How Did Humans Survive Evolution? Becoming Human, Part 2

Why are we here and none of the other hominids are? In this second video of "Becoming Human," scientists explore the question of humanity's resilience and uniqueness.

How did human beings survive evolution? How did homo sapiens survive when no other hominids remained? In this second video of “Becoming Human,” scientists explore the question of humanity’s resilience and uniqueness.

See part 1 here!

 

How Did Humans Survive Evolution?

Becoming Human, Part 2

Video Transcript:

ENGLISH

Agustin Fuentes:

The real question about human evolution is, “why are we here and none of the others are?”

 

Rick Potts:

That’s a tough question. The human beings evolved on a very, very dynamic and changeable planet. In fact, the past six million years was one of the most volatile environmental fluctuation that we’ve seen in Earth’s history. Fluctuations between very cold and warm, between very rainy and arid drought conditions. When Homo sapiens emerged out of Africa, there had been a long history of adaptability. We were the adaptable species able to take on the crunch time of great instability in the environments.

 

Jada Benn Torres:

Even in your lifetime, you can think about the adaptations you’ve made to different environments. You all would never have imagined standing here in front of me with masks on, and yet here we are. We could adapt culturally, behaviorally, and then we can teach our offspring.

 

Rick Potts:

They brought with them this, in a sense, cocoon of culture, this ability to speak in probably a more effective ways than Neanderthals could. They were able to exchange things like jewels and beads, sources of identity, and also stone raw material for making tools, over hundreds of miles.

 

Jada Benn Torres:

The way humans have dispersed across the globe, there’s not that many geographic barriers that humans can’t overcome, like we could put people into space now.

 

Agustin Fuentes:

Humans not just mastered sort of changing rock into tools, but they also mastered imbuing the world with a particular kind of meaning.

 

Rick Potts:

They had a richer symbolic culture that they brought with them.

 

Agustin Fuentes:

An imagination that allowed them to pick something up and see in that stone not just a tool, but maybe a half-man-half-lion creature that meant something to them.

 

Rick Potts:

Meaning, whether it was spiritual or philosophical or artistic or scientific, that pursuit of meaning was part of the toolkit that evolved in our species, Homo sapiens. And that is absolutely critical in living in a world of uncertainty and disruption.

 

Agustin Fuentes:

And today, every single human has the capacity to be here right now, but to imagine, to daydream, to believe well beyond anything they’ve ever experienced.

That’s incredible. And I think that’s part of the story of what’s made us so successful.

 

Rick Potts:

It’s always that threshold question: “What does it mean to be human?” Science can help inform certain aspects of that question, but it’s really a whole range of human endeavors that inform that question. Obviously, religion and philosophy, ethics, the values that we learn as we’re growing up, the books that we read, the arts in general, performing arts, these are all areas where people gain a sense of their own meaning as human being. Even just everyday experience, we develop a concept of that.

There is an opportunity for a dialogue between science and all of those other areas of endeavor that really do heighten our sense of meaningfulness of what humans are all about.


SPANISH

Agustín Fuentes:

La verdadera pregunta sobre la evolución humana es: ¿Por qué nosotros estamos aquí, y ninguno de ellos está?

Esa es una pregunta difícil. Los seres humanos evolucionaron en un planeta muy, muy dinámico. De hecho, los últimos seis millones de años, existió una de las fluctuaciones ambientales más volátiles que vimos en la historia de la Tierra. Fluctuaciones entre muy frío y muy caluroso, entre mucha lluvia y mucha sequía. Cuando el Homo sapiens emergió de África, hubo una larga historia de adaptabilidad. Nosotros éramos la especie adaptable capaz de superar el momento crítico de gran inestabilidad en el medioambiente.

 

Jada Benn Torres:

Incluso en su vida misma, pueden pensar en las adaptaciones que hicieron a los diferentes medioambientes. Ninguno de ustedes se hubiera imaginado jamás estar aquí parados frente a mí con máscaras puestas, y aun así, aquí estamos. Nos pudimos adaptar culturalmente, conductualmente, y luego podremos enseñarles a nuestros descendientes.

 

Rick Potts:

Trajeron con ellos esta especie de caparazón de cultura, esta capacidad de hablar de una manera probablemente más efectiva que la que tenían los hombres de Neandertal. Ellos eran capaces de intercambiar cosas como joyas y cuentas, fuentes de identidad, y también materia prima de piedra para crear herramientas en cientos de kilómetros.

 

Jada Benn Torres:

Por el modo en que los seres humanos se dispersaron por el planeta, no existen tantas barreras geográficas que los humanos no puedan sortear, o sea que podríamos mandar personas al espacio ahora.

 

Agustín Fuentes:

Los seres humanos no solo se especializaron en convertir las piedras en una especie de herramienta,  sino que además se especializaron en inculcar al mundo un sentido particular.

 

Rick Potts:

Tenían una cultura simbólica más rica que trajeron con ellos.

 

Agustín Fuentes:

Una imaginación que les permitía levantar una piedra y ver en ella no solo una herramienta, sino quizás una criatura mitad hombre, mitad león que significaba algo para ellos.

 

Rick Potts:

El sentido, así fuera espiritual, filosófico, artístico o científico, esa búsqueda de sentido era parte del conjunto de herramientas que evolucionó en nuestra especie, Homo sapiens.  Y eso es absolutamente fundamental al vivir en un mundo de incertidumbre y disrupción.

 

Agustín Fuentes:

Y hoy cada ser humano individual tiene la capacidad de estar aquí ahora, pero para imaginar, para soñar, para creer mucho más allá de cualquier cosa que hayan experimentado.

 

Rick Potts:

Siempre se trata de esa pregunta límite: ¿Qué significa ser humano? La ciencia puede ayudar a fundamentar ciertos aspectos de esa pregunta, pero en realidad, lo que fundamenta esa pregunta es un rango completo de esfuerzos humanos. Obviamente, la religión y la filosofía, la ética, los valores que aprendemos mientras crecemos, los libros que leemos, las artes en general, practicar el arte, son todas áreas donde la gente gana conciencia de su propio sentido como ser humano. Incluso con la simple experiencia diaria, desarrollamos un concepto de eso.

Existe una oportunidad para que haya un diálogo entre la ciencia y todas esas otras áreas de esfuerzo que realmente agudizan nuestro sentido de significatividad de ser humano.

 

Click here to watch the entire “Becoming Human” series.

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