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At the Dawn of Humanity

At the Dawn of Humanity

The First Humans

By Gerard Verschuuren

214 pp

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About the Book

What happened when humanity emerged? It depends on whom you ask. Many scientists will say that nothing really changed: it was just another step in the long, gradual process of mutating genes. Many religious people will respond that everything was new: God breathed a special kind of life into the first man and set him apart from, and over, the rest of living things. In general, scientists tend to minimize, and the religious to maximize differences between the non-human animal world and the human world. Who is right? 

In this book, geneticist and philosopher of science Gerard Verschuuren argues that neither extreme is correct, but that the truth lies in a harmonious synthesis of the real but limited discoveries of modern science, the perennial insights of natural philosophy, and the illumination offered by great religious traditions. First, he examines the question of how—before, during, and after the dawn of humanity—genes may have changed from generation to generation. Then he explores just how capable such genetic mechanisms could be of explaining the features most distinctive of humanity: the faculties of language, rationality, morality, self-awareness, and religion. Are these traits really unique to man, or do they in some way derive from the non-human animal world? Were the first humans able to use language, think rationally, act morally, know who they were, and know there is a God? The answers may surprise you. 

At the Dawn of Humanity is a scientifically open-minded and well-informed tour de forceagainst material reductionism and totalitarian scientism. Readers will come away with a newfound appreciation of the connectedness of Homo sapiens with the rest of the natural world and, at the same time, of the unbridgeable gap that separates the essentially human from the pre-human and non-human.


“The first five chapters of this book offer a wonderful, clearly written, and up-to-date account of the evolutionary origin of humans from our animal ancestors. But, as Gerard Verschuuren asserts, ‘Although we are flesh as they are flesh, we are also very exceptional creatures in this Universe, endowed with the faculties of language, rationality, morality, self-awareness, and religion.’ The last five chapters are dedicated to each of these five distinctive human faculties. And it is in these chapters that Verschuuren develops a comprehensive, informative, and very personal understanding of the nature of Homo sapiens, our own species. A wonderful book.”


Professor of Biological Sciences, University of California, Irvine

“A well-researched and comprehensive analysis. Solidly grounded in the best scientific research available, Verschuuren presents cogent arguments to defend the traditional and commonsensical claim that we are a radically unique kind of animal that stands out among the billions of other species that have ever evolved. Fascinating.”


O.P., Professor of Biology and Theology, Providence College

At the Dawn of Humanity is thorough and balanced. With characteristic clarity, Gerard Verschuuren snaps together the current understanding of human evolution, an integration of science, philosophy, and theology. He not only clarifies the questions but provides answers for our moment in history. This is an important work.”


Adjunct Professor of Chemistry, Holy Apostles College

About the Author

Gerard M. Verschuuren is a human geneticist with a doctorate in the philosophy of science. He has studied and worked at universities in Europe and the United States. Currently semi-retired, he spends most of his time as a writer, speaker, and consultant on the interface of science and religion, faith and reason. His most recent books from Angelico Press are: Life’s Journey—A Guide from Conception to Growing Up, Growing Old, and Natural DeathAquinas and Modern Science—A New Synthesis of Faith and Reason; and The Myth of an Anti-Science Church—Galileo, Darwin, Teilhard, Hawking, Dawkins.

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