Why are physical anthropologists concerned with human variation?

Updated on : December 3, 2021 by Louis Johnston



Why are physical anthropologists concerned with human variation?

I do not know. Humans really are no different. We are still built equally in different shades and sizes, but we are still all in the same shape. We can have sex together and have babies that grow up to look like us. Everything is in our genes.

Why do anthropologists believe that culture is a unique quality of man that separates him from the lower forms of animals?

Anthropologists, per se, don't "believe" ANYTHING.

Belief is a matter of ideology and preconceptions, held regardless of evidence to the contrary. Religion is about beliefs. Science is about observing phenomena and theorizing about good working models to understand and predict such phenomena in the future.

Anthropology is a social science. Science begins with "working hypotheses" based on intuition or inductive reasoning, but then seeks to test those hypotheses by compilation.

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Why do anthropologists believe that culture is a unique quality of man that separates him from the lower forms of animals?

Anthropologists, per se, don't "believe" ANYTHING.

Belief is a matter of ideology and preconceptions, held regardless of evidence to the contrary. Religion is about beliefs. Science is about observing phenomena and theorizing about good working models to understand and predict such phenomena in the future.

Anthropology is a social science. Science begins with "working hypotheses" based on intuition or inductive reasoning, but then seeks to test those hypotheses by comparing them with real data.

Contrary to OP's inherent assumptions contained in the question, it is the pre-scientific western monotheistic religious view (based on the story of Adam and Eve in Genesis) that humans were created separately and especially by God, rather than evolving from previous life forms. , and that humans, uniquely among other living beings, have a divinely endowed dominion over all the rest of creation, based on that religious belief.

Anthropology, by contrast, shares with the other biological and social sciences (and with geology and astronomy, etc.) the often intertwined concepts referred to as "evolution," which is a shortened form to indicate that our working scientific model of the universe has repeatedly asserted that not only humanity, but all life, developed over a period of many millions, even billions, of years, much like the geological formations of the Earth, as well as the stars and their planets, operating according to a rational and understandable physical logic. and cyber laws. (Biology, as we now know, is basically a protoplasm-based computer system, built to indefinitely transmit the blueprints of itself.)

Humans are animals. As such, we are subject to the same natural laws and processes as other living things.

Every living thing is the product of BOTH its genetic makeup - the DNA-encoded gene sequence that creates the particular proteins in the particular order that creates the anatomy and physiology of the body (metabolism) of a particular organism - AND its environment, that is , all from outside influences due to the conditions in which he was raised. Humans are not alone in this.

Human beings are also not unique either in the ability to learn new behaviors that are not instinctively / genetically encoded, or in the ability to use tools, or even in the ability to teach their children these culturally derived aspects of behavior. The cubs of a lioness, for example, have a certain innate instinctual tendency to be carnivorous predators, but they still depend on their mother to teach them to be stealthy when stalking their prey, for example, to be successful hunters. Chimpanzees and other apes can teach their children to “fish” for termites with a stick and they can learn sign language. The songs of the whales are actually unique musical compositions for each animal, by which they can identify and communicate with each other from great distances. And so on. I will not go into details; The books and articles that discuss the learning abilities of nonhuman animals are innumerable. Have fun browsing them.

