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Evolutionary Mysteries

Date: 08-12-12
Host: Ian Punnett
Guests: David P. Barash, David Elkington

In the first half, Ian Punnett (Twitter) was joined by Prof. David Barash who discussed evolutionary mysteries and puzzles of human nature. Human brains grew much larger over a long period, but since the end of the Cro-Magnon era about 25,000 years ago, they have stayed about the same size, he reported, adding that it doesn't appear that smarter people (or those with larger brains) are having more kids than those with average intelligence. Interestingly, he noted that with medical advances, people with various ailments such as cancer and diabetes have been able to live longer and reproduce, which has led ironically, to an increase at the genetic level in the underlying genes that predispose us to diseases.

Evolutionary biologists have long debated the significance of music, visual art, dance, and other creative forms practiced cross-culturally, that seem to serve no evolutionary purpose. Barash suggested that one possibility is that in terms of sexual selection, the person who makes or appreciates art is showing off their excess brain power, which makes them more attractive to a partner. Another mystery he cited concerned the size of womens' breasts, which actually have no correlation between lactation and size.

Our current state of evolution is a product of natural selection and historical accident, Barash commented. As to why consciousness has evolved so strongly in humans, he proposed several hypotheses. One is that consciousness may simply be a byproduct of our brain, which developed to perform other skills; another is that we may need consciousness in order to understand how others see us-- an important skill as a social species.

Jordan Codices Update

Appearing during the third hour, religious scholar and Egyptologist, David Elkington, gave an update on the Jordan Codices, ancient books that could change the world’s view of biblical history. Found in a cave by Bedouins during a flash flood in Jordan, the codices are composed of lead and bound with lead wire. The texts, said to be written by 1st century Christians in Paleo-Hebrew, confirm that Christ did indeed exist, and that his role as described by the Gospels was accurate, he reported. Elkington said that the information found in the Codices will provoke debate and discussion about the origins of Christianity, and that he would be able to reveal much more in the coming weeks after the government of Jordan gave the go-ahead to release his findings.

The last hour of the show featured Open Lines.

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