What have we learned?

What have we learned? The pathway to humanness as laid out in “How Did We Get Here?” is built on facts drawn from published scientific papers. So…

…what is written has nothing to do with the supernatural or mystical. No facts are drawn from religious documents written two to three thousand years ago. What is written is not based on some sort of miraculous communication.

Just facts.

The listing of observed behaviors stored in the brain as homo sapiens appear are also based on facts drawn from published scientific papers. Remember, each evolutionary step was drawn from what appeared before. Here are the observed behaviors:

Documented early include fear, learning, memory, parenting, caring for others, and seeking one another. Earlier, cooperation and communication and appear. The difficult transition from amphibian to reptile and then reptile to mammal had a great deal of parenting involvement.

Elaborate mating rituals involve color, sound, body movement. Mating and sex go together; research indicates animals enjoyed sex. Social harmonies appeared. Some mammals stay with a mate for life, confirming once again the gender attraction seen since genders appeared. Sharing and cooperation become broader. Death was understood. Research shows the roots of empathy are embedded deeply in our evolved behaviors.

Another observed fact: behaviors evolved and DID follow through to the Axial ages.

Also known is this very important piece of information:

A mysterious force of attraction appears early. Some evolutionary steps appear to have required that mysterious, unknown force. In other key evolutionary steps, that mysterious, unknown force appeared to have guided Darwinian interpretations. This evidence seems strong enough to be called a fact but … science would not accept that.

The currently dominant religions of the world started long AFTER homo sapiens had arrived. These physical and emotional steps were in already in place. Thus…

…the core issue for current religions is:

Quit using religion to explain evolution.

Instead, use evolution to explain religion.

Why? Because any modestly intelligent person who reads “How Did We Get Here?” and who has declared himself or herself religious will challenge that current religion’s creation story.

Is that meant as a slap at religion? No. But children should be taught the truth. The truth can then be used to anchor a religion’s beliefs. Perhaps beginning with factual information and building the religion’s beliefs around it would actually benefit the acceptance of religions.

Ancient Emotional Behaviors

Dinosaurs and the pre-mammals both appear just before the Great Dying. Both somehow survived. While still pre-mammals, a remarkable transition put lactation in place. Not long after the Great Dying, pre-mammals began the transition from cold- to warm-blooded. The female pre-mammals developed a placenta, setting up the final step: live birth. That lactation developed much earlier was finally used. At this point, they were mammals, not pre-mammals.

Each of these—lactation, warm-blooded, placenta, live birth—were giant steps in very small animals. This complex transition from reptile to mammal happened when the mammal was the prey, not the predator. Reptiles ruled. Generation after generation, the little parents must have stayed with the eggs and then the babies, providing warmth and moisture. A Darwinian cause is plausible; but parenting certainly seems to have played a role in these giant steps.

The comet 65 million years ago eliminated the predators; mammals were finally free.   Five million years later, a blink of the eye in geologic time, insects, lemurs, bats, primates, meat eaters, whales, dolphins and porpoises roamed the earth and swam in the oceans. Primates began the mammal line leading to us.

The monkeys were the first of the primates to veer off the evolutionary path that led to homo sapiens. This left the apes, including orangutans, gorillas, chimpanzees, bonobos, gibbons and our predecessors. Slowly but surely, they separated. First went the gibbons, then orangutans, then the gorillas and finally the chimpanzees. Most are now endangered species.

Only our group, called hominids, remained. They walked upright. The brain had been enlarged during those four remarkable transitions to the first mammal. Instinctive responses were in the brain and still are. Evolved behaviors and emotions were stored there.

Early behaviors documented include fear, learning, memory, parenting, caring for others, and seeking one another. Earlier, cooperation, communication and what appears to be a mysterious force of attraction. The difficult transition from amphibian to reptile and then reptile to mammal had a great deal of parenting involvement.

Elaborate mating rituals involve color, sound, and body movement. Mating and sex go together; research indicates animals enjoyed sex. Darwin wrote that “males drive away rival males … females excite or charm those of the opposite sex and select the most agreeable partner.” Social harmonies appeared. Some mammals stay with a mate for life, confirming once again that attraction exists between the genders. Sharing and cooperation become broader. Death was understood. Research shows the roots of empathy are embedded deeply in our evolved behaviors.

How well did those emotional behaviors evolved from Big Bang to hominids carry forward into Homo Sapiens? Hominids split off from chimpanzees, but did not leave their past behind them. Chimpanzee and human DNA have 98% in common. Those emotions developed before hominids split off represent a good deal of the commonality.   But did those developed emotional behaviors still exist after the new variable, language, was in place?

