May 26, 2013

Great Quotes About the Evolution of Man

credit: San Diego Museum of Man

Lucy: Her Story of Survival

I’m writing a novel about paleo-historic man. As such, I’ve spent an inordinately long period of time researching early man and their environment. Here are some of the best inspirational quotes about trees and evolution of our species:

  • Future changes of any note will be in our minds, and what we do with them. –Phillip Tobias
  • “But I’m not dancing alone,” he said. “I am dancing with the forest, dancing with the moon.” Then, with the utmost unconcern, he ignored me and continued his dance of love and life. The Forest People: A Study of the Pygmies of the Congo — Colin Turnbull
  • Impossible is relative –Dr. Michio Kaku
  • Man still bears in his bodily frame the indelible stamp of his lowly origin. –Charles Darwin
  • When primeval man first used flint stones for any purpose, he would have accidentally splintered them, and would then have used the sharp fragments. From this step it would be a small one to break the flints on purpose and not a very wide step to fashion them rudely. –Charles Darwin, The Descent of Man
  • Fossils are like truth. They are not where you look for them, but where you find them. –GHR Von Koenigswald
  • I learnt from Flo how to be mother. Flo was patient, tolerant. She was supportive. She was always there. She was playful. She enjoyed having her babies, as good mothers do. –Jane Goodall, referring to a mother chimp she’d studied for years.
  • Chimps are unbelievably like us – in biological, non-verbal ways. They can be loving and compassionate and yet they have a dark side… 98 per cent of our DNA is the same. The difference is that we have developed language – we can teach about things that aren’t there, plan for the future, discuss, share ideas… –Jane Goodall
  • (Man’s) greatness does not consist in being different from the animals that share the earth with him, but in being…conscious of things of which his environment has no inkling. –GHR Von Koenigswald
  • A society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they shall never sit in. – Greek Proverb
  • Words require little energy to produce; they are ‘cheap tokens’ and can be used with little or no risk or cost to deceive, just as easily as to inform. Body language is much more reliable for most animal purposes. — Derek Bickerton
  • “Once you become a carnivore,” he says, “the world is different. Carnivores need immense home ranges.” H. erectus probably ate both meat and plants, as humans do today. But,” says Walker, “there was a qualitative difference between these creatures and other primates. I think they actively hunted. I’ve always said that they should have gotten out of Africa as soon as possible.” Could H. erectus have traveled all the way to Asia in just tens of thousands of years? Observes Walker: “If you spread 20 miles every 20 years, it wouldn’t take long to go that far.” Clive Gamble
  • It is important to get the relationship between Nature and humankind right, both in its long-term development and in its present possibility. Richard Potts
  • It’s going to make people sit up and think. Professor John Gowlett, University of Liverpool, discussing the probable discovery of fire at GBY (in Georgia) 790ka
  • During several of the summer months of the year 1783, when the effect of the sun’s rays to heat the earth in these northern regions should have been greatest, there existed a constant fog over all Europe, and great part of North America. –Benjamin Franklin, discussing the uncommon weather in 1784, following the volcanic eruption of Iceland’s Lakagigar in 1783
  • There was a time in this fair land when the railroads did not run, When the wild majestic mountains stood alone against the sun. Long before the white man and long before the wheel, When the green dark forest was too silent to be real. Many are the dead men too silent to be real.--Gordon Lightfoot
  • Through the years her work continued to yield surprising insights, such as the unsettling discovery that chimpanzees engage in primitive and brutal warfare. In early 1974, a “four-year war” began at Gombe, the first record of long-term “warfare” in nonhuman primates. Members of the Kasakela group systematically annihilated members of the “Kahama” splinter group.-Jane Goodall
  • It is among the truly basic and universal facts of nature that all species vary –Simpson, 1961, p. 177.
  • Evolution is opportunistic, and any novel behavior pattern with a selective advantage will, under appropriate circumstances, be incorporated into the behavior of the evolving population. Campbell 1975
  • So what is a word, finally? A word is the combination of a mental representation of something, which may or may not exist in the real world, with a mental representation of a set of symbols (phonetic, orthographic, manual). What you utter are not words, but only the phonological representations of words. What you write are not words, only the orthographic representations of words. What you sign, if you know one of the sign languages of the deaf, are not words but only signed representations of words. It’s a convenient shorthand to speak of the words I spoke, or the words you wrote, one that in practice we would find it impossible to do without. But, in fact, words are much more abstract than that. -Derek Bickerton, trying to define ‘words’.
