A few topics are best avoided in polite conversations, namely religion, politics and money. Evolution, with its contradictory “facts” and cryptic pseudo-theories, should be added to that list, too.
The field known as evolution borders on being based on faith rather than grounded in actual scientific fact. Existing theories are debunked and discarded regularly as new evidence constantly comes to light to prove the irrelevance of previously concepts.
Meanwhile, we, the common people, often find it difficult to grasp the idea that we might actually share a common ancestry with mushrooms, ringworms and gorillas.
The basic notion of humanity’s origin in a nutshell is this: Man and other primates evolved from a common ape-like ancestor and have somehow branched out around 4 to 5 million years ago.
Simple right? Darwin didn’t really think so. In his five years traveling around the world observing animals and studying variations of certain species, he came to a conclusion that all life must have originated from a common ancestor .
On the other hand, Darwin was careful in applying his own theories to humans. Although he believed that a process of elimination or “survival of the fittest” was applicable to all species, he believed that “sexual selection” rather than natural selection led to the evolution of early humans.
Machismo: A Throwback to Caveman Behavior?
The term “Sexual Selection” was coined to describe the struggle of males and females of a species to acquire desirable partners.
Certain acts were deemed necessary in attracting potential mates. Shows of strength or maybe an extensive collection of animal bones might just get you the right cavewoman.
The female choice of desirable partners was based on specific traits that cavewomen thought could enhance their survival and that of their progeny.
In other species, this is quite common. Birds show off plumage, gorillas thump their chests, caribou clash horns and lions fight rival males. Nowadays, jocks down a liter of beer through a beer bong as a demonstration of prowess.
Rami and Rama
The earliest theorized hominid , Ardipithicus Ramidus, was believed to have branched out from a primeval ape with which humankind and modern apes (Ardipithicus Ramapithecus) share a common ancestry (the “missing link”).
The Ramidus hominids had developed feet, and they were more suited walking on the forest floor. Their distant cousins, Ramapithecus, had opposing thumbs on all limbs, making them more suitable for brachiating.
“Rami” preferred a vegetarian diet and foraged for food, while the more agile “Rama” opted for a more diverse diet. When predators such as large cats ventured into the forest to hunt, Rami’s kind usually fell prey due to their limited agility and fleeing ability, as opposed to Rama’s ability to escape to the trees and forest canopy.
It was this determining factor that might have facilitated the branching and specialization of the two families. Rami and his kind had to come up with a new survival mechanism—that of banding with his fellow footed hominids to increase their chances of survival.
The discovery of using rocks, fallen branches and intimidation might have proved useful in protecting the group form large predators, too.
Disadvantage Becomes Advantage
While Rama and his kind were busy brachiating above treetops, the Ramis were interacting among themselves more frequently. This led to more complex relationships or hierarchies, while also producing more effective survival techniques.
The Ramapithecus’s less stable environment must have rendered their kind less developed. This was largely because they were relatively more mobile and less settled than their Rami cousins—hindering greater interaction, exchanges of knowledge and experiences.
At the same time, their Ramidus counterparts, though nomadic, were slightly more advanced and complex. Their social units were developed as a result of a more “settled” lifestyle.
These factors as well as mutations, migrations, sexual selection and natural selection played a part in the evolution of early hominids. They led to far more complex variations of man that evolved to adjust to each era as time passed. The rest, so they say, is history.
Alfablue, January 2012