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  1. #1
    Certified Sausage Smoker Elfboy's Avatar
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    Default Questions about human evolution

    first off, I'd like to start by saying I find human evolution fascinating and think it is probably true, but there are some aspects of it that just do not make sense to me.
    - why are our feet so deformed and weak? why don't we have any kind of protective padding like other primates or wolves?
    - why are our bodies so frail? compared to other predators like tigers, bears etc, human beings have relatively little ability to sustain major injuries.
    - why are humans so weak psychologically? the average human being is so psychologically fragile it is pathetic. people are generally fearful of conflict and have a very difficult time finding psychological balance, overcoming psychological distress and staying strong in the face of conflict.
    - where are all of our instincts? sure, humans are intelligent and quick learners, but if you threw most people out into the wilderness and they had to survive, most of them would die without years of training and study of various plants and hunting techniques
    - why is killing so unnatural for us? sure, humans in the past have done it a lot, but it seems we need to be pushed to unnatural limits to do so. how would someone like an INFP or enneagram 4 survive in a world where killing to survive was a necessity?
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  2. #2
    Senior Member UniqueMixture's Avatar
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    A lot of the answers to your questions require not thinking about evolution on just the individual level. All creatures evolve collectively and individually. Human social culture of various members of a community optimized for different tasks allows for and even "requires" various weaknesses because non-optimized tasks for the individual are supposed to be picked up by various members of the community. For example, take the "gay" gene as an instance. It may not make sense from an individual point of view how such a gene could propagate itself, but from an evolutionary standpoint gay members of a community generate resources for a community without those resources being consumed by the children of the individual. This creates surplus resources for the other members of the community.
    For all that we have done, as a civilization, as individuals, the universe is not stable, and nor is any single thing within it. Stars consume themselves, the universe itself rushes apart, and we ourselves are composed of matter in constant flux. Colonies of cells in temporary alliance, replicating and decaying and housed within, an incandescent cloud of electrical impulses. This is reality, this is self knowledge, and the perception of it will, of course, make you dizzy.

  3. #3

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    Quote Originally Posted by Elfboy View Post
    - why are our feet so deformed and weak? why don't we have any kind of protective padding like other primates or wolves?
    I'm not sure what you mean by deformed and weak. Our feet our perfectly capable of supporting our weight.

    As for padding, our feet can become calloused. When I was a kid, I use to run around barefoot all the time. No issues. My parents did the same thing.

    It may not be as strong a padding as other animals, but we didn't really need it.

    Anything that is not needed is using energy, and in the past where food was hard to come by, that would mean that there would be evolutionary pressure to get rid of it over the generations.

    Quote Originally Posted by Elfboy View Post
    - why are our bodies so frail? compared to other predators like tigers, bears etc, human beings have relatively little ability to sustain major injuries.
    Fragile in what respect? People heal from cuts, lesions, fractures and broken bones. We can survive even with broken bones and lost limbs.

    Again, sturdier bodies require energy--energy better suited to fulfill the human evolutionary niche...thinking in order to survive.

    Quote Originally Posted by Elfboy View Post
    - why are humans so weak psychologically? the average human being is so psychologically fragile it is pathetic. people are generally fearful of conflict and have a very difficult time finding psychological balance, overcoming psychological distress and staying strong in the face of conflict.
    Humans are social animals. Thus our psychology reflects that of being one. We can 't really tell how dogs or other mammals feel, but I've heard of gorillas, dogs, and even pandas becoming depressed at the loss of a mate or master.

    Quote Originally Posted by Elfboy View Post
    - where are all of our instincts? sure, humans are intelligent and quick learners, but if you threw most people out into the wilderness and they had to survive, most of them would die without years of training and study of various plants and hunting techniques
    As we learn more about instincts, we are finding even many bird migration patterns are essentially imprinted in them from the previous generation.

    Quote Originally Posted by Elfboy View Post
    - why is killing so unnatural for us? sure, humans in the past have done it a lot, but it seems we need to be pushed to unnatural limits to do so. how would someone like an INFP or enneagram 4 survive in a world where killing to survive was a necessity?
    I don't think we have a problem killing plants and animals for food. Killing each other to survive is not necessarily a good thing for the species, especially for social animals.

    Like UniqueMixture said, evolution is something that happens with populations over generations. Although the details need to be worked out, there isn't anything I know of that makes human evolution a dubious theory.

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  4. #4
    Senior Member Owlesque's Avatar
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    I did my undergrad in biological anthropology and zoology, but it was focused mostly on osteology so I won't comment on the instinctual/psychological questions...

    The physical attributes are more a lack of evolutionary pressure - early humans (of our own species, not just distant members of the same genus) had bones that were distinctly more robust than modern humans' because they undoubtedly lived much more strenuous lives and couldn't afford to have the lighter skeletons of their more sedentary descendants (though even many of these robust specimens are riddled with healed fractures - humans as a whole are simply more gracile as energy consumption shifted towards increased brain size). Increased strain on the skeleton from extensive muscle also use triggers bone growth and strengthening much like soft tissue forms callous, so it's probably a combination of evolutionary and environmental pressure (think of it as a lack of pressure for robustness rather than positive pressure for gracility) that has resulted in our slender skeletons.

