Monday, November 9, 2009

The Birth of Humanity

Last week, PBS aired the first in the 3-part series on evolution. It was fascinating to realize that there were human-like creatures as far back as 3.3 million years ago. An increase in brain size occurred about this time and has never stopped increasing in size or cognitive ability. We are the present end-product of this 3.3 million years of human evolution

Part 2 is Tuesday evening on PBS. The program examines an intriguing theory that long-distance running–our ability to jog–was crucial for the survival of these early hominids. Not only did running help them escape from vicious predators roaming the grasslands, but it also gave them a unique hunting strategy: chasing down prey animals such as deer and antelope to the point of exhaustion. "Birth of Humanity" also probes how, why, and when humans' uniquely long period of childhood and parenting began.

This latter point of a 'uniquely long period of childhood' was touched upon in part 1. In fact, the 3.3 million year old fossil discovered in Africa was that of a 3-year-old. It was noted that its brain had not yet begun to develop [enlarge] just as the human brain takes time to develop. The ape family, on the other hand, have fully-developed brains by the age of three. This is why 'Lucy's Child' began the switch from ape-like to human-like.

It must be quite exciting for a paleoanthropologist to stumble across a valuable fossil like this- just lying atop the rock and sands. It seems with each passing month, scientists uncover one more link to our past, one more incredible example of our epic journey towards 'humanity.'

It is too bad that there is a knot of nihilists both in the Christian and Muslim worlds who deny all of this, cling onto ancient and dusty journals written by men who thought the stars were atop the cloud layer. Oh well, we didn't cry for the demise of the ice man and we shan't for these non-believers. Enjoy part 2 Tuesday evening at 8 PM EST.

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