The idea that humans are not a branch of the ape-tree, but that apes are a branch of the human tree throws around the usual notion of human evolution, but what if the large apes (Chimpanzees, Gorillas, Gibbons) are not a branch of the hominidae, but degenerated and specialized (adapted to circumstance) descendants of a proto-human? The standard image used to explain evolution shows how humans are a further development from the big apes with the usual remark that we don’t really are descending from the apes, but that we have a common ancestry, to stay within the neo-darwinian evolutionary paradigm. In this essay I will develop some good arguments to label humans as the original and main line of hominid evolution, and the apes as deviations. This would extend the human or proto human lineage to at least 35 million years (oldest Miocene ape-like or proto-human fossils) but maybe even older (dating technology evolves, but remains ambiguous) and reaching beyond the 66 million Cretaceous–Paleogene extinction event, the end of the dinosaurs. This makes sense, if we see the human form (genotype) as the most flexible, less specialized form of land-animal life, as a natural and logical direction or even goal of evolution, with the possibility of further development beyond what we have seen in the changes from hunter-gatherer to pastoralists (18.000 years ago) to agricultural civilization (12.000 years ago) and the steps from group mind towards individualism.
Think about the awkward image of a supposedly four legged animal or a predecessor of the big apes turning into the upright bipeds we are. Why would the fore-paws of the big apes, limited and adapted to the biotope of specific species as they are turn into our very flexible and agile hands, why would we humans go such an awkward path to become what we are, obviously the way apes move and grasp is less flexible and more specialized to their living environment, while we humans retained our broad agility!
Ever wondered why apes are seen as evolved for 4-legged animals, as they clearly walk on their hands? Doesn’t it make sense to explain the development from 4-peds to 2-peds by pointing at what obviously is a degenerate (specialized) use of fore-arms and hands. Apes don’t look like four legged animals that took to the trees, they look like bipeds that specialized, adapted to a limited biotope like the mountain or forest and lack the initiative to go beyond that.
Consider this scenario:
Among the various species of proto-humans (most disappeared but somehow always new versions of homo emerged from what seems to be a basic message in the DNA and evolution, that we go forward against (local) entropy tendencies) there were some, that lost the power to manipulate fire. They had to resort to chewing raw food, leading to larger and more energy consuming jaws (fitting to survival) in even a few generations (the Lamarckian adaptive evolution now supported by epigenetics), thus less energy to support congnition (brains), bigger tummies to digest uncooked food, and other adaptations to the situation and environment. These proto-humans became apes, specialised and living in restricted biotopes, not spreading much, and retaining the Group Mind consciousness of the early proto-humans, not evolving towards some kind of more individual self consciousness.
This degeneration (or specialization and adaptation to a limited biotope) may have been the result of a mutation (the neo-Darwinian way) or of some accident, climate or cosmic event, or as a necessary survival (maybe even to escape more smart proto-humans that hunted them) but it seems a more logical path than that we as humans a re a branch of the monkey (primate) tree, and means the apes are a branch of the human tree.
Evolution and emergence are hot topics, but I looked at what happens if we reverse the usual image and arrived at the hypothesis that monkeys and especially the big apes are degenerated humans, more like specialized and isolated branches of a clear dominating evolutionary line, being the most flexible animal, the human race. Our common ancestors (and humankind had some trial and errors) were not some evolutionary predecessor of unclear signature, but definitely a proto-human. This proposition makes much sense, as DNA, embryo and genotype development supports this, and the (humanlike) learning abilities of apes are mostly copycat or re-engaging human capabilities (that were present in their wiring), not new capabilities. Plus of course there are all the stories of the theosophical, Maya, Hopi etc. traditions about earlier root-races. In the Maya Popul Vuh the third human (root) race is mentioned as degenerating to apes.
Humans are considered very neotenic (Louis Bolk retardation theory), meaning the retention of some immature characteristics in adulthood. We are like embryos when born and need longtime care to allow adulthood, because our skull needs to be able to grow and develop our brains some say, but then why did the Neanderthals with even larger skulls but less cognitive skills were not even more neotenic? The typical human characteristics (extended life history; long limbs, and very long legs; very low brachial and crural indices; highly developed pollex and hallux; long ovarian cycles; reduced prognathism; advanced telencephalization etc.) are, according to Bolk, Bok and Josef Verhulst, proof that ontogenetic latecomers tends to be more neotenic than a corresponding forerunner, but why not turn this around. Neotenic could be the ‘evolutionary’ normal way of evolution towards a non-specialized and universal animal with the highest survival potential under earthly conditions. The way we reproduce and take care of newborns is different from other mammals, but consider how marsupial life evolved in similar forms but with a different way to rear babies than mammals, Bok’s and Bolke’s retardation has not led to intelligent kangaroos or did it?
