Ponder this highly unlikely scenario…
59,986 years ago on a dreary Tuesday afternoon…
Out of the blackness of interstellar space, a small but swift alien exploration ship entered our solar system along the galactic plane. Routine star system mapping was these two alien explorers main mission. Cataloging and indexing of anything and everything of interest was their prime directive. At first glance, this solar system has the usual gas giants and rocky planets. Nothing remarkable here. Long range scans show only one planet that has possible indicators of life. The third rock from the star was their target of interest. As their life science scanners get closer they go off the scale. This planet is a treasure trove of life. Millions and millions of diverse species of life. They do not have enough collection containers…not even close.
They land their scout ship near the planetary equator and get out to stretch their tentacles. Being highly advanced and intelligent sentient creatures they decided to forgo all that pesky ethics business and just for gits and shiggles mess with the dominant primates for no good justifiable reason. Instead of preserving this oasis of life they decide to modify it in their own image. They choose a particularly attractive form of primate ape thing down there that are currently throwing feces at each other and smashing each other over the head with crudely fashioned weapons. To make any modifications they are of course breaking every ethical, intellectual, and scientific principle by doing this…the ultimate violation of the “observer effect”.
They blend the co-pilots genetic sequence with several dozens of the female ape things. They get back in their ship and laugh all the way back to Zeta Reticulum.
And now back to reality…
I hope you can infer the ridiculousness of such a scenario of aliens modifying our genome. All the changes and advancements we have experienced are attributed to evolution and natural selection.
Humankind has been around for about 2 to 3 million years. However anatomically modern humans seem to have arisen something like 100 to 150 thousand years ago. Much of that time appears to have seen a steady expansion of modern humans out from some central location in Africa. Humans at that time were anatomically modern. In other words, they were us. They were as intelligent as we are now. There is a big debate in anthropology circles as to whether Neanderthals were as smart (or in some ways even smarter) as us. But we seem to have been more adaptable and so we “won”.
Humans probably became more intelligent gradually since they appeared on earth, but they didn’t suddenly become geniuses. It took them some time to spread, to migrate from Africa to other places and to learn how to manipulate nature to some extent. Note that once a breakthrough takes place (after a bunch of tries, a bit of “luck”, intelligence, risk-taking and mishaps) other advancements can be attained a bit more easy. With agriculture was the case that, once Homo sapiens learned to manage it (after probably a bunch of stuff that had to happen to get there), the species’ members could now feed themselves much better and stop worrying about looking for food for the most part of the day.
After that, humans could embrace new activities and became more specialized, being able to thrive in other areas and bring about other products of effort and intelligence. There were surely many humans that were extremely smart way back those 60k years. But life was surely less comfy in terms of feeding. Consider what humans have done so far, and it seems miraculous; but without industrial revolution, we wouldn’t have the technological gadgets we do have today; considering this revolution.
My understanding also is that humanity was nearly wiped out about 70 thousand years ago by the Toba Supervolcano. Only a few thousand people survived that disaster, mostly in a few locations in southwest Africa. That would have reset the clock on any expansion of modern humans.
I’m not sure if the Neanderthal population went through that same bottleneck, or if it was just modern humans. But at any rate, the expansion of Cro-Magnan humans (us) appears to have been pretty much continuous from that point on.
Also, as humanity expanded, there was probably plenty of room to roam until relatively recently. So for most of our existence, it was probably much easier to be a hunter-gatherer than to become a city dweller. Several articles I have read have described how the effort needed to survive is much less per person in a hunter-gatherer society. So until the population became high enough to force a more intensive use of the land along with increasing competition for arable land (i.e. war), becoming “civilized” was probably not really necessary.
In addition, current beliefs of how old civilization really is are now seriously in question. The finding of the ruins at Gobekli Teppe, Dwarka and possible additional sites seem to push back the horizon of civilization to well over 12 thousand years ago. Other recent finds suggest that it could go back over 20 thousand years. And those are just the sites we know about.
If civilization is that old, then it would have been present to at least some degree prior to the Younger Dryas disaster of about 12 thousand years ago. That was apparently the point where the greatest sea level rise occurred. Since civilizations would likely have been located along coastlines or in river valleys at lower elevations, most of them would have been swamped out (cause for the nearly ubiquitous flood stories?). Who knows what might lay submerged under 200 to 300+ feet of water.
Intelligence is, for us, something that is accessed. We either encourage it or unknowingly limit it and sometimes completely block it. There is zero evidence or any need to attribute what we have become to Aliens. It is intellectual laziness to believe this. It falsely satisfies our innate need to understand ourselves and where we come from. Evidence, logical thinking, and informed deduction will tell us (with a little archaeological luck) everything we need to know about who, what, and where we come from. Science already has a verifiable outline of our history and none of it includes Aliens.
That is enough when combined with the ability to pass information down from generation to generation via the written word, 10,000 years of progressive puttering, and five centuries of more-or-less purposeful engineering, to give us the moon landing, the Internet, and the brilliant literary works of Philip K. Dick. It is not, apparently, sufficient to give us a consistently competent electorate, but no species is perfect.
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