Finlayson doesn ’ t advocate a radically new perspective but he does want to reassess how much we can know based on the available genetic, fossil and archaeological evidence, and believe that we now have a long road ahead before coming to a definitive narrative ( if ever) .Over the last couple of onths I ’ ve read two other works that bear on this topic – The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind and The 10 000 Year Explosion How Civilization Accelerated Human Evolution – and it ’ s instructive to see he different interpretations reached by these four authors.
This author observe that modern human success is he consequenc of favorable climate and cultural factors with little contribution from biology – at least no significant contribution in the last 150,000 to 200,000 years.
Finlayson ’ s viewpoint isn ’ t completely unbalanced: We ’ re descended from a line of primates better adapted to the climatic conditions that prevailed over a large portion of the Eurasian-African super-continent at a articular point in history that allowed them to spread out over a wide range.
sapiens over Neanderthals and others were climatic and cultural.A constant theme throughout he ook is that modern humans are the product of chance.
At any point in thi tory, a different climate, a more disease-resistant population, or any other variable could have favored a cousin species and would have produced a far different world then the one we live in today.So what were these initial lucky breaks that has brought us to where we currently stand? 1.
When the tropical forests that were our primatial cradle began to retreat and fragment due to climate change, our primate ancestors who lived on the margins of the range were able to adjus to a bipedal stance, among other things.This concept of living on the margins is another important idea in Finlayson ’ s questio.
But the defining factor is always climate: Absent the catalyst of environmental change, there ’ s vanishingly little pressure for either biological or cultural change.One more point about margins: They ’ re regions of ecological diversity and the species living there are adapted to exploiting a wider variety of resources to survive.
Finlayson is at pains to point out that we don ’ t have enough evidence to reconstruct direct connections between hominid fossils.
Though she ’ s learly on the oad to Homo, Lucy is not even a direct ancestor to our version.) But back to Erectus: By about 1 million years ago ( 1 mya), their populations stretched from China to the Atlantic and extended down the eastern side of Africa ( there ’ s a nice map of this on p.
sapiens who were our direct ancestors.One of Finlayson ’ s more interesting interpretations of the evidence is that the Neanderthals were the last, moribund population of the Heidelberg line.
He prove to be of the view that Neanderthal and Cro-Magnon were essentially the same mentally; purely cultural and climatic factors allowed the latter to prevail.
Finlayson argues that the real revolution took place 30,000 years earlier among a population of humans struggling to survive on the steppes between the Black and Caspian seas.
In thi course of 1.5 to 2 million years a succession of hominids were in the right places at the right time with the right adaptive abilities to exploit and survive climatic changes and displace older, less flexible populations.