2.a.2. Historical evolution and human evolution

An aspect appeared in previous examples of historical evolution is that the changes of scale can affect particular objectives of a system and that the relevant variables are different from short-term and long-term variables. We must be especially careful when talking about internal dynamics in biological evolution or human evolution; given that, these concepts inevitably associate with an individual or a system, and it can change according to the scale in which we move.

Let us remember that, when speaking about the limits of knowledge, the temporal and spatial horizon may impede the logical reasoning when operating as limits of the perception.

With the perception of a dynamic system in the long-term or historical evolution, we can imagine something similar to a film with all of the steps. The movie will give us the effect that it has internal dynamics because indeed it has, but it is not the internal dynamics of the individual but instead of the film in of itself.

Perhaps it is a typical effect of the long-term models or historical evolution. The human mind tends to study the external perception of a model to avoid too complex systems; that is, it tries to carry out a partial analysis while not being able to manage the overall problems of the model.

In the biological evolution of man, something similar occurs with the theory based on the natural selection because it seems it has its internal dynamics, and it does. However, this is only referring to one of the determining factors of evolution that also operate as the result of real development.

The theory of natural selection refers exclusively to the elimination of new beings and their descendants through their adaptation. It is necessary, as a result, to give a random trait to the rest of the possible determining factors or elements of human evolution. At the same time, it needs the long-term with all of its inconveniences, so that its internal dynamics are capable of producing similar effects, in appearance, to those of real progression.

Recent information with an excellent presentation of the history of human evolution along the last 160.000 years and the geographic routes taken by our ancestors are in the page Journey of humankind - The Peopling of the World. ➹

The phenomenon of a long-term study of historical evolution is equivalent to a change of scale. Let’s cite, as a summary, some of the problems that arise to a greater or lesser extent:

  • There is a tendency to lose the temporal notion in the long-term analysis and the spatial context of a different scale from the human one.

  • Understanding the changes in relations between representative variables.

  • The same problem can appear about the dynamics or internal relationships of the system, the individual, and its particular objectives.

  • Not only the variables can change, but it can change their nature. For example, a discrete short-term variable can be a continuous variable due to the changing of scale.

  • When changing the spatial or temporal reference within a specific analysis of historical evolution, we should mention explicitly the changes above.

Genetics is on a different scale from humans. On the theories of human evolution, there is a predisposition for the long-term analysis.

Let us analyze a characteristic of historical evolution, using a graph, how a long-term model eliminates the perception of short-term changes. The figure shows an exponential growth whose ratio is 1.25, but by only triplicating the period, a sufficient visual effect appears.

Exponential growth perception
Short-term and long-term exponential growth comparison.

Let us imagine the effect of the long-term in a vague model. Naturally, the optical effect appears because the range has changed, but we have seen that, in many cases, the variables also change. We could assume both the scale and the variable will change along the history of human evolution.

Despite being conscious of the change of scale and knowing the growth is exponential, we cannot stop thinking that, in the second figure, there is hardly any growth during the first 15 periods. It is worth noting that exponential growth is typical of temporal sequence models like historical evolution.

Another problem is the ability to measure such small differences when the intuitive scale corresponds to the latest period, especially when the other extreme of biological evolution of man is the origin of life.


Being a human or a chimpanzee is distinguished by a little more than 1% of the genome, only ten times more than the very difference between two individual humans.

It is estimated that the genetic difference between the human being and the chimpanzee lies in no more than 400 million nucleotides (the elements of DNA) from a total of 3 billion.

El País 20-02-2002

In some studies, we must acknowledge the limits of the human mind when it comes to the logical perception of variables and relationships. In other words, the conclusions could be fragile.

These thoughts lead us to study the implications of understanding only long-term human evolution and eliminating the short-term when thinking about human origin and biological evolution of man. We would say, people, in general, have these biases about our species and themselves.


Let us cite some of the most relevant consequences and facts of the historical evolution of man:

  • The intellectual capacity of the Homo sapiens has not substantially changed during the last 30,000 – 50,000 years.