But humans are leaps and bounds beyond all other animals, if not exactly unique, then orders of magnitude ahead of them, to the phenomenal extent that our ability to survive and thrive depends on learned and culturally transmitted behaviors. . not just from our immediate parental ancestors, but from all of human history, based on our culturally unique development of symbolic language, especially written language, and based on our generalistic rather than specialized physiological adaptation. Although humans, like all other animals, continue to physically evolve in small, often barely noticeable ways, most of human evolution since the beginning of recorded history (and for some time before that, beginning with the development of agriculture in the late Stone Age) has been a cultural evolution, not a physical evolution. Although whales, apes, etc. can learn and culturally transmit learned information to their children, this has not led to the way of life of apes or whales being significantly different in measurable way than it was thousands or hundreds of thousands of years. behind. This is not true of humans, and it is not merely a matter of ideological belief, but of empirical observation. The wide variety and diversity of human cultural adaptations, even to similar environments, developed by societies in different parts of the world is also a matter of empirical observation; again, no other animal, including those with the ability to learn and pass on learned skills, it has done so to a measurable degree. And, while many animals have an effect on the configuration of their local environment, humans have done so to an immeasurably greater degree than any other animal. They can learn and can transmit learned information culturally to their children, this has not led to the way of life of apes or whales being significantly different in a measurable way than it was thousands or hundreds of thousands of years ago. This is not true of humans, and it is not merely a matter of ideological belief, but of empirical observation. The wide variety and diversity of human cultural adaptations, even to similar environments, is also a matter of empirical observation. developed by societies in different parts of the world; again, no other animals, including those with the ability to learn and pass on learned skills, have done so to a measurable degree. And, while many animals have an effect on the configuration of their local environment, humans have done so to an immeasurably greater degree than any other animal. They can learn and can transmit learned information culturally to their children, this has not led to the way of life of apes or whales being significantly different in a measurable way than it was thousands or hundreds of thousands of years ago. This is not true of humans, and it is not merely a matter of ideological belief, but of empirical observation. The wide variety and diversity of human cultural adaptations, even to similar environments, developed by societies in different parts of the world is also a matter of empirical observation; again, no other animals, including those with the ability to learn and pass on learned skills, have done so to a measurable degree. And, while many animals have an effect on the configuration of their local environment, humans have done so to an immeasurably greater degree than any other animal. can learn and can transmit learned information culturally to their children, this has not led to the way of life of apes or whales being significantly different in measurable way than it was thousands or hundreds of thousands of years ago. This is not true in the case of humans, and it is not merely a matter of ideological belief, but of empirical observation. The wide variety and diversity of human cultural adaptations, even to similar environments, developed by societies in different parts of the world is also a matter of empirical observation; again, no other animals, including those with the ability to learn and pass on learned skills, have done so to a measurable degree. And, while many animals have an effect on the configuration of their local environment, humans have done so to an immeasurably greater degree than any other animal. can learn and can transmit information learned culturally to their children, this has not led to the way of life of apes or whales being significantly different in measurable way from what it was thousands or hundreds of thousands of years ago. This is not true of humans, and it is not merely a matter of ideological belief, but of empirical observation. The wide variety and diversity of human cultural adaptations, even to similar environments, developed by societies in different parts of the world is also a matter of empirical observation; again, no other animals, including those with the ability to learn and pass on learned skills, have done so to a measurable degree. And, while many animals have an effect on the configuration of their local environment, humans have done so to an immeasurably greater degree than any other animal.

TL; DR version: no, humans are not alone in our use of culture, but we are exponentially far ahead of any other known organism both in the cumulative knowledge base that we can use for culture and in the diversity of approaches to culture. culture. that different human groups have developed. So, based on scientific observation, we end up with a working hypothesis that is quite similar, superficially at least, to the religiously derived belief in a unique human exceptionalism and a separate creation of humanity in the image of God.

Anthropologists tried to use race to describe human variation. They tried and tried and tried, but failed. They tried a few races first, but there were groups that didn't fit into any of them, so they added a few more. There were still people who didn't fit into any of those groups, so they added even more. In the end, there was no clear way to divide people into hundreds of races.

In reality, there is no set of genes that defines a race and distinguishes it from others. Each gene has its own range of variation independent of other genes, so the concept of race ended up being empty of mea

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Anthropologists tried to use race to describe human variation. They tried and tried and tried, but failed. They tried a few races first, but there were groups that didn't fit into any of them, so they added a few more. There were still people who didn't fit into any of those groups, so they added even more. In the end, there was no clear way to divide people into hundreds of races.

