William H. Calvin: Neilly Series Lecture


William H. Calvin: Neilly Series Lecture




William H. Calvin will discuss his book, A Brief History of the Mind: From Apes to Intellect and Beyond. A theoretical neurobiologist with an appointment to Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at the University of Washington School of Medicine, Calvin will analyze what led to the "Mind's Big Bang" about 50,000 years ago; it was a creative explosion in comparison with the trends of the previous 2.5 million years, in which there was little progress. He will also examine another Homo Sapiens puzzle; whether a big brain is necessary for higher intellectual functions such as creative structured thought. One reviewer wrote that Calvin "provides a sensible and accessible reflection on the cognitive roots of many of our confusions and failings."

Calvin writes "I talk a lot about ape-to-human evolution and all those abrupt climate changes along the way, even about civilization's vulnerabilities to abrupt shocks. But mostly I try to extend Darwin's intellectual revolution to brain mechanisms. What sort of Darwinian brain wiring allows us, in just a split second, to shape up a better thought? To create quality from mere incoherence?… Ethics, morals, a sense of "what's right" are possible only because of a human level of ability to speculate about the future and modify our possible actions accordingly."

Introduction by Dr. Robert Joynt.



Event Type






Calvin, William H., “William H. Calvin: Neilly Series Lecture,” RBSCP Exhibits, accessed March 3, 2024, https://rbscpexhibits.lib.rochester.edu/items/show/4836.

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