In today's episode of the Purposeful Lab Podcast, Dan and Catherine discuss a crash course in human evolution. Dan is an expert on biological evolution and works at Franciscan University. Throughout the course of the episode, Dan explains the context in which humans emerge, summarizes the pattern of convergence in evolution, and how the first humans emerged from the hominin species.
Patterns of Human Evolution
Throughout the history of the evolution of the hominin species to homo sapiens, we don't see a simple linear progression. Rather, evolution looks more like a mosaic pattern, with certain species of humans evolving in different ways.
However, there was still a progression. As the hominin species began to evolve and migrate from Africa, a wide array of large-brained hominids began to emerge. This evolution eventually led to the emergence of modern humans.
Factors in Human Evolution
Until about 2 million years ago, all hominin fossils were found in Africa. One of the foremost factors in the eventual evolution and migration of the hominin species was changes in climate. Around the time of 2 million years ago, the world was subject to a global cooling which caused more water to be trapped in the Arctic poles, drying out most of Africa.
In order to adapt to this rapid drying, the hominin needed a more upright posture in order to quickly traverse longer distances in search of water and better distribution of heat. Additionally, in order to serve in a multi-faceted manner, hominids needed a larger brain. Eventually, the evolution of the hominin brain led to the homo sapiens brain, which possesses the capability of rational and abstract thought.
Is Human Evolution Random Chance?
While many people may be apt to posit the multi-varied emergence of different hominids imply that the evolution to homo sapiens was a product of random chance, the patterns of convergent evolution point to the reality that the progression was inevitable. Perhaps there could have been different patterns of other forms of hominids, but the unique advantage and progression of the large-brained hominids seem to be anything but random.
Evolution of First Modern Humans
The fossil records show that the first humans emerged around 200,000–300,000 years ago. The first modern human form started in Africa, and humans, just like modern forms of humans, were seen roughly 100 thousand years ago. These humans were capable of symbolic thought and intentional creation. Records from this time show artifacts and tools that were intentionally built.
Additionally, around 50 thousand years ago, we began to see cave paintings and the emergence of human populations, which gave rise to cultures forming. Eventually, we see culture explode everywhere, which prompts the history of Western Civilization.
Take a Listen
This podcast explores how evolution is a complex and ordered phenomenon, which is responsible for the emergence of the modern human. However, Dan also explains that evolution can only be truly understood when juxtaposed with creation. While the human being emerged from the hominin species, the form was able to receive a rational soul, made in the image and likeness of God. Creation is the solution to the tendency of many scientists to reduce the human person to a mere product of genetic mutation. When looking at both creation and evolution, we can observe an ordered and nuanced mosaic in which the human person emerges as a unity of body and soul.