Darwin’s Hunch: Science, Race and the Search for Human Origins

Darwin’s Hunch: Science, Race and the Search for Human Origins 2016-11-09T15:57:57+00:00

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Science Talk
Presenter: Ms Christa Kuljian, University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa
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There is, broad agreement in the scientific world today that all humans share common origins in Africa, but when Charles  Darwin first suggested it in 1871, few European scientists took his theory seriously. When the Taung child skull was found in South Africa in 1924, Raymond Dart supported Darwin’s  theory, but it did little to shift scientific opinion. In the 1980s, when genetics research concluded that all living humans can trace their maternal ancestry back to Africa 200 000 years ago, many international scientists were slow to accept this claim.  Why the reluctance?

Scientists, and their research, are often shaped by the  prevailing social and political context at the time. This talk will explore this trend in South Africa.  For example, it will follow the colonial practice in Europe, the US and South Africa of collecting human skeletons and cataloguing them into racial types, in the hope that they would provide clues to human evolution.  This talk will provide fresh insight on the search for human origins and uncover stories that shed new light on the past.
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kuljianMs Christa Kuljian
University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa
Presenter

Christa Kuljian is a Research Associate at the Wits Institute for Social and Economic Research (WiSER) and graduated with an MA in Creative Writing from the University of the Witwatersrand in 2007. Kuljian studied with palaeontologist Stephen Jay Gould for her BA in the History of Science at Harvard (1984), which provided inspiration for Darwin’s Hunch. She also holds an MA in Public Affairs from Princeton (1989). In 2010, Kuljian delivered the Ruth First Lecture about the refugee crisis at Central Methodist Church in downtown Johannesburg, which led to her first book Sanctuary (Jacana 2013).
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