Creativity. It is the secret of what makes humans special, hiding in plain sight. Agustín Fuentes argues that your child's finger painting comes essentially from the same place as creativity in hunting and gathering millions of years ago, and throughout history in making war and peace, in intimate relationships, in shaping the planet, in our communities, and in all of art, religion, and even science. It requires imagination and collaboration. Every poet has her muse; every engineer, an architect; every politician, a constituency. The manner of the collaborations varies widely, but successful collaboration is inseparable from imagination, and it brought us everything from knives and hot meals to iPhones and interstellar spacecraft.
Weaving fascinating stories of our ancient ancestors' creativity, Fuentes finds the patterns that match modern behavior in humans and animals. This key quality has propelled the evolutionary development of our bodies, minds, and cultures, both for good and for bad. It's not the drive to reproduce; nor competition for mates, or resources, or power; nor our propensity for caring for one another that have separated us out from all other creatures.
As Fuentes concludes, to make something lasting and useful today you need to understand the nature of your collaboration with others, what imagination can and can't accomplish, and, finally, just how completely our creativity is responsible for the world we live in. Agustín Fuentes's resounding multimillion-year perspective will inspire readers – and spark all kinds of creativity.
Agustín Fuentes, during more than two decades of research, has published more than one hundred academic articles and book chapters. He has chased monkeys, apes, and humans in the jungles and cities of Asia, the mountains of Morocco, and the streets of Gibraltar. He’s explored the lives of our evolutionary ancestors and examined people’s daily routines across the globe. He is a professor and the chair of the University of Notre Dame’s Department of Anthropology and a National Geographic Explorer. His perspectives and research have been covered in The Atlantic, Scientific American, The Huffington Post, and on NPR. He lives in Indiana.
"The Creative Spark is strong on man's imaginative accomplishments and offers an important corrective to the skewed debate on human nature. A species that, uniquely, ponders its own exceptionality will surely be fascinated by it."
– The Economist
"Fuentes presents his theories in a captivating narrative that feels like an intriguing mystery [...] To look up from The Creative Spark after finishing the last page is to see the world in new, complex ways. Fuentes's work adds depth to our reality and fosters a deep respect and appreciation for the many forms creativity takes."
– Shelf Awareness
"Harnessing the latest findings in evolution, biology, and archaeology [Fuentes] creates a new synthesis to show that the great drivers of human progress have been creativity and cooperation, and that many of the things we believe about ourselves, from religion to race, are wrong."
– NationalGeographic.com, Book Talk
"Condensing a great deal of anthropological research, Fuentes shows how imaginative resourcefulness enabled a vulnerable species lacking fangs and claws to survive in a world of fierce predators [...] whether facing the current threat of armed conflict or pondering contemporary controversies surrounding gender and religion, Fuentes draws one imperative lesson from humankind's deep past: we survive as a species only so long as we continue to creatively innovate."
"The diverse studies in creativity are good ones [...] encompassing everything from conflict resolution to learning how to use fire to cook – not just red meat, but fish and vegetables as well [...] an informative, readable introduction to recent scholarship on the anthropology of creativity."
– Kirkus Reviews
"Creativity is an essential reason why Homo sapiens have progressed to the point we have: dominating an entire planet and eagerly searching the universe, argues anthropologist Fuentes [...] His thesis is an intriguing and insightful one."
– Library Journal
"A revolutionary perspective on what it means to be human. Fuentes breathes new life into one of our oldest questions. So much of what we think of as uniquely human has stagnated around a linear version of intelligence. Fuentes introduces imagination as a powerful force that has shaped who we are, and how we have become so successful. Thoughtfully researched and beautifully written, The Creative Spark is destined to become a classic."
– Brian Hare and Vanessa Woods, authors of New York Times bestseller The Genius of Dogs
"In The Creative Spark, everything old and familiar – from livestock and tools, to marriage and war, and everything in between – is made fresh and new in this fascinating retelling of the story of humans' unique evolutionary journey. Grand in scope, but packed with detailed research and intimate prose, Fuentes once again gives us the precious gift of an accessible demolition of long-held assumptions, and a compelling, important, and revelatory understanding of ourselves."
– Cordelia Fine, Prof. of History & Philosophy of Science, University of Melbourne, author of Delusions of Gender
"A magisterial tour of what makes us human, and how we got that way. Large and complex controversies are judiciously evaluated in a clearly written, fascinating way, and coherently assembled into a persuasive alternative to the simplistic biologisms that dominate contemporary discourse. This is the best guide I know on how the human world evolved, and a solid foundation for creative optimism."
– R. Brian Ferguson, Prof. of Anthropology, Rutgers University-Newark
"A perfect example of our humanness. It combines individual creativity with a synthesis of the works of others to describe how the lives of humans and our ancestors were changed, sometimes for better and sometimes for worse, by harnessing and expanding creative abilities. Anyone who is curious about how we arrived at our present condition will want to read this book."
– Lynne Isbell, Prof. and Chair of Anthropology, U.C., Davis, author of The Fruit, the Tree, and the Serpent