The Evolution of Man
By Scott Roeben
There is an old saying. Several old sayings, come to think of it. Those sayings have no relevance here, of course, but it's best to begin with a statement unlikely to create controversy before plunging headlong into the subject of The Evolution of Man, which is sure to do so.
Why does discussion of our development cause such dissent? Well, at least in part, evolution flies in the face of Creationism. What is Creationism? In brief, Creationism is the belief that Darwin was a few ice cubes short of a tray. But this is not the time or place to discuss the merits or flaws of Creationism. Creationism is very complex. Like astrology. Or other solidly factual belief systems like those surrounding the existence of the Tooth Fairy or leprechauns. No, this is not the forum to point out the almost laughable, gaping holes in Creationism. This is not the place to ridicule Creationism, especially by calling Creationists "drooling morons" or even "deluded crackpots." No, this is a mature discussion of The Evolution of Man.
I should say up front that the use of the word "Man" in this treatise is not intended to be sexist. Rather, "Man" is a generic term for "person." "Man" is often used interchangeably with "Mankind," such as in the case of that astronaut who said "One (STATIC) step for a (STATIC), one (STATIC) (STATIC) for mankind (STATIC)."
Now that we've cleared that up, let us get to the matter at hand. So, where did Man come from?Where Did Man Come From?
"Back east," for the most part.
But seriously, we have always had a curiosity about our origins. It is almost unfathomable to us that we may have evolved from the apes. The scientific community continues to gather more and more evidence about our progenitors, yet it seems the more we know, the more we discover we don't know. In fact, some of us didn't even know that, which muddies the evolutionary waters even further.
Did Man Evolve From Apes?
Will you please let a person get a word in edgewise?
No, Really, Did We?
There are no simple answers in life. (Unless, of course, the question is "Will I be audited?") There is a reason the Theory of Evolution is called a theory. Mainly, calling something a "theory" is a way for scientists to cover their respective butts. For instance, in the days of Columbus, there was something called the "Law of the Earth Being Flat." Once Columbus made it to the New World, it was clear the Earth was not flat, and the people who had created the "Law of the Earth Being Flat" became laughingstocks. This would never have happened if they had just held a "Theory of the Earth Being Flat." They could've just said "Hey, it was just a theory."
So, evolution is just a theory. When does a theory become a law? If you would like the answer to this, watch "Schoolhouse Rock." We are much more interested in tracing The Evolution of Man.
[Note: From a genome viewpoint, the difference between modern man and the modern apes is quite small, about two percent. From a physical viewpoint, the greatest difference is in locomotion. We would explain these assertions further, but for this you should probably read the book from which we blatantly stole this information.]
How Long Has Man Been A Tribal Animal?
Man has been a tribal animal since he first walked erect, more than four million years ago.
He Walked "Erect"?
If you are not going to take this subject seriously, we'll just end our little treatise right here. You will no longer receive the benefit of our knowledge, nor will you be able to hear us bandy about such terms as "treatise" and "genome."
Oh, All Right, What Were the Stages of
Development of Mankind?
Funny you should ask. Mankind's development can be broken down into the following groupings: Australopithecus afarensis, Australopithecus africanus, Australopithecus robustus, Homo habilis, Homo erectus, Neanderthals, Cro-magnons, Homo sapiens. It is important to remember that not just anyone can make up names for such groupings. Scientists undergo years of training in "obfuscation" and "gobbledygook" before they attempt to name various creatures or phenomena. If you don't believe us, try it yourself. Try naming things around your house: Tabilus endicus. Refrigeratorus frigidaris. Medicinus cabinentus. Sound silly, don't they? Perhaps now you see why it's best to leave the naming to the scientists.
Isn't It About Time for a Chart?
It is about time for a chart.
SPECIES TIME PERIOD Australopithecus afarensis 4 to 2.7 million years ago Australopithecus africanus 3 to 2 million years ago Australopithecus robustus 2.2 to 1.6 million years ago Homo habilis 2.2 to 1.6 million years ago Homo erectus 2.0 to 0.4 million years ago Neanderthal 200 to 35 thousand years ago Cro-magnon 35 thousand years ago Homo sapien 200 thousand years ago to present
There is one thing which is clear from this chart. Our ancestors would have been a whole lot easier to study had they been "linear." However, this was not to be, especially if we have made some transcriptions errors in our chart. Let's take a closer look at some of our hairy forefathers and/or foremothers.
Our most ancient ancestor is Australopithecus afarensis. They lived roughly 4-2.75 million years ago, which according to my calculations would make them 1.25 million years old each. No wonder they look so decrepit in photographs.
Various sources inform us that we know about Australopithecus afarensis because of Lucy. Apparently, Lucy was a big fan of archaeology. Rumor has it that she must have talked to Ethel and hatched a scheme to get into the show at Ricky's nightclub by masquerading as a "hominidae." Ha, ha. Just a little evolutionary humor. Actually, Lucy is a set of skeleton remains which has made us aware of this species. Oh, and this species is also mentioned in books. It occurs to us Archeologists would save themselves a lot of time and digging if they would just look in books first.
The main differences between the afarenis and africanus were height and brain capacity. There is little humor to be found in africanus, mainly because we do not want to be boycotted by the Reverend Jesse Jackson.
Australopithecus robustus had an average height of 1.5 m. This made life difficult for robustus, mainly because no one has any idea what an "m" is. It is suspected that an "m" is something like a foot, but currently this is just a theory.
Scientists note that robustus had a flat face. This may have come about because it is believed robustus was constantly getting into fistfights over being teased for having "bust" in its name.
