Human Ancestors – Naturalistic/Evolutionary Perspective

Posted by on Apr 3, 2015 in Marianis from the Front, The Biggest Challenges to Evolution | 0 comments

Slide79 Introduction:

Were our early ancestors ape-like creatures, or fully-formed human beings? Did we evolve from intelligently created humans or dumb cavemen? Why do many people think humans evolved from animals? What are the human transitions that indicate this? What are the characteristics people consider to be “human”?

 

Naturalistic/Evolutionary Answer:

Modern humans have evolved from previous less-evolved forms in East Africa “nearly 200,000 years ago in association with technologies not unlike those of early Neandertals. It is now clear that early Homo sapiens, or modern humans, did not come after the Neandertals but were their contemporaries. However, it is likely that both modern humans and Neandertals descended from Homo heidelbergensis. Compared to the Neandertals and other late archaic humans, modern humans generally have more delicate skeletons. Their skulls are more rounded and their brow ridges generally protrude much less.”[i]

“The first fossils of early modern humans to be identified were found in 1868 at the 27,000-23,000 year old Cro-Magnon rock shelter site…in southwestern France. The oldest evidence of modern man is from a 195,000 year old fossil” in Ethiopia that “shows the beginnings of the skull changes that we associate with modern people, including a rounded skull case and possibly a projecting chin.”[ii] Orrorin tugenensis contains what are by far the oldest human-like bones that have been found, having “consistently been dated at 6 million years old.”[iii]

Homo is the genus of great apes that emerged around 2.4m [million] years ago and includes modern humans.”[iv] Some researchers believe that the replacement model is correct, which says that modern humans evolved in Africa and then at a later time around 60,000-40,000 years ago they began to spread around the world and replace other hominids. Other researchers believe in the regional continuity model, which states that all over the world, populations were slowly evolving in the same way (through intermittent interbreeding) to become more human. Still other researchers suggest that human evolution occurred as a mix of the two models, called the assimilation model. New fossils are continually being found to confirm numerous diverse pre-human species that can trace our lineage.

The five different skulls found together at Dmanisi, Georgia, do not discredit Australopithecus sediba or the rest of the human evolutionary tree as creationists might try to claim. Lee Berger, the discoverer of A sediba, says that “this is a fantastic and important discovery, but I don’t think the evidence they have lives up to this broad claim they are making. They say this falsifies that Australopithecus sediba is the ancestor of Homo. The very simple response is, no it doesn’t.”[v]

“Chris Stringer, head of human origins at the Natural History Museum in London [says] ‘Africa is a huge continent with a deep record of the earliest stages of human evolution, and there certainly seems to have been species-level diversity there prior to two million years ago. So I still doubt that all of the ‘early Homo‘ fossils can reasonably be lumped into an evolving Homo erectus lineage. We need similarly complete African fossils from two to 2.5m years ago to test that idea properly.’”[vi]

Berger adds that “what all this screams out for is more and better specimens. We need skeletons, more complete material, so we can look at them from head to toe…Any time a scientist says ‘we’ve got this figured out’ they are probably wrong. It’s not the end of the story.”[vii]

Some believe that Homo sapiens pushed out and eventually conquered the Neandertals (or Neanderthals), but other evidence is showing that humans may have mated with Neandertals and that Neandertals eventually “subsumed [or mixed] into the various populations of Homo sapiens.” “The controversy remains, and will until more evidence shifts our understanding solidly in one direction or the other. For now, we can only wonder if our instincts and urges are occasionally driven by a bit of dilute Neanderthal in our genes.”[viii]

Human AncestorsThe connections between the different hominid species is a very convoluted history. It appears that Homo sapiens have evolved from Homo erectus, who evolved from Homo habilis, who evolved from Kenyanthropus platyops, who evolved from Australopithecus anamensis, who evolved from Orrorin tugenensis, who evolved from other previous ancestors in the Mammal Kingdom.[ix] “Indeed, our view of the origins of humankind is incomplete and the search for pieces to the puzzle continues. But to view the question marks on the hominid family tree merely as gaps in our knowledge belies the reality of evolution. Hominid species were changing over periods of hundreds of thousands of years, adapting to new environmental conditions. And so, given that the fossil record gives us only a glimpse of these evolving species, it’s very difficult — even unnatural — to identify exactly when a species “became” something else. In order to begin to understand human evolution, however, scientists have had to take the fossils they have, analyze them, and categorize them based on similarities and differences. In this way, they are able to find trends among the species and a better understanding of how they came to be. In this way they have allowed us a glimpse into our ancient past — a glimpse that will undoubtedly become clearer in years to come.”[x]

