Human Nature

Some Topics

father& son
  • Humans are Mammals, Primates

    Humans are descendants of mammals who appeared about 250 million years ago when the major land masses were connected. Mammals evolved into a great variety of creatures who had warm bodies, gave birth to live babies and fed them milk. Mothers assumed a greater role in assuring the survival of babies and social organization became critical for many mammals to survive. Humans are primates who, according to genetic analysis, diverged from other placental mammals about 90 million years ago. The oldest known fossil primates are from the Eocene epoch 55 million years ago. Tavaré et al suggested that only 7% of all primate species that have ever existed are known from fossils. One of the mammalian-primate lineages, "hominids" are included in the superfamily of all apes, the Hominoidea. Some hominids became human in a series of transformations that led to our current form sometime in the last 2- 300,000 years.

    Humans are Primates who, according to genetic analysis, diverged from other placental mammals about 90 million years ago. The oldest known fossil primates are from the Eocene epoch 55million years ago. Tavaré et al suggested that only 7% of all primate species that have ever existed are known from fossils. [i] For years I referred to the human lineage as the Hominidae The term hominid included four genera: Pongo, the Bornean and Sumatran orangutan; Gorilla, the eastern and western gorilla; Pan, the common chimpanzee and bonobos; and Homo, the human. In all their wisdom paleoanthropologists adopted the term "hominin" to refer to the human clade following the divergence from chimpanzees (Pan). One of the mammalian-primate lineages, hominins are included in the superfamily of all apes, the Hominoidea 14 million years ago, the Ponginae (orangutans) diverged from the Homininae family (the terms hominid and hominin will be interchangeable for some time).

    Some hominins became human in a series of transformations that led to our current form sometime in the last 250,000 years.[ii] No-one knows if the transition between earlier hominins and humans occurred gradually or abruptly. The tendency in paleoanthropology is to discover more and older fossil hominins with transitional characteristics. Lucy was the first bipedal Australopithecus found in the mid-1970s with an estimated age of 3.2 million years. An older, taller hominin skeleton was found in the Rift Valley, Ethiopia 2005 just north of Hadar where Lucy was discovered. Nicknamed 'Big Man', the 3.58-million-year-old male skeleton suggested a running and walking biped nearly 2 meters tall. His scapula which anchors the shoulder muscles is similar to that of a modern human suggesting a move from arboreal life.

    The oldest Ethiopian hominin, Ardipithecus ramidus (4.4 million years) had more ape-like arms and feet. [iii] In the interim periods, other hominins appear and disappear. Rech et al summarized recent history: "Less than 200,000 years ago, anatomically modern humans (that is, humans with skeletons similar to those of present-day humans) appeared in Africa. At that time, as well as later when modern humans appeared in Eurasia, other ‘archaic’ hominins were already present in Eurasia. In Europe and western Asia, hominins defined as Neanderthals on the basis of their skeletal morphology lived from at least 400,000 years ago before disappearing from the fossil record about 30,000 years ago. In eastern Asia, no consensus exists about which groups were present. Until at least 17,000 years ago, Homo floresiensis, a short-statured hominin that seems to represent an early divergence from the lineage leading to present-day humans was present on the island of Flores in Indonesia and possibly elsewhere. On the Eurasian mainland there existed at least two forms of archaic hominins in the Upper Pleistocene: a western Eurasian form with morphological features that are commonly used to define them as Neanderthals, and an eastern form to which the Denisova individuals belong."[iv]

    Some have proposed theories suggesting that consciousness, thinking, empathy and feelings originated suddenly and recently with modern humans but these claims are not credible. Close study of other living primates has revealed they manifest all the basic ingredients of the human mind.

