Saturday, 16 May 2009

The Ancestor’s Tale

And another week has passed. This week I managed to finally see the first episode of “The Incredible Human Journey with Dr Alice Roberts. I must confess, with the opening credits and the deluge of programmes on Evolution, I was initially sceptical of this program. Sure, it covered a different angle (looking at how we colonised the world), but it seemed rather “trendy” than serious science. Dr Alice Roberts, has a tendency to speak in book titles, with some occasions I was expecting her to quote some like “Bones, Stones and Molecules” and “The Ancestor’s Tale”. Despite this, I really enjoyed it. Once Alice Roberts started going into the details she provided clear demonstrations of modern anthropological views, making details such as the differences between our species and the other human species, incredibly clear, even to those without the training that I’ve received. Despite my study of the topic with some excellent lecturers at the University of York, Dr Alice Roberts managed to emphasis how brief my degree’s coverage of Human Evolution was. The difficulties getting through the Sahara Desert were brought to life in a way which I’ve never experienced in the seminars I’ve attended and the papers I’ve read. Despite the apparent over-dramatical start, Dr Alice Roberts has produced a programme I want to watch, if only to learn more.

Unfortunately, the programme won’t bring those who need to learn more about Evolution. Those that scoff it and insist on the literal truth of their religions will ignore it, which I find sad. We have these wonderful attempts by people passionate for their subjects, who are always attempting to learn more about who we are, what we’ve done and everything about a beautiful world and they get ignored by those who think God created the Earth in 6 days. There was an Ancient Greek school of philosophers who used to teach rhetoric and oratory, who used to think they were capable of arguing black was white. They were called Sophists and to be quite honest, they remind me more of those sophists that Socrates and Plato railed against, rather than the great philosophers of that time.

This week, I also introduce something close to my heart, Repatriation. I’m all for repatriation in some particular cases, I would gladly give back aboriginal remains to the Australian Aborigines and the Native American remains to their descendents. But we can’t take this too far. The study of human remains should be continued, otherwise we get the old practice of grave-robbing again. Those that object to the showing of mummies in museums should also remember that if we’re talking about respect, maybe we shouldn’t show their possessions too. Covering them with a modern white linen veil like the curators of Manchester Museum have done, will not afford them any more respect at all.

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