Human evolution of, in and beyond the Anthropocene

  • Date: Apr 8, 2024
  • Time: 03:00 PM - 04:30 PM (Local Time Germany)
  • Speaker: Dr Tim Waring
  • Associate Professor, University of Maine
  • Location: MPI of Geoanthropology
  • Room: Villa V14
  • Host: Department Structural Changes of the Technosphere
  • Contact:
Human evolution of, in and beyond the Anthropocene

Lecture Abstract

Modern ecological crises can be seen as resulting from human social and technological evolution. However, research on human evolution is not sufficiently developed to address global environmental issues or our species’ future on Earth. Theories of human evolution are numerous, poorly integrated, and are fractioned within subdisciplines. Human evolution can be better understood with a set of simple principles from current research in human sociality, cultural evolution, and group interactions. From these I sketch an integrated theory of long-term human evolution that provides a logical and testable pattern of change across the span of our species existence and integrates contrasting theories in anthropology and biology. This theory, and the principles on which it builds, can be used to address our current ecological crises more effectively. I propose a global research agenda of applied cultural evolution for beneficial social change and analyze the example of cultural adaptation to climate change. I review open questions and ethical issues in this line of inquiry. Finally, I issue an urgent call for help in developing applied evolutionary research for addressing human sustainability on our finite planet.

Speaker Bio

Dr. Tim Waring is an associate professor of applied cultural evolution at the University of Maine. He studies how culture and cooperation determine human social and environmental outcomes and drive human evolution. Waring’s work spans from theory development and empirical research to applied science, covering all scales and time periods from single organizations to the planetary longevity of homo sapiens. Waring builds evolutionary models of social and cultural change to learn how beneficial behaviors and institutions arise and persist, and tests theoretical predictions of human behavior with behavioral and social learning experiments. His evolutionary theory of the environmental sustainability of human systems has been applied to case studies around the world. Dr. Waring also has been a pioneer in the development of an applied science of cultural evolution for sustainability and beneficial social change, and leads a global applied research network on the topic. Current projects include the patterns and processes of long-term human evolution, the role of group-level cultural evolution in social-ecological change, the evolution of co-operative organizations, and cultural adaptation to climate change.

Dr Waring is on a research sabbatical in 2023-2024, during which he has focused on developing a global applied research agenda on long-term human evolution and global sustainability. Recent Interview with Dr. Waring on the Serious Inquiries Only podcast.


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