Posts Tagged ‘science-ish’

Becoming Human

We frequently (only?) read historical fiction books here, but what about pre-history? There are many pre-history books out, and after the success of the Earth’s Children series, more are sure to follow.

Personally, I’ve been interested in evolution lately, especially human evolution, and watching every evolutionary documentary Netflix has made available. I thought it was high time I read a book about the topic. Living in a small, rural town, there’s not much cause for books on human evolution at my local library. However, I was lucky enough to come across The Link: Uncovering Our Earliest Ancestor by Colin Tudge. Admittedly, this takes me back rather further than any pre-historical fiction would, but I find it all fascinating.

Ida, primate fossilThe book follows the discovery and research into Ida, a Darwinius masillae,  dating from about 47 million years ago (that’s the Eocene period.) They paid particular attention to how Ida might have lived; what her surroundings were like; creatures she lived alongside; how she probably moved around her world; and the probable cause of her death. The book describes ways in which Ida is similar to us and ways in which she differs. Most intriguingly, Tudge attempts to place her on the tree of human evolution — making her a potential candidate for when the great apes, chimps and such (including ourselves) broke off from other primates. Although, I must stress, it is not concrete where exactly on the primate tree Ida lies; only that she is definitively a very early primate.

The science is all very interesting, but what I wonder every time I watch or read something about human evolution is when did we gain our self-awareness, our forethought and planning skills, in short when did we acquire those ineffable traits which make humankind distinct from animals? Of course, this is something that may never be fully understood by scientists, not the least of which because there is argument over what actually, if anything, distinguishes us from the rest of the animal kingdom.

Another phenomenon I find interesting is human development from child into adult. Have you ever thought about how similar babies are to animals? I know my dog has much more personality than infants. (You’ll probably be reading more along this line of thinking as I am currently reading Inside of a Dog by Alexandra Horowitz.)

The Link is well-written and accessible even if you only recall your high school biology. In fact, I’d say a little too much so, since even I was left thinking, “Right. I know. Move on with it already.” I would recommend this to someone who is just starting to be interested in evolution.

These and other cool facts and videos can be found on their website: http://www.revealingthelink.com/ (I just love living in the future!)


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