Every culture on the planet possesses an origin story, a way they describe how things emerged from not-being to being. In this, they often embrace a mythic perspective that discusses how First Man and First Woman birthed into existence. Equally as often the narratives presume these progenitors act just like us. If you transported the First Ones through time, they might express shock at the use of modern tools or new cultural taboos but they would still fundamentally act in ways recognizable to us and even, over time, adopt acceptable (even revere!) customs from our modern culture.
For almost 1,800 years now, the dominant narrative talks about only two people—an Adam and an Eve—instead of a first tribe or a pair of couples or a set of hermaphrodites separated by the gods. This formed a very distinct starting point. Before Adam & Eve--conceived as a mirror of a universal god--, nothing existed like them and after them, creation effectively ended.
A mere two-hundred years ago, Charles Darwin wandered the world and observed things (and, as often, meddled with them). In contrast to the prevailing thought at the time (”God made everything. Deal with it”), he proposed that life exists as a series of discrete relationships that change slowly over time. Different people had noticed it before, but Darwin's timely presentation shook up the dominant culture of the time.
Much to Darwin’s horror, a number of people (including members of his family), focused on the ‘discrete’ instead of the ‘relationship’ part of his theory. From this particularly loathsome attention birthed the fields of eugenics and genetic determinism. Now, people possessed a ‘scientific’ way to justify prejudices. Poor people? Poor genes. Criminal tendencies? Passed from father to son. The god-blessed positions of royalty and their sycophants? Now blessed by Reason.
The scientists of the emerging German Reich took great pride in their expertise on the subject, producing outstanding work on the different genetic branches of mankind. Time and time again, they invented clear definitions of how the 'superior' blue-eyed, blond-haired ubermen of their homeland embodied Darwin’s bold evolutionary claims. In the end, others exposed their mad work as nonsense, the results of overwhelming confirmation bias thanks to a horrific political climate and pressure to succeed under ridiculous circumstances.
Their work, idiotic and as cleverly worded as it appeared, leaked into modern day.; a drive for which ‘race’ started where, for where the origin of ‘humanity’ came from. Scientists, in all seriousness, argued that their findings marked the humble beginnings of the species as here or there and that their discovery provided some sort of discovery or achievement.
In essence, the scientists wanted a myth. Consumed by Christian theology and the remnants of Reich propaganda, they searched for an Adam and an Eve.
Do you remember how Darwin studied discrete relationships? Once you start focusing on the "relationships" part instead of the discrete, a far more realistic pattern emerges. An astonishing ‘bush’ of life instead of a tree. Species that may appear different can successfully mate if they have the chance, or not. Time and distance do change things, sometimes on the surface, sometimes underneath. The ‘missing link’ between humans and their ancestors, that people worried about never finding has emerged over and over again. Suddenly, dozens of different types of Genus Homo, some of which we know, definitively, that we have bred with have taken their place in the 'human' family. Those branches that vanished didn’t just vanish; they just sexed their way into what lived and loved at the time, based on the environmental conditions that favored them.
You might think this avoids the question — where did humans come from? The answer, of course, creates another question. What makes a person 'human'? When did we start walking on two legs? Manipulate fire? Build tools? Those pieces fell into place millions of years ago. Gathering in small tribal units (still millions)? Art? A million or so. Hunting? Gathering? Funerals?
The common narrative of the dominant culture tends to promote that Genus Homo from about 3/4 - 1/2 million years ago looked pretty much like us. But like us does not mean us. Did they have sex with Homo Neanderthalis at that time? Or the Denisovans? Or something we haven’t found yet? Culture as we like to recognize it came into play around 250-50 thousand years ago but that just means groups shared those cultural foundations widely. Civilizations exploded into existence about 12-10 thousand years ago. Did their existence define what makes people ‘human’?
Let’s take a step back. We believe humans succeeded because they practiced persistence hunting, which basically entails running down animals to death. To successfully hunt using the persistence method, you must embody a strong sense of curiosity and time. You must have an ability to assemble stories. This plus this plus this means that the deer ran through here.
So what distinguishes a "human" from other members of the community of life?
Not our genetics, not our form. If those two attributes encompassed our sole measure of success then, where persistence hunting failed, humanity would have died. Instead, our success appears to come from embodying our stories; humanity as a manifestation of a Storied People. Instead of a genetic shift over time, a storied people relies on memetic changes and the epigenetic changes that result from those memetics.
Epigenetics, a relatively new field, hypothesizes that a chunk of DNA expresses itself only in relation to an environmental stress or benefit. Epigenetics speaks to the physical changes that occur that allow humans to adapt to an environment, causing variation in their appearance, though, genetically, they possess fundamentally the same basic attributes. The same kind of being that can choose to mate with their neighbors, to build relationships and nurture them.
What does it mean to exist as a storied people, a people who use culture to alter themselves?
It likely means the term "human race" serves as an incorrect or imprecise definition at best. It very likely means there exists no such singular thing as an “Adam” and an “Eve”.
A case in point, sometime before we ‘matured’ into homo sapiens sapiens, we started hanging out with wolves. Any biologist can point out the sudden shift in ‘human’ attitude and ‘wolf’ attitude that resulted in a co-evolutionary path. The two species couldn’t mate genetically, but epigenetically and memetically, they co-existed as closely as any kin.
"Homo lupus" gave way to tribes. Tribes gave birth to an impossible variety of humans. Homo Lakota. Homo Cymmru, Homo Taino, Homo Gunwinggu. Ultimately, the cancer one could call "Homo Civis". Our strength springs from this many-limbed ancestry. This diversity exposes the lie of the ‘origin of the species’ into the harsh light of truth, exposing its shallow and sick roots. After all, the 'origin of the species' has always embraced chasing after a myth which never truly held the reality of our species in the first place.
In the end, all people bear the seeds of new Adams and Eves.