What Is the Theory of Human Evolution and What Evidence Appears to Substantiate the Theory?

1 January 2017

Evolution is defined as “any process of progressive change”; and the theory is complex life forms from our time have descended from earlier ones that existed long ago (Hunt, p. 29). The theory of evolution was first made popular by Charles Darwin an English Biologist, he spent a good amount of his time trying to find evidence to support his many ideas. It is believed that the human species has its origins in Africa.

Scientists share the belief that a human like creature originated from the apes and over time, through many changes the final result was a group of hominids, they do however disagree on when and why the different characteristics begun begun to show themselves. It had been discovered that humans and the other primates do have some differences, for one humans have a larger brain, we walk on two legs, go through a longer periods childhood and juvenile life stages, we have the ability to speak and to form culture (Parker, p. ).

What Is the Theory of Human Evolution and What Evidence Appears to Substantiate the Theory? Essay Example

Evolution occurs through a series of processes, including sexual reproduction and mutation, where some more desirable traits may be passed on to the next generation either by chance or natural selection. Natural selection played a major role in the understanding of evolution, it meant that individuals that have traits more favorable to adapting to its environment are more likely to survive and pass on those traits to their offspring. This led to the notion of “survival of the fittest”.

The trait selected to move on showed up in the next generation and defines which direction evolution will take. Over time the theory of evolution has grown to include findings that were discovered from other scientists, between the 1970’s and 1990’s fossils were found, they had smaller brains, long arms, short legs and did not use stone tools and they were known as australopithecines. Also between 1992 and 2002 more fossils were dug up that predated the australopithecines, making scientist re-evaluate their earlier theories (Parker, p. 9).

Our Ancestors Life is believed to have originated billions of years ago and over time organisms mutated and evolved into other more complex life forms. It is stated that humans came from earlier primates from about 65 to 70 million years ago. Humans are the only species (as a basic biological classification containing individuasl that resemble one another and may interbreed) of Homo sapiens who are still around today; the other two Homo habilis and Homo erectus are extinct. Below are the stages of human evolution and the order they came in.

The LCA is a term used to represent our Last Common Ancestor with the apes, this group includes the Dryopithecus, they lived in Africa and were not typically a two-legged animal. (2)The Basal Hominins are some of the earliest fossils found and are dated seven to four million years ago. This class included the Sahelonthropus and the Orrorin tugenensis, they also lived in Africa and evidence was found that they might have stood upright. (3)Fossils dating 3. 5 to 2. 4 million years ago were found to be the Early Human Ancestors, they include the Australopithecus anamensin, Australopithecus Africanus.

Garhi and Homo habilis they also lived in Africa and were discovered to have used simple stone tools. There were skeletal changes found in them which indicated that they walked on two legs. (4)Next we have the Middle Period Human Ancestors, they lived 1. 9 million to 300,000 years ago and included the Homo erectus and Homo ergaster, they made and used stone tools as well. This group left Africa for China, Georgia and Jara.

They were found to have been larger, walking on two legs, and had a larger brain. 5)The Recent human Ancestors lived from 800,000 to 250,000 years ago; this group included the Homo antecessor and Homo neanderthalensis. Fossils of Homo sapiens were also found and dated about 160,000 years ago. This group also moved out of Africa and went to the Middle East, South East Asia and Europe. They had larger brain sizes and their cultural remains were similar to preliterate living humans. The term Human Ancestor is used to categorize all fossils dated between the split of ancestral African apes, to the earliest hominin and then to the modern humans.

More up to date evidence suggests that the last common ape ancestor of the African apes and humans actually lived in Europe first and not in Africa; anthropologists found that no ape fossils existed in Africa before four million years. This means that their ancestors actually left Europe and went to Africa when the climate changes forced them to move. What is the Concept of Culture? Name Two Theoretical Perspectives and the Proponents of those theories. The term culture has many meanings to a lot of people, it is hard sometimes to determine what culture is there has been debates of what it really means.

But culture is defined as being “the total pattern of human behavior and its products, embodied in thought, speech, action and artifacts” (Hunt, p. 68). It is a way of life for many, It’s how we think, and do things that is passed down from the parents to their children, and so on, some might also say that it is having an education, having better knowledge og the finer things of society this they may term as being cultured. Edward Tylor an anthropologist says that culture is complex and includes knowledge, belief, art, law and habits acquired by man as a member of society.

His definition of culture highlights says that it is a product of people living together and learning from each other while committing them to memory and passing them on (Parker, p. 2). We acquire knowledge, religion, skills, and morals from our environment, and we get them through socialization, which then shape our personalities, allowing us to fit in properly in our different societies. Just about everything in our lives we learn from listening to others, and reading about the experiences of others.

Cultural Evolution Cultural evolution describes the establishment and growth of culture. Anthropologists of the 19th century who studied culture wanted to develop a “science of culture” that could include the universal laws of human nature. During their revisions they established some rules (1) Cultures all over the world developed progressively over time, (2) that cultural progress took place from simple to complex forms, and (3) that cultural evolution led to the growth of civilization.

It was also said that in cultural advancement all cultures went through the same stages as evolution, and the reason for the differences in cultures was on account of the different stages they were in at the time, because the rate of evolution was different for everyone with some slow at times and fast at others. Edward Tylor believed in “the psychic unity of man” and he thought that all cultures are capable of progression because of this. Tylor also came up with the comparative method that defined the notion of survival as a process, customs, and opinions which are carried on by force.

Diffusionism Diffusionism was an attempt to understand how the traits of culture came about and how they spread from one society to another, it is defined as the spread of a cultural detail from its source to other places. One version is called heliocentric diffusion, it is the believed that all cultures originate from just one, another culture circles is that there was once a very limited number of cultures that the many we have today came from, last every society was influenced by other and the process of diffusion is contingent and arbitrary.

In the 19th century two different notions presented themselves, one was again the “psychic unity of mankind” which states that all humans have similar psychological traits that make them equally likely to transform. But evolutionists believed that growth in culture was constant or caused by outside variables, this caused many to say that developments occurred independently of each other and that diffusion had nothing to do with cultural development. In the 20th century Acculturation even though its roots are set it diffusionism began to overshadow it.

Acculturation is the process of organized cultural change of a certain society carried out by someone of a more dominant one, the change happens because the two are in direct contact with each other, and those of the less dominant society are exposed to the language and practices of the other and are then assimilated into that society. According to Milton Gordon assimilation has three stages that a person has to go through. (1) Behavioral assimilation, (2) structural assimilation and (3) marital assimilation which is the coming together of people of the lesser society with those of the dominant one.

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