In reality, there is no set of genes that defines a race and distinguishes it from others. Each gene has its own range of variation independent of other genes, so the concept of race ended up being meaningless. To be a useful way of describing variation, the idea of ​​race should be operationalized using clearly definable markings. But what are those? It turns out that they don't exist.

This goes against the common sense view of the world. Obviously, apparently, there are whites, blacks, and Asians, and so on. Are anthropologists probably being politically correct? But in a country like the United States, for example, most people come from a few places: Western Europe, West Africa, East Asia. The many people who came from places in between these places are represented by much smaller numbers and therefore not that obvious. The variation of such groups is not so obvious either. For example, both the lowest and highest groups of people are found in Africa. There are real biological differences between people that we can all see, it's just that they don't fall into nice and neat categories.

At first, it was also assumed that there were races and that there were great differences between them. It was assumed that the superiority of the Europeans could be explained by the superiority of the European race. Little by little, people realized that not only was race not the reason for the differences between Europeans and other humans, but also that Europeans were not necessarily superior.

Of course, Hitler believed in the value of race, and the Nazis went to great lengths to categorize and identify people by race. This was not secondary to the horrors of the Holocaust, but rather central. Race is not just an illusion, it is also dangerous. This is another reason why anthropologists do not often use the concept of race.

On the other hand, anthropologists recognize that people identify with one race or ethnicity or another and that they classify each other into groups based on race. Anthropologists study that. While race is not a biological category, it is cultural.

Professionals whose primary job is not to describe human diversity are still inclined to use race. This includes law enforcement and medical professionals. There is a lot of debate about this. On the one hand, the categories seem to have a practical use. If we know that some groups are more likely to have certain diseases, then we can test them. If a crime suspect fits our idea of ​​being white, that category can help us find the right person. It does not necessarily matter that these groups cannot be meaningfully defined for scientific purposes. On the other hand, that could cause us to identify people who only superficially fit one racial category and cause real hardship for those people. Whether useful or not, It is important to note that racial categories are subjective, not objective. Also, it is easy to fall into a confirmation bias where we see everything that confirms our preconceived notions about groups of people. So we might assume that a white criminal is an exception and that most white people are good, but that a black criminal proves that most black people are not good people. Rather than helping us understand the world, the idea of ​​race tends to get in the way. but that a black criminal proves that most black people are not good people. Rather than helping us understand the world, the idea of ​​race tends to get in the way. but that a black criminal proves that most black people are not good people. Rather than helping us understand the world, the idea of ​​race tends to get in the way.

So simplifying the world into a few categories is convenient and could be helpful, but inaccurate at best and dangerous at worst.

The thing is, scientists (or whoever served as scientists at the time) had basically been studying this for centuries, right up until the end of the Eugenic Movement. However, if you go back and read those reports, many of the claims made by these scientists really didn't have much basis in fact, and the ones that did were effectively unreproducible, none of which meet modern standards for scientific study. At the end of the day, these studies were based on a problematic premise, that it could be scientifically proven that white Europeans were superior to all other "races", which said otherwise.

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The thing is, scientists (or whoever served as scientists at the time) had basically been studying this for centuries, right up until the end of the Eugenic Movement. However, if you go back and read those reports, many of the claims made by these scientists really didn't have much basis in fact, and the ones that did were effectively unreproducible, none of which meet modern standards for scientific study. At the end of the day, these studies were based on a problematic premise, that white Europeans could be scientifically shown to be superior to all other "races", that other "races" could be scientifically shown to be less humane than white Europeans. . , and they used these studies as justification for the subjugation and enslavement of these "races." It's hard to say how many of them were conscious and unconscious,

Now that's a historical perspective. If you want to see it from a biological perspective, you won't be short of problems there either. The term "race" is used as a means of categorizing the numerous varieties of humans based on observable physical characteristics, but this gets confused pretty quickly because, well, how do you decide which traits belong to which race? Much literature has been produced over the centuries, but there is very little agreement between them as to the names of the races, the number of races, and the characteristics that define those races. The reason this happened is because, as the image tries to disprove, race is a social construct determined by the time period and culture of the people doing the categorization.

