The Origins Of Our Species

Powerful Essays
The latest discovery of a fossil skull in Kenya, more than three million years old, once again demonstrates the complex evolution of humankind. The following article examines the evidence and sees how it fits into the ideas of human origin formulated by Frederick Engels more than 100 years ago.
"There is a grandeur in this view of life, with its several powers, having been originally breathed into a few forms or into one; and that, whilst this planet has gone cycling on according to the fixed law of gravity, from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being, evolved." (Charles Darwin, The Origin of the Species, pp. 459-60, Penguin 1985.)
The latest discoveries in paleontology once again reveal the rich and complex evolution of the human species. In March, the magazine 'Nature' reported on a new fossil find in Kenya of a 3.5 million year-old skull. Originally, it was thought that the human linkage had been traced back to an ancestral genus called the Australopithecines (the "Southern Ape"), the most famous remains being 'Lucy', discovered by D.C. Johanson. These proto-humans roamed the savannahs and Rift Valley of Africa more than 3 million years ago, and are closer to modern humans than apes. However, new evidence suggests that the Australopithecus family was not the only hominid species to have existed at this time.
'Nature' describes a new species - Kenanthropus platyops - with a much flatter face than any Australopithecine. "Kenyanthropus shows persuasively that at least two lineages existed as far back as 3.5m years," said Meave Leakey of the Kenya national museum. It is clear that the evolutionary tree is far bushier that at first appeared. While the human lineage split from that of the African apes some 5-10 million years ago, this new evidence suggests possible new lines from which humans evolved. It shows a far greater diversification of human evolution prior to the emergence of the Homo genus.
The newly discovered skull has a small ear hole, like those of chimpanzees. However, it shares other features of early hominids, such as a small brain. But there are other striking differences, including tall cheekbones, small teeth and a flat plane beneath its nose bone, giving it a flat face appearance. The flatter face - a feature once thought distinctly human - arises primaril...

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...ical view of evolution, called punctuated equilibrium. Gould has recognized Engels' contribution, describing his essay on human origins as "a brilliant expose." However, notes Gould, it "had no visible impact on Western science." (Ever Since Darwin, p.210)
"All merit for the swift advance of civilization was ascribed to the mind, to the development and activity of the brain", wrote Engels. "Men became accustomed to explain their actions from their thoughts, instead of from their needs... And so there arose in the course of time that idealistic outlook on the world, has dominated men's minds. It still rules them to such a degree that even the most materialistic natural scientists of the Darwinian school are still unable to form any clear idea of the origin of man, because under that ideological influence they do not recognize the part that has been played therein by labour."
The latest discoveries in this field of human origins are a testimony to Engels thought and contribution, not least the discovery of Kenanthropus platyops. It is a confirmation of the method of dialectical materialism, the only consistent scientific outlook of the world.
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