  • A spider conducts operations that resemble those of a weaver, and a bee puts to shame many an architect in the construction of her cells. But what distinguishes the worst architect from the best of bees is this, that the architect raises his structure in imagination before he erects it in reality. –Marx
  • H[There] are two ways in which a creature can seek to survive in a jungle environment. One way [known as wedging] is to compete fiercely and successfully for an existing niche with other creatures that are trying to occupy it. The other way is to find a wholly unoccupied niche…. –Herbert A. Simon, 1983
  • In other words, it was not the tools themselves that were the key factors in successful evolutionary coping. Rather, the associated social, behavioral and cultural processes, directing such activities as tool-making, hunting and gathering were basic. —Holloway 1981
  • …paleoanthropology is much like doing a jigsaw puzzle without a picture of the pattern.–William Calvin
  • It is important to understand under what conditions selection might favor a strong reliance on social learning as opposed to personal experience. –Robert Boyd
  • Culture: The predominating attitudes and behavior that characterize the functioning of a group or organization. “ “a set of learned beliefs, values and behaviors the way of life shared by the members of a society.” “The values, traditions, norms, customs, arts, history, folklore, and institutions that a group of people, who are unified by race, ethnicity, language, nationality, or religion, share UK
  • Culture: consists of all the behavioral patterns within a social group that are passed on the descendants by learning. –Tim Megarry
  • A round man cannot be expected to fit into a square hole right away. He must have time to modify his shape.– Mark Twain (1835-1910)
  • Fossils are like truth; they are not where you look for them, but where you find them. –G. Koenigswald
  • If you could interview a chimpanzee about the differences between humans and apes . . . , I think it might say, “You humans are very odd; when you get food, instead of eating it promptly like any sensible ape, you haul it off and share it with others. — Glynn Isaac (1937-1985)
  • We need other human beings in order to be human. The solitary, isolated human being is really a contradiction in terms.- Archbishop Desmond Tutu, 2000
  • The man I predicted has been found—Andersson, on the discovery of a fossilized human
  • A single discovery may change the whole state of affair.—before Dubois that inspired him
  • Henry David Thoreau wrote of having a rock for a paperweight at his cabin by Walden pond. He threw it out when he discovered he had to dust it. This is the very essence of a do-nothing attitude.
  • It is perfectly true, as philosophers say, that life must be understood backwards. But they forget the other proposition, that it must be lived forwards. –SOREN KIERKEGAARD, 1843
  • The apes I know behave every living, breathing moment as though they have minds that are very much like my own. They may not think about as many things, or in the depth that I do, and they may not plan as far ahead as I do. Apes make tools and coordinate their actions during the hunting of prey, such as monkeys. But no ape has been observed to plan far enough ahead to combine the skills of tool construction and hunting for a common purpose. Such activities were a prime factor in the lives of early hominids. These greater skills that I have as a human being are the reason that I am able to construct my own shelter, earn my own salary, and follow written laws. They allow me to behave as a civilized person but they do not mean that I think while apes merely react. –SUE SAVAGE-RUMBAUGH, Kanzi: The Ape at the Brink of the Human Mind 1994
  • If (early humans) weren’t using and refining language I would like to know what they were doing with their autocatalytically increasing brains.–Dean Falk
  • Most species do their own evolving, making it up as they go along, which is the way Nature intended.–Terry Pratchett
  • Most gods throw dice, but Fate plays chess, and you don’t find out til too late that he’s been playing with two queens all along.–Terry Pratchett
  • Writing is the most fun you can have by yourself.–Terry Pratchett
  • The evolution of the brain not only overshot the needs of prehistoric man, it is the only example of evolution providing a species with an organ which it does not know how to use. –Arthur Koestler
  • Till o’er the wreck, emerging from the storm, Immortal Nature lifts her changeful form: Mounts from her funeral pyre on wings of flame, And soars and shines, another and the same. –Erasmus Darwin
  • Evolution is a tinkerer. –Francois Jacob
  • Glory belongs to the act of being constant to something greater than yourself, to a cause, to your principles, to the people on whom you rely and who rely on you in return. –– Sen. John McCain
