Francis Grice

To be human is to be both the epicentre of the universe and just one of billions of tiny ants scurrying around an obscure rock in space.
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For Students

We're excited to hear that so many of you are interested in a career in paleoanthropology. There are many different ways to work toward a degree in anthropology and many different branches of the field to study. Cultural, physical, and linguistic anthropology and archeology are the four usual branches of anthropology, and most colleges or universities will give you an introduction to all fields and perhaps allow you to concentrate in one. Studying anthropology is popular among undergraduates, and many schools offer major and minor programs.

Climate Effects on Human Evolution

Early human faces and environments

This article explores the hypothesis that key human adaptations evolved in response to environmental instability.  This idea was developed during research conducted by Dr. Rick Potts of the Smithsonian’s Human Origins Program.  Natural selection was not always a matter of ‘survival of the fittest’ but also survival of those most adaptable to changing surroundings.

Why do we get goose bumps?

The body hair of all mammals automatically stands up when cold, creating a fluffy layer of warmth. When we’re cold, the muscles around the hair follicles contract – a reflex left over from when our ancestors had long body hair. But since we don’t have much body hair, all we see are the goose bumps on our skin.

Our eyes say it!

Compared to other primates, humans have huge ‘whites of the eyes’, or sclera. This means that humans can easily read each other’s gaze. In experiments, great ape infants usually follow a gaze only when the experimenter also turns his head. But human infants follow the gaze when the experimenter moves only his eyes. The whites of our eyes may help a lot in communicating with one another.

How does scientific knowledge about evolution relate to cultural beliefs about our origins?

Answer: 

Societies worldwide express their beliefs through a wide diversity of stories about how humans came into being. These stories reflect the universal curiosity people have about our origins. For millennia, they have played a vital role in helping people develop an identity and an understanding of themselves as well as of their community. This exhibit presents research and findings based on scientific methods that are distinct from these stories.

What about the gaps in knowledge about human evolution?

Answer: 

In science, gaps in knowledge are the driving force behind the ongoing study of the natural world and how it arose. The science of human origins is a vibrant field in which new discoveries continually add to our understanding of how we became human. You can learn about some of the most recent findings in this exhibit.

How can we reduce the conflict between religion and science?

Answer: 

Many scientists are people of faith who see opportunities for respectful dialogue about the relationship between religion and science. Some people consider science and faith as two separate areas of human understanding that enrich their lives in different ways. This Museum encourages visitors to explore new scientific findings and decide how these findings complement their ideas about the natural world.

Can the concept of evolution co-exist with religious faith?

Answer: 

Some members of both religious and scientific communities consider evolution to be opposed to religion. But others see no conflict between religion as a matter of faith and evolution as a matter of science. Still others see a much stronger and constructive relationship between religious perspectives and evolution. Many religious leaders and organizations have stated that evolution is the best explanation for the wondrous variety of life on Earth.

What has been discovered about evolution since Darwin?

Answer: 

A lot! Since Darwin died in 1882, findings from many fields have confirmed and greatly expanded on his ideas. We’ve learned that Earth is old enough for all known species to have evolved. We’ve discovered DNA, which confirms that all organisms are related to one another. And we’ve uncovered millions of fossils that provide evidence of how one life form evolved into another over time.

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