Roland Dürre
Saturday April 4th, 2009

On Evolution (of Humans) and …

On a day in February, 200 years ago, Charles Darwin was. That is why some call the year 2009 the Darwinian year. Besides such famous experts on the subject as Jean-Baptiste de Lamarck, he is held to be the father of the evolutionary theory. He is intensely hated by the creationists who believe that the world has been created and completed 6,000 years ago through an “intelligent design” and that any further development is pre-ordained. Darwin and his evolution theory became a threat to the “creationists”. There are still many of them around and there is an intense dislike between “creationists” and “evolutionists”.

Human history started 8 million years ago as a (small) part of evolution. That was when our ancient fore-fathers, the anthropoid apes, as a sub-group of primates, started to walk upright, which is generally considered the first step towards human development. The birthplace of homo sapiens sapiens was in Africa, where our ancient forebear lived in the jungle. It provided ample food in the form of vegetables and fruit. It is still not quite clear what caused the subsequent change of circumstances, but the rain forest disappeared and our forebear had to look for food elsewhere. He found it in many rivers and lakes, of which Africa at the time had plenty. However, since our ancestor could not swim, he learned to stay upright when hunting in the water. Finding this rather practical, he remained upright on dry land, as well.

In general, we assume that the birthplace of humans as we know them is Africa, because all the archaeological finds related to the earliest periods have been made in Africa. Indications that people lived outside Africa can be traced back only to about 800,000 years ago. About 8 million years ago, a species that looked quite similar to our forebear lived in Asia. This species, however, never learned to walk upright, because – according to the latest scientific research – 8 million years ago the rain forest of Asia was not destroyed. It can be safely assumed that no people would live in Africa today if the rain forest had not been destroyed 8 million years ago.

The science of evolution itself, too, undergoes evolution. A few years ago, it was still common knowledge that our forebear learned to walk upright in order to be better able to look over the steppe grass. Thus, the maxim that “what is better is the enemy of what is good” is also true for science. As I see it, the explanation involving the steppe grass was not all that brilliant – just look at the giraffe. For the aforementioned purpose, a long neck is certainly more useful than walking upright.

Homo sapiens sapiens developed further. He learned to cook his food, which promoted brain development, because only cooked food can be transformed efficiently into the high quantities of energy necessary for mental work. Then we humans developed consciousness, speech, letters and finally many technologies – beginning at the printing press and ending with the internet.
Scientists are sure that there were no intelligent creatures on this planet before man. Similarly, there is no reason why, after humanity has died out, there should inevitable evolve another intelligent species on earth. On the contrary: the chance that this will happen is taken to be rather small.

And now comes the question that, in my opinion, is the most interesting one: is there a chance that intelligent creatures can have a positive influence on evolution? Can controlled evolution happen? So far, it does not seem to happen, but I would not categorically count it out, because I am an optimist.

RMD
(translated by EG)

Here is some self-promotion: you can find this article on my website duerre.de under the headword evolution. A headword is a word that goes right to my head, i.e. it has a – positive or negative – effect on my brain and thus on my entire being (mens sana in corpore sano). This is why I write down a few ideas, along with a fitting story, about all my personal headwords on my private website.

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