The Great Leap Forward, also known as the Brain’s Big Bang, is a concept used to describe a spectacular event that appears to have occurred some 50,000 years ago.
A psychological explosion erupted overnight in evolutionary time, bringing with it language, art, and spirituality. We weren’t just monkeys who used tools anymore. We were suddenly beading ourselves, making idols out of bone or ivory, and painting amazing cave paintings.
Time and a weak fossil record dating back 500,000 years have clouded exactly what happened. However, improvements in contemporary genetics have made it possible to glean information from the few fossils that have been discovered. Duplicate genes are one of these hints.
Duplicate genes are neither uncommon nor uncommon. Duplicates are commonly created by the system that generates new copies of genes in humans, and it is believed that 5% of the human genome is made up of these duplicates.
A collection of duplicates discovered by two groups of genetic experts led by Evan Eichler and Franck Polleux is of particular interest. They discovered 23 genes in humans that have never been found in any other ape species, including our closest cousins, chimps.
SRGAP2, one of the 23 genes, is particularly important since it is involved in the formation of cerebral cortex neurons. SRGAP2 has replicated 3.4 million years ago, resulting in SRGAP2B.
Then it was replicated 2.4 million years ago to make SRGAP2C, and then again 1 million years ago to generate SRGAP2D. It’s unclear if SRGAP2B and SRGAP2D are functioning at this time, however, it’s worth noting that SRGAP2C first arose around the time our forefathers began utilizing tools.
It’s possible that SRGAP2C serves a novel purpose or complements the original SRGAP2 gene. It performs none of these things, instead of interfering with the original gene by slowing it down, allowing neurons to make additional connections.
As a result, the neurons are able to conduct more sophisticated brain functions. SRGAP2C was put into the developing brains of mice, causing their neurons to form tighter connections with other neurons. I’m reminded of the movie Planet of the Apes.
Aside from duplication genes, the FOXP2 gene, dubbed the “language gene” by some, is of interest. The FOXP2 gene is a “conservative gene,” which means it doesn’t change much over time.
One alteration occurred between roughly 70 million and 5.5 million years ago, while another occurred between 200,000 and 50,000 years ago. What makes it notable? It appears to provide humans the exact control of their lower jaw and vocal apparatus required for sophisticated language, according to research.
Every live individual possesses the human version of FOXP2. This is significant since the gene must be carried by both parents in order for it to be expressed. To put it in perspective, having blue eyes would be the equivalent of having every individual on the planet. To put it another way, evolution highly favored it.
The topic concerning genes might go on forever, and the ones we’ve just examined merely scratch the surface of the ones that have recently gotten a lot of attention on the internet. For example, Gayà-Vidal M & Albà MM (2014) discovered that roughly 200 genes in humans had developed quicker than those in primates. The question, though, remains. What triggered the Big Bang in the Brain or the Great Leap Forward?
The supereruption of the Toba supervolcano between 69,000 and 77,000 years ago is one explanation that has been proposed to explain the faster evolution. According to the Toba catastrophe hypothesis, the eruption resulted in a ten-year volcanic winter.
This, along with a prolonged chilly spell that lasted an estimated 1,000 years, resulted in a significant reduction in the human population. According to some estimates, there were just 3,000 human mating partners on the planet. This might explain why there is so little genetic variation among modern humans.
However, it fails to explain the survival of Neanderthals, Denisovans, and Homo Floresiensis, who all survived the eruption by 50,000 years or more, as well as the rapid evolution that occurred 3 million years before the explosion.
Most scientists today see the evolution of the human brain as a one-of-a-kind event in which a large number of genes were highly selected for greater intelligence by an unknown mechanism. “Simply put, evolution has been working very hard to generate us, humans,” said Bruce Lahn, an associate professor of human genetics at the University of Chicago.
The Ancient Aliens fringe notion is the final theory to be discussed. According to the Ancient Aliens idea, aliens had a significant role in human evolution and cultural devolution. Allow me to clarify right up front that practically everything you see on the TV show Ancient Aliens and in the literature about the subject is complete nonsense. Having said that, the hypothesis does have some merit, but it is very speculative.
I.S. Shklovski and Carl Sagan are the most credible proponents of the Ancient Aliens idea. They hypothesize in their 1966 book “Intelligent Life in the Universe” that the Sumerian tales may be evidence of alien contact.
An extraterrestrial contact might be represented by the tale of the Oannes, an amphibious monster that taught the Sumerians laws, farming, language, and mathematics. They also point out that the Sumerian language is unusual in that it has no known cognates and is only understood thanks to Sumerian-Akkadian dictionaries written by their descendants, the Akkadians.
It’s worth repeating that, while Sagan deserves some credit for the Ancient Alien Theory, he has always stressed that the theory is very speculative. In his 1979 book Broca’s Brain, he reaffirmed his viewpoint and chastised Von Däniken and other writers for their lack of critical thinking. He did, however, reiterate his previous stance that ancient interaction was feasible but unlikely.
As unlikely as it may appear, genetic engineering using viral vectors might explain a lot. Consider how we all share the same complicated collection of genes that give us our human characteristics. Remember how it was previously claimed that having the FOXP2 was equivalent to having blue eyes.
Representative art, cave painting, and carved fetishes might also be proof. Representative art appears to have started in Europe, rather than Africa, as predicted, and spread like a virus from there.
“Simply simply, evolution has been working very hard to generate us, humans,” said Bruce Lahn. Alternatively, as unlikely as it may seem, did aliens tamper with our genes?