Blog 2: Evolution and Human Variability

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.

7 thoughts on “Blog 2: Evolution and Human Variability

  1. Anthropology and Neuroscience are both interesting and also challenging. Being able to apply what you know about Evolution and Human Variability to your actual majors adds even more purpose into taking the course. I definitely agree with your statement about culture. Culture can include any and everything that people are accustomed to. You did a good job at tying anthropology to culture, and discussing culture to lead into the idea of human variability. Using the example of how humans react to certain climates based on their environmental surroundings helps explain human variability and how culture is a factor in evolution also. After reading your post I am more familiar with neuroscience also and also how it can tie into evolution and what we are learning.

  2. Hey Suhana,
    I read your post and found it very interesting. As a psychology major, it is clear that human variability and evolution are both important for understanding my field as well. This kind of information is what can allow us to make progress in health and wellness as well as in simply understanding culture across peoples.
    As someone who has never studied early people in depth, I found your comments on the development of tools interesting as well. I have always wondered if it is possible that we are simply unable to see the culture of the earlier people because these artifacts have since deteriorated, or if they simply never were to begin with. I would love to hear your thoughts on this.
    Thanks for your post,

  3. I myself am also a science major, so i can relate to all the evolution talk that is brought up in our classes. And I do agree with some points you have made. Long ago, humans were very primitive and they learned and adapted over and over again. This is where i believe human variability comes from. Some aspects are different than others. Just like you explained, human variability is easily seen in neuroscience because the way we act and think is different from one another. I also love how you integrated culture into it, because it is a huge factor into how we look at evolution and whether or not we agree at certain points while disagreeing on others. I did not think about how cultures evolved with this idea.

  4. First off let me start off by commending you for holding two very interesting and and time decocting majors. I agree that evolution is recurring topic in both. I myself have took serval anthropology classes, cultural anthropology being my favorite and most interesting. Cultural anthropology Iooks at evolution in the sense of how people and their traditions have changed and evolved over time, and like you said see how culture shifts because of that evolution. Evolution is something I would say is present in all components of anthropology. With neuroscience I think evolution was key and important to learning more about the brain in general. New discover and developments being good for the human race. This discovers in the brain dealing with something a vital as behavior.

  5. You make an interesting point about anthropology possibly being the study of human variability. I had never thought about it that way but you make a good argument! I also agree with you about how culture is one aspect of human variability, and an important aspect at that. I like how you explain how human cultures have diverged and become unique. I think geography is also a crucial element when it comes to explaining human variability. Geography can account for a lot of different things, like food, language, skin color, etc. I had never considered the relationship between anthropology and neuroscience but you really showed how the two are related. I wonder what sort of research is being done that is related to those two fields.

  6. I absolutely love your opinion about evolution and cultural. Reading your post have given me a lot of insight. I’ve never thought about evolution helping being the cause in developing different cultures. I especially liked your statement of “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.” Its so true, and just these factors has helped start different cultures. Where we live can account for a lot of things, rather it being the color of our skin, or our culture. I think our geography plays a huge part with what our culture will be.

  7. The understanding of human variability is clearly still at an early stage and much remains to be learned. Progress on decoding and understanding the human genome in years to come will provide use with much more information. Computers are an invention that is not only well suited for accommodating human variability but also for taking advantage of the benefits that human variability can offer society and even for fostering human variability. A major reason is that they are easy to use by people with a wide range of differences, such as with regard to language, disabilities, location and work habits. This, in turn, is largely a result of the fact that both the hardware and the software are extremely customizable; that is, they can be easily modified to accommodate a vast range of human differences and preferences.

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