Where did our DNA come from - Out of thin air?
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A Glimpse Into Anthropology
Sciences such as anatomy, genetics, nonhuman primate behavior, and human evolution are all a part of the study of physical anthropology. Anatomy gives us insight into the physical differences and similarities between humans and our closest relatives. Genetics has been incredibly useful in identifying species and comparing similarities and differences between them. Nonhuman primate behavior studies show that other primates are very intelligent and adaptive. Of course, human evolution is one of the core ideas of much of accepted anthropology.
There are many different positions available for a trained anthropologist. The major categories according to the web site at http://www.physanth.org/career/careers-in-physical-anthropology are Academic or Non-academic. Non-academic positions include applied anthropology, careers in museums, careers in zoos, careers in forensic sciences, and careers in government. A career in forensic sciences would include using human remains to make determinations and identifications using an anthropologist’s knowledge of osteology and anatomy. Places of employment would include offices of medical examiners, and coroners and as an expert witness in courtrooms. Careers in zoos can be broken into two categories, collection management, and captive breeding programs for endangered species. Training in primate biology and behavior would be needed for either specification. Graduate research with zoo population is said to be the best entry into zoo research.
Around 60,000 years ago modern human populations began to migrate through out and out of Africa. The different migratory groups of those humans are distinguished by the distinct mutations that those different groups experienced due to the process of natural selection and the different cultures and environments that they found themselves in. Genealogy companies have gathered DNA samples from people all over the world to help identify which individual traits are located where. These differences are found in the genomes of the DNA of the people who live in those general areas. Mitochondrial DNA is the DNA that is usually tested by genealogy companies, which is the DNA that is passed strictly from mother to child. Nuclear DNA also could be used and would give a much better determination, though it usually is not. The drawbacks of the approach of these companies are that the DNA used only determines the lineage of the mother of each subsequent generation not that of the father or the fathers mother or father and so on.
I remember learning a little bit about DNA and genetics in high school biology, but the subject coverage was very vague. I have also stumbled across a few different writings pertaining to DNA, and of course followed the news covering stem cell research, though my understanding of it has remained limited to say the least. I really didn’t know that the structure of DNA was the same in all organisms, nor did I know that the number of chromosomes had no bearing on complexity. I honestly never really related the impact that DNA could have on the understanding of anthropology. I was amazed at how the subjects intertwined, and found myself completely absorbed while doing my research for this article. I am certainly more informed on the subject, and have a new direction of interest on the over all subject. I think that the idea that structurally DNA is constant for all living organisms says quite a bit about biological evolution. I can begin to understand how evolution can be taught as fact rather than theory. Furthermore, I feel more confident in the idea of intelligent design at the same time. If we share something so fundamental with every other organism on the planet, it almost seems silly to believe that it happened by accident. It would seem that the structure must have been the same since the first organisms began to emerge, and the complexity allowed evolution to bring us to our current state. The potential has been there since the beginning, and we may have only scratched the surface of possibility.
As I have been interested in the evolution and religion for many years I’d have to say that the main debate is based around the differences between the two. Theology or Judeo-Christian belief specifically, states that God created the heavens and the Earth and every thing on the Earth in 6 days only a few thousand years ago, while evolution provides for millions of years of evolutionary change. Furthermore, the evolutionary process of the universe and the Earth has taken billions of years to reach our current point in time. There are many places on Earth where the debate continues heavily. There are many religious groups and individuals that absolutely refute the idea that evolution has taken place. They base this belief on the writings and cultural beliefs handed down through the generations. Here in the US and through out the world religious groups hold on to the idea that the word of the Bible is absolute and can not be strayed from. I find it interesting that theologians constantly state that certain portions of these writings are metaphoric and can not be taken literally, but when it comes to the creation, the ideas are absolutely accurate with out variance. This amazes me, being that Genesis is the most controversial book with-in the Bible. It is thought to be mosaic by many, yet bears no resemblance to any other mosaic writing.
Of course, the Catholic Church and even the Pope have come to terms that evolution very well could be and probably is a continuing reality. The religions of the ancient Greeks, and the Romans, and the Mayan and Aztecs would probably have had no difficulty accepting evolution as a reality. I based this capsule mostly on my own personal views that I have developed through a multitude of books and articles that I have read over the years, but found an interesting site dedicated to the many different views relating to evolutionary theory, that site can be found at http://www.enlightennext.org/magazine/j35/j35.asp.
How has agriculture affected human populations?
Agriculture has brought about many changes in the health and life of humans. In countries where agriculture is routinely successful, there has been a surplus of food readily available, which has allowed even countries with poor agriculture to enjoy its benefits. Studies have shown that people who acquire adequate nutrition are generally taller, healthier, and live longer than those who are on either side of the spectrum. I think the problem of malnutrition is steadily being replaced with over nutrition. In general the development of agriculture has probably been a benefit to humanity, but people need to learn to regulate their food consumption, because over eating can have as many negative effects as not eating enough. Some groups of people in the past may have never seen a need to develop agriculture. These groups may have had a steady source of food and there population remained constant as did that food source. Perhaps these groups had seen the violence and destruction fighting over land and resources had caused so decided not to develop such cultural ideas. Or perhaps they had some sort of religious practice that forbid destroying the natural habitat so that they could produce large crops. Tooth decay as a result of the grains that we eat regularly, is the most prolific problem faced today, which is caused by the life-ways of the Neolithic. Other problems associated are infectious disease and violence on a mass scale.