    Fossil evidence suggests that modern humans are descendants of black Africans who migrated from Africa into Asia and Europe. Ledgard described visiting the real Garden of Eden in Kenya: "An hour’s drive and a 600-meter drop in altitude from Nairobi is Olorgesailie, a Lower Paleolithic archaeological site on the floor of the Rift Valley in Kenya. It is blisteringly hot. Nothing moves in the heat of the day except dust, gathering into twisters. It might be the closest we have to the Garden of Eden. From the campsite it is possible to make out the outline of the prehistoric lake which once flooded the plain in soapy water. Hominids lived here for 900,000 years. They made hand axes which they used to butcher the hippos, zebras and baboons they hunted and scavenged. The Kenyan anthropologist Louis Leakey uncovered a Homo erectus skull here in the 1940s. The brain cavity was disappointingly small. There must have been grunts, gestures with stones, blood, the sky blotted with vultures, ape children kept back in the darkness. The sense of space here is immense. So too is the sense of known time, hominid time, known at first in the way a beast knows time, in light and darkness, but conscious all the same. The night sky is black lacquered. There are shooting stars. Sometimes there is the sound of hyenas."

    A Nature Editorial comments on new evidence of early Homo sapiens: “The exact place and time that our species emerged remains obscure because the fossil record is limited and the chronological age of many key specimens remains uncertain. Previous fossil evidence has placed the emergence of modern human biology in eastern Africa around 200,000 years ago. In this issue of Nature, Jean-Jaques Hublin and colleagues report new human fossils from Jebel Irhoud, Morocco; their work is accompanied by a separate report on the dating of the fossils by Shannon McPherron and colleagues. Together they report remains dating back 300,000–350,000 years. They identify numerous features, including a facial, mandibular and dental morphology, that align the material with early or recent modern humans. They also identified more primitive neurocranial and endocranial morphology. Collectively, the researchers believe that this mosaic of features displayed by the Jebel Irhoud hominins assigns them to the earliest evolutionary phase of Homo sapiens. Both papers suggest that the evolutionary processes behind the emergence of modern humans were not confined to sub-Saharan Africa.”

    [i] SimonTavaré, CharlesR.Marshall, OliverWill, ChristopheSoligo & RobertD.Martin. Using the fossil record to estimate the age of the last common ancestor of extant primates. Nature 416, 726 - 729 (18 April 2002); doi:10.1038/416726a
    [ii] White, T. D. et al. Pleistocene Homo sapiens from Middle Awash, Ethiopia. Nature, 423, 742 - 747, (2003). Clark, J. D et al. Stratigraphic, chronological and behavioural contexts of Pleistocene Homo sapiens from Middle Awash, Ethiopia. Nature, 423, 747 - 751, (2003).
    [iii] Yohannes Haile-Selassiea, Bruce M. Latimera, Mulugeta Alened, Alan L. Deinoe, Luis Giberte, Stephanie M. Melillof, Beverly Z. Saylorg, Gary R. Scotte, and C. Owen Lovejoya. An early Australopithecus afarensis postcranium from Woranso-Mille, Ethiopia . Published online before print June 21, 2010, doi: 10.1073/pnas.1004527107
    [iv] Reich, David et al Genetic history of an archaic hominin group from Denisova Cave in Siberia. Nature 468,1053–1060(23 December 2010)

    (Editorial commenting on N. Hublin et al . New fossils from Jebel Irhoud, Morocco and the pan-African origin of Homo sapiens. Nature 546, 289–292 (08 June 2017)

  • Human Nature is a 21st century portrayal of anthropology, neuroscience, philosophy, sociology and psychology - disciplines that need to be integrated as they are in this book. The topics are essential to understanding human nature, its origins and its problems. You could treat each topic as module of a larger system that develops emergent properties as the modules interact. Each reader discovers the features of human nature in himself or herself and then discovers similar features in others. After you understand more about the dynamics of close relationships, you can look at larger groups. You can continue by applying your insights into human dynamics to governments, countries and international affairs. Other Persona Digital books describe the same dynamics but emphasize different vantage points and concerns. Human Nature is available as a printed book or as an eBook for download. 492 Pages.

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    Human Nature
    The Good Person
    Pieces of the Puzzle
    The Sound of Music
    Surviving Human Nature
    Language & Thinking
    I and Thou
    Emotions & Feelings
    Neuroscience Notes
    Human Brain
    Children and Family
    Intelligence & Learning
    Religion 21st Century

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    Human Nature is the first volume in the Psychology & Philosophy series, developed by Persona Digital Books. We encourage readers to quote and paraphrase topics published online and expect proper citations to accompany all derivative writings. The author is Stephen Gislason and the publisher is Persona Digital Books. The date of publication is 2018.