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Origins of Man

The debate over the origins of man continues to rage on the scientific front. With new genetic tools and DNA mapping, much can be surmised from anthropological evidence on the history and origin of man. According to a recent article in Scientific American, The Modern Human Origins Morass, there are essentially two scientific theories for the origin of man: 1) the Neanderthal theory and 2) the Out of Africa replacement theory. The Neanderthal theory asserts that modern man came from Africa about two million years ago and evolved to Homo sapiens along a single species. Origins of ManThe Out of Africa theory asserts that Homo sapiens replaced the Neanderthals and other species approximately 15,000 to 200,000 years ago and formed a new species altogether. However, recent DNA information has brought to light new theories and cast shadows of doubt on the old theories.  

The article in Scientific American reports that Svante Pääbo of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, and his colleagues discovered that Neanderthal DNA did not show any relation to DNA from Europeans who supposedly modern man was supposed to have evolved from, according to the Neanderthal theory. In fact, the article reports that modern DNA was more than three times removed from DNA that is compared between two Modern day humans.

DNA testing has proven problematic, according to the Scientific American article. For example, the history of a single gene cannot reflect the entire genetic make-up in an individual; this would involve recovering nuclear DNA which is difficult with today’s technology. What is clear through DNA testing is that ancient humans shared genes and behavior across the globe and Homo sapiens clearly do not come from one specific group.  Essentially, humans have a history of interbreeding that has shaped our behavior and genetic make-up. Therefore, the debate over the origin of man will not end with the methods of DNA testing that modern day man has established but rather, the future will determine whether we solve the mystery the origins of the human race.

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