Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Questions about Homo Sapiens Sapiens

Question 2: Why is Homo Sapiens Sapiens found in so much variety of appearance?

In Part 1 of it says: But fission and migration doesn't always work. When we were surrounded by other tribes just far enough away that we know they are there, we couldn't easily fission and move apart. We had solve the population problem another way. We had to control our population without moving, in a more direct manner.

The only technology we had for that was infanticide. If we wanted to use abortion, even if we knew a method safe for the mother, we wouldn't know that it was the undesirable infant we killed. And there was little point in waiting until we had a lot invested in a person, and then killing them and wasting all that effort. So we had no choice but infanticide to keep the tribe a stable size.

The problem is that infanticide requires us to choose which infants to kill, and there aren't enough babies like Oedipus (with swollen feet) who was born with a visually obvious disability.

The only easy choice was to kill those infants who didn't look like the rest of us.

The result of that practice is that while the individuals of our species in different places might look quite different, in any one locality we pretty much look alike.

We refer to that global variety and local uniformity of appearance and language as "race".

We evolved the characteristics we call "racial" not by "natural selection" based on the laws of evolution but by the same kind of artificial selection we use in breeding show animals. The important conclusion is that no "race" is more likely to be better at survival than any other, because the selection for "race" was simply based on appearance. And that remains the case: no "race" is better or worse than any other, we just look different."

A special case should be mentioned. Some anthropologists, with more good intentions than common sense, have argued that because Africans who live close to the equator have darker skins than Scots or Swedes, skin color was determined by the latitude in which one grew up. Unfortunately the Lapps and the Innuit, both of whom live at a greater latitude than, say the English or Swedes, also have a darker complexion.

This corresponds to another phenomenon. Research on grave sies in Britain and Scandinavia have found that when grain agriculture was introduced to the region around the Baltic Sea, the residents stopped eating fish. That meant that they were unlikely to get enough vitamin D except through sunlight exposure, which tends to fall short in that region. That meant that people with a pigmented skin were also likely to suffer from vitamin D deficiency and, thus, from rickets.

Life was not gentle during the mesolithic-neolithic transition, and rickets would not have been a positive factor for survival. Thus the evolution of "the White Race" was most likely a by-product of an Anglo-scandinavian boredom with fish as opposed to bread.

In any case, the lightness of skin color among the anglo-scandinavian population is not in any way related to any kind ohf virtue. If our ancestors hadn't lost their taste for fish we'd probably be as dark as the other people who live in our latitude.


  1. Is Homo Sapiens Sapiens found in so much variety of appearance? Compared to what ?

  2. Think about tigers. When you get one that's white and black rather than orange and black it is a news item. We, on the other hand, range from a ghastly white to a deep black and nobody is surprised.