Blog Two: Evolution – Anthropology

I am majoring in Anthropology with a focus in medical/cultural anthropology. I intend on working in the medical field as a medical social worker and eventually earning a Masters in Social Work. I am especially interested in cross-cultural perspectives of health, illness, disease, palliative care, and public healthcare systems. I am also very interested in mental illness.

Evolution is a central theme in both anthropology, as well as the medical field. Human evolution influences every aspect of our understanding of medicine and medical care. We use our understanding of evolution in medicine in a number of ways. Human adaptability is a huge element of healthcare, medicine and our understanding of disease and illness. We study evolution to understand why diseases exist and how they are best treated and prevented. We study human adaptability to understand the human body’s mechanisms to prevent and fight diseases and illness. In my own experiences and studies, evolution and human adaptability can be used to explain WHY human experience mental illness when other species do not.  This is something I will certainly use in my career in social work.

As anthropology is the study of human kind, the field of anthropology as a whole uses evolution and human adaptability as the basis for all branches of anthropology. Evolution and human adaptability can be applied to essentially every aspect of human life. I believe having an understanding of human evolution is very important for any person in any field. Evolution can tell us a lot about what it means to be uniquely human and allows us to examine issues, ideas and concepts about our human kind that many people so often do not think about. Evolution has been discussed in some regard in each of the anthropology courses I have taken.

In cultural anthropology, evolution and human adaptability can be examined to identify why certain cultures or people behave in a certain way or have certain customs. It can be used to explain the differences between race/ethnicity/nationality/creed/color. It can even be used to describe differences in sex/gender and what these biological/social differences mean.

In linguistic anthropology, human evolution can be used to understand why and how humans speak. It can help identify differences in syntax, morphemes and phonemes in various languages and much more. Evolution can even be used to explain WHY humans even have the need for spoken and written language and HOW humans began to speak and develop different languages in the very first place.

Evolution and archaeology go hand in hand. As physical anthropology and archaeology share many of the same ideas, concepts and practices. In my opinion, to a certain extent, archaeology is essentially applied physical anthropology when it comes to the case of human remains.  Evolution is applied when studying hominid fossils to determine why humans behave in a certain way or why they have certain physical characteristics.

In relation to the lectures and course material from this week, I thought the quote from Harvard professor Howard Gardner in “Why Should Students Learn Evolution?” was important and essentially wrapped up my own thoughts on the importance of having an understanding in evolution. His quote summarizes that it is important for people to have an understanding of how we came to be and understanding the importance and science of our own survival. “One cannot understand the living world in which we are a part.”

One thought on “Blog Two: Evolution – Anthropology

  1. Hi,
    Thank you for your excellent blog post regarding the relatability of your major, anthropology, and evolution. That sounds like a great plan for the future, graduate school can be tough but I am sure that you will be up for the task! You made a lot of good points throughout your blog and I enjoyed how you explained how evolution can be applied to each individual subfield of anthropology. As you pointed out, both anthropology and the medical field are primarily based on the science behind evolution. Both medical professionals and medical anthropologists, primarily paleopathologists, study the cause of diseases and seek to find a cure for all of the diseases that trouble humanity today. I also thought that Howard Gardner’s quote was particularly poignant.

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