We’re not evolving right now seems to be the consensus due to the lack of pressure and fragmentation. Prehistoric humans used to roam vast distances in small groups, but we’ve since taken on sedentary lifestyles where we settle and grow large populations that are less pressurized into evolutionary changes due to the shifts over a vast period of time. This has been the case for a long time, since humans discovered agriculture.warning: rant ahead
I think chimps are a bad example, as much as the widely cited but wildly inaccurate “99% the same” statistic of our relation to chimps is loudly touted they bear very little resemblance to humans. But back to prehistoric mankind, I don’t think they’re ugly at all, if anything I think we’ve become increasingly dysgenic with our increasing sociality & shift in food sources. You should look up the Russian fox experiments and see what I mean exactly. They took beautiful Red Foxes and selectively bred them for the purpose of domestication. This experiment all but confirmed the existence of the so-called “domestication syndrome” which describes a series of phenotypic changes associated with domestication. The same happened to humans as we auto domesticated for less aggressive, less mature and less territorial humans under the span the past several thousand years. Prison/executions is a good example of how we’re still doing that. The pace was picked up by sessile agriculture, animal domestication and now industrial society. The end result of the experiment resulted in foxes that behaved like dogs, became smaller, their coat changed color, their brain became smaller, they became more social and less aggressive and so on. All of this came from breeding only for one trait—tameness. Personally, I think this fox is objectively uglier.
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Think of dogs as juvenile wolves that never escape their immature state. Wolves as pups are playful, attentive, obedient and basically have all the traits we associate with mature dogs. But as they grow up they shed all these traits that are actually meant for learning survival skills from the parent and become mature wolves. This maturity entails a physical but also a mental change as to better survive in the wild. The early human skull from South Africa that I posted earlier for example had a brain capacity a fifth or fourth greater than humans today which is a trait almost all early human skulls share such as Jebel Irhoud, Herto man, Florisbad and Skhul/Qafzeh etc. A prominent change in domestication syndrome is a reduction is brain size, among other things.
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You might think this trajectory is a good one if it brought us modern society, which in a way it has, but I don’t believe it to be necessary for high civilization... but that’s another conversation. Try to look ahead into the future, since we are noticing this trend speed up tremendously in recent years; that men have almost half the testosterone compared to two generations ago, generalized decreasing bone mass, fluid IQ is going down, et cetera.
Meanwhile women are subtly being selected for juvenile neotenous traits due to human over socialization, which by the way, tangentially is likely where the whole shaving thing comes from subconsciously. I recommend you read this entire Wikipedia article for more about this.
The future of the human race as it stands now is a big eyed alien-looking scrawny mass of consumer slaves probably ruled by or dominated by an upper class that retained our more archaic traits. Men are becoming increasingly feminized while women are becoming more juvenilized and more feminized. Women are reaching menarche faster than ever while men are becoming increasingly less sexually dimorphic.
Our “primitive” ancestors had a GPS of their territory in their brains, had stronger and bigger skeletons & skeletal muscle, had a compendium of edible plants and species stored in their heads, wrestled animals twice their size for food and so on. As a group we know more about our world today, and from a materialistic perspective live “better” lives but as individuals we are worse measured up against the ancients.
It is getting to the point where we are so reliant on others that we won’t be physically or mentally capable of surviving in wild without civilization. What’s terrifying then is the knowledge that civilization has a end-date, a point where if we don’t reach the stars and beyond, we exhaust Earth of the things we need to prolong our societies or else find ourselves in something that we would not call civilization. Things like rare earth metals and crude oil and probably a million other things we are surely depleting.
In wanting to make things easier and better we have become worse off. Your body sheds what it doesn’t need; every normative comfort a future sacrifice. These are the intellectual reasons I find prehistoric humans more of a marvel, but weirdly enough, instinctively from just looking at their skulls I think them our betters.
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Incremental generational differences aren’t a marker for the change in that family’s facial shape. The most likely scenario is that the father, or his spouse, possessed the genes for that facial shape and it won out in dominance against his grandfathers’ more refined features.
My appreciation remains for the modern human, not only because I see it as a superior in body, even despite the strength differences (even if prehistorics are stronger than us, we’re more generalized, meaning we have less limitations than they - we can do more physically). Beyond that, we’re far more intelligent, which makes all the difference in the world.
We traded the bigger muscles, for a bigger brain, which requires constant sustenance/glucose and a significant percentage of the 02 from your every breath. It’s a high energy cost. And it’s unlikely for both happen to the point there’s no biological example of a high energy cost intelligent brainy specimen whom also possesses the high animal strength most beasts do.
I think you’re romanticizing our primitive forbears. They have little to show for themselves.