Université de Strasbourg

Symposium 2015

The birth of man, the essence of being human

HommeTuesday 1 December 2015, 14:30h
Auditorium ISIS , 8 allée Gaspard Monge, Strasbourg

Professor Yves Coppens, Paleoanthropology and Prehistory, Collège de France

Professor Henry de Lumley, Institute of Human Paleontology, Paris

The morphological evolution of the human is far from being over. Characterized by the development of the size of the head and increased brain volume, it is accompanied by cultural evolution. With the development 35 000 years ago of the frontal lobes, the cradle of associative thinking, symbolic thought has "exploded". We can say that man has become the engine of his own evolution. Medicine, genetics but also culture are major factors in human evolution. In the past 10,000 years the world population has grown from a few million to seven billion. Does this mean that mankind is evolving faster, and better?

Nature does not care about the individual and absolutely wants to preserve the species; however, when it concerns man, it is individuality and the respect for the person which have become dominant features. Today we are wonderfully free, but we are also very vulnerable. If one of our children would grow up away from society, he would be helpless, not being able even to walk, and he wouldn’t learn anything.. It took the whole evolution of the universe, of life and of man to acquire this fragile freedom which now gives us our dignity and responsibility. But the question arises concerning the evolution of man: where is it going?

The strength of the sciences is to see this discontinuity in continuity. To change from inert matter to living matter, it took a jump. And another to go from living matter to thinking matter. And perhaps there are more to come, though of course we could not know or understand yet. The two prominent speakers at this symposium will present the audience with profound and surprising perspectives.


14:00 Entrée with coffee
14:30 Opening words, by Professor Alain Beretz, President of the University of Strasbourg
14:35 Introduction by Pr Jean-Marie Lehn, USIAS Professor of Chemistry of Complex Systems, recipient of the Nobel Prize in Chemistry 1987
14:40 From species to person: the birth of dignity 
Pr Yves Coppens, Paleontology and Prehistory, Collège de France
15:30 Introduction by Pr Jules Hoffmann, USIAS Professor in Integrative Biology, recipient of the Nobel Prize in Medicine 2011
15:35 The big steps in the morphological and cultural evolution of man - the emergence of the human being
Professor Henry de Lumley, Institute of Human Paleontologie, Paris
16:25 Discussion
16:40 Presentation of the USIAS Fellows 2015 by Professor Thomas Ebbesen, Director of USIAS
17:00 Reception