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The Hominid Lineage

Not so long ago it was possible to convincingly arrange all fossil hominids on an “ascending line” from the small early Australopithecines to Homo sapiens (a treatment that is still frequent in popular writing). Not only were our early dating methods crude, but also no one could possibly envision the explosion of hominid forms unearthed in the past two decades. In the past five or six million years, hominids rejoiced in their own impressive radiation - showing many different adaptations and many histories leading to a dead end. At many periods quite a number of these species were contemporaneous, and there is considerable speculation on how they might have competed with each other. Over the millions of years various hominid ancestors zigged and zagged, finally coughing up H. sapiens. There is almost no agreement as to which of these successive ancestors should be anointed as “leading to H. sapiens,” nor how these closely related species were competing with each other. To properly explain and document the arguments hinted at above would require a very large volume. A summary of the argument I have sketched is that evolution is perceived by evolutionary biologists as blind, uncaring, natural selection. It is viewed as historical, including all the contingencies that such an interpretation suggests. Nothing in what scientists know about evolution provides a shred of evidence for any cosmic process guiding the history of evolution to creatures like ourselves. On the contrary, because of the many extraordinary historical contingencies that led to prokaryotes to eukaryotes to chordates to mammals to primates and finally to Homo sapiens, the evidence strongly suggests a fortuitous and completely unique history of the development of human intelligence. I therefore believe that our chances for meaningful communication with other creatures in the universe are infinitesmally small.


Without the tireless energy, goading, and forgiving nature of Meg Lynch, this manuscript would never have been completed.


Contributed by: Dr. Irven DeVore

Cosmic Questions

Are We Alone? Topic Index
Not Likely

The Hominid Lineage

Is there other Life in the Universe?
Could E.T. Call Home?
Chance, Competition, and Catastrophe
The Rise and Near Extinction of Early Primates
The Improbable Path to Advanced Intelligence
The Origins of Human Intelligence


Irven DeVore

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