04 Evolution and Diversity

04 Evolution and Diversity - Cultural Anthropology Human...

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Cultural Anthropology 12/15/07 Human Diversity and Evolution 1 Human Diversity: Evolution and Natural Selection What is Race, and more importantly, what does it mean, what is it’s significance? For some, race is a fact of biology: Continental populations that vary in a suite of physical traits that can be used to distinguish them from other continental populations For others, race is a mental or cultural construct: a set of ideas about the meaning of physical variation between different “Darwinian Populations” of humans People attach other ideas to these basic concepts of human diversity- for example that a person’s intellectual, moral, and physical capacities are determined by their “racial heritage” Racialist assumptions about innate, racial characteristics have informed many human interactions, both past and present. When they become the basis for public policy, their implications and consequences are momentous. To begin to understand the nature of human diversity, we need to understand its biological basis, so we must turn to evolution Evolution and Natural Selection have sparked considerable, continuing resistance from some religious communities since these ideas were first proposed. This is both unfortunate and unnecessary. S.J. Gould describes religion and science as “Non-overlapping Magisteria,” that is, they deal with ethics and morals on the one hand, and the explanation of material reality on the other. They are separate spheres of endeavor and not in conflict with one another. For much of human existence, we have explained our origins and place in the universe in terms of the actions of supernatural beings In addition to explaining where we came from and why, these stories also were used to legitimate social order In the Abramic tradition, women are subordinate to men because they are a secondary creation
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Cultural Anthropology 12/15/07 Human Diversity and Evolution 2 In Europe, scientific explanation was held largely within the bounds of creation mythology well into the 19th Century Taken literally, however, many aspects of creation mythology were contradicted by the observed facts of the world around us. As our understanding of the world and how it worked improved, these conflicts became increasingly common. Charles Lyell Geologists began to realize that the geological record covered vastly more time than the few thousand years accounted for in biblical chronology Under the creationist paradigm the present state of the earth was explained in terms of a biblical flood, but geologists soon came to realize that there would have had to have been many floods to account for all that they observed Lyell, Principals of Geology Fossils increasingly came to be recognized for what they were, the remains of ancient forms of life, mostly extinct. Species extinction was a problem
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04 Evolution and Diversity - Cultural Anthropology Human...

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