There was an interesting story on 60 Minutes about studying the genetics and evolution of dogs’ friendliness called “Survival of the Friendliest”. As an aside, I have often lamented that science and religion are pitted against each other. I love the UCC belief that our faith may be 2,000 years old, but our thinking is not! There are some areas of science that are especially fascinating, so this week’s “thought” is about genetics and evolution.
Back to the 60 Minutes story, Evolutionary Biologist at Duke University Brian Hare has been studying animal evolution for 25 years. He believes that what summarizes the link between dog evolution and human evolution is the concept of the survival of the friendliest. That’s right, not the survival of the fittest (or biggest or strongest)!
Brian Hare believes that 20,000 years ago there was a population of wolves that became attracted to humans. Those wolves basically gave up hunting over time and would eat the garbage that humans would leave around their homes. The wolves fed off the scraps left out by friendly humans and over time became domesticated.
Hare said in the interview, “I think what dog evolution teaches us is that actually how you get ahead in the game of life, is you evolve a new way to be friendly that leads to a new form of cooperation. Humans 100,000 years ago, our species, was not alone. There were at least four to five other human species. And the question then becomes, ‘Well, why are we the only one left?’ And we think, and what dogs point to, is that we were the friendliest species that ever evolved among humans, and that we survived because we are friendly.”*
This scientific concept was amazing to me.
I remember learning about early humans working together and how this changed humanity, but to link this development to evolutionary biology (and dogs!) was fascinating.
To think that homo sapiens like us are still here because we evolved to be friendly, to work together, to look out for one another, to cooperate.
What a thought when we look at the world around us and live each and every day.
Being friendly may just be part of what makes us human!
*You can watch the whole segment on 60 Minutes or read the transcript here:
Photo by Thomas Bonometti on Unsplash