Imperfect Evolution, podcast with María Martinón-Torres

By counting the waves, we discovered that the sapiens we are a species with a unique character and very very old with death. We are an animal that knows it will die one day. We are human, in large measure, because we know our days are numbered. It led us to be social and take care of each other. Moreover, evolution has kept an ace up its sleeve. He “invented” grandmothers (or what amounts to the same thing, a shortened fertility and a longer life).

Evolution did not bring us grandmothers (and grandfathers) to be babysitters, but to impart knowledge with perspective. It allowed us to live longer and learn to get sick. We talk about the an imperfect man con Maria Martinon-Torres (Director of CENIEH), co-discoverer of the first burial sapiens of a child, in Africa in 2021. And also, this 2022, participant of the discovery of a jawbone in Atapuerca which will help us put a face to the oldest European of a species yet to be defined.

Author of an imperfect man (Fate2022), we review in this episode of the podcast As we counted the waves how imperfection has defined us as a species. It was a small, big evolutionary achievement. We are vulnerable. But “we took the lead by playing with fire. We have chosen a way of life like social primatesput us in danger to be vulnerable“, says this doctor with millennial patients. “But evolution had the ace up its sleeve of not being alone.”

María Martión-Torres, director of CENIEH, in front of the Museum of Evolution in Burgos |  Mr. vicious
María Martión-Torres, director of CENIEH, in front of the Museum of Evolution in Burgos | Mr. vicious

Evolution made us move forward by playing with fire

We’re doing this podcast from a playground. Human childhood is a seemingly unnecessary miracle of evolution. Why lengthen it so much, with an addition of adolescence where everything is revolutionized and where one can even put oneself in danger? “Because it allows us to innovate. And we do it with a safety net. Our group. The idea is that we are not alone. In other species this does not occur. In reality, these long childhoods are not known nor especially adolescence in other animals.

“We added years to childhood. And in adulthood, which has a degree of dependence beyond childhood. We have additional vulnerability time, but our commitment to evolution has been shown to be successful because we have had more opportunities to learn.” These grandmothers play a fundamental role in it.

For Martinon-Torres, “living is a balancing act. Between benefit and harm. And nature is not extravagant. He will not bother with what is not essential. For evolution, the first thing is reproductive success. Therefore, dying is natural, it is cheaper than repairing. And yet, we humans have managed to do scar of an “unnatural” act of survival.

“Paleoanthropologists are interested in the scar”, because “it tells the story of a battle…won”. Individual death does not affect the success of our species. Except in premature, abnormal or unnatural deaths. “Eternally repairing an individual would cost more.” And yet our body has Kintsugi, the Japanese art of repairing broken pottery. But with a gold paste that shows the wound. With each disease or damage mark, a new item is created. A new sapiens… wiser.

How evolution had a trick up its sleeve for our species. How were the patients a million years ago. Among the toothaches that Miguelón had, the famous skull and column hilderbergensis found in Atapuerca. From Lucy and Pink, whose faces we just found. Of the need for leisure and holidays and, above all, of that great evolutionary invention that is childhood and grandmothers, we have spoken with María Martinón-Torres, in this fifth chapter of As we counted the waves. This time from a playground in Burgos.

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