Decent from H. Erectus

Robert S. Wrathall (Wrathalls@AOL.COM)
Fri, 7 Apr 1995 03:10:22 -0400

In the latest AA journal, Grover Krantz (p. 147) presents an
excelent overview of the problems of the decent of modern
humans from Homo erectus. Clearly there is much evidence
in favor the transition theory, however the rapidity and
totality of the conversion is somewhat puzzling. I would like
to suggest, here, a hypothesis which would explain that
transition and the rapidity with which it took place.
Fundamentally, it is a selection for civilization.

In Discover Magazine, a report was made about the
transition from foxes to dogs (Rosie Mestel, Ascent of the
Dog, Discover, October, 1994, p. 90). The artical reports the
activities of Dmitry Belyaev, director of Cytology and Genetics
in Novosibirsk. Since foxes are so wild, they are hard to raise,
so Balyaev set about to domesticate foxes for economic
reasons. He selected for short "startle distance," alone.
Within 20 generations he had raised dog-like foxes which
had little or no startle distance and were as friendly as dogs.
More to the point, they looked like dogs, also, negating the
economic purpose of the experiment.

Foxes and wolves are rather distantly related species, but by
selecting for docility, dog phenotypes are obtained in both
cases. This result can certainly be applied to the
developement of modern humans from Homo erectus.
Interpretations have been made which suggest that juvenile
traits were selected such that puppy-like behavior as well as
puppy-like phenotypes persisted in adults.

Based on the article about dogs, wolves and foxes, it is highly
conceivable that we are not a different species from H.
erectus. Certainly there are smaller differences between us
and Homo erectus than, say, between a Pekinese dog and a
gray wolf, which are of the same species. Let us assume that
there is only one species Homo sapiens divided into
subspecies, Homo sapiens erectus, Homo sapiens sapiens,
Homo sapiens neanderthalensis, etc. What are the
implications of this new division?

First of all, this makes the multiregional hypothesis
absolutely tenable, which theorizes that H. sapiens evolved in
different places from H. erectus. The reason why this can
happen is that there is no species differentiation, so any
subspecies derived from H. erectus would automatically be
able to breed with any other subspecies derived elsewhere.
This makes perfect sense.

So, what can we make of the similarity of modern humans
around the globe? Why, self selection, of course. It
happened almost simultaneously everywhere that social traits
were selected for, intelligence, for one, and the ability for
large groups of adult males to work together in relatively
peace. In other words, tame Homo erectus was being
developed large scale and world wide. We have inherited the
juvenile form of H. erectus. We play.

As these behavioral traits were selected for in the
development of modern human social organization, the
phenotype converged on the modern human form
simultaneously around the globe as a byproduct of that
behavioral selection with minor variants which now appear
as races. This is in exact parallel to the development of dogs
from wolves and foxes. Select for behavioral traits and
obtain equivalent phenotypes.

H. sapiens neanderthalensis was certainly a close relative.
Obviously, however, the phenotype did not converge exactly
on the modern human form. Was there too much of the
ancient untamed race left in this group to allow for ultimate
survival? Even if H. sapiens neanderthalensis did interbreed
with H. sapiens sapiens, there was plenty of time for the
untamed elements to be bred out of the Neanderthal line
before the final advent of modern European culture. This
automatically means a convergence, even from H. sapiens
neanderthalensis, to the modern human phenotype. This line
of reasoning seems very satisfying and very unifying.

We are to the H. erectus as dogs are to wolves, but we
selected ourselves for intelligence and, hopefully, altruism
and peacefulness. This selection was obviously incomplete.
We may assume that the process of self selection will
continue into the future with the emergence of our own
hand crafted offspring, perhaps the true new species. In my
own personal thinking, we should rename ourselves Homo
erectus because it elicits the wolf still observable in our
nature, and reserve the title Homo sapiens for the better
species to follow. The thinking human. We are not that


Robert S. Wrathall