~ Homo Sapiens ~
Unlocking the Puzzle of Human Evolution
A few million years ago we Homo sapiens began a remarkable evolution. Instead of shuffling around on four paws, we stood up on our hind paws…and began to innovate. We learned to use our front paws to manipulate the physical world. By standing, we extended our gaze so we could see the far distance.
The Upright Thinkers, Leonard Mlodinow’s smart and witty book, discusses the several stages of our evolution. Standing upright allowed us to explore the world – not only with our vision but with our minds. We grew a more complex brain over the centuries, allowing us to discover a continuing range of possibilities. As we stood upright, we rose above other animals intellectually. We were becoming…Homo sapiens erectus.
Along the way, we discovered a new technology — fire — which allowed us to cook the meat of animals we killed for food. Richard Wrangham’s book – Catching Fire – suggests that cooking our food made our digestion more efficient — which accelerated the growth of our brain…which allowed us to jump ahead of animals who were not able to build a fire.
With our new, fancy moniker — Homo sapiens erectus (the fancy language came later) we evolved all over the world in many locations. Our rapid expansion was not widely known for some time, as we had no Internet access until the late 1900s. Skeletal fragments discovered by anthropologists identified locations where our homo sapiens ‘forefathers’ had lived — all around the world. We offer two maps — from different sources — to support the early locations of Homo sapiens erecti.
As time passed, we Homo sapiens began to crop up all over the world. Many of our “tribes” would evolve as cultures, cities, and nation-states. Cultures are often unique, one from another, as when nations try to work together to their mutual benefit. A current example is Great Britain and the European Union (at this writing, December 2018).
Most of our world’s cultures created schools for educating children so they might become better contributors to their culture’s future and can ‘graduate’ to the world’s linked array of financial systems. These businesses can market their goods and services, acquire wealth, hire employees, and care for their families. These systems are a complex blend of business and government, enabling participants to enjoy the benefits of culture. If they have sufficient resources — though not everyone does. As you know.
Our steadily expanding access to ever-newer information is fed by broadening knowledge, scientific and otherwise, flowing to us through many large troughs of data, media channels, electronic and otherwise. This trove of information — some of it intentionally false (fake news indeed!) — has pressed us toward ever deeper comprehension of abstractions: for example, the idea of a distant place (somewhere other than here), and the act of imagining yourself in that place. Thus we routinely call on metaphors, a comparison — a kind of if/then expression — of two or more seemingly unrelated subjects. Our forefathers, scrambling from tree to ground and back up the tree, had no use for metaphors, lacking the language to express subtlety.
Time’s Up, Pencils Down!
Welcome, Homo sapiens erectus, an upright version of Homo sapiens. We’ve come a very long way across the centuries. How are we doing? Well, on strength of humanity’s astonishing evolution over many centuries, our report card reveals…a Gentleman-C. (Sorry, ladies. In the olden times, women were omitted from this cliche.)
Only a C?? You’ve gotta be kidding!
In our defense…we’ve visited the MOON and landed on Mars recently! We’ve created a wondrous invention – the Internet — which wraps our many species all around the world; we’re making scientific, medical and other knowledge-based breakthroughs; we’ve gained deep comprehension of earth’s biosphere.
But…we are often inhumane to one another. War, civil strife, domestic violence… abuse of women, children, minorities… defenseless people. And our “entertainment” often reflects our titillation with viewing human brutality. What is WRONG with us?
Ardis Makes Sense Of It All; Someone Has To!
We Homo sapiens are genetically-differentiated. We individuals are so different, one from another. Even identical twins diverge in surprising ways soon after their birth. Repeat after me: We are genetically-differentiated. (This is a ‘thing’. Google it.) We don’t perceive each other as a fellow member of the same species. We’re not in the same club. Everyone look at your neighbors. Compare them with your image in the mirror. Inspect the bodies, heads, faces, ears, noses, body types, heights, and so forth. Notice the difference between you and all the OTHERS. I am a one-of-a-kind species called Bill. You are…your own unique species. Congratulations!
Edward O. Wilson’s book — The Social Conquest of Earth — advises us that successful, cooperative species – bees, ants, a few others — are more social. More than Homo sapiens, they get along with each other. Thus they are better equipped for long-term species survival. This flaw in humanity is a weapon focussed precisely on our future. Look down that barrel. Think of the human-created disasters we’ve suffered in the past several years. Decades. An ugly, brutal history.
Our religions cannot save us. There are more than 4,000 religions in the world. Religious leaders have proven incapable of unifying commonalities of human beings. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., ever hopeful, insisted that the moral arc of the universe is long, and it bends toward justice. Wistful preaching by Dr. King. Because there is no moral arc except as we create it. When we evolved to become homo sapiens erectus, we raised the possibility that we could grow into an improved version of ourselves. We are still . . . waiting.
A successful future for Homo sapiens will require deep engagement by women in every aspect of life. My friend Brynn — she and her husband have two kids, a girl and a boy — Brynn reminds me that females are the fiercest protectors of children. Support your local women! They have the power to heal our world. Men: take a breath. Let the women do the heavy lifting….for a change.
You may discover that women have been doing the heavy lifting …all along. We just didn’t figure it out.