Human Distinctiveness Program

A Program to Engage Theologians with the Dynamism of Anthropological and Evolutionary Approaches to the Human

Program Members:
The Human Distinctiveness Project is led by Celia Deane-Drummond, Professor of Theology, and Agustín Fuentes, Professor and Chair of the Department of Anthropology. The full research team includes postdoctoral fellows in theology Julia Feder and Adam Willows and postdoctoral fellows in anthropology Marc Kissel and Marcus Baynes-Rock. This John Templeton Foundation funded initiative on human distinctiveness welcomed its first round of graduate student scholars in the fall of 2015. In the second year of the program we are inviting applications for one new position in the program for entry in 2016. The project is housed in Notre Dame’s new Center for Theology, Science, and Human Flourishing, directed by Celia Deane-Drummond. 
Project Mission:
The Human Distinctiveness Project is designed to promote literacy in evolutionary anthropology among theologians and to advance research at the interface of theology and anthropology. The project, as well as supporting research on the evolution of wisdom, aims to train theologians in evolutionary and archeological anthropology so that knowledge gained from anthropology may strengthen and lead to new avenues of theological research. Contemporary theologians have incorporated knowledge from the sciences into their work but little attention up to this point has been paid to the rapid advances in the anthropological sciences. For theologians working on questions related to what it means to be human, the need is particularly acute for a deeper understanding of human origins.
This project has two central aims. The first is to provide a pool of theologians who will not only be literate in evolutionary anthropology but will also have the confidence to venture into new and currently unexplored areas of innovative research at the interface of these two disciplines. In 2015 the University of Notre Dame hosted a summer seminar in evolutionary anthropology for thirteen established theologians wishing to enhance their expertise in evolutionary anthropology. Five of these participants were successful in receiving funding for a sabbatical leave designed to foster new research at the interface of theology and evolutionary anthropology. The graduate fellowships allows a cluster of six Notre Dame graduate students in theology to participate in the human distinctiveness program and undertake research on themes relevant to questions at the intersection of theology and evolutionary anthropology. So far there are four graduate students appointed from 2015: Chelsea King, Dylan Belton, Stewart Clem, and Craig Iffland.
The second aim is to engage in research that is relevant to the project theme. The research effort of the postdoctoral team is to conduct specific research at the interface of anthropology and theology on the evolution of wisdom. This is led by the PIs (Celia Deane-Drummond and Agustín Fuentes) and will also include the graduate students and other faculty members at Notre Dame.
The Human Distinctiveness Project is supported by a $1.78 million grant from the John Templeton Foundation. This grant began in March 2015 and will last for three years. The project builds on and expands a current smaller interdisciplinary project directed by Deane-Drummond and Fuentes on the evolution of wisdom, which is also being funded by the Templeton Foundation. 
Graduate Scholars Program:

Graduate students interested in scholarship funded participation in this program will find more information, here.