Introduction to Evolutionary Anthropology: Chapter 1 and Lecture notes
Anthropology is holistic – consists of socio-cultural anthropology (comparison of
societies and cultures), linguistic and semiotic anthropology (language and
communication), archeology (material evidence of human’s ancestor’s past),
medical anthropology (human health and culture), and biological anthropology
(study of human and non-human primates).
What Do Evolutionary Anthropologist Study?
Evolutionary anthropology – specialize in primatology, paleoanthropology, human
variation, medical anthropology, and forensic anthropology.
Primatology – study of non-human primate species
Paleoanthropology – biological evolution of humans and non-human primates
They excavate fossils and study changes in human cultural activities. They also
study the evolutionary history of behaviour in human and non-human primates.
Human variation – determine spatial and temporal variations. There are not only
variations in outer appearance but there are also skeletal and dental variations.
Medical Anthropology – study of how social, environmental, and biological factors
influence health and illness of individuals. Investigate spatial and temporal
variations in human survival, disease, and health disparity.
Forensic anthropology – focuses on skeletal remains of humans (determine sex, age,
stature, ancestry, and possible disease or trauma)
How Do Evolutionary Anthropologists Conduct Their Research?
There are three types of research: descriptive, casual, and applied
Descriptive – collect data about the study subject or objects (doesn’t provide reason
for results obtained in other words they do not demonstrate casual relationships)
Causal research – looking for one thing that causes another thing to occur (cause
and effect relationships)
Applied research – determines means by specific steps
A scientific theory is a well-substantiated explanation of some aspect of the natural
world that incorporates facts, laws, predictions, and tested hypotheses.
A common theory is based upon personal opinion
A hypothesis is a testable statement about the natural world that a researcher uses
to build inferences (reasoning to build up a conclusion) and explanations. Scientists
make sure that the hypothesis is falsifiable (disproves the hypothesis). Scientists use
observations from past experiments to formulate and test a hypothesis. Don’t prove
it … you fail to reject it (support the theory).
Evolutionary anthropologists use the scientific method. There are five sequential
1. Observation of the phenomena
2. Formulation of a hypothesis
3. Developing methods to test the validity of the hypothesis
5. Conclusion that supports or modifies the hypothesis. 2
The scientific method constructed by the scientists must be repeatable, observable,
empirical, and measurable. The data collected can either be quantitative (numerical)
or qualitative (non-numerical).
Development of Evolutionary Concepts
Name of scientists Contributions to the theory of evolution
Aristotle Observed the anatomy of many aquatic fish and indicated that they
2600 years ago were thousands of years ahead of their time
Zhuangzi Suggested that living things have the power to transform themselves
2400 years ago to adapt to their surroundings
Carl Linnaeus (1707 – Classified plants and animals
1778) He introduced the taxonomic system
Swedish botanist Introduced the binomial nomenclature (scientific method for
assigning names to species and genra)
George-Louis Leclerc 36- volume Histoire Naturelle (1749 – 1788)
(1707-1778) This book allowed us to form the core concepts of biogeography.
French aristocrat He also believed that species changed and evolved after they moved
mathematician and away from the place they were created.
Jean- Baptist Lamarck Reformulated and specified how organisms change
(1744 – 1829) Organisms lose characteristics that they don’t use and develop
French soldier and useful characteristics that the individual can pass on to their
academic offsprings. He believed the changes occurred due to an unknown
nervous fluid. He also theorized that environmental factors could
change behaviour and biological organs.
Lamarckism – theory of inheritance of acquired characters and soft
inheritance (not accepted)
It is important to note that he believed the changes occurs within an
individual throughout their lifetime wrong
Georges Cuvier (1769 – Published structural similarities and differences between organisms
1832) aristocratic (comparative anatomy and paleontology)
French naturalist Contribution to the evolutionary theory = comparative anatomy of
extant and extinction of mammals (against the religious belief of
fixity of species: species are created by god and will always exist)
Catastrophism – the idea that catastrophic events alter geological
features and caused the extinction of plants and animals this view
challenges the earth’s age
At that time the earth was believed to be 5700 years old (biblical
James Hutton Upheaval and erosion of sedimentary rocks has occurred for
(1726-1797) millions of years
Scottish naturalist and Uniformitarianism – a theory that natural processes, such as
geologist erosion, operating in the past are the same as those that operates in
Charles Lyell (1726 – Made major contributions in stratigraphy (study of rock layers) and
1797) Scottish geologist glaciology (how glaciers are formed)
Book: Principles of geology (1830-1833) 3
Example of the binomial nomenclature for humans is Homo sapiens
Note that the term Homo sapiens is Latin the first letter is capitalized and the
whole term is in italics. Homo refers to the genus and sapiens refers to our species.
Charles Darwin (1809 – 1882) English geologist and naturalist
Attended medical school but wasn’t interested. He grew an interest in zoology,
taxonomy and basic concepts of biological evolution. Enrolled in theology at
Cambridge University. He joined an expedition to survey geological formations in
Wales and this is where he heard of the HMS Beagle, which was to set sail to survey
the coast of South America. The two-year trip extended to five years and the HMS
Beagle explored the eastern and western coast of South America, the Galapagos
Islands, Australia, various islands in the Indian Ocean and South Africa. Darwin read
Lyell’s book on the principles of Geology.
He married his cousin Emma Wedgwood shortly after his return from the
trip. His research was not only based upon his dead plant and animal collection but
he also spoke to specialists about his collection and