Evolution of Man and Woman

I ran across this cute artwork illustrating the evolution of man and woman by Calgary artist, Tom Rhodes, on his blog, Plan to Fail. In his post, he explains that it was a project for his figure illustration class where he was given free reign to pick his subject. He picked evolution. But instead of running off and drawing half-monkey hybrids, he rushed to the University of Calgary’s Archaeology department to seek council from experts, notably Dr. Anne Katzenberg.

The result is more cartoony than most scientific illustrations, but I think it does an appealing job of representing the changes that have taken place over the last million and a half odd years since Homo habilis.

My only concern is the noticable shift from dark skin to light over the course of the piece. Rhodes justifies this by appealing to the fact that our ancestors tended to migrate north, with a corresponding lightening of the skin. However, the earliest Homo sapiens are likely to have sported dark skin, as they required skin pigmentation to protect them from UV radiation in the absence of the hair that covered their forebears.

But hey, this isn’t a scientific illustration, it’s an illustration of something scientific.

The image is below the fold, as it may offend some interminable prudes (it does contain nudity – specifically, nude primates!). In fact, if you are an interminable prude, and you do click to see the picture, I’ve probably offended you twice.


The Future of Morality

This is the End of the Beginning of the New Synthesis, the path hacked through the jungle of confusion to a new destination, and the Beginning of the Middle of the actual hard work of mapping the complex terrain of our moral faculty.

Science, Religion and the Quest for Secular Morality

Note: for the record, I’m not particularly interested in engaging in the great science versus religion debate. For me, the debate is over; it’s a non-starter; an albatross around the neck of reasonable discourse. My hope is that we might one day become unshackled from it, and on that day thousands of able minds might be directed towards more fruitful pursuits. And I’m not particularly interested in trying to bend the will of dogmatic religious folk to my views. Others engage in such pursuits with great vigour such that my contribution is unnecessary. However, I am ever enthusiastic to engage with rational individuals in productive dialogue on where we might venture after the debate has passed into memory. It is to that end that I offer the following post.

Can religion and science co-exist peacefully? Many wish they could. But alas, it isn’t so. So says Jerry A. Coyne, evolutionary biologist at the University of Chicago, in his review in The New Republic of two books that hope to find some conciliation between religion and science. The review is lengthy, but ably weaved and dense with insightful analysis and observation. Well worth a read.

And it represents another sign that the debate is ready to move on – to the Great Quest of finding a secular morality that can replace religion as our moral and values compass in the modern world. But before I get to that, the review, and why science and religion will never get along:


Right-thinking as a Moral Foundation

I’ve finally had an opportunity to read through the challenge to Jon Haidt’s Moral Foundations Theory by Craig Anderson, of the University of Wisconsin, and I’ve found there are differences with my own similar challenge. Craig suggests that truth/right-belief could be considered as a sixth moral foundation: The central aspect Read more…

Honesty and the Moral Foundations

Further to yesterday’s post is a fascinating story that’s all over the news here in Australia – a story that illustrates my point that honesty is one of the pillars of morality, and is discrete from other Moral Foundations. In January 2006, former Australian Federal Court judge Marcus Einfeld was Read more…

A Sixth Moral Foundation?

There have already been a number of proposed additions or revisions to the Moral Foundations Theory. But there’s one that I don’t think has received sufficient attention:
6) Truth/honesty, shaped by the psychology of cheater detection and modules that determine the trustworthiness of other individuals in situations social exchange. It is the root of notions such as ‘honesty is the best policy.’

The Evolutionary Psychology of Bullying

Bullying is tragic. And evidently it’s not uncommon (although, surprisingly, the Internet doesn’t seem to know whether incidence of bullying in the schoolyard is on the up or down over the past several years – can anyone enlighten me?).

But are our anti-bullying programmes working to combat bullying? Apparently some are, but even the most effective programmes only marginally reduce bullying; none seem able to drive it out of the schoolyard altogether. Why?

Well, here’s one theory: some children are biologically predisposed to bullying because such behaviour lent their ancestors a selective advantage in our evolutionary past. (more…)