Becoming Human Essay

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Becoming Human: NOVA’s Three Part Series Evolves Nicely. NOVA is a great science series aired on PBS, The Public Broadcasting System. I have been a regular viewer, reluctantly and voluntarily, for the past thirty years. NOVA broaches the field of paleoanthropology, one that is dear to my heart. In short, we get a rather up to date look at human origins. Well, at least that is what the producers thought. Just prior to the airing of the program in 2009, a major discovery, that of Ardipithecus ramidus, as one of our earliest ancestors, was announced. Oops! Still, the program has its merits, and what follows is a synopsis and review of the three part series. Becoming Human: Part 1. First Steps. Who are we? Where did we come from? When did we begin? Such questions have plagued our species since we became self aware. The fossil record is extremely sparse, and our ‘family tree’ is being written, and re-written, as discoveries are made. We all know about Charles Darwin and his theory of evolution by natural selection, so eloquently expressed in his “Origin of Species”, published in 1859. Darwin rightly postulated that humans evolved in Africa, and that a “missing link” remained to be discovered. Several“missing links” have been found in Africa, among them in the 1950s “Zinj”(Zinjanthropus), and “Handy Man”(Homo habilis), both discovered in Olduvai Gorge, Kenya by Louis Leakey, as well as “Lucy” (Australopithecus afarensis) discovered by Don Johansen in Ethiopia in 1974, to “Turkana Boy”(Homo erectus), discovered by Richard Leakey in Kenya in the 1980s. Each in its own time had been hailed as “the missing link”, and as our direct ancestor. Many discoveries have been made since, and the ‘family tree’ has proved to be quite ‘bushy’, as it were. Our closest living relatives are the apes, particularly the chimpanzee and gorilla. When did our common ancestor
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