The astonishing story of how culture enabled us to become the most successful species on Earth

Praised for seeking out the brightest and boldest ideas from the experts, and recognised as the ‘go to cultural series’ in the North, this March Berwins Salon North returns for its next digital foray with award winning scientist: Gaia Vince, as she explores the epic sweep of human progress in an entirely fresh view of human history.

Inarguably, humans are the most successful species on Earth. Meanwhile, our closest living relatives – the now endangered chimpanzee – continues to live as they have for millions of years. Evolutionary scientists would argue that we evolved through the same process – so what is it that sets us apart from the animals?

How did bands of hunter-gatherers evolve into forming countries, empires, and political associations, with smart phones, rather than stone tools in hand?

Setting out to answer this question, is scientist Gaia Vince who draws on cutting edge research in ancient DNA, genetics, archaeology, psychology, ecology and sociology, to reveal our evolutionary story. Gaia weaves threads throughout our history, right up to the present day, using stories to illuminate how humans operate and evolve as we do: why people who live in cities are more inventive; why social rejection really does hurt us; why it is harder to say No than Yes; why globally it is women who lead language change and innovation; and how and why we invented time and it, in turn, changed us.

Along the way, myths will be busted, and new questions are formed, suggesting ways that we can continue to evolve beyond the pandemic.

To think of humans as a smarter sort of chimp with cool tools is to miss what is truly extraordinary about us. Look around you: we are the intelligent designers of all you see – including ourselves. It is our ability to constantly learn and pass on knowledge – from campfire storytelling to ‘how to’ guides – over millennia, that have enabled our unlikely success. It is this that has ensured that unlike any other species on earth, we determine the course of our own destiny.

Focusing on the evolution of our uses of energy, information, meaning and time, Gaia shows how we all part of an unfolding history in which we are becoming ever closer, more mixed, less tribal, and entering a new chapter in our evolution on a planet that we are rapidly changing, and which will in turn, change us. This is the story of how we have made ourselves and are continuing to do so.

Joining Gaia, and host Helen Bagnall, for Berwins Salon North on Thursday 25th March, will be: Alan Levinovitz who asks if it is time for us to consider what we mean by ‘natural’ in: The Seductive Myth of Nature’s Goodness, and historian Hallie Rubenhold, who seeks to set the record straight and reclaim the stories of the victims in: The 5: The Women Killed by Jack The Ripper.

Sponsored by Harrogate law firm, Berwins, and produced by arts charity Harrogate International Festivals, the online events will stream for free on the HIF player from 7.30pm on Thursday 25 March.