Physical appearance became more human-like. Advanced behaviors such as tools, cooking, and hunting equipment appeared. A number of groups appeared and moved onto a good deal of Europe, Asia and Africa. All eventually became extinct. Before all became extinct, though, homo sapiens had appeared. Unfortunately for them, environmental conditions were hostile.

A volcano eruption eliminated all but a small number of homo sapiens. Those that survived prospered and began populating the globe. By this time, they used tools, cooked their food, made jewelry, and made spears and bow and arrow for hunting.

As the summary in the previous section show, a substantial array of emotions and behaviors had been seen even before hominids appeared. The questions, remains, though: what effect did thought have on these ancient emotional insticts?

Populating the earth took a lot of time; those nomadic groups moved slowly. Traveling in groups, they lived off the plants and animals around them. Evidence also shows their behaviors were consistent with those passed onto hominids. Eventually, though, groups started connecting with one another, and civilizations appear.

To answer the question posed above, five groups – five civilizations from Europe, Asia and North America – will be followed from the time these independent groups began merging into larger groups.

As much information as possible was first gathered about the civilizations in India, China, Greece, and Israel. This information was expanded by drawing on the work of three widely-respected researchers. Information regarding the last group, the Native Americans, was gathered independently.

Based on what was seen, did those slowly evolving behaviors pass onto homo sapiens? Generally speaking, the answer is “yes.”

A Review of Gender Separation

We’ve covered a lot of ground since we began a few months ago. In the next couple of posts, we’ll review the facts that have been presented thus far.

The 12.5 billion years following Big Bang witnessed six colossal and scientifically unexplained events. These events culminated with the first appearance of two genders: male and female.

Let’s work backwards. Over a long period time, the stuff that made males separated itself from the stuff that made females. Before that, the makings for the two genders were all mixed up in one complex cell. How did that material get into the complex cell? Whatever was necessary to cause genders to separate must have been drawn from those first complex cells.

That first complex cell was built from kinds of single-celled bacteria, the preceeding form of life. Those first single-celled organisms had to draw from what preceded them, but no life preceded them. From an ocean of chemical soup, green and acidic, were the ingredients that got together to form life. Where did they come from? Big Bang!

Remember, each step draws on what existed before it. The link from Big Bang to gender is undoubtedly complex; but it had to be there.

Right after Big Bang, a mysterious force caused matter to seek other matter, stopping the momentum to fly away in straight lines forever. This mysterious force: attraction. Attraction also brought those ingredients for first life together. Attraction brought two single-celled species together to make a more complex cell. Some sort of attraction got the male ingredients to a different place than the female ingredients in that complex cell. Some sort of attraction caused the two genders to separate and seek each other for the rest of history.

The appearance of gender was a critical in the evolutionary process. Clearly, an unexplained force was operating. Again, attraction is the key connecting word here, from start to finish, at every step. For instance, cells can signal one another—within cells, signals are sent from one part to the other. The idea of a mysterious force is not far-fetched. This force guided the pathway from Big Bang to gender. The best scientists do not have a cause. Think about it. Do you see a cause?

Over the time spanning from 1.2 billion years ago to 300 million years ago, life became much more complicated for those separated, two genders, finally leaving the water and walking on land.   The attractive force between the two genders was obvious. The evolutionary process took off. It started with just a cell. Over time, though, the sponge appeared, followed by jellyfish. In both cases, gender attraction led to gender cooperation and gender cooperation led to reproduction. Those steps required communication. Communication needed to be stored – not yet in a brain, but in a pre-brain condition. That storage included both physical and emotional needs.

Sponges and jellyfish were soft. Soon enough, the precursor to bones appeared and, in a little more time, what is now your backbone developed, with a connecting cord to the brain. Environmental conditions, pure unadulterated randomness, and gender attraction led to rapid progress.

Next came fish and a bony skeleton. One type of fish moved into shallow, fresh water. Soon some male fish moved from spraying sperm over floating eggs to inserting sperm inside the female onto the eggs. That helped strengthen the bones that became arms and legs, which in turn allowed them to crawl out of water. Amphibians.

Water levels dropped sharply; egg-dropping places were hard to find. Internal fertilization was now common; that had to have a strong connection to gender attraction. The female did not just jettison eggs and move on; if a site for laying the eggs was not available, the female held them in. Time passed; the female held the fertilized egg longer and longer.

Soon females began to lay their eggs on land—no water needed. Parenting behaviors were first seen as fish spread, including behaviors to protect the eggs and the newly born.   Emotional behaviors like fear, learning, memory, parenting, caring for others, and seeking one another have been documented. The reptile brain was pretty advanced. You, and all homo sapiens, still carry substantial remnants of that brain.

