This is the annual winter post in which I convince you that we should have a natural affinity to cold weather. If it wasn’t for cold weather, we wouldn’t be here. There were two major events in human evolution, and both of them are correlated with the weather turning cool. I realize that correlation doesn’t necessarily mean cause and effect, but in medicine, where the stakes are high, if a major unique event coincides with the onset of an illness, the burden of proof is to demonstrate that they are not related.

So you make up your own mind:

Do you think the unique ascension of the human spirit from bestial apes about six million years ago was causally related to a massive and abrupt cooling trend that had just occurred?

Here is a chart showing the earth’s temperature over the last 65 million years:

Global Temperature


And here is a projected-backwards chart of ape populations collapsing about 6 million-years ago (on the right) on the basis of analyzing ape genomes:

Chimpanzee Populations


The second major event in human evolution was the ascension of our own order Homo about 2.5 to 3 million years ago. At that time, humans grew larger, could run long distances and began to coordinate their divided labor on the way to becoming the greatest hunters the world has ever seen.

Now do you think it was a coincidence that just at that very time, the temperature started wildly fluctuating, producing the coldest climates in hundreds of millions of years?

Temperature fluctuations in the pleistocene

 So cheer up!

The human spirit has ascended like the smoke from a stove in the dead of winter.

Smoke from cabin

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2 Comments on “We Owe Our Existence to Cold Weather”

  1. OK, for some mysterious reasons a group developed that was “gung ho” and was abe to cope with the climate change. But what was the mechanism of this development?

    1. Thanks Laird for asking such an important question.
      Deteriorating environments was a crucial aspect of the creation-mechanism of our hominin tribe 6 million years ago.
      Darwin’s idea that (principally individual) competitive struggle is the core of natural selection was based on his reading of Thomas Malthus’ theory of overpopulation in the face of limited resources right after returning from his famous Beagle voyage examining the teeming jungles of South America. Very different were the harsh climates driving apes into near extinction when they gave rise to humans. The scarce resource was offspring with falling birthrates, not lack of food. And when fecundity is the issue, competition becomes a losing strategy—a sterile waste of time & energy—and cooperation, particularly, coordination wins the day.
      As to mechanism, the simplest way to grasp it is by considering that natural selection shifted from operating at the level of the individual to the level of the associations between individuals. Forgetting about competition, “passive” selection took place by means of the final silent tally at the end of each and every generation of the most productive relationships, whether they be two (a monogamous pair-bond) or 102. The less competition and the more coordination of divided labor, the more production and fecundity. So, while ape species languished, during our tribe’s first two million years almost two dozen species of hominins were radiated.
      Getting further into the weeds, the evolutionary mechanism of monogamy most likely involved sexual selection, whereby females developed the preference for less aggressive mates that would assist with childrearing. Simultaneously, a more tricky mechanism occurred in which the principles of sexual selection operated on the relational mentalities of dominance and submission, converting them into obedience to the authority of justice.
      And exactly where did this evolved entity of authority, in possession of the biological properties of life (replication & evolution by natural selection), reside? Within the virtual, “spiritual” space of the associations between individuals. So we humans are characterized by a collective spiritual entity of authority that both wills justice and evolved over six-million years the extraordinary capacity to coordinate our divided labor, commonly known as human power.

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