The dictionary definition of the word humanity has two meanings, firstly it means human beings collectively, secondly, it refers to the quality of being humane and benevolent. Everyone would agree that man is a piece of work. It took decades for the Homo sapiens to evolve from their primitive stage and set themselves apart from their predecessors. What was it that that set us humans apart from our ape ancestors?
Experts reveal a plethora of theories, most of them shed light on the time as well as on what it did for the human evolution.
What makes humans unique?
Advanced tool making mechanisms
Anthropologist Kenneth Oakley said in an article in 1944, “It is in making tools that man is unique.” Our ancestors, the ape, used found objects as tool, whereas the mechanisms used by the Sapiens for tools was the first activity that distinguished us from the apes, “but the shaping of sticks and stones to particular uses was the first recognizably human activity,” determines Oakley.
The Killer ape theory
The theory that Sapiens are killers was produced by anthropologist Raymond Dart. He determined that we distinguished ourselves from the living apes by being conformed, carnivorous killers, who “seized living quarries by violence, battered them to death, tore apart their broken bodies, dismembered them limb from limb, slaking their ravenous thirst with the hot blood of victims and greedily devouring livid writhing flesh.”
Dart is also the founder of the killer ape theory or the killer ape hypothesis. Dart uses this theory to attribute the driving force and human aggression which he alleges has been one of the main reasons for the onset of the Second World War. The theory was originated by Dart in 1961 and was further developed by Robert Ardrey.
Sapiens become unique with the fact that we share food. As determined by anthropologist Glynn Issac, we are distinguished from our predecessors by the fact that we share food. Issac provided evidence of animal carcasses that had been shifted from the sites of death to other locations so that the meat could be shared with the entire community. The practice of food sharing provoked the idea of sharing of information, thus leading to the developing of language and varied social behaviors.
As claimed by archaeologist Reid Ferring, throwing stuff and events such as public stoning in order to drive off predators also can be referred to an episode which induced socializing. Stoning animals was a group activity which required the effort of the entire group to accomplish the goal. This also involves the activity of hunting, which requires even greater efforts of cooperation.
Furthermore, adaptability became one of the most defining characteristics of humans to set themselves apart from the ancestral apes. The human evolution happened over a span of decades, which required the Sapiens to survive through multiple changes of climate. The process of natural selection favored primates who could adapt to constant and unprecedented changes.
The ability to unite and conquer
According to Anthropologist Curtis Marean, the genetic disposition of cooperation played a significant role for the Sapiens to be able to unite and conquer. This trait did not rise from altruism but from conflict, claims Marean.
The stronger groups were the ones that usually cooperated. They in return gained a competitive edge over the rival groups and thus their genes survived. “The joining of this unique proclivity to our ancestors’ advanced cognitive abilities enabled them to nimbly adapt to new environments,” Marean writes. “It also fostered innovation, giving rise to a game-changing technology: advanced projectile weapons.”
The above mentioned features thus help in understanding the first definition of humanity, which is human beings collectively.
Pictures that define humanity
The second definition which refers to the quality of being humane and benevolent is unfortunately not easily encountered in today’s era, which has more examples of conflict than of unity. When faced with such adversities of the human world, we need a reminder that there is still someone who is capable of restoring our faith in altruism.
The image of the Afghan native offering a cup of tea to the Afghan soldier speaks volumes about kindness and bravery. The photo was taken by photographer Rafiq Maqbool in Kabul in 2009, during his search operation for members of Taliban in the Nerkh district of the Wardak province, which is to the west of Kabul. The picture is sure to stir up emotions portrayed between the two contrasting worlds of the Sapiens depicted in the photo. While one talks about the theory of sharing, the other portrays the soldier caught in the act of fight and defense.
The picture of Kenyan marathon runner, Jacqueline Nytepi Kiplimo will remain eternally in our hearts when she risked first place in the marathon, as she ran forward to help a disabled runner to finish his marathon during the Zhengkai International Marathon in 2010. The Chinese elite disabled athlete struggled to drink water, when Kiplimo came to his rescue.
The third picture of a handicapped fan being held by his fellow friends at a Korn concert in Moscow again speaks powerful words of kindness and of acceptance.
Both the pictures highlight the definition of humanity, underlining the qualities of humane and benevolence, of tolerance, and thus the human ability of inclusion and cooperation.
Scientists claim there is no single trait which has worked as a turning point for human evolution. There was never anything inevitable about the outcome of animal stoning, toolmaking, being cooperative, among others. The traits will continue to evolve.
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