Wonder and Awe – Human Evolution.

Wisdom of the Ages


We were not always alone as we are now. Although we share 99% of our genes with chimpanzees and gorillas, our closest living relatives, we are different. The prime difference being the size of our brains and our intelligence. Once there were a whole host of different humans.

We evolved in the Rift Valley in Ethiopia. We are all of African descent. We are all one species.

The fossil and DNA evidence is conclusive. Racists and creationists have nowhere to hide. All they can do is deny.

A mere five million years ago our common ancestor split off from the chimp line. The Australopithecines had a brain weight of 500 grams (slightly bigger than a chimp). By 1.8 million years ago there were numerous groups of hominids living in the Rift Valley region. We were not alone. They included Homo habilis and Homo erectus.

Life in the Rift Valley was precarious. There was a lot of climatic change.

By 1.4 million years ago only Homo erectus had survived. But their brain size had evolved to 1000 grams.

800,000 years ago Homo heidelbergensis had evolved. Their brain weight had jumped to 1400 grams (comparable to modern man). They gave rise to both the Neanderthals and Homo sapiens.

Homo sapiens evolved with a brain weight of 1500 grams only 200,000 years ago. We lived alongside our close, and more intelligent, cousins Homo Neanderthal until 45,000 years ago.

We have only been alone for 45,000 years. What a mess we’ve made of things in such a short time!

We are so new that if you took a baby from 200,000 years ago and brought them up in the present day they could be a nuclear scientist, president or rocket scientist without any trouble. We haven’t changed. Our brains are the same.

I like to imagine that somewhere, in a secluded garden of Eden, hidden away, a group of surviving Neanderthals have set up home. Despairing of the destructive violence of their cousins they cloistered themselves away.

I wonder what they would make of the world we have made and our invention of war, religion, pollution, overpopulation, politics, climate change, cruel ways to kill other animals and enough greed, selfishness and power-madness to destroy the planet.

Perhaps with their wisdom and intelligence they could convince us that there is a better way of living. We could take a lesson from the whales and dolphins. We could be gentle and live in a self-sustaining manner in harmony with each other and the planet.

I hope we find them soon. I’m scared of being alone with the megalomaniacs raging around me.

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