It’s that age-old question – how did we get here? Theories of evolution can help us understand our origins. And yes, there are controversial ones.
Whether you believe it or not, I would imagine that the majority of us have heard of Darwin’s theory of evolution. Darwin believed in natural selection. The premise of natural selection is that over time, organisms change according to their environment. Changes that allow an organism to better adapt to its environment will result in a higher survival rate. These changes are likely to be reproduced and become more common over time. So are there any other theories of evolution?
7 controversial theories of evolution
We Stood Up
Did we evolve because we stood up on two legs thus allowing our hands to be free to make tools? Experts suggest that humans were forced to stand up because of climate change.
About 3 million years ago, our climate became hotter and drier. As a result, the forests declined and our ape ancestors began to descend from the trees. At the time, Africa was dominated by tall, grassy savannas. Those early humans that stood up and were able to see approaching predators were more likely to survive.
It was also easier to travel through tall grasslands on two feet, rather than four. So standing up had a definite advantage in regards to moving to where food and water were and escaping from danger.
The Ant Theory
Can ants provide clues to human evolution? A Brazilian study suggests an alternative theory of evolution. German researcher Christian Rabeling was studying ant colonies in Brazil and discovered a strange anomaly.
Certain ants in these colonies appeared to be different. They were smaller, had wings and a shinier body. He realised that these different ants were parasites feeding off the original colony ants and then producing their own offspring.
So why is this controversial? Because most theories of evolution state that typically, new species develop in geographic isolation away from the original species.
This theory is allopatric speciation. Speciation is the formulation of a new species through evolution. There are five kinds of speciation; allopatric, peripatric, parapatric, and sympatric and artificial. But Rabeling’s ants suggested that it is possible for another species to develop within the same geographical area. This is sympatric speciation, where two species develop within the same group.
Killer Ape Theory
One of the more controversial theories of evolution comes from anthropologist Raymond Dart. Dart disagreed with the notion that early humans stood up and therefore evolved.
“But if the earliest Gibbons were already able to walk upright, how is it that they did not begin to use their hands thus freed from the work of progression on the earth, for skilled work, apart from tree climbing, of biological usefulness for these competent hands to do?” Elliott Smith
Bones found at a cave in South Africa showed fractures and cracks in them, which suggested the animals had been killed with tools and force. Not only were these bones present but there was also evidence of these tools in the form of clubs and spears. These had clearly been fashioned out of animal bones and the destruction they caused was evident on the skulls found in the cave alongside them.
Dart surmised that our early ancestors were aggressive, violent creatures that survived and evolved because they were so predatory.
We Are a Mistake
Some scientists believe that human evolution is nothing more than a mistake. The Human Genome Project found that every single human being has one thing in common, and that is a duplicated gene responsible for brain development. No other animal on earth has this gene, so how did we get it?
It could have been some kind of mutation or glitch that transformed us from ape-like creatures into the intelligent beings we are today. It is a sobering thought to think that if a different animal had received this glitch or mistake they would have the huge brain capacity, and not us.
The Extinction Theory
This theory has been used to explain why the dinosaurs died out and humans survived. French naturalist Georges Cuvier studied fossils, in particular, old bones. He was an expert on the anatomy of animals.
Working in the National Museum in Paris in 1795, Cuvier was studying elephant bones and soon realised that the bones found in France were distinctly different from those discovered in Africa and India.
Cuvier believed he had solved why some animals were extinct and others survived. He stated that there must have been catastrophic events on the earth that wiped out several species.
This would radically change the natural environment and allow new species to replace them. However, his theory was challenged and eventually dismissed, as leading scientists would add that the earth’s environment changes slowly which would allow most species to adapt to it.
We Cooked and Ate Meat
Experts state that our early ancestor’s brains would never have grown to this extent on a diet of nuts and vegetables. Large brains require more protein and cooking meat not only gave us this protein but it also freed up precious time. Chewing nuts and hard cereals takes effort and time early humans did not have.
By cooking meat, we could eat it quickly, get all the protein we needed and be out hunting again within minutes. Of course, now some of us are vegan, but it doesn’t change the effects of eating meat on our early ancestors’ brain development.
Stoned Ape Theory
Were our early ancestors high on drugs? This is probably the most controversial of all our theories of evolution, the Stoned Ape Theory. This theory proposes that early humans came out onto the savanna and saw mushrooms for the first time.
But these were no ordinary mushrooms. They were psilocybin mushrooms which happened to contain a powerful psychedelic stimulant. At low doses, this stimulant enhances eyesight, which would have been beneficial for hunting. But at higher doses, it stimulates the imagination, the sexual drive, and conscious thought.
Around this time early humans were beginning to start using language, form groups, and make their own tools and art. Was the drug in the mushrooms, therefore, a catalyst for this spark of human consciousness?
So after reading all these theories of evolution, which one do you believe? Is Darwin’s natural selection your preferred explanation of how we got here? As you can see, theories are countless and all very different.
But other theories of evolution do not fully explain how we started communicating, and for me, this is the biggest reason why we have evolved so successfully.
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