Monday, July 16, 2012

Good article on the evolution of humans

I just read a great article in the New York Times. It's an interview with Chris Stringer, a British paleoanthropologist, and it touches on so many interesting topics. It's about where humans came from, why we have 2.5% Neanderthal DNA, and whether we're still evolving. Good stuff. Here's a short excerpt about the pre-humans in Africa who were our forebears. He's discussing the situation just before homo sapiens appeared:
Populations in different areas would have flourished briefly, developed new ideas, and then maybe those populations could have died out, even — but not before exchanging genes, tools and behavioral strategies. This kept happening until we get to within the last 100,000 years, and then finally we start to see the modern pattern behaviorally and physically coalescing from these different regions to become what we call modern humans by about 60,000 years ago.
Apparently, we are the result of a mix of many pre-human populations. We're mutts.

Aside: The fact that humans have only been around for 60,000 years is shocking. The universe is nearly 14 billion years old. Earth is about 4.7 billion years old. And we've been here for, uh, about five minutes and have nearly managed to kill the entire planet in that short time. Makes you think (and shudder).

Go read the article. You'll be glad you did. Knowledge is good.