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Annual Editions: Physical Anthropology, 23e
Was Darwin Wrong?, David Quammen, Online Extra, National Geographic Magazine, November 2004
Evolutionary theory is not just an ephemeral guess, but a well-established set of concepts that has come to be critically important to human welfare, medical science, and understanding the world around us.
The Facts of Evolution, Michael Shermer, from Why Darwin Matters, Henry Holt & Co., 2006
Evolutionary theory is rooted in a rich array of data from the past. While the specifics of evolution are still being studied and unraveled, the general theory is the most tested in science, tests spanning the past century and a half.
Evolution in Action, Jonathan Weiner, Natural History, November 2005
More than 250 scientists around the world are documenting evolution in action. Some of the most dramatic cases are those that result from the ecological pressures that human beings are imposing on the planet.
Epigenetics in Action, Nessa Carey, Natural History, April, 2012
We are in the midst of a revolution in understanding how some human traits appear and are transmitted from one generation to the next. Whereas we used to think that heredity was destiny, we are now learning that environmental effects can bring about changes in the expressions of our genes. Welcome to the brave new world of epigenetics.
America's Science Problem, Shawn Lawrence Otto, Scientific American, November 2012
For two centuries, science in the United States has been the means by which we have tested assertions of ideology and has therefore been the basis of our democracy. It has also been the leading driver of our economic growth. Yet, despite its history and today's unprecedented riches from science, the United States has begun to slip off its science foundation and is being severely damaged by a coalition of religious fundamentalism and conservative science denialism.
Why Should Students Learn Evolution?, Brian J. Alters and Sandra M. Alters, from Defending Evolution in the Classroom, Jones and Bartlett Publishers, Inc., 2001
In explaining how organisms of today got to be the way they are, the evolutionary perspective helps us to make sense of the history of life and explains relationships among species. It is an essential framework within which scientists organize and interpret observations, and make predictions about the living world.
The 2% Difference, Robert Sapolsky, Discover, April 2006
Now that scientists have decoded the chimpanzee genome, we know that we share 98% of our DNA with chimps. So how can we be so different? The answer lies in the fact that a very few mutations make for some very big differences.
The Mind of the Chimpanzee, Jane Goodall, from Through a Window, Houghton Mifflin, 1990
It has long been recognized that the differences in anatomy and physiology between apes and humans is only a matter of degree. Because of the work of Jane Goodall, we have come to realize that there is continuity in the mental and emotional developments as well.
Got Culture?, Craig Stanford, from Significant Others, Basic Books, 2001
The study of the rudimentary cultural abilities of the chimpanzee not only sharpens our understanding of our uniqueness as humans, but it also suggests an ancient ancestry of the mental abilities that we and the chimpanzees have in common.
Dim Forest, Bright Chimps, Christophe Boesch and Hedwige Boesch- Achermann, Natural History, September 1991
Contrary to expectations, forest-dwelling chimpanzees seem to be more committed to cooperative hunting and tool use than are savanna chimpanzees. Such findings may have implications for the understanding of the course of human evolution.
Primal Instinct, Abigail Tucker, Smithsonian, November 2012
The more numerous western lowland gorilla is a separate species from the mountain gorillas of Dian Fossey, but it, too, is in endanger as a result of logging, poaching, and transmissible diseases from humans. Living in the more remote recesses of the African rainforest and being more difficult to habituate to humans, they are nevertheless important for study and in need of our help.
Earthly Delights, Frans de Waal, from The Bonobo and the Atheist, Norton, 2013
Where does—or should—our morality come from? Does it come from God or is it ingrained in our very nature as social beings? In searching for answers, Frans de Wall finds tendencies toward empathy in our closer mammalian and primate relatives as well as in ourselves. While the concept of a supernatural source may be very helpful, it is also true that, long before present-day religious institutions our ancestors would have not survived without some sense of right and wrong.
What Are Friends For?, Barbara Smuts, Natural History, February 1987
An understanding of friendship bonds that exist among baboons is not only destroying our stereotypes about monkeys in the wild, but is also calling into question the traditional views concerning the relationships between the sexes in early hominid evolution.
What's Love Got to Do with It?: Sex Among Our Closest Relatives Is a Rather Open Affair, Meredith F. Small, Discover, June 1992
The bonobos' use of sex to reduce tension and to form alliances is raising some interesting questions regarding human evolution. Does this behavior help to explain the origin of our sexuality? Or should we see it as just another primate aberration that occurred after the split from the human lineage?
