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UC San Diego To Probe How Humans Became Aware Of Death

UC San Diego To Probe How Humans Became Aware Of Death


Ajit Varki, co-director, Center for Academic Research and Training in Anthropogeny


Photo credit: Center for Academic Research and Training in Anthropogeny

A poster for UC San Diego's March 3, 2017 conference on mortality awareness.

Everything that is alive on this planet eventually dies. But it's the special lot of human beings to be the only species with an awareness of our own mortality.

The question of how that awareness of death has factored into our evolution and our neurobiology is the focus of the latest Center for Academic Research and Training in Anthropogeny symposium at UC San Diego. Anthropogeny is the study of human origins.

The March 3 conference will touch on the neurological basis for fears of death, and how our ancestors were able to tolerate these fears without becoming despondent or depressed.

"The theory is this could produce a paralysis," said Ajit Varki, a cellular and molecular medicine professor at UC San Diego and the center's co-director. "The adjustment for that was some form of reality denial."

Varki joined KPBS Midday Edition Thursday with more on how humans adapted to awareness of death and whether suicide is a uniquely human action.


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