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When was the first actual human existence started and did we evolve from primates?
Question Date: 2002-02-28
Answer 1:

You asked some tough questions! I don't think scientists will ever know the answers to either question, but we can make some good guesses based on the data that we have, which is really what science is all about.

If you've been reading the paper in the last couple days, you may have seen an article about a recent study trying to determine when humans "first became human", or when we developed culture (cave paintings, societies). Apparently, this question is still debated a lot, but most anthropologists agree that our species (Homo sapiens) first evolved about 130,000 years ago. Before Homo sapiens, there were other non-primate human-like beings as early as 3 million years ago, including Australopithecus, Homo Habilis, Homo Erectus, Homo heidelbergensis and Homo Neandertalensis. You may have heard of some of them. These are the organisms from which humans are most recently evolved.

Again, scientists will never know for sure if humans evolved from primates, or if all living things on the planet first evolved from single-celled organisms like bacteria 3.5 BILLION years ago. So, I can only give you my opinion, and that is that yes, I believe humans evolved from primates. The best evidence for this comes from DNA studies.

Some DNA sequences change (that is they mutate) very rapidly. This is one reason why you can find unique gene sequences in every organism. Scientists can use these DNA sequences to determine which person's blood is found at a crime scene, or who the father is of a particular child. Some DNA sequences, especially ribosomal DNA (DNA required to make protein), change incredibly slowly, because if something were to happen to these sequences organisms would die. These DNA sequences are shared by every living organism on Earth. The large range of gene mutation rates means that genetic sequences can be compared among organisms to determine how similar they are to one another. Primates like chimpanzees (chimps) and bonobos have DNA that is 98-99% similar to human DNA, suggesting primates are more closely related to humans than any other group of living organisms studied so far. Scientists working in the 1800's (e.g., Charles Darwin and Alfred Russel Wallace) had already proposed that humans were closely related to primates based on other kinds of evidence, especially fossils. A good place to read about this work is through the BBC web site on evolution
click here to read.

Answer 2:

You know, the question you asked me is the same question that churches, governments, scientists, and many, many others debate about all the time.

If I knew the TRUTH, then I could answer that debate once and for all. However, there is no definite answer to your question. What I will tell you are tidbits from each side of the story. According to some people, the earliest humans evolved from primates (probably something like the chimpanzee) about 1-2 million years ago. They base this off of humanoid (meaning "human-like") bones they found in different parts of the world. They dig these up and look at their radioactivity (all things have a small amount of harmless radioactivity that is great for determining the age of something) to figure out how old they are. That's the simple version.

O.K., now there is another side of the story. Some people suggest that the earliest humans were created a few thousand years ago, and that we are not related to monkeys in any way. They base this off of written accounts of humanity, for example the book of genesis in the bible, and also based on the absence of evidence connecting humans to apes. Because of the strong differences in opinion, this subject is very controversial, and most people get very upset. As I scientist, I think it is important to respect other people's ideas, especially if we want them to respect us. That's not so hard is it? Now here's a question for you. Can you think of a way to prove that people are related to monkeys? Can you think of a way to disprove that people are related to monkeys? Spend some time doing this and you will see just how hard it is. Good luck!

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