This site is not maintained. Click here for the new website of Richard Dawkins.

Comment

← How Humans Became Moral Beings

Jumped Up Chimpanzee's Avatar Jump to comment 8 by Jumped Up Chimpanzee

Something as complicated as a conscience probably took longer than that. It has some bells and whistles that are total mysteries, such as blushing with shame. No one has the slightest idea how that evolved. But I would say a few thousand generations, and perhaps between 25,000 and 75,000 years.

I'm always very puzzled when I hear estimates like this about major and universal human characteristics having evolved in that recent time frame. I believe that the Out of Africa theory that all modern non-African peoples of the world are descended from a very small band who left Africa about 75,000 years ago is still widely accepted. By about 50,000 years ago, some of their descendants had reached Australia. So how could such a major human characteristic as conscience have evolved after this widespread worldwide migration and possibly as recently as 25,000 years ago? To have done so it must either have evolved simultaneously all around the world, or it must have evolved in one tribe and then somehow spread by reproduction throughout the whole worldwide population in a relatively short period of time.

I'm no scientist or expert on these matters but it just doesn't seem to fit to me at all. Surely all major features such as modern human conscience must have been present well before the Out of Africa migration started to place human populations so far apart from each other and in such dramatically different environments. Surely we couldn't have remained completely linked reproductively during this period, certainly not to the extent that evolved characteristics from Australians could have spread all the way through Asia to South Africa, or vice versa, for example.

Any opinions or advice on this would be greatly appreciated.

Mon, 04 Jun 2012 21:12:05 UTC | #945573