: Karen Kilby

18:30 Reception


Saturday, July 8, 2017

09:15 Short Papers 2: Morals Intentions and Wisdom

09:20 – 09:45 John Berkmann, "The Evolution of Moral Wisdom: What Moral Theologians Can Learn from Evolutionary Anthropology"

09:45 – 10:10 Craig Iffland, "Following the Rules: Collective Intentionality and Practical Wisdom"

10:10 – 10:35 Angela Carpenter, "Independent Reason, Faith and, a Distinctively Human Wisdom"

10:35 – 11:00 James Helmer, "A Common Performance? Engaging Tomasello on Intentionality, Cooperation, and Culture"

11:00 Break

11:20 Keynote 2: Fiona Coward: "The Wisdom of Homo Sapiens: 'the wisdom of the Crowd'? Promiscuous Sociality, Things, and Networks in Human Evolution"

12:45 Lunch

13:45 Short Papers 3: Humans, Others and Wisdom

13:45 – 14:10 Nicola Hoggard Creegan, "The Nature of True Wisdom in Humans and Other Life-Forms"

14:10 – 14:35 Fionagh Thomson, "We have always been Technologically Wise: The Mythopoetic Rise of the Robots in Human Evolution"

14:45 Break

15:20 Panel on Human Distinctiveness (Marcus Baynes-Rock, Adam Willows, Julia Feder, Marc Kissel, and Angela Carpenter)

16:20 Break

17:00 Public Lecture 2: Wentzel van Huyssteen: "Human Origins and the Emergence of a Distinctive Human Imagination"

  Response: Jennifer French

18:30 Reception


Sunday, July 9, 2017

09:15 Short Papers 4: Relating Wisdom

09:20 – 09:45 James Stump, "Speaking of Wisdom: How Language Shapes the Conception of Ourselves"

09:45 – 10:10 Marcus Baynes-Rock, "We are not [entirely] our selves: Humans as Nexuses of Cognitive Systems"

10:10 – 10:35 Julia Feder, "The Christian Wisdom of Traumatic Violence: Possibilities for Wounding and Healing"

10:35 – 11:00 Chelsea King, "Wisdom or Folly? Understanding the Cross in an Evolutionary World"

11:00 Closing Panel (Tim Ingold, Fiona Coward, Wentzel van Huyssteen, Celia Deane-Drummond, and Agustín Fuentes)

12:00 Departures


This event has been made possible by support from the John Templeton Foundation and the Henkels Lecture Fund, Institute for Scholarship in the Liberal Arts, College of Arts and Letters, University of Notre Dame.