Human Evolution

The Primate Diaries

Category archives for Human Evolution

Classical literature has judged Helen of Troy harshly. Because she chose Paris after having children with Menelaus, her chroniclers condemn her for the destruction of a great society. In Homer’s Odyssey the bard writes: Helen would never have yielded herself to a man from a foreign country, if she had known that the sons of…

The Potent Fear of Male Menopause

Three products that profit on male insecurities (Enzyte, Viagra and Tiger Penis Wine) Note: the third image is from a campaign to encourage people to stop, not an actual ad. In my earlier posts I explored why women experience menopause and discussed the Grandmother Hypothesis as a leading explanation. There is accumulating evidence that suggests…

There may need to be a significant revision in the recent description of one of humanity’s oldest ancestors. Ardipithecus ramidus (or “Ardi” for short), the 4.4 million year old hominid fossil discovery, has been a godsend to paleoanthropologists (pun intended). But one of the key researchers has made what could be a serious error in…

In my earlier post I discussed the “Grandmother Hypothesis” as an explanation for human reproductive senescence, or menopause. A problem arises in understanding why women forgo one-third (and sometimes as much as one-half) of their reproductive lives, a condition unique in the natural world. Could this just be a neutral mutation, an artifact of longer…

Why Do Women Experience Menopause?

Whether they’re referred to as hot flashes, power surges or personal summers, the experience of menopause is not fun. But could it be the result of human evolution? One of the most fascinating areas of research in evolutionary studies is the question of reproductive senescence. Why do women go through menopause? Chimpanzees and bonobos, our…

In the classic film Casablanca, the drama hinges on Ilsa’s choice between two men: her kind and supportive husband or her rugged and passionate ex-lover. In a moment of abandon, Ilsa returns to her lover’s arms only to later change her mind and choose the more stable life she would have with her long-term partner.…

Survival of the Kindest

Seed magazine has just posted my review of Frans de Waal’s The Age of Empathy: Nature’s Lessons for a Kinder Society. I wanted to use this opportunity to thank Nikki, Evan, Bora and everyone else that helped in developing this piece. For posts on related topics please see Misunderstanding Dawkins, The Sacrifice of Admetus, Bonobos…

Author’s Note: This piece is a continuation of my article “Survival of the Kindest” that appeared in Seed magazine. As an undergraduate in biology and anthropology I read every one of Dawkins’ books voraciously and would get into heated debates with my close friends about the Dawkins-Gould rivalry. He was one of the primary voices…

Heracles battles Death for generosity’s sake / Frederic Lord Leighton (1869-71) Whereas great scientific theories stand the test of time when they accurately predict the natural world through repeated empirical trials, great literature transcends the ages when it speaks to universal qualities of human experience. Such inspirational works can also, without the authors realizing at…

Bonobos and the Politics of Human Nature

Bonobos often adopt a “missionary” posture during copulation (photograph by Frans de Waal). As part of the series of reposts leading up to my review of Frans de Waal’s newest book The Age of Empathy: Nature’s Lessons for a Kinder Society I present the second of three pieces that appeared after Ian Parker’s 2007 article…