    The condition of our feet is further complicated by the fact that humans have only been bipedal for a short while, at least in terms of evolutionary time. We (for the most part) wear shoes, live fairly sedentary lives, and have removed ourselves from an environment where selective pressure can act on the strength of our bodies - an exceptionally robust individual is probably not any more likely to have children or live longer than a frail individual (assuming their stature is not the result of environmental factors such as diet/disease/etc) so genes from either are equally likely to be passed on.

  5. #5
    Senior Member UniqueMixture's Avatar
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    I dispute the last part, because athleticism and beauty play some role in mate selection.
    For all that we have done, as a civilization, as individuals, the universe is not stable, and nor is any single thing within it. Stars consume themselves, the universe itself rushes apart, and we ourselves are composed of matter in constant flux. Colonies of cells in temporary alliance, replicating and decaying and housed within, an incandescent cloud of electrical impulses. This is reality, this is self knowledge, and the perception of it will, of course, make you dizzy.

  6. #6
    Senior Member Owlesque's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by UniqueMixture View Post
    I dispute the last part, because athleticism and beauty play some role in mate selection.
    Yes, but beauty is highly variable, subjective, and not necessarily correlated with skeleton robusticity, and environmental changes in phenotype as brought about by physical activity/working out/etc. cannot be inherited so can't be acted on evolutionarily.

  7. #7
    Senior Member UniqueMixture's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Owlesque View Post
    Yes, but beauty is highly variable, subjective, and not necessarily correlated with skeleton robusticity, and environmental changes in phenotype as brought about by physical activity/working out/etc. cannot be inherited so can't be acted on evolutionarily.
    Wrong, there is growing evidence that behavior has an effect on gene expression. So phenotype can be an indicator of genotype. There is a field devoted to it called epigenetics.

    Edit:

    While the changes may not heritable they can work as "social proof" that the underlying genetic structure is robust.
    For all that we have done, as a civilization, as individuals, the universe is not stable, and nor is any single thing within it. Stars consume themselves, the universe itself rushes apart, and we ourselves are composed of matter in constant flux. Colonies of cells in temporary alliance, replicating and decaying and housed within, an incandescent cloud of electrical impulses. This is reality, this is self knowledge, and the perception of it will, of course, make you dizzy.

  8. #8
    insert random title here Randomnity's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Elfboy View Post
    first off, I'd like to start by saying I find human evolution fascinating and think it is probably true, but there are some aspects of it that just do not make sense to me.
    - why are our feet so deformed and weak? why don't we have any kind of protective padding like other primates or wolves?
    - why are our bodies so frail? compared to other predators like tigers, bears etc, human beings have relatively little ability to sustain major injuries.
    - why are humans so weak psychologically? the average human being is so psychologically fragile it is pathetic. people are generally fearful of conflict and have a very difficult time finding psychological balance, overcoming psychological distress and staying strong in the face of conflict.
    - where are all of our instincts? sure, humans are intelligent and quick learners, but if you threw most people out into the wilderness and they had to survive, most of them would die without years of training and study of various plants and hunting techniques
    - why is killing so unnatural for us? sure, humans in the past have done it a lot, but it seems we need to be pushed to unnatural limits to do so. how would someone like an INFP or enneagram 4 survive in a world where killing to survive was a necessity?
    Evolution doesn't really work like that. It works by having the "best" (=most-transmitted to offspring) random mutations survive. It isn't a process of developing some kind of optimized animal. It's actually a really chaotic process that only really makes sense on a large scale, since there is quite a lot of random chance involved.

    The answer to most of your questions is intelligence - developing culture, tools and traditions allowed us to survive without the keenly developed instincts/teeth and claws that some animals have. These social features are also probably why things like aversion to killing (at least within your own group) and "psychological fragility" etc are a fairly common human trait - but consider the millions of people who have been slaughtered by other people in the past, which is no doubt still occurring at this moment all over the world. I wouldn't really say that humans are averse to killing.

    Another thing is that society may evolve by a loose definition of the word, but not in a biological sense, since beliefs are not genetic - so changes in cultural beliefs etc are not really going to follow the same evolutionary rules.
    -end of thread-

  9. #9
    Senior Member UniqueMixture's Avatar
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    I wonder if beliefs can be correlated to genes

    http://lohdown.caltech.edu/script_ar...iew=2008-09-11
    For all that we have done, as a civilization, as individuals, the universe is not stable, and nor is any single thing within it. Stars consume themselves, the universe itself rushes apart, and we ourselves are composed of matter in constant flux. Colonies of cells in temporary alliance, replicating and decaying and housed within, an incandescent cloud of electrical impulses. This is reality, this is self knowledge, and the perception of it will, of course, make you dizzy.

  10. #10
    insert random title here Randomnity's Avatar
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    I should have said "not completely genetic". Pretty much anything about human behaviour is likely to be part genetics and part environment, including upbringing. But the environment factor means it won't follow the same pattern of evolution that something strictly genetic would.
    -end of thread-

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