Monday, June 29, 2009

Anthropology Essay

If you were to ask someone what Anthropology is, the first thing they might mention is Indiana Jones, digging up bones and artifacts, and at the same time, running away from big boulders in a dark cave. Although these facts are somewhat true, that is not all what Anthropology is about. Anthropology is the study of the human species, in the past, and the present (Park 2002). Through Anthropology, we are able to learn about our pasts and ancestors. Anthropology is basically, “digging up people’s garbage,” (Griffin 2002). But it’s garbage that helps us to further expand our knowledge about the past. One day, thousands, and maybe even millions of years from now there will be people digging up our garbage and learning about us. Anthropology has many different subfields (Griffin 2002).

The main topic that we are going to discuss is Biological Anthropology, also known as Physical Anthropology, which focuses on the study of the human species. The theory of evolution is an important factor that helps scientists, and ourselves, understand what Anthropology is all about. Charles Darwin was the first man to strongly believe in the theory of evolution, which by definition means, a species of living things change over time, and under the right circumstances, this change can produce new species of living organisms (Park 2002). Although he proved that evolution exists, there are still people out there who believe that man was created by God, and that we didn’t evolve from other animals. So to this day, evolution vs. religion becomes a very controversial topic. To better understand the human species, scientists closely study and examine primates because we share derived characteristics which means that two groups share phenotypic features not found in other groups and if it can be supported that those features were derived from a common ancestor, the groups must be lumped from the same category at whatever taxonomic level is appropriate (Park 2002). Each new discovery that Anthropologists make whether it be from bones and artifacts, or from primates, helps us as human beings understand why we are the way we are.

There are four subfields of Anthropology. Cultural Anthropology deals with the way we are raised. It is not in our genes, but rather the society and the area that we live in (Park 2002). If you observe different parts of the country, everyone’s culture is different. For example, Amish people are taught and raised the old fashioned way. They don’t use electricity, they grow their own food, and wear certain types of clothing. They choose not to be exposed to the modern day world, therefore they live how people lived before technology came about. That is part of their culture, and what they’re all about. Even people that live in the same country but in different parts have a very different culture.

New York and California are in the same country, but the people in each state have a different culture all their own. The next field is archaeology which is almost like biological anthropology. Archaeology is the study of the human cultural past and the reconstruction of past cultural systems. It also involves the techniques used to recover, preserve, and interpret the material means of the past (Park 2002). Archaeology is more focused on artifacts created by our ancestors and the way they lived. The last subfield in Anthropology is Linguistic Anthropology. Linguistic Anthropology focuses on languages in the past and their change over time. Other culture’s languages and ways of communication are also studied.

In order to understand what Anthropology is all about we must understand the theory of evolution. Evolution simply means, “change over time,” (Griffin 2002). About two million years ago humanity began to show its evolution in the order of the universe. Humans originally belonged to the order of mammals, the primates, which existed before the dinosaurs became extinct. This development of descending from tree habitats to forest floors and eventually to more open country was associated with the development of many unique features of the human species. However, humans did not evolve from a primate ancestor, humans as well as apes both evolved from the same primate species, but each branched out in different directions tap become different species (McKenna 1998). Darwin was the first man to ever really prove the theory of evolution. He was able to gather enough information and evidence that evolution does exist. Darwin’s findings marked a revolution of thought and social upheaval that not only challenged the scientific community, but the religious ones as well (Walker 2002). Some people do not believe in evolution, due to their religion. Christians believe that man began with Adam and Eve, and that we descended from them. Today there are still arguments if evolution is a fact or theory. By definition, “theory” means a statement of what are held to be the general laws, principles, or causes of something known or observed, as the Oxford English dictionary defines it. Evolution began as a hypothesis and achieved “facthood” as the evidence became so strong that not even the smartest and most knowledgeable person could deny its reality. This theory continues to challenge religious beliefs.

Primatalogy is the study of primates and apes to help us better understand human behavior (Johnson 1997). Of all the animals, primates and apes are closely similar to humans. A primate’s intelligence is closely related to our own. Humans and apes have the same behavioral patterns such as grooming, and interacting in groups. Some of our facial features are also somewhat alike. To better understand the human species, we need to study and understand other forms of life, to see how we are different, and how we are alike. It’s hard to study ourselves, because humans tend to not want to be objective about our own type, so Primatology plays an important role in Anthropology (Park 2002).

Anthropolgy is a crucial subject to be studied. The more educated we are about our past, the wiser our decisions will be for the future. Learning about our ancestors, and the way we live plays an important role for our lives today. Without the study of Anthropology and its different subfields, we would know nothing at all about ourselves.

In the future, the way we live, and everything that we are now will be studied. Some of the most prominent evolutionary theories of all time can be found in Charles Darwin’s “Origin of Species.” His conclusions linked humans’ bone structure to primates, apes, and gorillas. They are closely linked to the evolved human of the time. Within 500,000 years time, he claimed, that we had evolved from Australopithecus Ramidus to the present Homo Sapiens that we are categorized as. He sums the entire evolutionary theory in his book, “We must...acknowledge, as it seems to me, that man with all his noble qualities, sympathy, benevolence, and god-like intellect which has penetrated into the movements and constitution of the solar system itself-with all these exalted powers-Man still bears in his bodily frame the incredible stamp of his lowly origin (Darwin). In my opinion, evolution is both a theory and a fact. Facts and theories are different things. Facts are the world’s data theories are structures of ideas that explain and interpret facts. Facts don’t go away when scientists debate rival theories to explain them. Darwin continually emphasized the difference between his two great and separate accomplishments: establishing the fact of evolution, and proposing a theory-natural selection-to explain the mechanism of evolution.

Those who do not believe in evolution should consider the fact that maybe God made it possible for living things to evolve. Religious beliefs and evolution come help make what we are today. Due to an abundant amount of evidence, it is hard to dismiss the theory of evolution. Between digging up the past, and studying primates to better understand ourselves, Anthropology becomes an important science.

Sure, doctors and surgeons can cure the diseases of the world, but without extensive knowledge of the human race, then we might as well be blind when we are trying to cure the sick. Our past becomes the key to our future, it’ll prevent us from making mistakes that our ancestors may have made, and it aids us in understanding the very complex human species.

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1 comment:

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