If you want to see the problem from a non-human perspective, look no further than dog farming. Even though we have many, MAAAAANY dog breeds, each of which varies in size, shape, color, temperament, etc., they are all considered the same species, as they can all breed from each other (which is distinct from breed two different species). , which produces infertile offspring). Furthermore, races are a completely social construct; That is, humans used systematic breeding techniques with the domesticated dogs that they DID have until certain desired traits of them were coalesced into the same dog, and then they arbitrarily stopped at that point and named it breed.

So to summarize, people have been creating categories for things for centuries (possibly millennia), and they might even use something concrete and scientific to justify those categories, but if you are looking for categories that are free from arbitrariness and / or ethnocentric selections , you won't find one like that made by a human being.

If you are just someone who has a legitimate curiosity on the subject, I suggest that you do not allow someone else to choose your data for you, as that data was selected for a purpose and therefore may not reflect the whole body. of literature on "race". . Look no further than “vaccines cause autism” to see how unreliable and dangerous that way of gathering information can be. You have to be your own judge as to which studies are "good" or "bad" (in the sense that the questions being pursued, the methodology used and the data obtained are solid and free from internal or external alterations ). ). However, if you are someone just looking for confirmation of an outdated idea, then I would look elsewhere, because you won't get it from me.

I suspect that if you asked a panel of anthropologists that, you would get from hours to years of discussion depending on the medium of the discussion (arguing in a bar or posting articles on the subject), probably ending with the question "What do you mean by human? ? "

There are a variety of disciplines within anthropology. In the US, we generally divide it into physical anthropology (the study of humans as an animal species, including our evolution, physical traits, and genetic diversity), cultural anthropology (the study of culture, which essentially means shared ideas), linguis

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I suspect that if you asked a panel of anthropologists that, you would get from hours to years of discussion depending on the medium of the discussion (arguing in a bar or posting articles on the subject), probably ending with the question "What do you mean by human? ? "

There are a variety of disciplines within anthropology. In the US, we generally divide it into physical anthropology (the study of humans as an animal species, including our evolution, physical traits, and genetic diversity), cultural anthropology (the study of culture, which essentially means shared ideas), linguistics and archeology (the study of the human past through physical remains). Each of these disciplines would have its own insights into the development of our species and the things that distinguish us and our various ancestors from each other physically and behaviorally.

But that doesn't really give us "what makes us human" because there is no consensus on what "human" means. Is it just our species? Is it suitable to use it for a broader clade of hominids? It's something more? It is not a technical term, but a philosophical idea. And to paraphrase one of the great archaeologists of the early 20th century, “Anthropology is the search for facts, not for the truth. If it's the truth that interests you, Dr. Tyree's philosophy class is down the hall. "

It depends on the anthropologists and their agenda. Some years ago, most abstained from using these terms due to the "out of Africa" ​​theory. But about two years ago, many began to use the terms again, as new genetic and archaeological research supports humanity's multi-regional origin.

So yes, anthropologists use these terms.

Basically: Negroid, Australoid, Caucasoid and Mongoloid.

We can analyze "race" only with bone and facial structure or with DNA research on autosomal clusters.

Some leftist groups say there are no races and that they all involve, but new research says the hu

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It depends on the anthropologists and their agenda. Some years ago, most abstained from using these terms due to the "out of Africa" ​​theory. But about two years ago, many began to use the terms again, as new genetic and archaeological research supports humanity's multi-regional origin.

So yes, anthropologists use these terms.

Basically: Negroid, Australoid, Caucasoid and Mongoloid.

We can analyze "race" only with bone and facial structure or with DNA research on autosomal clusters.

Some leftist groups say there are no races and everyone is involved, but new research says modern humans are variable mixes of the 4 main races. Possibly there were more in ancient times.

We do not know anything about our origin in reality. We have tons of theories, most of them are influenced by certain ideologies on the right or left, but we have no idea.