A New Part of the Brain

As hominids appear, how is the brain doing? That remarkable set of evolutionary events (warm-blooded, lactation, live birth) caused an ever-larger brain structure. A new part of the brain developed. Housed here are the concepts of satisfying and not satisfying behaviors as well as a variety of other emotional behaviors. For example, solid research has established that our first look at a stranger leads to a like-or-dislike decision. The thoughtful brain may later change that opinion; but the instinctive brain sets the stage. Humans make a lot of their decisions based on that quick, unconscious reaction. The quick reaction appears first in the evolutionary line; the thought response is much later — and slower.

From this new part of the brain, rarely does a signal cause a behavior to happen. Instead, it produces tendencies to respond in certain ways. The brain did NOT develop with higher brain functions separated from automatic reflexes. For example, if a person partakes in some sexual activity that is clearly career-ruining, people ask, “What was he thinking!” to which the answer is, “He was not thinking.” His response was an uncontrolled, automatic emotional response. This part of the brain contains the value judgments humans often unconsciously make. These responses made unconsciously exert a very strong influence on our behavior.

Social interactions required more brain space. Eventually, as language, imagination, beauty and abstract thought appeared, the brain needed to grow bigger by adding layers. These demanded an addition to the brain; in fact, two additions to the reptilian brain, one to the backside of the brain and the other to front part. At home here are language, abstract thinking, imagination and awareness of ourselves. In most mammals, they add just a little; in humans, they sort of cover up the original reptilian brain.

In the past few years, those studying the brain have taken issue with past beliefs that the brain was, in a sense, compartmentalized, left brain for some things, the right brain for others, sort of like LEGO blocks. Those left-brain this, right-brain that ideas have been dismissed. The two sides of the brain share a common basic structure.

Brain sections dealing with higher order thinking evolved side-by-side with the earliest layers. Communication pathways within the brain, when faced with a new issue, somehow seek out all the various areas of the brain related in some manner to that new issue. You see the word “taco.” The brain reaches for all possible connections. Neurons will zip off, searching for possible prior experiences with “taco” that are stored in your brain. Since each person has unique environmental experiences, the neuron firing will differ from person to person. One big integrated systems responds immediately to some query reaching the brain.

For a newborn, the brain’s visual circuitry only connects as needed by the newborn’s eye. If an infection distorts so seriously that infant’s eye to make it functionally blind, correction by surgery done ten years later cannot rebuild the pathways that should have been built much earlier. Those millions of potential connections available earlier, the ones that need to be activated by use, seem to have an alarm clock. After a while the alarm clock goes off; thereafter, the connections disappear, never again to be made. The number of available connections is largest at age 2; by adulthood, only about 60% of available links have been connected. The other 40% were pruned; gone.

Thus the brain of a child born in a home where only English is spoken connects some different nerves then that of a child born where only Chinese is spoken. The connections for those two will differ from a child born where only Finnish is spoken. A child born where all three are spoken will make all the connections. In a sense, then, cells that fire together wire together. Timing is critical; available nerves which are not connected within a certain time period eventually disappear. The timing of the action-potential activity is critical in determining which connections are strengthened and which are weakened and eliminated.

For a child, good vision requires being exposed to a sharply focused visual world during this period of brain development. Without that, the child will not have normal brain development. Your author is a living example. Born with severe astigmatism — so severe the first ophthalmologist labeled it “functional blindness” – the default was not identified and corrected until age 8. Strong eye-glasses then solved the problem. But that was too late. To this day, concepts are easy (Darwinian evolution, probabilistic statistics, the entire number system) but details (remembering the spelling of words, recalling what the person who just left had been wearing, remembering a name one minute after an introduction) are all impossible. No part of my brain has a place for those. If the connections for seeing the details were never activated; before age 8, they disappeared.

This does not mean all learning ends as adulthood looms. The brains of mammals continue to respond to and learn from new experiences. The newer parts of the brain – the ones that developed after reptiles appeared – can make new connections. Brain researchers have a number of interesting theories on how that exactly works but the bottom line is: learning continues essentially until death.

The hominid level is reached. The brain and emotions have come a long way. Animals by this time had displayed a wide variety of emotional behaviors which the brain caries from one evolutionary step to another. At the fish level was seen fear, learning, memory, parenting, caring for others, and seeking one another. Earlier, cooperation, communication and what appears to be a mysterious force of attraction.

In the long transition from amphibians to reptiles, parenting appeared to have a role. Now review the role of parenting in these steps to lactation, warm blooded, placenta developed, live birth started, and the newborn needed parental help to stay alive. Elaborate mating rituals involve color, sound, body movement. Mating and sex go together; research indicates animals enjoyed sex. Darwin: “Males drive away rival males .. females excite or charm those of the opposite sex and select the most agreeable partner.” Social harmonies appeared. Some mammals stay with a mate for life, confirming once again gender attraction seen since genders appeared. Research shows the roots of empathy are embedded deeply in our evolved behaviors. Sharing and cooperation become broader. Death was understood.

