> Skip to content
  • Published: 7 November 2019
  • ISBN: 9780241281130
  • Imprint: Penguin eBooks
  • Format: EBook
  • Pages: 320

Transcendence

How Humans Evolved through Fire, Language, Beauty, and Time




A TIMES BEST BOOK OF 2019: the astonishing story of how culture enabled us to become the most successful species on Earth

Humans are a planet-altering force. Our closest living relatives, the now-endangered chimpanzees, continue to live as they have for millions of years. Yet we evolved through the same process. What are we then?

Gaia Vince argues that our unique ability to determine the course of our own destiny rests on a special relationship between our genes, environment and culture going back into deep time. It is our collective culture, rather than our individual intelligence, that makes humans unique. Vince shows how four evolutionary drivers - Fire, Language, Beauty and Time - are further transforming our species into a transcendent superorganism: a hyper-cooperative mass of humanity that she calls Homo omnis. Drawing on leading-edge advances in population genetics, archaeology, palaeontology and neuroscience, Transcendence compels us to reimagine ourselves, and shows us to be on the brink of something grander - and potentially more destructive.

  • Published: 7 November 2019
  • ISBN: 9780241281130
  • Imprint: Penguin eBooks
  • Format: EBook
  • Pages: 320

About the author

Gaia Vince

Gaia Vince is a journalist and broadcaster specialising in science, the environment, and social issues. She was awarded the 2015 Royal Society Winton Prize for Science Books, becoming the first solo female winner in the Prize’s history. She has been an editor at Nature Climate Change, Nature and New Scientist. Her work has appeared in the Guardian, The Times, Science, Scientific American, the American Scholar, International New York Times, BBC online Australian Geographic and the Australian. She also devises and presents science documentaries for radio and television. She blogs at WanderingGaia.com and tweets at @WanderingGaia.

Also by Gaia Vince

See all

Praise for Transcendence

An imaginative and inspiring adventure into the origins and evolution of what we hold most dear: our human culture.

Uta Frith, Emeritus Professor of Cognitive Development UCL

This book goes from the Big Bang to the Hundred Thousand Genome Project to make a convincing case that Homo sapiens has become a super-organism. I learned a lot from it and so will you.

Steve Jones, Emeritus Professor of Human Genetics UCL, author of Almost Like a Whale

Richly informed by the latest research, Gaia Vince's colourful survey fizzes like a zip-wire as it tours our species' story from the Big Bang to the coming age of hypercooperation.

Richard Wrangham, Professor of biological anthropology at Harvard University and author of The Goodness Paradox

A hugely enjoyable sprint through human evolutionary history . . . Read it.

Tim Radford, Nature

Beautifully written . . . At her best Vince takes dizzying leaps, making connections between archaeology, anthropology, genetics and psychology. She is especially good on the delicate interplay between genes, environment and culture. Vince steps with lightness.

Tom Whipple, The Times

Wonderful ... enlightening.

Robin Ince

The storming success of Yuval Noah Harari's books has inspired many others that aim to span the epic sweep of human history with grand theories and cor-blimey factoids. This book does both.

The Times, Best Science and Medicine Books of the Year

Here is the miraculous creature we are: unlikely, poignant, astonishing ... Much to think about. This book gives rise to many such thoughts and is written with merciful clarity.

Sebastian Barry

Related titles