The Double Life of Women, Annie Murphy Paul, Psychology Today, November/December 2010
Women actually have two sexualities, one when they are ovulating and the other during the rest of the month. Moreover, the invisible turns of the reproductive cycle shape the everyday behavior of both women and men as her cycle influences not just her preference in a partner, but her personality as well.
Mothers and Others, Sarah Blaffer Hrdy, Natural History, May 2001
In many species, including our own, mothers are assisted in rearing their offspring by others. The more we adhere to this evolutionary heritage of "cooperative breeding," the more likely we are to raise emotionally healthy children.
Our True Dawn, Catherine Brahic, New Scientist, November 24, 2012
As paleontologists have searched for fossil remains to establish the timing of the evolutionary split between our ancestors and apes, geneticists have tackled the same problem using DNA. After earlier disagreeing with the fossil hunters, calling for a significantly later time for the split, the geneticists' new molecular clock may well prove the paleontologists right.
First of Our Kind, Kate Wong, Scientific American, April 2012
Researchers have revealed new details about the anatomy of Australopithecus sediba, a primitive hominin that existed around the same time early Homo species first began to appear on Earth. The new findings make it clear that this ancient relative displayed both primitive characteristics as well as modern, human-like traits. The mosaic nature of hominin features, researchers suggest, make A. sediba the best candidate for an ancestor to the genus Homo.
Rethinking Neanderthals, Joe Alper, Smithsonian, June 2003
Contrary to the widely held view that Neanderthals were evolutionary failures, the fact is that they persisted through some of the harshest climates imaginable. Over a period of 200,000 years, they had made some rather sophisticated tools and have had a social life that involved taking care of the wounded and burying the dead.
Twilight of the Neandertals, Kate Wong, Scientific American, August 2009
With their large brains and enormous strength, Neandertals were well suited to the rigors of hunting ice age mammals. But as the climate changed and a new kind of human appeared on the landscape, their numbers dwindled and they could no longer compete.
Interbreeding with Neanderthals, Carl Zimmer, Discover, March 2013
The recovery of DNA from fossil hominins such as the Neanderthals is enabling us to make genetic comparisons with modern populations. From such analyses, we are increasingly able to reconstruct the migrations of ancient peoples, figure out who mated with whom along the way and, perhaps, the implications of such interbreeding for modern human health.
A New View of the Birth of Homo sapiens, Ann Gibbons, Science Magazine, January 28, 2011
Did modern humans come out of Africa, spread around the world, and replace, rather than mate with, the archaic humans they met? New genomic data is shedding light on this decades-long dispute. It appears that neither the out-of-Africa replacement model nor the multi-regional hypothesis will completely win out.
Meet the New Human Family, Jill Neimark, Discover, May 2011
There was a time when our ancestors shared the planet with other human species. Today, we stand alone, but the remains of the others, in the form of fossils as well as in the record of our DNA, tell remarkable stories.
Refuting a Myth About Human Origins, John J. Shea, American Scientist, March/April 2011
For decades, archeologists have believed that modern human behavior as reflected in tools and food-getting strategies developed along with what is identified in the fossil record as "modern Homo sapiens," but archeological evidence now shows that some of these behaviors, most importantly our capacity for wide behavioral variability, actually occurred among people who had lived very long ago, particularly in Africa.
The Birth of Childhood, Ann Gibbons, Science Magazine, November 2008
Unlike our closest relatives, the apes, humans depend on their parents for a long period after weaning. New investigative technology has allowed researchers to determine when and why our long childhood evolved.
The Evolution of Grandparents, Rachel Caspari, Scientific American, August 2011
A marked increase in survivorship of adults in the Upper Paleolithic had far-reaching effects on the nature of society. The appearance of a grandparental generation meant more resources available to the group, significant population increases, and a greater efficiency in the transmission and accumulation of cultural knowledge for future generations. These changes may very well have accounted for our ancestors being the only hominid species left standing.
A Bigger, Better Brain, Maddalena Bearzi and Craig Stanford, American Scientist, September/October 2010
The diverse food-getting strategies employed by dolphin and ape societies are an excellent gauge of their social complexity as well as an example of how brain complexity, social complexity, and ecological complexity are all linked.
The Naked Truth, Nina G. Jablonski, Scientific American, February 2010
Recent findings lay bare the origins of human hairlessness and hint that naked skin was a key factor in the emergence of other human traits, such as the ability to cover long distances in the pursuit of food.
Can White Men Jump?: Ethnicity, Genes, Culture, and Success, David Shenk, from The Genius in All of Us; Why Everything You've Been Told about Genetics, Talent, and IQ Is Wrong, Doubleday, 2010
Clusters of ethnic and geographical athletic success prompt suspicions of hidden genetic advantages. The real advantages are much more cultural, more nuanced, and less hidden.
