The Branches of Humanity

I think it helps to remember that all humans share common ancestry. While there are certainly cultural and biological differences around the globe today, these are the tip of the iceberg, the distant branches of the tree. Under the surface, at the roots, the distribution of people across the globe owes itself to a long, gradual process of migration — or several migrations — during which time some differences arose (along with the interbreeding with neighboring groups that maintained similarities). 

The animation below illustrates some of the major migrations of people across the world over the past 200,000 years, reminding us of our roots and shared connections. Some of this is already out of date. For example, a recent study suggested that modern humans may have reached China by 100,000 years ago, much earlier than suggested in the video. But the point still stands — no matter where they live today, all humans can trace their lineage back to the same place.

Inequality, Evolution & Obesity

A recent study on child obesity by researchers at Harvard has received a good deal of media attention lately. In the NY Times, a synopsis of the study was one of the most emailed articles in the country (“Baby Fat May Not Be So Cute After All,” March 22). The key sentence from that article:

“More and more evidence points to pivotal events very early in life — during the toddler years, infancy and even before birth, in the womb — that can set young children on an obesity trajectory that is hard to alter by the time they’re in kindergarten.”

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Rising Apes and Fallen Angels

In my weaker moments, I always found it somewhat comforting to know that nobody is perfect. Even historical figures that are often conflated with human perfection had serious flaws. Isaac Newton is considered by many to be the most brilliant person in history, but was aloof, suffered from nervous breakdowns, and as a teenager may have threatened to kill his mother and step-father. Gandhi wrote frequently about his own imperfections and struggles with selfish desires. Einstein deserted his wife and two children for another woman (his cousin). Mother Teresa wrote about her own doubts and struggles with faith. Jesus had his fit of rage in the temple.

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