Much of the News articles that we get through present day social media is entrenched with discrimination in any of its forms starting from regional to international news. Out of curiosity, I started going back to find where this discrimination had germinated. Shockingly after reading the book “Sapiens – a brief history of humankind” written by “Yuval Noah Harari”, I came to know that the communities or group for which people are fighting nowadays was created as a survival instinct.
Thus, the groups created by humans for their worldly survival, has now emerged as a devil that is destroying the very same species. The following essay has its content sourced from the book Sapiens with my understandings from it.
As an established fact, we humans evolved from the great apes and we have some uncivilized relatives like chimpanzees, gorillas, and orang-utans. But many of us, fighting for our community, religion, territory is not well aware of the fact, that, we were not the only human species in the world. We belong to the family of great apes and we are named Homo sapiens by biologists. We had brothers and sisters as well; Homo rudolfensis, Homo erectus, Homo neanderthalensis, Homo solensis, etc. Here it is significant to note what I had mentioned, “We HAD brothers and sisters”. Yes, now we, the Homo sapiens are the only human species to live on the planet for the past 10,000 years. What about our other brothers and sisters? What happened to them?
Scientists came up with two theories explaining the extinction of other Homo species. First is the interbreeding theory, according to which, the Homo sapiens migrated from Africa spread around the world, bred with other humans, and today we are the outcome of such interbreeding. According to the second theory, Replacement theory Sapiens replaced all other human populations without breeding with them. Replacement theory has been widely accepted by biologists. But it was found that 1-4% of the unique DNA of modern humans in the Middle East and Europe is Neanderthal DNA and 6% of modern Melanesians DNA are of Denisovan DNA. So we cannot completely avoid the interbreeding theory. However, as of now, we are the only humans on this planet earth. Neanderthals were the most durable human species ever who lived for nearly 2 million years which is unlikely to be broken by sapiens.
What made Homo sapiens to be the only humans surviving till date even though Neanderthals were the strongest of all humans? Three important revolutions were responsible for shaping our survival-
- Cognitive revolution around 70,000 years ago,
- Agricultural Revolution about 12,000 years ago and
- Scientific revolution around 500 years ago.
The communication skills acquired by sapiens allowed them to co-operate in large numbers and fight against other human species. Though Neanderthals were the strongest, they are weak when it comes to managing large population as a group. Sapiens outsmarted other species in managing large population under single group by simple “process of gossiping”. Unfortunately, the threshold for such co-operation was maximum of 150 individuals. Homo sapiens crossed this threshold limit by few accidental genetic mutations in the inner wiring of the brain. This accidental conversion (mutation) gave rise to “cognitive revolution” by which sapiens started to imagine, create stories and fictions. This revolution of creating stories and fiction lead to a new era of confining a large population under a single umbrella of belief/myth.
These fictions helped to create communities, cultures, states, nations, etc. Natural behavior of an organism is determined by its genetic material with some environmental influence. Due to cognitive revolution, Homo sapiens behaviors are pre-determined through generations just by storytelling. We cannot convince a monkey to give a banana by promising that he will get plenty of bananas after death in heaven. But we can convince our fellow sapiens by promising such things that don’t exist. Most of our responses in different life situations comes out of our fictional beliefs which were fed to our brain rather than out of our genetic makeup. For example, biological definition of species is organisms which can interbreed among themselves thus producing a fertile offspring. But as of now people still believe that marriage between two different communities could make their blood lineage impure.
Through the proved theories of cognitive revolution, survival of the fittest and natural selection, Homo sapiens replaced other human species and survived. Developing fictions, myths, imagined unreal things helped us to co-operate in large numbers and lead to the development of cultures, states, countries etc. But the mythical glues once made to bind us together and survive other species, are now getting us apart. We are made devoted to a particular group in such a way that we cannot tolerate other groups, in a similar scenario sapiens did not tolerate Neanderthals. Evolution of such myths and fictions made us to believe that there are some hierarchies among the groups of people, and some are evolved at higher rank than others.
What if the mutations that occurred in the sapiens’ brain had occurred in the Neanderthal brain? Neanderthals would be in our place by now. So cognitive revolution in sapiens is a chance phenomenon and we should use it wisely. “Cognitive revolution helped us to survive among other human species in the past and its evolution has created hierarchy and discrimination in the present.” In future, we might encounter another much-evolved Homo species which can replace the current Homo sapiens or some kind of biological engineering can bring back the Neanderthals (Draft of Neanderthal genome has been already published) or cyborg engineering can create cyborgs which can combine human and bionic parts. Whoever or whatever may be, we must be ready to encounter all such challenges with the same co-operation that our ancestors had exhibited, to survive and emerge successfully. Eventually, we must come out of the mythical glue and believe that we are all biologically equal and there are no hierarchy existing between us.