Preface by Project Leader
When and how did humans become a special kind of ape?
Though it might sound counterintuitive to most people,
chimpanzee's closest kin is not the gorilla, but man. This finding is
one of the most significant achievements of modern evolutionary
anthropology. Using a term coined by Dr.Jared Diamond, a biologist at
the University of California, Los Angeles, man is no more than the
chimpanzee, together with the common chimpanzee and the Bonobo. We can
no longer talk about being human beings without referring to the
biological fact that we are a member of apes.
At the same time, however, it is self-evident that we
distinguish ourselves from other apes such as chimpanzees and gorillas.
How, then, do we bridge the gap between the fact that the man is "a
ape" and the fact that we are at the same time "a special ape" that has
developed a sophisticated mind, language and society? When, why and how
did humans become a special kind of ape? It is this problem that is the
most thrilling theme in twenty-first century human research, and the
theme of this COE project.
Fortunately, modern human sciences have recently made
great advances in
terms of both theory and methodology, creating the best research
environment we have ever had. Genomics and evolutionary biology now
provide us with the most basic theoretical frameworks and tools for
analysis. Meanwhile, cognitive and linguistic sciences have transcended
the traditional bounds of the humanities, employing the tools and
methodologies of natural science while continuing to move forward.
Interdisciplinary coalescence between all these fields gave rise to the
new field of evolutionary cognitive science, or evolutionary
which has been rapidly developing during the past decade, especially in
Europe and the United States. The research goals of this COE project
also in line with this global trend.
This COE project, while being based in the Graduate
School of Arts and
Sciences, is carried out in cooperation with staff members from the
Graduate School of Science, the Graduate School of Humanities and
Sociology, the Graduate School of Agricultural and Life Sciences, the
University Hospital, the University Museum and the Information
Technology Center, and involves all of Tokyo University in the above
research theme. It also aims at educating the next generation of human
science researchers, imparting to them a global point of view and an
ability to straddle the border between arts and sciences. Our
researchers in each field, far from simply lending their names, truly
strive to integrate their disciplines and to initiate a unified field
human science for the twenty-first century.