In this second lecture Professor Agustin Fuentes focuses on the human niche as it relates to our capacity for belief. The video of Fuentes’ lecture is embedded below for those who were unable to attend in person, or for those who’d like to watch it again. An audio only version can also be found at the end of this post. In order to further facilitate discussion Dr Mikael Leidenhag and Katherine Chow will be adding their initial reflections on Professor Fuentes’ lecture. Leidenhag earned his PhD in Philosophy of Religion from Uppsala University (Sweden) and is currently a Research Fellow (Templeton Foundation) in Theology and Science at the University of Edinburgh. Chow is currently a Postgraduate Research Student working in the field of Political Theology at the University of Edinburgh. We’d like to reiterate that we warmly welcome anyone wishing to engage with Fuentes’ lectures to contribute their comments and questions below.
In his second lecture Feuntes set out to answer “What makes us human?” by inquiring into the construction of the human niche and our capacity for belief. He began his story approximately 2 million years ago with our ancestors who, despite their meager sticks and stones, were able to survive in an environment full of bigger predators and were able to successfully find food and shelter amidst widespread competition. As he stated, “they survived, changed, expanded, and eventually became us, one of the most widespread and significant species on the planet. And in this history, in this process, lies a key answer to why we believe.” How did they do this and why is this significant for understanding why we humans believe? As Fuentes stated up front, “In a nutshell, they cooperated, innovated, created, imagined, and eventually believed. They became human. And in the process constructed, and were shaped by, a dynamic new niche, a new way of becoming in the world.” Fuentes asserted that understanding this evolutionary history is a key component for understanding why we humans believe.