Our evening course on Human Evolution, a course for life-long learners started again yesterday evening. It will be the last time that the course will be given, and maybe this was the reason why the course attracted so many students this time. Usually we have had around fifty students in this course, but yesterday close to ninety students were eagerly waiting in the large lecture hall! Will all these students sit through until the end of the course or will they gradually drop off, because the course content is not exactly what they had hoped for?
Human evolution is an extremely rapidly developing subject. New discoveries and especially the advancement in genetic techniques have completely revolutionized the picture we had only ten years ago. So much is being written about new finds, both in science journals and in the general press, in online media and in blogs that it is sometimes difficult to keep completely up-to-date, and to really judge all these new results.
A few weeks ago I provided a link to an online course in Human Evolution in one my blogs, and also links to two interesting blogs, which discuss new discoveries and place these in a wider context.
However, having my ninety curious students in mind, I thought I would expand a little bit more on the subject, at least during the duration of the course, and add interesting links here on my blog as the course progresses.
A question that always pops up during the course is how the terms hominid, hominin, hominoid and human are defined. The National Geographic Style Manual provides a nice answer. Also if you already now want to read up on the big question of What Makes Us Human, then click here. The Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History has very nice webpages dedicated to human evolution, which are really worth checking out. Another good background reading is the article by Herman Pontzer in Nature Education Knowledge (Pontzer, H. (2012) Overview of Hominin Evolution. Nature Education Knowledge 3(10):8).
Now I have probably given enough material for reading until the next class!