Convoluted human evolution: Tattersall's view now (Introduction)

by David Turell @, Tuesday, June 02, 2015, 02:19 (998 days ago) @ David Turell

Human evolution like all of evolution is a bush of development, with only us left:

"A hominin family tree that I drew up in 1993 already featured 12 species, spanning the period from 4 million years ago to the present, while one of my recent trees contains twice as many species, scattered over the last 7 million years. Either way, at any one point in the past, several different hominin species typically coexisted, revealing human evolution not as a linear affair but as a process of vigorous and continuing experimentation with the hominin adaptive potential. Homo sapiens is evidently a huge exception in being the sole hominin species on the planet, and its lonely state cannot be taken as a guide to the past. There is something unprecedented about our species that makes it both intolerant of competition and uniquely able to eliminate it.

"Almost certainly, this novel element lies in the unusual way in which we process information, whereby a vocabulary of mental symbols makes it possible for us to remake the world in our minds. And both the form of our family tree and the archaeological record make it plain that this unique capacity was acquired not only very recently, but also very abruptly in evolutionary terms. Mayr's perspective suggests that we were gradually fine-tuned by natural selection, over the eons, to be the kind of creatures we are. But the diversity of the rapidly expanding hominin fossil record strongly argues otherwise. And if that is the case, we are not condemned by our biology to act in any specific ways. Instead, we are responsible for our own individual behaviors."

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