All the evidence points to a multiregional origin. The "out of Africa" ​​is more or less discredited in modern times (2018). We will see what will come next.

For everyone, try to read as much research as you can, then compare it, think about it and try to find out for yourself, then you will see that there are many opinions that are not mentioned in the mainstream media. Make your own theory. Listen to the science, but don't trust the science. It's a human tool ... and humans tend to manipulate or make mistakes.

And when there are different races, it still doesn't change that we are all living beings. We don't have to be the same. As long as we respect each other. Be proud of who you are, but show respect for others.

They don't, which is the point. Categorizing people by physical and genetic differences is race.

Modern science can discuss the distribution of various genes and traits in populations and the relationships between them. However, those various bits and pieces are not taken as defining individuals. The categorization of individuals based on groupings of physical characteristics is not a very useful exercise. Such groupings turn out to be suitable only for very limited or unnecessarily arbitrary purposes. So scientists have largely given up.

The only place I see that kind of thing

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They don't, which is the point. Categorizing people by physical and genetic differences is race.

Modern science can discuss the distribution of various genes and traits in populations and the relationships between them. However, those various bits and pieces are not taken as defining individuals. The categorization of individuals based on groupings of physical characteristics is not a very useful exercise. Such groupings turn out to be suitable only for very limited or unnecessarily arbitrary purposes. So scientists have largely given up.

The only place I see that kind of thing being practiced a lot is in forensic anthropology. A limited number of physical features tend to clump together, so we can say that someone with this or that set of skeletal features probably had other more visible features (skin color, facial features, etc.), which is a problem. helps in identification. And even here, it is a probabilistic statement about probability ("the ratio of axiomatic homozygous bone to postprandial arc is consistent with absurdistani ancestry ...") rather than a comprehensive categorization of individuals.

Nobody. Are alone. They must rely on goodwill and not be threatening.

However, most anthropologists are white and therefore visibly belong to a powerful culture. Indigenous peoples are unlikely to want to create problems by harming a white visitor. Obviously there have been exceptions.

That's because non-human primates, especially our great ape cousins ​​like chimpanzees, can provide insight into human evolution. Also, despite being great apes, humans differ from other great apes in several ways:

  • bipedalism,
  • white sclera,
  • bigger brains,
  • flatter faces and less pronounced jaws
  • largely hairless bodies,
  • highly sophisticated thinking and cognitive skills
  • capable of abstract thinking and conceptualization

How did those traits come about? At what point did humans develop these traits? Are some of these traits, like abstract thinking, present in other great apes? Why human

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That's because non-human primates, especially our great ape cousins ​​like chimpanzees, can provide insight into human evolution. Also, despite being great apes, humans differ from other great apes in several ways:

  • bipedalism,
  • white sclera,
  • bigger brains,
  • flatter faces and less pronounced jaws
  • largely hairless bodies,
  • highly sophisticated thinking and cognitive skills
  • capable of abstract thinking and conceptualization

How did those traits come about? At what point did humans develop these traits? Are some of these traits, like abstract thinking, present in other great apes? Why did humans get the ability to invent airplanes, skyscrapers, economic systems, and the like, while other great apes didn't?

Those questions explain why they study non-human primates.

If you have a job as an anthropologist, then you are an anthropologist. I'm not saying that a title is unimportant, but you can have a title and work as a shoe salesman. In my opinion, doing the job gives you the title.

By the way, unless you have a permanent job as an anthropologist, it would be more honest to say something like "I work as an anthropologist" than to say "I am an anthropologist", but after a certain amount of time working in the field. it would be correct.

I certainly think so. A dual major, or a bachelor's degree in biology with a minor in anthropology, seems like a good entry into the field. You would need a graduate degree (or two) after that to enter the profession, unless you just wanted to be someone's assistant or technician.

Careers in biological anthropology

http://content.csbs.utah.edu/~cashdan/tig/Bio%20Anth%20Intro.pdf

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