“Are we genetically different from our Homo sapiens ancestors who lived 10-20,000 years ago?  The answer is almost certainly yes.  In fact, it is very likely that the rate of evolution for our species has continuously accelerated since the end of the last ice age, roughly 10,000 years ago.  This is mostly due to the fact that our human population has explosively grown and moved into new kinds of environments, including cities, where we have been subject to new natural selection pressures.  For instance, our larger and denser populations have made it far easier for contagious diseases, such as tuberculosis, small pox, the plague, and influenza to rapidly spread through communities and wreak havoc.  This has exerted strong selection for individuals who were fortunate to have immune systems that allowed them to survive.  There also has been a marked change in diet for most people since the end of the last ice age.  It is now less varied and predominantly vegetarian around the globe with a heavy dependence on foods made from cereal grains.  It is likely that the human species has been able to adapt to these and other new environmental pressures because it has acquired a steadily greater genetic diversity.  A larger population naturally has more mutations adding variation to its gene pool simply because there are more people.  This happens even if the mutation rate per person remains the same.  However, the mutation rate may have actually increased because we have been exposed to new kinds of man-made environmental pollution that can cause additional mutations.”[xi]

“It is not clear what all of the consequences of the environmental and behavioral changes for humans have been.  However, it does appear that the average human body size has become somewhat shorter over the last 10,000 years, and we have acquired widespread immunity to the more severe effects of some diseases such as measles and influenza.”[xii]

“Finally, can we say what direction human evolution will take in the future?  This is a fascinating question to consider but impossible to answer because of innumerable unknown factors.  Though, it is certain that we will continue to evolve until we reach the point of extinction.”[xiii]

 

by Brian Mariani and others

 

Is the above correct? Do you evolutionists agree with this position? I have tried to write it as you believe it. Do you have any disagreements or concerns or additions?

 

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[i] Dennis O’Neil, Early Modern Homo sapiens, 1999-2013, Palomar College, http://anthro.palomar.edu/homo2/mod_homo_4.htm, accessed August 29, 2014.

[ii] Dennis O’Neil, Early Modern Homo sapiens, 1999-2013, Palomar College, http://anthro.palomar.edu/homo2/mod_homo_4.htm, accessed August 29, 2014.

[iii] PBS, Origin of Humankind, Orrorin tugenensis, http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/evolution/humans/humankind/, accessed August 29, 2014.

[iv] Ian Sample, Skull of Homo erectus throws story of human evolution into disarray, October 17, 2013, The Guardian, http://www.theguardian.com/science/2013/oct/17/skull-homo-erectus-human-evolution, accessed August 27, 2014.

[v] Ian Sample, Skull of Homo erectus throws story of human evolution into disarray, October 17, 2013, The Guardian, http://www.theguardian.com/science/2013/oct/17/skull-homo-erectus-human-evolution, accessed August 27, 2014.

[vi] Ian Sample, Skull of Homo erectus throws story of human evolution into disarray, October 17, 2013, The Guardian, http://www.theguardian.com/science/2013/oct/17/skull-homo-erectus-human-evolution, accessed August 27, 2014.

[vii] Ian Sample, Skull of Homo erectus throws story of human evolution into disarray, October 17, 2013, The Guardian, http://www.theguardian.com/science/2013/oct/17/skull-homo-erectus-human-evolution, accessed August 27, 2014.

[viii] PBS, Origin of Humankind, The Neanderthal Within, http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/evolution/humans/humankind/, accessed August 29, 2014.

[ix] PBS, Origin of Humankind, Hominid Family Tree, http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/evolution/humans/humankind/, accessed August 29, 2014.

[x] PBS, Origin of Humankind, Hominid Family Tree, http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/evolution/humans/humankind/, accessed August 29, 2014.

[xi] Dennis O’Neil, Early Modern Homo sapiens, 1999-2013, Palomar College, http://anthro.palomar.edu/homo2/mod_homo_4.htm, accessed August 29, 2014.

[xii] Dennis O’Neil, Early Modern Homo sapiens, 1999-2013, Palomar College, http://anthro.palomar.edu/homo2/mod_homo_4.htm, accessed August 29, 2014.

[xiii] Dennis O’Neil, Early Modern Homo sapiens, 1999-2013, Palomar College, http://anthro.palomar.edu/homo2/mod_homo_4.htm, accessed August 29, 2014.

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