Adam being chosen by emergent woman and her companions.
Perhaps the most intriguing question of all is, “Where did I come from?” Or, perhaps stated in a slightly more general way, “Where did humans come from?” Or, “Why are humans the way they are?” “What is consciousness?” “What is intelligence?” “Why are people ethical?” “Why am I able to ask questions?” “Is there a higher power that created humans, and is responsible for us? and If so where did it come from?”
There may be an infinite number of these questions, but in fact there is a rather simple explanation to all of the questions stated above if one is willing to observe and weigh a few obvious things. The key elements of modern human evolution are discussed in Intelligent Design — of humans by humans and for humans where the most critical factor is the development of human speech.
The ability to speak permits a selective positive feedback loop to form, vastly improving the selective process, and permitting it to be greatly accelerated by what is currently termed artificial selection. With artificial selection, it is possible to see intended effects in the offspring in the next generation, and if the quality is desirable to inform your peers to keep selecting for that quality in following generations. Part of this process is to select against those qualities which are considered to be inferior. There is always an abundance of qualities which must be weighed, and balanced against one another before decisions are made which tend to become locked in for the remainder of the decider’s life, and for the lives of their offspring. Because these decisions are realized to be of such importance they are made with great care.
Artificial selection is a subset of Sexual Selection which is a subset of Natural Selection. Ultimately the demands of natural selection must be satisfied, because it is a killing process whereby only those individuals who manage to survive are around to produce the next generation. With some species there are vast hordes of perfectly healthy specimens which are killed off with only on average a single typical member surviving to reproduce. By human moral standards it is needlessly cruel, but we are not the ones to make those choices. With sexual selection there is some degree of purposeful behavior by the species because, they choose healthy members for reproduction not simply the luckiest typical member. This more refined process speeds up the adaptation of the species to its local environment, because the members best adapted to it are healthiest. This method has an additional benefit of permitting a broader genome to exist where some outliers survive which is sometimes advantageous for the species, because, when the environment shifts a bit those who have not been so narrowly adapted may now be better adapted, and get to reproduce more abundantly.
There was a time in the past when our ancestors didn’t speak as modern humans do, and then there was a more recent time when they were fully human and like us in every way but culture. The transition between these two states was between 100 thousand years ago and 40 thousand years ago. For all humans to have evolved so similarly with so many varied, and unique human qualities there had to be a small population in a contained area for a sustained period of time. I favor the population isolated in some location such as the islands of Zanzibar during the ice ages. At that location the low sea levels would give these islands the ideal confining conditions for this rapid, and thorough human evolution to take place after the basic speech patterns had gotten started, perhaps elsewhere before the population was isolated. The rest of our human qualities follow on relatively quickly in a few tens of thousands of years perhaps far less. With artificial selection massive changes can be brought about in a few generations as may be seen in all sorts of domestic animals. It is particularly conspicuous in the varieties of dogs that have been recently brought into being but similar changes exist in all of man’s genetically manipulated domesticated life forms. This human ability to manipulate genetic code is based on the ability to speak—to be able to discuss what is better, to be able to communicate, and remember what qualities are best, are all dependent upon speech. The thing which is new in this old idea is that it has been applied to humans themselves by themselves for a very long time. We just think about it as mate selection, plain old sexual selection, and such it is but it is mediated by speech, and that gives people the ability to improve their adaptive standing in the world. If one pursues language back to its roots through vast eons of time moving back toward a pre-verbal condition from which it perforce must have come, it becomes apparent that something rather like human verbal development from infancy through maturity recapitulates genetic development from pre-verbal to fully verbal potentialities. The first twenty years of a human’s life recapitulates the first twenty thousand years of modern humanity’s life.
The birth of a human being is recorded to the minute on a birth certificate, but in fact this exact minute could probably be varied by a month or more, and still produce a perfectly normal baby. The same can probably be said for the birth of humanity. The exact moment that some females first communicated verbally to each other the qualities which they preferred in males, and passed this ability to the other members of their group is the moment of the birth of modern humanity. However, this exact moment just like the exact moment of the birth of a baby might be varied. But, when this local social custom becomes a common habit with these women, and then a routinized tradition for the whole society, then the groundwork is laid for this to become encoded into the genes. That first gene which made conversing just a little bit easier or more efficient might also be considered as the birth moment for modern humans. At first this genetic ability would be almost imperceptible, but if it conferred a genetic advantage, which it surely would, then that gene would spread through the whole group, and through any group with which they interbred. In the picture above, made from Michelangelo’s God creating man with the usual old-man-God being replaced by Goya’s Naked Maja as the new ancestral-mother-God, and her advisers helping her make her choice of Adam over the man portrayed as falling away at the bottom.
Communication with others goes back genetically even to plants where they chemically warn each other of danger. Some monkeys possess some twenty or so single verbal calls linked to single situations, and one must suppose that the almost modern humans with vastly larger brains than monkeys would have an even larger collection of single words. A big breakthrough comes when there are word pairs which communicate more complex thoughts. Not just single words such as raptor, snake or cat for appropriate warnings, and reactions, but word pairs such as raptor tree, raptor ground, snake tree, snake ground, or cat tree, cat ground which gives the hearers of these communications a new advantage in what is appropriate behavior. When there are word pairs as part of the vocabulary there arises the problem-opportunity of word order where tree snake means a different kind of snake than ground snake. It seems strange that word order could have a genetic component, but much of living processes requires an order of events so there could be a genetic component to paying attention to word order because there might be significance in that quality. This genetic quality would take a while to become stabilized, but as it does so it permits ever greater possibilities for potential meaning, and for the possibility of pairs of word pairs, and then genetically potentiating the possibility of more complex sentences.
With each of these improvements in human speaking abilities there comes an improvement in the ability to discuss the qualities of potential mates, and with that an improvement in mate selection, and a further improvement of all of the genetic qualities of the species. This has been a positive feedback cycle for quite a long time, but now with the development of syntax there comes the possibility and the probability to start selecting mates in quite a refined way for all of the qualities which we call human. Because these people are now fully articulate their selective refinements can become rather sophisticated, and move into the realm of art, story telling, music, work habits, morality, kindness, reliability, honesty, knowledge of traditions, and a whole host of things we call human virtues.
Most of this process of artificial selection has been moderated by females because their commitment to the next generation is personally greater than males. Thus it is, that most females will have a child or two, but there are many males who have none, and some males who have a great many. This is simply because females perceive some males as more worthy of breeding. Men pursue many women, but women choose a few men. This is the way it is now, and there is little doubt that that is the way it has been for a very long time. Thus it is that women have controlled the evolution of humanity, and still do. The Gods that created humanity were our foremothers.