Human Nature, Race, Evolution

Biological Anthropology

These sections explore biological anthropology, emphasizing biology and evolution as dynamic processes and anthropological documentation of human possibility. For a glimpse of how I attempt to teach biological anthropology in an Introduction to Anthropology course, see Intro to Anthro 2021 which uses the textbook Anthropology: What Does it Mean to Be Human?

Those looking to teach and learn Biological Anthropology as a textbook-free course can consult Dr. Holly Dunsworth’s fall 2020 Textbook-free Introduction to Human Origins and Evolution as a great resource.

I have two preferred textbooks specifically for biological anthropology. There is the 2017 2nd edition of The Alternative Introduction to Biological Anthropology by Jonathan Marks. For a somewhat more traditional textbook approach, there is The Human Species: An Introduction to Biological Anthropology by John Relethford. For an accessible and popularly-written book, see Race, Monogamy, and Other Lies They Told You: Busting Myths about Human Nature (Agustín Fuentes 2012).

The sections below are also available on Amazon as a Kindle eBook, Anthropology I: Human Nature, Race, Evolution. However, I have been unable to update the Kindle edition since 2012-2013.

1.1 Anthropology & Human Nature

Anthropology’s search for human nature emphasized shared capacities in particular cultures. But humans are always in process–there is no human nature.

1.2 Evolution & Natural Selection, Anthropologically!

Darwin wrote of “descent with modification.” Evolution and natural selection describe natural processes, but there are potential problems with these terms.

1.3 Biological Anthropology & Racism

To understand human evolution, from hominin species classification to Denisovan debates, it is essential to understand biological anthropology and racism.

1.4 Human Skulls: Boas Head Shape Studies Revalidated

Human head shape is considerably plastic–there is no natural or genetically-determined head shape. The Boas head shape studies have been revalidated.

1.5 Attacking Anthropology & the Race Revival

Anthropology successfully debunked race, but we now see race revival, from “A Family Tree in Every Gene” to attacking anthropology. How did this happen?

1.6 Race Reconciled Re-Debunks Race

Race Reconciled: How Biological Anthropologists View Human Variation features an important set of articles re-debunking race.

1.7 Race Becomes Biology, Inequality Embodied

Anthropology reveals how race becomes biology, intertwining social categories and biology. This is dynamic and developing biology, not genetic determinism.

1.8 So Many Primates for Primatology

Primates vary by species, group, and individually. Primatology reveals there is no single primate behavior pattern at the base of human evolution.

1.9 Bipedalism is Also Called Walking

Habitual bipedalism–not big brains–differentiated hominid ancestors from apes. But walking is a learned behavior, not easily explained by selection.

1.10 Stone Tools for 2+ Million Years

Stone tools date to 2.5million years ago, yet direct ape-to-human comparisons persist. As Jonathan Marks comments: “We evolved, get over it.”

1.11 Denisovans, Neandertals, Archaics as Human Races

Were Denisovans and Neandertals ancestors of modern humans? Different species? Or sub-species, like races? Anthropology shows porous species and admixture.

1.12 More Mothers than Mitochondrial Eve

Embracing Mitochondrial Eve was problematic for anthropology. Recent admixture studies show anthropology should recapture multiregionalism.

1.13 Biocultural Naturenurtural Human Biologies

Human biologies are biocultural platforms of possibility. Anthropology reveals the naturenurtural of humanity rather than determining genes and instincts.

After that, it’s on to Archaeology