Skin Deep, Nina G. Jablonski and George Chaplin, Scientific American, October 2002
Although recent migrations and cultural adaptation tend to complicate the picture, human skin color has evolved to be dark enough to prevent sunlight from destroying the nutrient folate, but light enough to foster the production of vitamin D.
How Real Is Race?: Using Anthropology to Make Sense of Human Diversity, Carol Mukhopadhyay and Rosemary C. Henze, Phi Delta Kappan, May 2003
The authors claim that race is not a scientifically valid biological category. Instead, looking at it as a historically specific way of thinking about categorizing and treating human beings, race can be seen as a cultural invention.
The Tall and the Short of It, Barry Bogin, Discover, February 1998
Rather than being able to adapt to a single environment, we can, thanks to our genetically endowed plasticity, change our bodies to cope with a wide variety of environments.In this light, research suggests that we can use the average height of any group of people as a barometer of the health of that particular society.
Dead Men Do Tell Tales, William R. Maples, from Dead Men Do Tell Tales, Broadway Books, 1994
This classic piece by Maples maintains its relevance as a plea for the continued and expanded use of forensic anthropology. There are just too many stories yet to be told and so much justice yet to be carried out.
The Viral Superhighway, George J. Armelagos, The Sciences, January/February 1998
The modern world is becoming a viral superhighway. Environmental disruptions and international travel have brought on a new era of human illness, one marked by new diabolical diseases.
The Perfect Plague, Jared Diamond and Nathan Wolfe, Discover, November 2008
Globalization, changing climate, and the threat of drug resistance have conspired to set the stage for that perfect microbial storm; a situation in which an emerging pathogen—another HIV or smallpox perhaps—might burst on the scene and kill millions of people before we can respond.
The Inuit Paradox, Patricia Gadsby, Discover, October 2004
The traditional diet of the Far North, with its high-protein, high-fat content, shows that there are no essential foods—only essential nutrients.
Curse and Blessing of the Ghetto, Jared Diamond, Discover, March 1991
Tay-Sachs disease is a choosy killer, one that has targeted Eastern European Jews above all others for centuries. By decoding its lethal logic, we can learn a great deal about how genetic diseases evolve—and how they can be conquered.
Ironing It Out, Sharon Moalem, from Survival of the Sickest: A Medical Maverick Discovers Why We Need Disease, HarperCollins, 2007
Hemochromatosis is a hereditary disease that disrupts the human body's ability to metabolize iron. To understand why such a deadly disease would be bred into our genetic code, we need to take a closer look at European history, the bubonic plague, and medical practices that were discredited.
Our Animal Natures, Barbara Natterson-Horowitz and Kathryn Bowers, The New York Times Magazine, June 9, 2012
Various human diseases, from cancer to substance addiction, can best be understood in the context of comparative biology and our evolutionary origins. In other words, the more we understand the causes of such similar ailments in other creatures, the better we will be able to prevent and/or treat diseases that befall them as well as us.
Why We Help, Martin A. Nowak, Scientific American, July 2012
The author observes that there has been a pervasive selfishness among humans over the past 5,000 years of history, ever since the development of agriculture. Yet, an understanding of our behavioral roots in ancient hunter-gatherer societies, combined with more recent analyses of game theory and computer simulations of human social interaction, indicate that it has been cooperation and reciprocity driving the evolution of life and of humans, not selfishness and "tooth and claw" competition.
The 10,000-year Bender, Rob Dunn, New Scientist Magazine, January 26, 2013
Ever since the dawn of agriculture, humans have had an ambiguous relationship with alcohol-producing yeast. As a way of producing pleasurable feelings, sterilizing liquids and making grain more nourishing, the production of alcohol has had its benefits. On the other hand, over-indulgence of fermented brews has brought about a host of health and social problems that seems to have shifted the balance into a negative direction. Correspondingly, while the consumption of alcohol may have at one time shaped our bodies to accommodate it and thrive on it, natural selection may very well be reconfiguring our DNA to favor "drink less" genes.
The Evolution of Inequality, Deborah Rogers, New Scientist Magazine, July 28, 2012
Humans lived in egalitarian societies for tens of thousands of years before the development of agriculture. Maintaining a level playing field was a matter of survival. Then, with agriculture, wealth and authority became more centralized, and the more hierarchically organized societies eliminated the more egalitarian ones. A "survival-of-the-fittest" social structure is, therefore, not inevitable, but is a matter of choice.