Wednesday, 30 January 2013

How evolution has made us what we are

I have agreed to talk to our local U3A Science & Technology group in February on the mechanics of evolution with a special emphasis on the mechanisms that drive the changes,  and later in the year I may follow up with a talk on human evolution in terms of the fossils, etc, that have been found in recent years.

The following is the "sound byte" summary for the talk together with a list of topics to be considered in drafting the presentation:

How evolution has made us what we are

I examine how recent scientific advances show the ways evolution has shaped the human body and mind – and the important role played by climate change in Africa three million years ago.

Key Topics

  1. The basic elements of Evolution: DNA – Sex – and the mechanisms of gradual change – homology - why our body plan is not that different to the early mammals. (10 minutes)
  2. How tree life shaped the primates – longer childhoods and animal cultures (5 minutes)
  3. Surviving climate change and the African Rain Forests – Living in new environments and the effects on the human body – walking upright – loosing hair – the use of tools - menopause (15 minutes)
  4. An important tipping point – culture and the development of language – we have bigger brains but can we use them more effectively than some other animals? What causes the so-called “God Slot” (20 minutes)
  5. Other Homo species (Neanderthal, Densiovan) and the move out of Africa. The Coming of Civilization – is evolution still happening - are there significant differences between different races and/or the sexes? (10 minutes)

(If you have been following this blog you will know that I am particularly interested in the evolution of intelligence, and how my own research throws some light on possible pathways. While the above talk will mention how the coming of language could lead to a period where, in evolutionary terms, it is more advantageous for human brains to concentrate on rote learning while encouraging imaginative learning (the ability to think for oneself) to become less important. Once the talk is out of the way I will be posting a more detailed argument to show that this is the probable cause of the "God Spot." )

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