Research Paper: Role of Culture and Environment in the Evolution of Humanity

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[. . .] Therefore, employing the use of models such as the mathematical models to analyze the impact of culture on evolution shows that, the niche model is effective in influencing evolutionary outcomes of humans in the society (Herrmann et al. 2007).

It is appreciable that, cultural evolution contributed to the growth of cooperative groups. The environments favor the evolution of human beings to conform to the social instincts characterized by structural norms and values postulated to contribute to the evolution of the human beings (Eagly & Wood, 1999). However, much of the studies conducted to evaluate the relationship between culture and the evolution of human beings have largely focused on the economic point-of-view of analyzing the relationship. This creates study bias and unreliability of the study findings as it fails to represent the larger population affected by cultural evolution. Despite this weakness, the postulated relationships prove far much stronger as most of them focus on the cognitive domain of the individuals, which always under a constant influence of the learning experiences acquired from the environment (Jantsch, 1975). Therefore, the culture proves to have a strong relationship with the evolution of human beings as it influences their behavior and genetic makeup (Shoemaker, 1996).

Relationship between environment and human evolution

Paleoanthropologists speculate a strong relationship between the influence of the environment and the evolution of human beings. Environmental conditions may stimulate significant and long-term evolutionary changes in humanity. This may be seen from the emergence of new species and the accumulation of physical adaptations enabling humans to conform to the needs of the society. Environmental changes such as climate fluctuations, drying and cooling over time causes significant physiological changes such as enlargement of the brain, changes in the pattern of growth and the development complex social and mental behavior translating to the evolution of human beings (Jantsch, 1975).

Environmental changes stimulate evolutionary changes in the human genes. This makes them adapt to the environmental needs by providing them with flexibility when adjusting to the changes brought by the environment. Prolonged exposure of the human beings to unfavorable environmental conditions stimulates them to develop adaptive responses transferred to the offspring to facilitate their survival, hence, evolution of human beings (Foley, 1995). It is postulated that large-scale variability in climate altered the ecology of the landscape. This resulted in the precise adaptation or ecological pressure and the eventual genetic innovation and selection. Humans, who succeeded in adapting to such pressures, developed gene mutations that enabled the offspring survive the prevailing conditions. This promoted evolution of humanity as those who survived the environmental condition transferred the traits to the offspring maintaining survival (Loehlin, 2001). However, Ley, Peterson, & Gordon, (2006) disputes this ideology on the premise that, the findings are data limited and constrained by weaknesses and gaps of the studies used.

Human advances in technology witnessed in the industrial revolution period have created a significant impact on the evolution of the human beings. Technology has changed the human experience with nature. In particular, it has altered the population size, migration pattern, management of diseases and the introduction of different methods of executing life related activities (Henrich & Boyd, 1998). As a result, it changed the ways in which human beings perceive their environment and well-being affecting the evolution of the human beings. Human beings form part of the global ecosystem and have an evolutionary history that is affected by the earth's system. Study on their revolution shows that, humans have evolved like other animals over time in the face of the dynamic environmental challenges (Scarr & McCartney, 1983). The challenges influenced the ways in which human beings seek for survival in the society and established social relationships to ensure their survival. This interaction resulted in the improvement of skills and knowledge in ensuring the survival transferred to the current generations. As such, this facilitated the continued survival of the human beings irrespective of the unfavorable conditions facing them (Herrmann et al. 2007).

In response to the environmental changes, human beings developed adaptive mechanisms such as tool making, upright walking and increasing the size of their brains to make them suit to their habitats (Hawkes, Paine, & School, 2006). As seen from the habitat-specific hypothesis, human genes responded to the environmental changes through gene mutation and cultural evolution. This resulted in behavioral changes among the human species. However, other factors other than environmental influence played a role in stimulating behavior change among the human beings in the earlier times. Environmental instability not only enabled the humans to become adapted to a specific environmental need, but developmental genes that adapt to multiple environments; a phenomenon referred to as phenotypic plasticity (Loehlin, 2001).

In support of the above, Shoemaker, (1996) acknowledged that, variability selection among the human beings in response to the environmental changes contributed to the evolution of the human beings. The variability hypothesis of selection acknowledges that, human beings developed behaviors and structures that enabled them to cope with the varying environmental conditions. However, the hypothesis differs from most of the approaches as it recognizes that regular environmental change results in the production of adaptive mechanisms specific to the need (Herrmann et al. 2007). Scholars recognize the need for continuous probes into the possible impact of differences in regional climate to the evolution of humanity. In specific, the phenomenon gives rise to questions about the potential impacts of the environment on the evolution of humanity. For example, researchers speculate that, climate controlled expansion of the prevailing conditions and availability of food stimulated bipedalism as an adaptive response to the environmental needs to ensure survival (Jantsch, 1975). As concluded by Ley, Peterson, & Gordon, (2006), this resulted in the development of adaptive strategies beneficial and transferable to the generations thereby ensuring the evolution of humanity.

Anthropological studies show that, human dispersal and the change in global climate interacted to influence the evolution of humanity many years ago. Human dispersal was first seen through Africa that spread to other parts of the world. The general declining status of the climate forced human systems to adapt to the prevailing conditions. Reconstruction of the environment provided the best basis for evolution of human being and behavior. It is through the reconstruction that, macro-evolutionary processes such as extinction and speciation of the human species that provided an opportunity for the evolution of human being species best suited for the harsh conditions in the environment (Scarr & McCartney, 1983). Environmental scenarios provide more assumptions of human evolution that tries to evaluate the origins of human beings. However, the scenarios have many weaknesses since that have minimal information about the past occurrences about the evolution of the human being. In spite of these, several hypotheses have been raised to try to explain evolution and the evolutionary factors that contributed to the evolution of human beings. For instance, the savannah hypothesis states that the exposure of organisms to the grassland environment stimulates a change in behavior and physiology. This is seen from aspects like the use of four limbs to foster survival (Loehlin, 2001).

The world environmental records on human evolution shows that, early inhabits of the human beings underwent significant remodeling, a factor that led to a change in their behavior and lifestyle (Buss, 1989). Environmental instability changed the normal lifestyle of the human beings and created a new generation with features adapted to the prevailing conditions. The range of the reported environmental changes was extensive and gave human beings the ability to adjust. However, extinction was evident in the human species that failed to cope with the environmental conditions. The sequence of the evolution of human beings reported by most of the archaeological studies represents large-scale variabilities. This influenced the selection of human beings and growth of a persistent behavior that withstood the challenges brought by the environmental remodeling (Ley, Peterson, & Gordon, 2006).

Changes in the ways of obtaining the necessities such as food and water are postulated to have triggered a massive evolutionary mechanism that led to the improvement of the human species. Results obtained from archeological studies of the human remains such as in Olduvai George (Kenya) provided insights of human interaction with their environment a million years ago. Basing on the findings of the archeological studies, environmental transition shifted rapidly back and forth between the open grassland and the closed woodlands. The changes in the sea surface temperatures around the tropical areas and the environment correlates with the massive evolutionary processes that played a role in contributing to the evolution of the human beings (Symons, 1980). Any slight environmental changes trigger genetically transmitted changes that that translates its influences to the next 15 generations. Despite the study using animal specimen, it revealed that slight ecological change results in a massive evolution to enable organisms adapt to the environment and manage their population. Similar is postulated to have occurred in the human species when they were exposed to significant changes in the environmental conditions. This implied a strong link between the short-term environmental changes… [END OF PREVIEW]

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