Human Origins Essay, Research Paper
Many people have different views regarding the same topic. Over the years, countless theories have been brought forward to answer the question of human origins. Scientists, archaeologists, anthropologists and religious groups have spent lots of time arguing in support of their own respected theories. With the use of technology such as carbon dating and improvements in scientific methods; new fossil evidence has traced humanities bipedalism back to five million years, shedding some light on humanities past. Conversely, these new fossil finds have only led to more controversy. The church also has a set view on human origins and it differs very much from that of scientists. The theories of Johanson, Leakey and the church can tell us a lot about human origins.
While working Hadar near the Afar region in Ethiopia in 1974, Donald Johanson made one very controversial archaeological find. This was 40% of an Australopithecus skeleton that he decided to name Lucy. At this time Lucy was known as the oldest hominid. Her teeth structure indicated that she was in her mid twenties and her knee joint and pelvis indicated that she was an upright walker, similar to those of a modern woman. Contrary to other species of the time, Lucy had a very small brain, practically the size of a small chimpanzee, the smallest out of any other hominids discovered at that time. A few years after, in 1975, Johanson and his colleague Tim White returned to that same region and uncovered ?the First Family?, this was four children and nine adult males and females. For more than two years White and Johanson and White studied the fossils they brought back from the site. Previously, White had worked with Mary Leakey who had found 3 sets of fossilized hominids in Laetoli; White found that the Johanson fossils and the Leaky fossils were similar in date and nature. White convinced Johanson that the two were from the same species and a new species; Australopithecus afarensis was named in 1979. Johanson believed that all homos evolved from Australopithecus afarensis; he concluded that they were the only hominids living before three million years. Johanson assumed that between three and two million years ago, Afarensis lived all over Africa, then evolved into different species such as the africanus, robustus and boisei. After a while all those species went extinct, except for the afarensis in the east, which evolved into Homo habilis two million years ago, which then evolved into Homo erectus 1.7 million years ago and then to Homo sapiens three hundred thousand years ago. Donald Johanson, with his finds stirred mixed feelings among the archaeological community.
While working in Tanzania, and in the same regions as the Johanson team, the Leakey family also uncovered many controversial fossils. In 1961, Jonathan Leakey found the skull of a species that was 1.75 million years old, Richard Leakey decided to name this species Homo habilis, a few years after that at Lake Turkana they discovered another Homo habilis skull, but this one was much bigger. They found the Johanson theory of the Laetoli footprints to be foolish, they found the fossils to be more Homo, and thought that they were very different from the fossils Johanson had found in Ethiopia. The find of the Laetoli footprints confirmed that humans had been walking upright for about 3.6 million years and also, their feet were identical to those of modern humans. This was important to evolution according to the Leakey theory because it freed the hands allowing for many other tasks to be carried out and further evolution of the homo species. In 1984, Richard Leakey and a colleague Alan Walker while working in Kenya discovered the most complete Homo erectus skeleton; the find was a boy that was 12 years of age and 160cm tall. The boy had facial features very similar to those of modern humans except that he had a low forehead and a beetle brow. The Leakey family also had their own opinion regarding the Johanson ?first family?. They believed that the? first family? was not a family, but were two different species because the so-called ?males? were twice as big as the females and even though males are generally larger than females, the difference in size within the family is not very plausible. The Leakey family believed that the two sexes within the family were in fact two different species. The Leaky theory for evolution is that Homo habilis was the first human and that the Australopithecus did not evolve into Homo habilis but Australopithecus was just a side branch of the homo species that became extinct. Leakey though that between 3 and 2 million years ago, some sort of cooling of the Earth occurred and dryer climates were brought about the continents, except in eastern Africa, where Homo adjusted to the climate changes, learning how to use stone tools; this resulted in the expansion of the homo brain. This meant that the homos had a change in their every day life, such as adding more meat to their diets. About one million years ago the Homo erectus migrated out of Africa and populated Asia, Europe and more parts of Africa about 300 thousand years ago. The theory of the Leaky family added to the controversy surrounding human origins.
The Catholic Church has also made a comment on evolution. The church believes that humans were created in the likeliness of God, meaning that God created the human race and in fact, it did not evolve over the years. In the past, it was a sin to even consider the idea of evolution, but in today?s modern church, the views have been revised and the church has no problem with the idea of evolution and condones the study of it. Pope John Paul II said, that everything written in scripture is not meant to be taken literally but it must be interpreted and taken symbolically. As well, the church still establishes that the bible gives us a vision of life and that we can follow that vision if we choose to. As long as peace and belief God is the central goal of life, the church has no problem with the idea of evolution. The Catholic view instills a feeling of security in peoples mind.
The theories of Johanson and the church are not very credible, first of all, Johanson thought that Australopithecus afarensis was the first hominid on earth, but Leakey proved that because of patterns in evolution, it is not possible for the brain to increase by 50% in size in such a short time frame. As well, the church believes that God was the creator of everything, but if he was, who in fact created this being that created all of mankind? Also the church cannot explain the different shapes of bones and body structures fossilized. Additionally, the church does not take a firm stance on whether evolution is considered wrong, basically contradicting their belief that God is the creator of all and it is good. By not taking a firm stance, the church is really agreeing with the scientific world and accepting that man has evolved over many millions of years. The Leakey theory is most believable because they can support their finds with dating and a timeline of what happened to the Homo line.
The theories of Johanson, Leakey and The Church give lots of insight about human origins. With Johanson?s theory of Lucy and the first family, the great debate between Johanson and Leakey and the Laetoli footprints began as well; this forced the church to answer more questions about its view on evolution and also caused many people to take another look at the possibility of evolution. As well, these finds helped to reveal some traits regarding our past and also aided in making the idea of evolution a believable one. People interpret things differently; this gives us many options to consider when making our own opinions about certain topics.