I am a double major in both anthropology and neuroscience, meaning evolution and human variability are a huge theme among almost all of my classes. In terms of anthropology, and specifically cultural anthropology, evolution and human variability make up almost all of the studies that are done in this subject. In fact, it could be argued that anthropology itself is actually the study of human variability.
When looking at cultural anthropology, an anthropologist aims to study how certain groups display their culture. Culture can include how people look, how they dress, what they eat, how they act, and what their society holds important. These traits can be similar, but are often very different from other cultural groups. This exemplifies human variability because no two cultures are the same because no two groups of people are the same.
Human variability also comes into play in looking at how groups use culture to interact and adapt with their environment. For example, groups better biologically suited to a specific environment will settle in an area in a certain climate. They then adapt their culture to fit the environment, making clothes, utensils and food that are suited to that climate. These things then become part of their shared culture and their culture is very specific to that group of people.
Evolution is also very highly seen in anthropology. When looking at the history of anthropology, or the history of a culture, it is very easy to see what evolution takes place within a society and how culture shifts because of that evolution. For example, thousands of years ago, early humans were very primitive, with very little brain development. This meant that there was also not much evidence of any “culture”. There was evidence of stone tools, but that’s about it. However, as humans evolved, and their brains developed, there was much more evidence of culture. Iron and brass tools began to emerge, agriculture and farming were used, art began to be found, and many years after that, societies started to form. Therefore, as humans evolved and started to differentiate, their culture evolved and differentiated as well, into the thousands of human groups and cultures we see today.
Both evolution and human variability can be seen easily in neuroscience, as well. In looking at evolution specifically, the human brain has taken thousands of years to evolve into the way that it is now. In neuroscience, scientists look at specific parts of the brain and how they influence human behavior. When looking at evolution, much of history has been dependent on the changes that have taken place in the human brain. It is incredibly important to study evolution in terms of neuroscience because the evolution of the human brain is what has allowed us to make huge strides in development of society, culture, technology and even human relationships. Human variability is also incredibly important to study in neuroscience, because no two brains are the same, meaning no two humans are the same. Human variability is obvious to see in neuroscience because our brains control the way we act and how we think and everyone acts and thinks very differently.
I think the readings and videos this week did make me think about my fields a little bit differently. I never actually connected either evolution or human variability to my fields, but after reading the Alters and Alters article I can see how easily they can be connected. I also did not really realize how simple changes in DNA have basically driven all of history in a way. Even though that’s a little bit of a generalization, it is still an impressive concept to think about.