  • Man became man … when he got tools and weapons in his hands. — H. Mewhinney A Manual for Neanderthals University of Texas Press 1957
  • On the premise that major environmental changes can drive evolutionary events, the rough coincidence in time between major geological , environmental and evolutionary changes may not be trivial. — Adamson and Williams 1985 p. 597
  • Our lives are ceaselessly intertwined with narrative, with the stories we tell and hear told, those we dream or imagine or would like to tell, all of which arc reworked in that story of our own lives that we narrate to ourselves in an episodic, sometimes semiconscious, but virtually uninterrupted monologue . We Itst immersed in narrative, recounting and reassessing the meaning of our past actions, anticipating the outcome of our future projects, situating ourselves at the intersection of several stories not vet completed. –UK
  • Learned, patterned behaviors and their material consequences as opposed to physical changes have come to be depended upon by hominids for their survival. — Prehistoric Cultural Ecology and Evolution: Insights from Southern Jordan Donald O. Henry Plenum Press NY 1995
  • Culture is the most potent method of adaptation that has emerged in the evolutionary history of the living world. — Theodosius Dobzhanksky…the ‘facts’ of culture history are interpretations based upon assumed culture process.–Sabloff
  • Man did not address his inquiries to the earth on which he stood until a remarkably late stage in the development of his desire for knowledge. And the answers he received to the questions, “Where do I come from?”, “What is man?”, although they made him poorer by a few illusions, gave him in compensation a knowledge of his past that is vaster than he could ever have dreamed. For it emerged that the history of life was his history too… –G.H.R. von Koenigswald Meeting Prehistoric Man Thames and Hudson London 1956
  • Since Serengeti-scale savanna scenes are only one or two million years old, our earliest after-the-apes ancestors didn’t move into this scene so much as they evolved with it, as the slower climate changes and uplift produced more grass and less forest. –William Calvin A Brain for All Seasons: Human Evolution and Abrupt Climate Change University of Chicago Press 2002
  • These are the experiences I wish to record in this book, which should really be called The Diary of a Palaeontologist. But in committing them to paper I found it advisable to alter and add a good deal, to enable the reader without specialized training to follow me along the winding paths of palaeontology and prehistory. –G. H. R. von Koenigswald
  • Man did not address his inquiries to the earth on which he stood until a remarkably late stage in the development of his desire for knowledge. And the answers he received to the questions “Where do I come from?”, “What is man?” although they made him poorer by a few illusions, gave him in compensation a knowledge of his past that is vaster than he could every have dreamed. For it emerged that the history of life was his history too –G. H. R. von Koenigswald
  • [When environments change], they usually do so pretty rapidly, at rates with which adaptation by natural selection would be hard put to keep up. When such change occurs, the quality of your adaptation to your old habitat is irrelevant, and any competitive advantage you might have had may be eliminated at a stroke. -Ian Tattersall, Becoming Human, 1998
  • My father used to say that, through culture, humans effectively domesticated themselves. – Richard E. Leakey, 1992
  • Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence –unknown archaeologist
  • By 1837 Darwin had concluded that nature was always in the process of becoming something else. William Calvin
  • For the production of man a different apprenticeship [from forests] was needed to sharpen the wits and quicken the higher manifestations of intellect – a more open veldt country where competition was keener between swiftness and stealth, and where adroitness of thinking played a preponderating role in the preservation of the species. – Raymond Dart, 1925

I haven’t included sufficient information for these to be back-tracked, merely to inspire. To find their roots, Google them.


Jacqui Murray is the author of the popular Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy. She is webmaster for six blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice book reviewer, CSG Master Teacher, a columnist for and TeachHUB, Editorial Review Board member for Journal for Computing Teachers, Cisco guest blog, Technology in Education featured blogger, IMS tech expert, and a bi-monthly contributor to Today’s Author. In her free time, she is the editor of a K-8 technology curriculum, K-8 keyboard curriculum, K-8 Digital Citizenship curriculum, and creator of technology training books for how to integrate technology in education. Currently, she’s editing a thriller that should be out to publishers next summer. Contact Jacqui at her writing office or her tech lab, Ask a Tech Teacher.

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