Professor Agustín Fuentes published an article in Science, “‘The Descent of Man,’ 150 years on.” Fuentes writes about Charles Darwin and states how Darwin had “injurious and unfounded prejudices that warped his view of data and experience.”
In 1871, Charles Darwin tackled “the highest and most interesting problem for the naturalist…the descent of man.” Challenging the status quo, Darwin deployed natural and sexual selection, and his recently adopted “survival of the fittest,” producing scenarios for the emergence of humankind. He explored evolutionary histories, anatomy, mental abilities, cultural capacities, race, and sex differences. Some conclusions were innovative and insightful. His recognition that differences between humans and other animals were of degree, not of kind, was trailblazing. His focus on cooperation, social learning, and cumulative culture remains core to human evolutionary studies. However, some of Darwin's other assertions were dismally, and dangerously, wrong. “Descent” is a text from which to learn, but not to venerate.
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