Is there a Neanderthal in the house?

Feb 16, 2013 by Tracey Bryant

Bunions bothering you? How about lower back pain, or impacted wisdom teeth?

As we humans evolved over the millennia to walk on two legs, grow larger brains and shorter jaws, bear big babies and live longer, we've also experienced some negative consequences on our way to becoming the world's most successful primate, at nearly 7 billion strong.

But keeping our evolutionary history in mind can help us better deal with issues from obesity to difficult childbirth in a much more productive way, according to Karen Rosenberg, professor and chair of the Department of Anthropology at the University of Delaware.

Rosenberg co-organized and spoke on the "Scars of " panel at one of the largest scientific gatherings in the world—the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) on Friday, Feb. 15, in Boston.

The panel's title originated from a 1951 Scientific American article by Wilton Krogman that highlighted how our evolutionary history can account for many of the problems associated with the current human condition. Rosenberg and her co-panelists examined areas ranging from obstetrics and orthopedics, to dentistry, gerontology, diet and nutrition.

"We need to understand our evolutionary history in order to understand why we have some of the maladies that we have," Rosenberg says. "They either helped us in a previous environment, or they are trade-offs from adaptations that did confer important advantages like our obstetrical and orthopedic problems that are side effects of walking on two legs rather than four."

Today, the industrialized world faces rising . Yet eons ago, food was scarce, and foraging was a constant activity to survive. The more fats and sugars that could be gained from food back then, the more energy to fuel those ever-expanding hominid brains.

The cavewoman of 100,000 years ago didn't have 10-pound babies, take drugs, smoke, or have hypertension, diabetes and other problems associated with a modern lifestyle, Rosenberg notes.

But, Rosenberg asserts, our prehistoric ancestors likely gave birth with others present for protection and encouragement, a practice still important in today's world where ever-larger babies squeeze through a "twisty-turny" birth canal, and infant mortality is still a serious problem in many nations.

"Studies show that women who give birth with a doula present—to provide emotional support—have significantly lower rates of obstetric intervention and shorter labors," Rosenberg notes. "This maternal care during birth and the help we give in caring for children of family and friends comprise some of the most important aspects of our humanness."

Although some may interpret the word "evolve" to mean we are moving toward perfection, Rosenberg reminds us that there is no direction to evolution.

"What's best today, probably won't be in the future," she says. "There's no inevitable directionality to it. Evolution is a tinkerer, not a designer. I would never be willing to predict where we will go next. Knowing what is advantageous in today's world doesn't tell us what will be advantageous in the future."

Explore further: Research confirms controversial Darwin theory of 'jump dispersal'

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JVK
1 / 5 (3) Feb 17, 2013
"Knowing what is advantageous in today's world doesn't tell us what will be advantageous in the future." Of course it does! It's advantageous to eat, which tells us Natural Selection for nutrients will be advantageous in the future. It's also advantageous for reproduction to be controlled by the metabolism of nutrients to pheromones, which tells us that's not going to change, either. Nutrient-dependent pheromone-controlled adaptive evolution is a sure thing. It always has been! The inevitable directionality is evidenced by nutrient-dependent pheromone-controlled ecological, social, neurogenic, and socio-cognitive niche construction. Tinker with that sequence and then decide whether it indicates a start from Creation of the first cell or something automagical that can only be mathematically modeled and proposed as a somewhat ridiculous theory.
aroc91
5 / 5 (3) Feb 18, 2013
Creation of the first cell or something automagical


This is the definition of irony. Willing something into existence is about as automagical as you can get.
JVK
1 / 5 (3) Feb 18, 2013
Willing something into existence is about as automagical as you can get.


But wait... you didn't mention your choice of a starting point from which to move forward with the obvious inevitable directionality demonstrated in species from microbes to man. Instead, you took what I wrote out of its context and placed it into the context of a ridiculous theory. Please educate yourself and offer some scientific support for evolution as a tinkerer, not a designer. If no design, why are all organisms required to naturally select nutrients that metabolize to pheromones that control their reproduction?

I wrote: "Nutrient-dependent pheromone-controlled adaptive evolution is a sure thing. It always has been!" What do you know for sure about anything? Why not simply admit you know nothing about this topic or any other?
aroc91
5 / 5 (3) Feb 18, 2013
Instead, you took what I wrote out of its context and placed it into the context of a ridiculous theory


Nope. The context is plain as day. You can't call something automagical and simultaneously believe in Creation.

JVK
1 / 5 (3) Feb 18, 2013
Without saying it, you seem to be saying that not only do you have no model for the obvious inevitable directionality demonstrated in species from microbes to man, but you have no basis for any belief about cause and effect in the context of adaptive evolution. Why do you think all organisms are required to naturally select nutrients that metabolize to pheromones that control their reproduction?

The article states that: "Knowing what is advantageous in today's world doesn't tell us what will be advantageous in the future." You seem to be arguing against the fact that individuals are required to eat and that species must reproduce as they have in the past and must continue to do in the future. Arguing against what's obviously known as if it had no predictive power and did not indicate anything about the origins of adaptive evolution makes no sense. Try making some when you indicate that I am not. Start with the first cell, for example, as I do. How did it evolve? That's the context.

aroc91
5 / 5 (2) Feb 18, 2013
I'm not arguing anything. I'm merely saying that a Creationist calling anything automagical is ironic. That's it. You're reading way too far into this.