  • The ability to make fire is a great evolutionary leap in human evolution keeping in mind the cerebral capacity of first humans to achieve it.

  • Another significant milestone in human evolution for their small intellectual capacity is the discovery, surely by accident, of the wheel.

    Scribe - Louvre Museum Egypt 2500 BC and 1450 BC
    Egyptian scribes, 2500 BC  Egyptian scribes, 1450 BC  
  • Despite human mental capacity, at the beginning of our species, we did not talk much nor create large grammatical structures because, either, for what we did, it was not worth the time, or because we had to wait for our vocal cords to develop through random mutations of the transmitted genetic information.

  • In ancient Egypt, humans developed an excellent ability for construction with the pyramids, managing the walls would not fall over for an extended period. There is a reason that they are the only ones of the seven wonders still standing!

  • Before the Greeks, the scientific philosophy and development did not interest us, except for some honorable exceptions.

    Some Greeks believed the practical application of knowledge meant reducing it and, therefore, should only stand in the world of ideas.

  • With the human evolution of Romans, thanks to their technology, it was easy to build aqueducts than a closed pipe, since we had not noticed for some unknown weakness, that the level of water tends to be the same. Not even the inhabitants of the coasts or the seamen realized this fact in spite of the nooks and crannies where the land and water meet in many places.

  • Without knowing the exact origin, another tremendous Roman contribution to historical evolution was beginning to count with down strokes. Going so far, even, as to represent five down strokes with a V, which simplified mathematic calculation considerably.

  • The idea that Earth was spherical was a little difficult to believe; especially given the moon and the sun. The shape of the half moon was unknown, not seen anywhere else, even by aiming a flashlight onto an orange. Finally, thanks to the accumulated knowledge transmitted from generation to generation, 500 years ago there was the conviction that indeed it was spherical and revolved around the sun; even though it may have gotten someone into trouble –Galileo (1564-1642). It could be due to the generational leap.

  • We were fortunate when it occurred to Newton (1642-1727), thanks to his weakness for apples and the trend for thinking during his time, he expanded on his feebleness, and he proved, amazingly, that something similar occurred to the sun and the moon.

  • Miguel Servet (1511-1553), a Spaniard, was not so lucky with his ideas about pulmonary circulation and the role it has in respiration with the transformation of venous blood into arterial; admittedly, he did not present them with the same poetic feeling as Newton.

  • Just in case, and so that no one doubts the long-term historical evolution of human intellect, we need to adjust the different scales used to measure IQ –intelligent quotient– every 20 to 25 years at most.

    When some authors estimate the IQ of some geniuses of humanity, they adjust the IQ to the corresponding era to facilitate its comprehension and to be loyal to the reality that the quotients used are only a relative measurement. We would say that is double relativity! If we had a similar measure at our disposal for height, it would turn out that Romans were as tall as humans nowadays in Italy. It will be another quantum effect of the relativity of space and time!

In short, we could continue giving examples indefinitely; on the other hand, we are sorry for having used a certain irony in these last points, but we too have some weaknesses.

At no time we attempt to diminish the contribution from those mentioned above; besides, it was quite the contrary since those advances make up part of the history of human evolution and show, in our opinion, the gradual improvement of the capacity of human mind since the origin of man.

Going back to our usual seriousness and regarding the previous figures of exponential growth, we should ponder the Homo sapiens have had 4,000 generations at most, according to the latest paleontological estimations. Also, according to some authors, IQ shifts 10 points every 20 years, which means approximately 10 points every generation.


Found in Ethiopia, the oldest fossils of…  
...three skulls from 160,000 years ago...
Given the small differences with the skulls of the current species, those responsible for the discovery and analysis are in favor of naming a new subspecies for these fossils; Homo Sapiens Idàltu, but specifying that by shape and size they are very close to the Homo Sapiens (the current humans)

El País 12-06-2003 Nature

Let us point out that advances in biology and genetics are beginning to show the changes in genetic information and their interrelations in the short-term evolution, which will undoubtedly make classic approaches become surpassed shortly.