The human time frame tends to extend into the past. There are now many fossils and findings (the environment the fossils were found) that indicate human ancestors like Ardipithecus (4.5 Ma), Orrorin (6 Ma), Sahelanthropus and Homo naledi. We never found a real missing link specimen, but there are many findings of the various proto-apes, different branches of the hominids, and it is clear that over time evolution took many routes, like parallel evolution, divergent evolution, and many branches ended or because of natural disaster like the Toba eruption, showed bottlenecks. The interpretation of those fossils is mainly based on looking at the skulls, more specifically at the jawbones and teeth, as those survived the best. Those specimens do indicate the differences between human and ape-like development, even as the variety in findings makes this a very complex puzzle.
Some apes can learn things humans do, to some degree, but only with human help. They can learn to recognize human voices and commands, use symbols, some kind of sign language, learn to use all kinds of tools, but always from humans teachers, who spend a great deal of time to develop these skills. In their million year history (apes are not newcomers) they never developed much of this by themselves. Even as psychedelics, the root of human development people like Terence McKenna posed, were available all the time. So why can we teach them this, if not because the roots of cognitive capabilities were still there and only needed some refreshment?
There are many reports of regression along the evolutionary trail by users of psychedelics, and they mention fish and reptiles, but never being part of a monkey or big ape lot. Now tripping is not a very scientific research model (yet), but the consistency of the reports, even by people with little background or prior knowledge makes this another pointer supporting the hypothesis.
The young baby champanzeee looks much more like a human child than a mature chimpanzee, less hairy and if we look at the embryonic development, humans and the big apes are very much alike, even as we look beyond Ernst Haeckels misrepresentations, the pictures so long used to illustrate the development of our human race along the fish, reptile, primate path. The big apes show a marked adaptation of what is much more human in the embryo, the adults are better adapted to their situation, more specialized.
The embryo stages point at the possibility that the humans are the root, not a sideline of the hominidae branch of evolution and that earlier proto-humans were there, and the apes are the ones that lost intelligence or use of fire and became specialized. But also in the DNA there is some support for my hypothesis. There is the whole discussion about Dollo’s law (hypothesis proposed in 1893 by Belgian paleontologist Louis Dollo), which states hat evolution tends to run in one direction. that once an anatomical feature was lost in the course of evolution it never staged a return. The human evolution tree as a branch of the apes went against this and was cited to prove Dollo was wrong (myology-based cladistic analyses of primate phylogeny provide evidence of anatomical reversions violating Dollo's law: of the 220 character state changes unambiguously optimized in the most parsimonious primate tree, 28 (13%) are evolutionary reversions, and of these 28 reversions six (21%) occurred in the nodes that lead to the origin of modern humans; nine (32%) violate Dollo’s law. , the structures that were lost in adults of the last common ancestor and are absent in adults of most subgroups of a clade are actually present in early ontogenetic stages of karyotypically normal individuals as well as in later ontogenetic stages of karyotypically abnormal members of those subgroups. For instance, the presence of contrahentes and intermetacarpales in adult chimpanzees is likely due to a prolonged/delayed development of the hand musculature, that is, in this case chimpanzees are more neotenic than modern humans.) The exceptions in the development of the neck, pectoral region, and upper limb musculature in primates were seen as invalidating Dollo. This however, is thus seen from the perspective of the classic cladistics/tree. If we, in this hypothesis, we assume that the lineage leading to humans started before the apes branched off, Dollo is still valid. Recent publications indicate that Dollo is more of a statistical law, that re-appearance of certain traits would become improbably after some millions of years. Then Dollo only makes clear that another ape-to-human mutation is highly improbable,and a new human-ape mutation would not be the same as present species. Within the Dollo logic, it makes more sense for apes to be degenerated/adapted humans.
The usual evolution trees (Cladistics)and biological classification of the hominids are thus challenged. The assumed last common ancestor of chimpanzees and humans (some 7 milion years ago) then is not an proto-ape, but a proto-human or even a home sapiens of some sort, that degenerated. There probably have been more home sapiens branches, that died out or were taken over by other, smarter sapiens sapiens branches, like the Cro-magnon (European Early Modern Humans (EEMH)) overtaking the Neanderthals. The oldest early humans so far are the Ardipithecus, but who knows what we will find yet, there are stories about earlier root-races. The oldest ape-like remains, some 35 million years old, may have been degenerated humans too, maybe adapted differently to a different biotope. Their DNA however, shows some remarkable characteristics closer to human DNA than to present day apes.