Complex Emotional Behavior

The research of a respected neuroscientist, Peggy Mason of University of Chicago, clearly demonstrates that empathy existed long before homo sapiens. Her studies illustrate for those intellect-only humans that the roots of empathy are embedded deeply in our evolved behaviors.

Here are some carefully done observations that demonstrate animal emotions toward one another go farther than mating and parental care. The list below includes cooperating, caring for others, and empathy as the evolutionary lines head for humans.

Bats living together will feed their hungry. In the group is seen reciprocity, sharing, and fairness. A long time observer of wolves in packs notes that wolves paying attention to the needs of others in the group. Wolves have a keen sense of how things ought to be. Like us, some wolves are fair and others are not.

Contrary to popular belief, the animal world is not one big competition. Chimpanzees, like wolves, need cooperation for survival. A leading researcher in this area, Frans de Waal, adds, “Humans are a highly cooperative species, and we can see in our close relatives where that comes from.” He also reports that if a female chimp can barely walk, the younger chimps will pitch in to help with climbing or fetching water. Another observer reports that when a chimpanzee gave birth, her friend screamed and hugged other chimpanzees. Then the friend took care of mother and baby for weeks. Coyotes have similar behaviors. When they reunite, they run toward one another whining and smiling, with tails wagging wildly, then lick one another, roll over and flail their legs. De Waal’s new book, The Bonobo and the Atheist, shows bonobos displaying a level of group behaviors shockingly complex and developed.

Longtime observers of elephants reports on the emotional attachment to one another as well as an understanding of death. Elephants have been known to stand beside an animal’s remains for long periods of time. Joyce Poole, a Kenyan biologist, asserts that elephants have deep emotions at the loss of a family member and that they have some understanding about death. When a baby elephants was mauled and killed by a lion, nearly one hundred elephants assembled around the dead child, lightly touching the stiff body and standing for hours in respect.

Before moving on, though, a quick look at a few observations of primates, the group from which humans eventually evolved. Primates appeared very shortly after the extinction ending the dinosaur reign.

At Chicago’s Brookfield Zoo, a three-year-old boy fell more than fifteen feet into a gorilla’s living area. The gorilla scooped the child up and cradled and calmed the child before putting him on a log in the stream where the trainer could pick him up.

The famed anthropologist Jane Goodall, who spent a lifetime researching chimpanzees, speaks of chimpanzees that chase and pirouette around one another. A chimp will approach a waterfall, sway from foot to foot, swing from vines, and randomly throw rocks for as much as fifteen minutes and then quietly sit and contemplate the falling water. Goodall “…might these wild, elemental displays become ritualized into some form of animistic religion? Would they worship the falls, the deluge from the skies, the thunder and lightning …?”

Baboon society is quite competitive, which has a good deal to do with which males have access to the females. In any event, the higher-ranking ones intimidate the lower ranking ones, which causes stress for the lower-ranking ones. So purposely causing stress in others is not, unfortunately, completely new to humans. However, those big, strong male baboons have a very direct and meaningful reason which connects to protecting a satisfying feeling. “Anticipating satisfaction” does not include “satisfaction of causing others pain.” No examples of animal behaviors done just to cause pain in others appears in the evolutionary story.

This is just a sample gathered over the years from science magazines, newspaper reports, and books written about this very topic. Emotional behavior’s role in key evolutionary steps: it just has to be there.

A More Developed Brain

For about 25 million years after the extinction the north hemisphere was warm and covered with abundant trees and vegetation. Tree filled forests flourished and the grasslands of today had not yet appeared. The mammal line to us was the primates. Those first primates adaptation to life in trees was unique. Their precise jumps from tree to tree demanded a more developed brain. Primate fossils of that time show small, squirrel-like animals with grasping hands and feet.

Too many people view “primate” and “monkey” as synonyms, which they are not. The distinction: monkeys had tails; they veered off the path leading to humans about 30 million years ago. The primates leading to us had stronger arms and shoulders but no tail. After the monkey veered off, the remainder of the primate group were the apes, including orangutans, gorillas, chimpanzees, bonobos, gibbons and us.

Climate change and specie change worked together. The earth got cooler; those many forests needing heat changed to grasslands. Common ancestors that happened to be in rainforests or locations with thick tree cover, over time, tended to develop particular skills. These skills involved such things as excellence swinging from branch to branch with jumps, at times, of up to 50 feet. They needed to be fast to survive. Better eyesight was needed for this environment; paws became hands; and a larger brain was needed to keep track of all this.

Slowly but surely, one group became so different from the common ancestor group and launched a new specie. Some called these lesser apes; mostly they are called gibbons. In their current form, gibbons live mostly in southeast Asia.

