Anthropology and the “Scars of Human Evolution”

Misshaped skull from the front sits on a shelf in blue light

Two anthropologists, Rachel Caspari and Karen Rosenberg, discuss the Scars of Human Evolution. In a live interview for the American Association for the Advancement of Science (below), they address questions such as, “what are the downsides of evolution?” The chat covers the costs on our bodies, health, reproduction and on our aging populations. Caspari and Rosenberg pose an argument that runs counter to the way in which many people think about human evolution. That is: evolution is not always geared towards perfection. Humans have made excellent strides towards improving our quality of life, to make evolution “workable,” but we don’t often stop to think about the trade offs of evolution. All species have these evolutionary imperfections, but “It may be because humans are cultural animals, we’re able to ameliorate the effects of some of those [issues].”

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Divorce, Parenting and Drug Use

This is the worst use of science I’ve seen in the past couple of weeks. Oxford ethicist Brian Earp argues that couples should use the drug ecstasy to help protect the “adult pair bond” for the sake of their children. He incorrectly draws upon anthropology and evolution to make his case. Encouraging open debate about drug use and questioning the deviance and stigma attached to it is aligned with anthropology and social science principles in general. However, arguing that ecstasy is the answer to parenting and relationship problems is highly problematic.

Social science has shown that parents divorcing is not detrimental to children per se – the psychological damage is a result of parents adopting poor conflict resolution strategies. Pamela Kinner published a robust review of the literature and she conducted studies of divorced children which shows this is the case. Read Kinner’s Australian research: