'Humanity's superpower' | The Darwin Day Lecture 2024, with Dr Rebecca Wragg Sykes, chaired by Professor Alice Roberts

 Registration is closed for this event
February 6th, 2024 19:30   --   21:00

(C) Dave StevensAlice Roberts photo: (C) Dave Stevens

Join Dr Rebecca Wragg Sykes for the 2024 Darwin Day Lecture, chaired by Professor Alice Roberts – at Conway Hall in London, or online.

What makes us – us today – human? How can we define ourselves in relation to other creatures, and to the many ancient forms of humanity that once existed? Are long-held assumptions of our ‘specialness’ based on archaeological evidence? And what might explain the astonishing – and peculiar – fact that, after millions of years where Earth hosted many hominin species at once, now there is only us?

In the 2024 Darwin Day Lecture, Dr Rebecca Wragg Sykes will explore key aspects in human evolution that go beyond intelligence and technology, to consider the origins of our other – and perhaps most important – 'superpowers': collaboration, compassion, and the arts. In particular, the world of the Neanderthals – our best known and closest relatives – shows us a parallel path in humanity, even as new understandings of their fate, and of the humans who met them in Eurasia, may hold many lessons in how we face up to future challenges beyond any our ancestors could have imagined.

About Dr Rebecca Wragg Sykes

Dr Rebecca Wragg Sykes is an archaeologist, author, and public scholar. Now an Honorary Research Associate at the McDonald Institute of Archaeological Research, University of Cambridge, and an Honorary Fellow in the School of Archaeology, Classics and Egyptology at the University of Liverpool, after her academic research which focused on Neanderthals, ancient technology, landscape and cognition, Rebecca refocused her career towards science communication. Her critically acclaimed first book Kindred: Neanderthal Life, Love, Death and Art (2020) is published in 20 languages, won the 2021 PEN Hessell-Tiltman prize for history and Current Archaeology's Book of the Year; was a finalist in Italy's 2022 Premio Galileo awards, Poland's Mądra Książka Roku prize, and longlisted in Germany's Wissenschaftsbuch des Jahres, and was selected as one of the 2021 New York Times' 100 Notable Books, plus featured in many other listings from the Sunday Times to New Scientist and Bloomberg

Rebecca's other non-academic writing features widely, including in newspapers, popular science magazines, and online, and she also appears regularly on a variety of radio programmes, podcasts and live events, ranging from BBC Radio 4's Start The Week to Glastonbury Festival. In addition, she works as a science consultant with numerous stakeholders from heritage organisations and museums to film and television companies. 

In recognition of her achievements in public scholarship and communication, in 2022 Rebecca received the Royal Anthropological Institute's Public Anthropology Award, and the President's Award from the Prehistoric Society. Her next popular book, Matriarcha: Prehistory Re-imagined is forthcoming in 2025, and merges her interests in prehistory more broadly with telling the stories of women, the latter reaching back to her role as co-founder in 2013 of the influential organisation TrowelBlazers, highlighting women past and present within archaeology and the Earth Sciences.

About Professor Alice Roberts

Professor Alice Roberts is Vice President of Humanists UK. She is Professor of Public Engagement in Science at the University of Birmingham, Director of Anatomy for the NHS Severn Deanery School of Surgery, and holds honorary fellowships at Hull, York Medical School, and the University of Bristol.

She is an honorary fellow of the British Science Association, a member of the Advisory Board of the Cheltenham Festival of Science, Patron of the Association of Science and Discovery Centres, and a member of the Council of the British Heart Foundation.

She combines her academic career with one as a science presenter on television. She has appeared as a human bone specialist on Channel 4’s Time Team and in various projects on BBC2, including Coast, Don’t Die Young, The Incredible Human Journey, Wild Swimming, Digging for Britain, Horizon, and Origins of Us.

With Andrew Copson, she is author of The Little Book of HumanismThe Little Book of Humanist Weddings, and The Little Book of Humanist Funerals.

About the Darwin Day Lecture series

The Darwin Day Lecture explores humanism and humanist thought as related to science and evolution, Charles Darwin, or his works. The Darwin medallist has made a significant contribution in one of these fields.

The lecture and medal are named to mark the annual global celebration of the birth of Charles Darwin, celebrated each year on 12 February.

School groups:
10 pupils + 1 teacher: £60.00
20 pupils + 2 teachers: £90.00


Conway Hall
25 Red Lion Square
London, WC1R 4RL
Humanists UK Convention 2024 | Cardiff

14 June 2024, 19:00
Cardiff Students’ Union, Park Place, Cardiff, CF10 3QN

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