In those same tree-rich areas, another group of the original common ancestor changed in a slightly different manner. Rather than swing from tree to tree, they grew larger and, to move from tree to tree, needed to go to the ground and walk, perhaps because this much-larger group lived near a grassland. Walking upright at times was more useful than being on four legs. Soon this group, now called orangutans, was distinctly different (such as they could no longer interbreed) and became a species of their own. Remaining orangutans can be found in the rainforests of Borneo and Sumatra.

The line of gorillas, the largest of this group, spun off about ten million years ago. Remaining ones are now mostly in central Africa. The next common ancestor, chimpanzees, deviated enough to be called their own species about four million years later. Millions of them use to live in tropical Africa, but habitat loss and over-hunting has left few alive. Both groups are endangered species, decimated by loss of habitat and serious overhunting by humans.

Our group was called the hominids. We were last group to leave that common ancestor. At that time, our group had upright posture, was bipedal, and had a larger brain. The time is about eight million years ago, and at that time, certainly did not look at all like humans do now.

Reptiles and fish were also evolving more developed brains. The reptilian brain was storing more than defensive instincts; animals by this time had displayed a wide variety of emotional behaviors which the brain caries from one evolutionary step to another. At the fish level was seen fear, learning, memory, parenting, caring for others, and seeking one another. Earlier, cooperation, communication and what appears to be a mysterious force of attraction.

The march from amphibian to reptile certainly appears to involve a great deal of devoted parenting. Scientists can indeed cobble together a Darwinian explanation, but the parenting behavior pursued over 60 million years must have had a strong motivator.

Sort of an interesting if off-topic fact: As the little mammals began some critical changes, ants evolved. In ant societies, worker ants give up their reproductive capability to care for the queen bee’s offspring. Research done at the University of Arizona shows any worker bee that cheats, and tries to reproduce, will be attacked by the other ants. The article’s author writes, “The idea that social harmony is dependent on strict systems to prevent and punish cheating individuals seems to apply to most successful societies.” Social harmony. In ants.

On the way from reptiles to the homo-group, emotional development made advances that will surprise many people. Warm-blooded birds stayed with the same mate for life, elaborately kept eggs warm and safe, and carried for helpless chicks. Birds display self-recognition (looking in a mirror and knowing who it is), which was previously thought to be only a human-only.

Now those emotions expand beyond just parenting into group perspectives, of animals living and interacting with other animals. When a bird’s own brood is destroyed, it may transfer its attention to the young of others; observations of birds feeding the young of other parents of the same species, and even of other species, are quite common. When Bekoff, a leader in the animal emotion field, was asked if animals enjoy sex, he responded, “Mosquitoes, I don’t know,” he hedged, “but across mammals, they enjoy sex.”   There is clearly more to genders seeking one another than a desire to create children.

The Great Dying

Around 300 million years ago, a good part of a supercontinent covered the South Pole. Ice built up, draining the seas. A lot of earth’s oceans froze to the bottom causing an extinction for about 60% of living things. The period had sort of a bad start.

Amphibians and reptiles both got big and strong, the biggest guys on the block, and a lot of them survived. As life fought back, two important new reptile blood lines appeared. One line led to huge dinosaurs. The other eventually led to mammals. Shortly after they appeared, though, they faced a pretty serious threat.

By about 250 million years ago, a too-warm Earth released ocean gases poisonous to all living things. Estimates say 96% of life in the oceans and 70% of the vertebrates on land were wiped out by this extinction, called The Great Dying.   Life on Earth finally did recover but it may have taken ten MILLION more years for this to happen. No complete agreement exists on the cause of that massive catastrophe. Most now agree continent collisions caused massive volcanoes. Repeated and continuous volcanic eruptions kept so much soot in the air that the Earth’s surface got very little sunshine. The soot-filled air made breathing very, very difficult.

Enough of the two new lines – to dinosaurs and mammals – survived to avoid extinction. Dinosaurs are considered to be reptiles; they not in our direct evolutionary line. But those big, mean-looking scary animal cannot just be skipped!

Just for fun, before going back to that pre-mammal line evolution line being followed, take a break to follow those big, scary dinosaurs through their relatively short existence. After the Great Dying, dinosaurs spread out. They filled the extinction gaps. Although the first fossil remains were found in Tanzania, now on the east coast of Africa, dinosaur fossils have been found on every continent.

The word “dinosaur” means “terrible lizard” but they were not lizards. Dinosaurs make up a separate group of reptiles who generally, but not always, walked in an upright position. Fossils indicate a length of up to ten feet; those huge dinosaurs that seemed so dominating in movies did not show up until later. At this point, they were just another animal group trying to scratch out a living. Reproduction involved the male fertilized the eggs inside the female’s body.

Eventually, dinosaurs ruled, but dinosaurs were just one nightmare-maker. Even scarier were the flying reptiles, the first flying vertebrates. Some were as small as sparrows but some had a thirty-foot wingspan. Think of a flying reptile the size of a small airplane attacking you from the heavens. Clearly, they had no natural enemies, so these flying reptiles ruled the skies beginning about 200 million years ago. Interestingly enough, neither birds nor dinosaurs evolved from them. Dinosaurs had no natural enemies but, thank goodness, one did come from the sky. That meteorite impact 65 million years ago ended the reign of the dinosaur.

Now back to that led from reptiles to mammals. Like the first dinosaurs, these little animals were small, in all likelihood, they living in the ground, not on the ground. Before the Great Dying appeared, those little pre-mammals developed a remarkable trait: lactation. Lactation will be necessary for mammals to appear; the development of lactation at this time preceded the first mammals by at least 100,000 years.

The Story of Lactation

How scientists see lactation happening is a good story.

The little pre-mammals were no match for the bigger reptiles and amphibians so those terrified little animals probably sought shelter. They still laid eggs, eggs that did not have hard shells like chicken eggs but were rather a thin parchment. A problem with such thin parchment is drying out. Marsupials solve this with a pouch; the pouch may have been an intermediate step for mammals. The lactation secretion probably came from former hair glands on the female chest.

The secretion was not exactly like mother’s milk of today but did contain chemical precursors of lactose. In a Darwinian interpretation, then, the pre-mammals that provided the moisture and warmth and, eventually, the chemicals most useful in fighting disease were the ones who produced the most successful offspring. Those offspring produced offspring who would behave similarly. Eventually, warmth and moisture providers become dominant. So while those little pre-mammals snuck around for food (and avoid being food for bigger animals), they tried to keep their eggs warm, then moist, then healthy. And the fluid the fluid used to keep the eggs healthy would eventually become mothers’ milk. And, lactation and all, these little pre-mammals lived through the Great Dying.

Picture mammal; what do you see? Probably dogs, cats, humans or maybe elephants or tigers. Those first pre-mammals did not look like any of those; they were sort of an insignificant little blurb in the animal world. Our little ancestors played the role of a reptile’s snack.

So, on the journey from pre-mammal to mammal, lactation is already in place even though using it with a newborn will not happen for a while. Another major change in this transition: warm-blooded from cold-blooded. These first pre-mammals were, like reptiles, cold-blooded.

Cold-blooded animals generally spend a lot of time basking in the sun, not to get a tan but to warm the body. Hunting for food followed warming the body. So what are those little burrowing pre-mammals to do? During the day, they would be a likely target for dinner by the bigger reptiles. No time for a suntan.

That scary existence connects to the transition from cold to warm-blooded. Since showing up in daylight was suicidal, slowly but surely, generation after generation, their bodies invested energy into maintaining a constant temperature. Slowly their bodies developed more thermal insulation and a mechanism for temperature control. Both of these required a larger brain.

The environment of that time was not particularly helpful. Around 210 million years ago, that big Pangaea supercontinent begins to split. Changes were happening, not all for the good. Carbon dioxide levels were rising, much higher than they are now. The forests near the equator spread well northward, almost to the two poles. The oceans were becoming very warm.

Around 200 million years ago, an extinction raised havoc. The earth got too warm – much as it is doing today. Recent research indicates as much as 12,000 gigatons (a gigaton is one billion tons; each ton is 2000 pounds) of methane drifted up from the sea floor to the atmosphere. Too much heat did cause the extinction – and that is what is happening right now.

But the march from pre-mammal to mammal marched on to one final, giant transition step: live birth.

For animals still laying eggs, the very last layer surrounding the baby developing in the egg is a soft bag which will eventually become a shell. Remember, the eggs are getting smaller. For those eggs, that “sort of bag” allows for gas exchange to and from the egg, which is how the secretions got there.

The live birth step began with that special amniote egg that allowed the transition from amphibian to reptile. In the egg, the embryo lived in life-maintaining fluids surrounded by a tough tissue. Around that was more fluid and then the egg shell. That tough tissue transitioned into a unique organ, a different sort of a bag. The bag was called the placenta, and communication between the mother’s body and that bag was by way of the umbilical cord. This placenta belongs to the baby not the mother.

Some pretty careful studies have shown that the process which led to the internal placenta drew upon some ancient genes—changes, remember, are always based on something that happened in the evolutionary line earlier. The reptiles had provided that tough tissue surrounding the fertilized egg. With those ancient genes, particularly genes involving growth and metabolism as a starting place, a pathway into the membrane developed. The pathway allowed for the nutrients formerly provided inside the egg to be provided instead inside the mother, via an umbilical cord. By a combination of copying and merging those ancient genes in different manners, the transition was made. The placenta for all species is not the same, although they all seem to start under the control of the same gene structure.

A Review of Brain Development

Reaching back almost to the beginning, our brain uses a communication system found in jellyfish, first appearing 600 million years ago. Their nerves and the manner they send signals are similar to ours. Your brain relies heavily on structures found in the animals that preceded us. The first known animal, sponges, appear just before jellyfish. They basically had a more primitive form of the communication system found in jellyfish BUT our brain still uses part of their communication system. How that process evolved between the first multicellular organism and sponges is unknown since fossils are not available.

Worms are the simplest organisms to have a central nervous system, allowing them to exhibit more complex forms of behavior. Insects have a small but remarkable brain which can, for example, permit the cockroach to dart away as soon as it senses the moving air preceding a quickly descending human foot. The insect brain controls crawling, hopping, swimming, flying, burrowing, mating, and you-name-it.

An animal’s information system runs up the spine to the brain. Vertebrates, with that stiff spine, improve the protection of the information system. In early vertebrates, one part of the brain controlled behaviors that had happened again and again. Those automatic responses are sort of like cruise control on a car. A bird flies straight at your head. You do not stop and ponder, “Hmm. Should I duck?” No. Your conscious brain is too slow; a reflex established in antiquity makes you duck.

Science quarrels when the first brain appears, but the more important question is “What does the brain do?” Basically, it signals; it communicates; it directs traffic.

Without using the term “brain,” signaling began with life. From the beginning, cells had a communication system. Without one, how else could the DNA of the first bacteria direct the organism to make a copy of itself and then reproduce by splitting that copy off? Each of those steps, from no-life to life, from bacteria to eukaryotes, eukaryotes to multicellular, multicellular to jellyfish, required cells signaling one another. For sure, the brain was more organized when vertebrates had it at the end of a central nervous system. But communication among cells had to begin with life itself.

The amphibian transition from water to land made a big impact on the brain’s development. By this time, the brain had a midbrain and forebrain where brain functions for hearing and seeing in a higher and drier world sharpened. One part of the brain included responses like dominance and submission. Sudden movements, intimidating objects and brighter light changed visions centers. A possibly threatening or sight or sound causes us to instinctively turn our face and eyes in that direction.

As the finished reptile appears, the brain controls vital functions like heart rate, temperature, breathing, and balance. The brain, at that point, has a brain stem connected to two spheres (called the cerebellum.) This section helps with learning new motor behaviors, such as swinging a golf club.

In addition, most of science agrees that emotional centers also existed in the reptilian brain. Likely members include the instinct to fight or run which might also be called terror or anger. Instincts regarding sexual drives as well as parenting can be found here.

Dinosaurs, birds and mammals all followed reptiles. Each of those began with the same brain structure – the same brain structure as the reptiles. The human brain contains that section (often called reptilian) which still controls involuntary and instinctive behavior. Contrary to the arrogant beliefs of too many humans, the brain did not start over when homo sapiens arrived.

The Evolution of Emotions

Let’s summarize. To begin, in an initial step, the male does not wait until the female eggs were in water. Instead, like those adventurous placoderms before them, the male fertilizes the eggs while they are inside the female. With internal fertilization step complete, all the ingredients needed to create an image of the parents were together inside the female.

Slowly but surely, the reproduction-in-water issue was solved as a remarkable egg, called amniote, evolved. An interesting story. Let’s set the scene:

  • As water sites got further and further apart, the female did not just drop the eggs anywhere; instead, held the eggs inside longer.
  • Amphibians had a kind of tissue surrounding the yolk in the egg. The extra internal time toughened that tissue. Soon, as the embryo grew, the tissue surrounded it, and closed.
  • As that happened, fluids maintaining life stayed inside the now-enclosed tissue.
  • As time passed, the egg shell itself got more and more resilient. Inside the shell, the embryo’s tissue was surrounded by a fluid which collected waste and passed on air to the embryo.
  • That last amphibian step, egg-to-tadpole-to-frog, now happened inside the tissue.

Imagine how much time that took for the mutation-natural selection sequence to cause the change. This happened only because the female did not just jettison eggs and move on; if a site for laying the eggs was not available, the female held them in.

That was the amniotic egg which led to reptiles – animals that did NOT need to stay near water. Now the females laid the eggs on land. Reptiles of today include turtles, crocodiles, lizards, and snakes. Some still need water nearby; others live in the desert. The process that yielded reptiles was complete about 300 million years ago.

As the time clock moves from 1.2 billion years ago to 300 million years ago, from the first appearance of gender to our ancestor reptiles walking on land, how has the evolution of emotions progressed? Start with these sort of background statements.

The most valid animal emotional behavior data is anecdotal. Accurate reports regarding the emotions and behaviors of animals must come from observing, without interruption, animal behavior in their natural environments. Unfortunately, science does not have much respect for such information. Mark Bekoff, arguably the most trusted name in the area of animal emotions, explains that much more clearly and eloquently.

