Human Nature

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  • Migrations Out of Africa

    Humans are restless, nomadic, migratory creatures who respond to resource depletion, conflict and climate changes by migrating. Survival has depended on moving away from failing habitats in search of better environments. This dominant feature of humans continues throughout history and will be a main feature of the 21st century.
    A reasonable interpretation of the fossil and genetic evidence is that there were several early hominin migrations out of Africa and some return trips. Homo erectus left Africa about two million years ago and spread into Europe and Asia, but disappeared before modern humans arrived. Hominins faced repeated and sometimes drastic climate changes that both forced and permitted migrations. Ocean levels dropped during glaciations, opening new land routes for migration. Some African and European humans made land and ocean journeys probably via Southeast Asia to Australia. Asia is a big continent. Neanderthals occupied much of Europe and Asia for > 400,000 years. They faced repeated ice ages but small, dispersed groups managed to survive. They occupied parts of Europe when early humans migrated northward from Africa and spread east and west to eventually occupy all of Asia.

    Some archeologists propose that humans leaving Africa skirted around the Mediterranean, near present-day Israel, Lebanon and Jordan, and then headed west through present-day Turkey into Europe. Advocates of this Levantine corridor hypothesis note that stone tools and shell ornaments from sites in the Levant are similar to those found in the earliest human sites in Europe. One study dated the human occupation of one Lebanese cave to more than 45,000 years ago — slightly earlier than the European sites — supported the idea that this region served as a launching pad to Europe. Higham proposes a likely scenario - humans to have expanded into present-day Russia first, then west. A 45,000-year-old human from western Siberia — whose genome was sequenced by Reich’s team could belong to this wave. Some humans migrated into the pacific islands. Some migrated along land and ice bridges that connected Asia with North America during the last glacial period. Australian Aborigines appeared in South America before humans walked through Alaska and migrated southward to occupy North, Central and South America. The Americas eventually were populated by humans from the Arctic to Patagonia.

    Callaway reviewed the development of genetic analysis of fossil DNA in the past 30 years. He wrote:" The advances have fostered an ancient-genomics boom. In the past year, researchers have unveiled the two oldest genomes on record: those of a horse that had been buried in Canadian permafrost for around 700,000 years, and of a roughly 400,000-year-old human relative from a Spanish cavern.

    A Neanderthal sequence every bit as complete and accurate as a contemporary human genome has been released 4 as has the genome of a Siberian child connecting Native Americans to Europeans... Svante Pääbo, a geneticist at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, and his team turned their attention to 400,000-year-old remains from the Sima de los Huesos cavern in northern Spain, which may have been a burial pit for recent relatives of modern humans. In the pit, the bones remained at a stable, low temperatures, slowing the breakdown of DNA... the team reported 16,300 letters of a Sima de los Huesos individual's mitochondrial genome. The sequence revealed an unexpected relationship between the Sima de los Huesos remains and the Denisovans, an archaic group of humans that Pääbo's team had discovered in Russia's Altai Mountains thousands of kilometers away... While analyzing high-quality genomes of a Neanderthal and a Denisovan, a team led by Reich and Montgomery Slatkin at the University of California, Berkeley, noticed a peculiar pattern: present-day sub-Saharan Denisovansare more closely related to Neanderthals than they are to Denisovans. But evidence from other ancient genomes suggested that the two archaic groups were equally related to present-day Africans... independent teams led by Akey and Reich pieced together a substantial portion — about 20% and 40% respectively — of the Neanderthal genome from bits lurking in the genomes of hundreds of living humans. Their research indicated that some Europeans and Asians had gained genes involved in skin and hair from Neanderthals, possibly helping their ancestors to adapt to cold climates by providing thicker, lighter skin, more hair and fewer pores... the teams found that the genomes of east Asians possess, on average, slightly more Neanderthal DNA than do people of European ancestry." Akey sees this as possible evidence that Neanderthals interbred with ancient humans on at least two separate occasions: once with the ancestors of all Eurasians, and later with a population ancestral only to east Asians." [i] Neanderthal fossils disappeared after about 30,000 year BP. Fu et al discovered Neanderthal genes in a Siberian homo sapiens:" We present the high-quality genome sequence of a ~45,000-year-old modern human male from Siberia. This individual derives from a population that lived before—or simultaneously with—the separation of the populations in western and eastern Eurasia and carries a similar amount of Neanderthal ancestry as present-day Eurasians. However, the genomic segments of Neanderthal ancestry are substantially longer than those observed in present-day individuals, indicating that Neanderthal gene flow into the ancestors of this individual occurred 7,000–13,000 years before he lived. "[ii]

    [i] Ewen Callaway. Human evolution: The Neanderthal in the family. Thirty years after the study of ancient DNA began, it promises to upend our view of the past. Nature 26 March 2014.
    [ii] Fu, O et al. Genome sequence of a 45,000-year-old modern human from western Siberia. Nature 514, 445–449; 23 October 2014.

  • 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
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    Language & Thinking
    I and Thou
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    Neuroscience Notes
    Human Brain
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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.