The Garden Of Eden Is Now, Idiots

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It is indeed interesting to ponder where homo sapiens sapiens first started out from. It’s not actually entirely necessary that it all happened in one place even – that ability to interbreed with Neanderthals and Denisovans shows that the break didn’t have to have just the one starting point.

However, the language used about it all needs some revision:

Where exactly in Africa we first appeared has never been established, however. Some researchers have argued that the cradle of humankind lay in the east, in Ethiopia or Kenya. Others have put their money on South Africa. But most were sure it would only be a matter of time before our species’ birthplace was pinpointed: perhaps on land covering a huge estuary that once groaned with fish or near a vast slice of savannah rich with game. It was here, in some Stone Age paradise, that our more primitive predecessors honed their intellectual and cultural skills and were transformed into Homo sapiens, a species of primate notable for its rounded skull, small face, prominent chin, advanced tools, high intelligence and sophisticated culture.

That wouldn’t be the right place to start anyway. A rich environment is not something that is going to promote intelligence – with that expensive brain to feed – as a survival aid. It’s living on the edge, not among plenty, that requires the cunning and the smarts. But:

It is a neat picture. However, in recent years cracks have begun to appear in this simple image of our distant past, mainly because plausible candidates for our birthplace have proved hard to find. As a result, a growing number of researchers are turning away from the idea that such an Arcadia existed. As the Harvard geneticist David Reich has put it: “When it comes to human ancestry, there was no Garden of Eden.”

Yes, OK, we know what is meant by Eden here but it’s still the wrong concept. As far as any animal has ever had it Eden is right now. By any standard of history we’ve solved the problem of economic scarcity. All have shelter, warmth, food – hey, sure, maybe not steak for all and a 25oC central heating system but compared to being out there we’ve all got it all. We’ve done it, We’ve created that Eden, the land of milk and honey.

As I often point out, the good old days are right now. The language we use should acknowledge that. There was no primeval past when everything was just coming up roses, the best we’ve ever done is early 21st century capitalism.

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Boganboy
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Boganboy

Since the mega-fauna were able to adapt to humans more successfully in Africa than elsewhere, and diseases from animal reservoirs that can infect humans also appear more plentiful there, I’d argue that humanity’s initial home was there. As Blood so nicely put it, ‘Whatever happens we have got, the maxim gun and they have not.’ Only diseases can evolve anywhere near as fast as technology. Thus I agree that the Garden of Eden is now. Alas one day, the dreaded plastic eater will consume my bottle of nice cool water, just as resistance to drugs seems to be outpacing antibiotics,… Read more »

Snarkus
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Snarkus

@BoganBoy: Precisely why I think the reverse. As southern Africa was settled the current local tribes about 1000 years ago I think Southern Africa was recently settled by humans. Genetic sampling of North Africa mummies suggest 4000+ years ago by migrants from Phoenicia and Mesopotamia. Not a fashionable view but every where else humans arrived, mega fauna eventually vanished. Granted the Testse fly and a few other disease vectors kept human numbers low in Africa so mega fauna would last longer.

Spike
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Spike

Yes, a time of scarcity would work Survival of the Fittest better than a time of plenty, but better yet a time of plenty in which social institutions emerged that promoted it. Tim showed recently how ancient Jews and Chinese got their best brains to procreate.

We are improving on natural processes now that we know what we’re doing (Genetic Modification rather than trial-and-error crossbreeding). At the same time, we are declining to breed, and importing new residents based on pathos rather than valor.

Gavin Longmuir
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Gavin Longmuir

“A rich environment is not something that is going to promote intelligence …” And now we live in a rich environment, richest it has ever been. Looks around himself for signs of intelligence. Concludes that the assertion is supportable. More seriously, if there had been the postulated rich environment in ancient Africa, our ancestors would have bred like bunnies until there was barely enough food to support the larger population — and we would have been living on the edge again. Even more seriously, we know that selective breeding works — because we have improved the stock of the animals… Read more »

Pcar
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Pcar

From where: well the Abos believe they grew from Aus soil and Aus Unis pander to this

Anyway, does it matter precisely where homo-sapiens originated? Those erectus leaving Africa is good enough

25oC central heating

Arrgh, no; way too hot and uncomfortable 15oC more like it