Human Distinctiveness: Wisdom's Deep Evolution

Human Distinctiveness: Wisdom's Deep Evolution
6-9 July 2017

Tower Bridge In London

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.

Speakers include:  Tim Ingold, Wentzel van Huyssteen, Fiona Coward, Niels Gregersen, Karen Kilby, Jennifer French, Jeremy Kendal, Maureen Junker-Kenny, Aku Visala, and members of the project team.

The conference will be held at the Notre Dame London Global Gateway.


London Conference Poster

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 registration runs until 31 May.

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

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

Register online through Notre Dame Conference Center 

Registration Deadline: 23 June 2017


Thursday, 6 July
15:00 Registration
16:00 Welcome, Introduction, and Special Issue of Philosophy, Theology, and the Sciences
17:00 Keynote 1: Niels Gregersen, 'God’s Wisdom in Person: A Phenomenological Interpretation of Jesus'
          Reception following

Friday, 7 July
9:15 Panel Session: Culture, Reason, Cognition: Jeremy Kendal, Maureen Junker-Kenny, Aku Visala
11:00 Break
11:20 Short Papers 1: Wisdom and Representation
          Marc Kisse, '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'
          Dylan Belton, 'In Search of Wisdom’s Roots: Re-Thinking the Organic'
          Adam Willows, 'Timeless Wisdom'
          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 the Minor Key'
          Response: Karen Kilby
          Reception following
          Free, open to public; registration required for non-conference attendees

Saturday, 8 July
9:15 Short Papers 2: Morals, Intentions and Wisdom
        John Berkmann, 'The Evolution of Moral Wisdom: What Moral Theologians Should Learn from Evolutionary Anthropology'
        Craig Iffland, 'Following the Rules: Collective Intentionality and Practical Wisdom'
        Angela Carpenter, 'Independent Reason, Faith and, a Distinctively Human Wisdom'
        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
          Nicola Hoggard Creegan, 'The Nature of True Wisdom in Humans and Other Life-Forms'
          Elizabeth Groppe, ''Truth Springs up from the Earth’ (Ps 85:12): Agrarianism and the Origins of Human Wisdom'
          Fionagh Thomson, 'We have always been Technologically Wise: The Mythopoetic Rise of the Robots in Human Evolution'
15:00 Break
15:20 Panel on Human Distinctiveness
17:00 Public Lecture 2: Wentzel van Huyssteen, 'Human Origins and the Emergence of a Distinctive Human Imagination'
          Response: Jennifer French
          Reception following
          Free, open to the public; registration required for non-conference attendees

Sunday, 9 July
9:15 Short Papers 4: Relating Wisdom
        James Stump, 'Speaking of Wisdom: How Language Shapes the Conception of Ourselves'
        Marcus Baynes-Rock, ‘We are not [entirely] our selves: Humans as Nexuses of Cognitive Systems’
        Julia Feder, The Christian Wisdom of Traumatic Violence: Possibilities for Wounding and Healing'
        Chelsea King, 'Wisdom or Folly? Understanding the Cross in an Evolutionary World'
11:00 Closing Panel
12:00 Departures


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


There is no designated hotel for general conference registrants. Participants are responsible for securing their own housing. However, a limited number of rooms are available at the Amba Hotel Charing Cross (located steps from Trafalgar Square) for the nights of 6, 7, and 8 July. The single rate is £235 (breakfast included). Please check the box indicating your interest in these rooms on your registration form if you wish to receive information. Extra rooms will be released 2 June.


Please email with any questions.

Conference Poster Compressed PDF (266K)

The Center for Theology, Science and Human Flourishing is grateful for the generous support of 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.