One anecdote, of course, should not lead to a firm decision; two independent reports with similar results tend to be eye-openers, but when report after report after report have a consistent theme, respect is called for. This “emotion” section will lean heavily on information based on observation and anecdotes. Thankfully, there are many scientists pursuing this line of research.

In earliest posts, some kind of special attraction – a mysterious force – seemed to have an impact on all events. In terms of emotion, attraction and cooperation were already seen. Clearly communication existed as well as some behaviors one would associate with a brain. What additional emotion-based research can be found from 1.2 billion to 300 million years ago?

About a half million years ago, about the time sponges appeared, the ancestors of those cherished lobster dinners, crustaceans, appeared.   One crustacean, the hermit crab, actually has no shell of their own. Instead, they find and live in abandoned shells of others. Research searching for hermit crab emotions unearthed two surprising emotional developments this early. First, the hermit crab reacts to pain, and second, the hermit has enough memory to avoid pain. Emotions and memory.

A little later, before the bony fish appeared, those ferocious placoderms provide fossil evidence of internal fertilization. The author of this Scientific American article writes,“The paired pelvic fins in placoderms permitted the males to deposit sperm into the females. This eventually gave rise to the genitalia and legs of tetrapods. And jaws may have originally evolved to help male fish grab a hold of females and stabilize them during mating, only later taking on the role of food pro­cessing. Sex, it seems, really did change everything.” This certainly appears to confirm that force of attraction and reinforce that if some action is rewarding, that action will be sought again and again.

Fish appeared just a little later. In most cases, fish lay eggs to reproduce. The female lays them; male comes by and fertilizes. But this is not impersonal. In most cases, the male is with the female as the eggs laid, immediately fertilizing them. The fish displayed various forms of protecting their young, including building walls. Here the two genders are working together after fertilization, indicating some sort of bond that holds them together. Examples of fairly elaborate nests out of the reach of predators abound. Having the male and female at the same location is not necessary; but many species apparently enjoy (or something) being together at that time. Attraction. Parenting. Being together. Protecting both the born and unborn. Do not believe people who say this did not begin until mammals.

A device that scared fish was inserted in a fish tank, immediately swimming from the feared object to escape. Next time, they were shown a bright light 10 seconds before the scary insertion. Well, over time fish learned to avoid the fearful event by leaving when the light turned on. Then, seven days went by with no light, no fear. On the eighth day, the light turned on. The fish immediately swam to escaped. So, at this point in the evolutionary process, the fish brain demonstrated hearing, fear, learning, and memory.

Bony fish, from which amphibians evolved, are in our evolutionary line. In about 20% of the specie, one of the parents holds the fertilized egg in its mouth, protecting the eggs from danger while waiting for the fry to hatch. That takes about a week. The story continues: In one specie, the father stays with the fry. If danger is near, the father swims to the fry and takes them in his mouth, holding them until danger is gone. What is seen here certainly seems like parenting, already tucked in the brain of some fish.

Here is a new emotion, branching out a little further. Generally, guppy females seek a male with bright orange coloring. However, when a female sees other females mating with a male with non-orange coloring, she will copy that behavior to also seek a male of similar coloring. Culture, seeking to conform to the group, the female is NOT following her own genetic drive but is responding to the behavior of others, as in “Monkey see. Monkey do.” Living in groups creates a whole new set of responses in the brain. Notice that this behavior is connected to parenting (seeking a mate) but has reached beyond parenting.

The female lays eggs; the male fertilizes, sometimes using internal fertilization. Somehow, they most communicate. They appear to choose to stay close. Why? Was it rewarding or maybe just the expectation of a reward? The no-contact technique was more convenient and much safer. That just provides predators a target twice as big! Does it not seem that something else made them seek one another?

The earlier speculative “automatic response” seems to fit here AND seems to be taking on more specific meaning. Something like the “anticipation of satisfaction” certainly seems to be going on. Even now for humans, the anticipation of satisfaction is a common behavior motivation. Catch that: not an actual satisfactory experience but instead being drawn to one another by the expectation of satisfaction.

Remember, these behaviors impact the structure of the DNA and the brain. Genders cooperating to allow internal fertilization certainly seems linked to emotional responses, stretching further the role of expectation of satisfaction in the mating process. Randomness followed by natural selection certainly is true; but from this perspective, it looks like developing emotions are taking a far bigger role in this evolutionary process than science has been willing to accept.

A substantial reproductive change occurred in this step. Usually, the egg (laid in the water) contains a not-yet-fully-developed amphibian. The animal’s DNA , though, then guides the transition of the newly-born to a land-dwelling amphibian.