Human beings have long seen themselves as the center of the universe, as specially-created creatures who are anointed as above and beyond the natural...

Human beings have long seen themselves as the center of the universe, as specially-created creatures who are anointed as above and beyond the natural world. Professor and noted scientist David P. Barash calls this viewpoint a persistent paradigm of our own unique self-importance and argues that it is as dangerous as it is false. In his recent book, Through a Glass Brightly: Using Science to See Our Species as We Really Are (Oxford University Press, 2018), Barash explores the process by which science has, throughout time, cut humanity “down to size,” and how we have responded. A good paradigm is a tough thing to lose, especially when its replacement leaves us feeling vulnerable and less important.

Barash models his argument around a set of “old” and “new” paradigms that define humanity’s place in the universe. The new emerge from provocative revelations about whether human beings are well designed, whether the universe has somehow been established with our species in mind (the so-called anthropic principle), whether life itself is inherently fragile, whether Homo sapiens might someday be genetically combined with other species, and what this means for our self-image. Rather than seeing ourselves through a glass darkly, as he puts it, science enables us to perceive our strengths and weaknesses brightly and accurately at last, so that paradigms lost become wisdom gained. The result is a bracing, remarkably hopeful view of who we really are.

David P. Barash is an evolutionary biologist and Professor Emeritus of Psychology at the University of Washington. He has written more than 280 peer-reviewed articles and nearly 40 books in addition to penning numerous op-eds in the LA Times, The New York Times, the Chicago Tribune, and other highly recognizable titles. He’s joined me today to talk about his latest book …


 Carrie Lynn Evans is a PhD student at Université Laval in Quebec City.

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