Yes, this hypothesis that the big apes are degenerated humans forces us to rethink evolution? But has epigenetics (like the recent discovery that not only female but also male (sperm) epigenetic tags can be inherited) and a re-appraisal of J.B. Lamarck’s idea of passing on acquired characteristics not challenged the neo-darwinian notion of chance-mutation (and then survival of the fittest) as the only (or even most significant) evolution mechanism? Darwin himself did accept Lamarck’s notions. Natural selection and survival of the fittest can now be replaced by ‘fitting to survival’ paradigm, more of a syntropic (Luigi Fantappiè) and directional notion of evolution as having purpose and direction. We now know that DNA is just a digital and noise-resistant code-carrier that will respond to the beck and call of the whole cell and organism layers above it. Gene silencing does not require deletion of the gene, nor a deleterious mutation in its coding sequences, but can occur through a mutation in its control circuitry that results in loss of expression or expression below a threshold level. I would not go as far as stating that gene-expression is a free-will mechanism or that dolphins are also degenerated (proto-) humans but obviously the neo-Darwinian paradigm is shaking. Also the question whether evolution is preprogrammed or opportunistic I leave to others.
This hypothesis puts our whole nice neo-darwinian evolution on its head and points at the possibility, that there were humans long before the hominids and early humans we have found (going back now 7 million year). These earlier proto-human or human varieties may have disappeared, due to all kinds of situations, but seemingly the direction of DNA and life development re-created or re-mutated towards humans enough times to lead to homo sapiens sapiens, to us. This points at a principle in life, a direction that is part of the whole evolution. The consequences of this in theological and metaphysical perspective are serious, but I will leave that discussion to another forum.
Luc Sala email@example.com
This article was First published (in Dutch) in Sept 2015.
Of course there can be the argument or the question, where other pro-simians, strepsirrhine primates, tarsiers and in fact other life forms came from? Why did humans emerge and when, is the human form somehow hidden in the dna of all earthly life? If they were there before the apes, they could be 35 million years old, but why not 66 (dinosaur end) or more? Genetic studies show that primates diverged from other mamals about 85 million years ago. I leave this to theologians and biologists, just expressing an anomality in the current image of human evolution.
The idea that apes are degenerated or rather hybrid humans was (to uphold the 7 day Biblical evolution) was defended by George MG Price (1924 New Geology), Lord Monboddo and Ivan Sanderson, but they considered apes to be the product of humans mixing with animals. The idea that we are not descending from the apes, but the apes from us has been mentioned in antroposophical circles like by Albert Soesman (In De TwaalfZintuigen page 51,1994). More extensively and referring to vertebrae paleontology and primate( anthropoid) fossils comparison Björn Kurtén (in Not from the Apes, Pantheon, 1971) argues that man did not descend from the ape. By calling Propliopithecus a hominid, Kurten argues for a straight line from Propliopithecus to Ramapithecus and on to the “Dartians.” Since Propliopithecus predates the Dryopithecines, and the Dryopithecines were apes, our ancestors bypassed the apes in the early Miocene.
The books by R. Sheldrake, Arie Bos, A. Damasio, J. van der Wal, L. Bolk, J. Verhulst, R. Diogo, R.D. Martin, S. Weyl, S-J Gould are obvious sources and references.
Josef Verhulst; Bolkian and Bokian retardation in Homo sapiens. 1999
Björn Kurtén; Not from the Apes, Pantheon, 1971
Ritual, the magical perspective, 2014 by Luc Sala www.lucsala.nl/ritual
Sacred Journeys, 2016 by Luc Sala www.lucsala.nl/sacredjourneys.pdf
Sociobiology THE NEW SYNTHESIS. Edward O. Wilson. 1976 The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press. Cambridge, Massachusetts, and London, England ...
Violation Of Dollo's Law: Evidence of muscle reversions in primate phylogeny and their implications for the understanding of the ontogeny, evolution, and anatomical variations of modern humans, april 2012 by Rui Diogo and Bernard Wood firstname.lastname@example.org
Soft-tissue anatomy of the primates: phylogenetic analyses based on the muscles of the head, neck, pectoral region and upper limb, with notes on the evolution of these muscles, JOURNAL OF ANATOMY, Volume 219, Issue 3, September 2011, Pages: 273–359, R. Diogo and B. Wood, online June 20, 2011
Dollo's law and the death and resurrection of genes (development/gene inactlivation/functional constraint/evolutionary reversal/molecular evolution) CHARLES R. MARSHALL*, ELIZABETH C. RAFF, AND RUDOLF A. RAFF Institute for Molecular and Cellular Biology and Department of Biology, Indiana University, Bloomington, IN 47405 Communicated by Richard E. Dickerson, August 8, 1994 (received for review October 4, 1993)