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Evolution & Human Variation SOAN101 F14

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Julie Jenkins

on 15 January 2015

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Transcript of Evolution & Human Variation SOAN101 F14

Evolution & Human Variation
-origins & evolution of human species
-physical variation among human populations

The Great Chain of Being
-earth unchanged since creation (state of stasis)
What is evolution?
theory of change
-influenced by Erasmus Darwin & Charles Lyell
-change occurs through natural selection
process by which those most adapted to survive and reproduce in a given environment do so in greater numbers than others in that population.
-random genetic drift
-gene flow
2014 Gallop Poll:
-42% of Americans believe that God created humans in their present form 10,000 years ago
--most of those who recognize the process of evolution, believe the primary force to be God
"race" as a way to explain human variation
--17/18th centuries
--positioned "races" on a hierarchical scale of "closeness to God"
-Religious Comparisons (16th C)
-Political Comparisons (17/18th C)
19th C-- substantial effort to classify people into racial categories based upon arbitrary phenotypical characteristics
How does biological evolution relate to cultural institutions?
Sarah "Saartjie" Baartman
- 1810

Ota Benga - 1906
Cincinnati Zoo- 1896
Birth of Anthropology
E.B. Tylor
Henry Lewis Morgan
Social or Cultural
Argued that cultures evolve through stages
Unilineal Evolution
Henry Lewis Morgan
Focus on technology and materials
Savagery: Hunting & Gathering, Fire, Pottery, Bow

Barbarism: Domestication of Animals, Agriculture, Metal Working

Civilization: Industrialization, Adoption of alphabet and writing
Social Darwinism
Argued that humans’ evolution was not just about technology & materials
But that peoples categorized as savages or barbarians were mentally & biologically inferior -based upon their race

Biological Determinism
Herbert Spencer
Franz Boas
German born, migrated to United States
Critique of Cultural Evolution
Culture- not just about materials & technology… about complex system of meaning
Has to be understood in its own terms- not in comparison to Europe or the U.S
Different environments, different needs, develop different technologies
Different cultures, unique set of histories
Historical Particularism
Critique of Social Darwism & Race
If race is not a biological fact-- what is it?
Race is not a biological fact:
--physical variation associated with populations originating in specific environments
-but does not produce discrete categories of people
--biologically/genetically meaningless classification
a construction of reality- a way of classifying people

"culturally constructed label (classification) that crudely and imprecisely describes real (human) variation" (Relethford).
but..."race" is real in shaping our interactions & our political & economic institutions
--we make it meaningful as a unit of classification
-Why do we have different skin tones?
-How does the process of classifying humans into racial categories relate to health?
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