Robustus was also vegetarian, which likely means robustus had a rather self-righteous attitude and, again, what better reason do you need to flatten someone's face?
Homo habilis is also known as "handy man." This is why you could almost never reach habilis on a holiday weekend.
Habilis was probably the first of the ape-men to make primitive stone tools. These tools resembled "rocks," and in some cases, "stones." With the advent of tools came the development of the "neighbor," which "borrowed" the newly invented tools...and most were never seen again.
Homo erectus inhabited the regions of southeastern and eastern Asia until approximately 300,000 years ago, when its rent was raised and it got the hell out. Homo erectus had a similar body size to humans, although the female Homo erectus almost always felt it looked fatter than it really was.
Homo erectus was similar to modern man in a great many ways, although the brain size was considerably smaller--comparable to that of today's professional wrestling fan.
Homo erectus was a mighty warrior, an explorer, an inventor. Erectus invented clothing, in fact, which is used even today by just about everyone except those posing for National Geographic and certain men's magazines.
It is interesting to note that Homo erectus was the first to bury its dead. It appears the previous practice of burying the living became impractical due to all the flailing and biting. Homo erectus, like all our progenitors, was able to adapt.
Before and during the last ice age there appeared a very distinctive type of man, the Neanderthal. We're betting that what made the Neanderthal distinctive was his body odor, but there's no consensus in the scientific community to support that (yet).
Originally, it was thought Neanderthals were direct ancestors of man. But skeletal remains of modern man have now been found dating from the same time as the Neanderthals, suggesting they both arose from a common ancestor (a guy named Stu). This is quite a revelation, especially to the people who have managed to read this far.
Neanderthals became extinct some 40,000 years ago, mainly because they were utterly inept at mating. Fossil records show quite clearly that while mating rituals for the various types of hominids developed in predictable, advancing increments throughout history, Neanderthals, inexplicably, did not conform to that pattern.
Please note the following official-looking chart.
EVOLUTION OF THE MATING INITIATION VERBALIZATION (OR PICK-UP LINE)
Australopithecus afarensis Ugh. Australopithecus africanus Ugh? Australopithecus robustus Your cave or mine? Homo habilis Want to see my stone tool? Homo erectus "Erectus"? Get it? "ERECTUS." Neanderthal Come here often? Cro-magnons I do NOT know that guy. Homo sapien Me either. I'm SO not with him.
Cro-magnons have somehow developed a poor reputation in modern times. The designation "Cro-magnon" is often used by modern women to make the point that a man is acting in a manner which is "uncivilized" or "crude." In truth, modern men act in a manner with would be seen even by Cro-magnons as "crude," especially that part about making smooching noises when an attractive modern woman walks by without the benefit of a bra.
Cro-magnons were perhaps best known for their paintings. They used paints made of manganese and iron oxides to paint the walls and ceilings of their caves throughout what is today called France and Spain. Many of these beautiful paintings have been preserved and can still be seen. The only drawback to viewing these artistic marvels is the unfortunate fact that to do so one may have to go to "what is today called France" and deal with "what are today called rude jackasses." Some would consider this a small price to pay to view these historic paintings.
Of course, we cannot discuss Cro-magnons without mentioning that during the seasonal migration of herds, the Cro-magnons used cunning hunting skills and tools--even managing to develop extremely advanced tools for hunting (possibly even a bow and arrow). Cro-magnons were the precursors to our modern day deer hunters--grown men who delight in the merciless slaughter of gentle, innocent creatures. Again, the Cro-magnons would appreciate it if we could come up with another term to describe these guys. Unfortunately, there was no "Nimrodus moronicus," but I'm sure the scientific community will think of something. As we said, they're good at making up names.
The evolution of Homo sapien began about 200,000-300,000 years ago. At first, you might say this is a very rough estimate. This would be extraordinarily rude, but we will try and put it behind us.
The Homo sapien physical structure is similar to that of Homo erectus, however, Homo sapien had a better sense of color, mainly due to the advent of swatches about 235,000 years ago.
The Homo sapien brain capacity averaged an impressive 1,350 cc, surprisingly the same size of today's humans. Well, most of today's humans. The Homo sapien brain dwarfs that of the average DMV employee like a skyscraper dwarfs a dollhouse.
There is much more information available about Homo sapien. Just not here. (Get over it.)
Conclusion (One Hopes)
One thing is clear. We are what evolution made us. Especially if you exclude the relatively recent advent of the sex change operation. We are all the result of adaptation, mutation and, often, ghastly orthodontic headgear.
Yet while we arrogantly pride ourselves on how far we have come since we first began our evolutionary trek, how far have we really come? Even with all our modern machines, we are, essentially, still wrapped in loincloths--warring, hunting, mating. Well, some of us are mating. Mostly guys in rock bands.
It might be argued that because of evolution, and natural selection, we are the result of the survival of the fittest. Our ancestors who best adapted to their surroundings, and who reproduced most successfully, spawned others who had to exhibit equal cunning and virility to pass on their genes. Some feel that in the not-too-distant past we were our strongest, most intelligent and most virile. Now we have labor saving devices. Machines do much of our thinking for us. Even reproduction has been assisted (and in some cases replaced) by our technology. Could it be that since we no longer have to rely on our strength and cunning that we are, in a sense, devolving?
Thankfully, we have answered enough questions already, so there's no need to try and answer the hypothetical ones, too. We will leave the difficult questions up to those who have time to read and conjecture and spell check and the like.
Instead, in order to fulfill what we see as our evolutionary imperative, we will now devolve into our big, fluffy, highly-evolved couch for a nap.
© Scott Roeben, 1999. All rights reserved.