Anthropogeny is not a synonym for human evolution, but rather encompasses investigation of all factors involved in human origins, including climate, cultural, geographic, social and ecological. The word was popularized by the noted German zoologist Ernst Haeckel.
Not surprisingly, it’s a rich and diverse topic of conversation. Consider CARTA’s regular symposia, which have produced more than 150 scholarly presentations on subjects ranging from language and the biology of altruism to the evolution of nutrition and whether the human mind is unique. Future symposia will discuss child-rearing in human evolution and the role of male aggression and violence.
All CARTA symposia are recorded by UCSD-TV and archived on multiple sites: CARTA, UCSD-TV, iTunes and YouTube.
Recently, the number of online hits of CARTA videos topped 10 million in just four years – a big number in a blink of geologic time.
Anthropogeny is the study of human origins. It is not simply a synonym for human evolution, which is only a part of the processes involved in human origins. Many other factors besides biological evolution were involved, ranging over climatic, geographic, ecological, social, and cultural ones.
The term anthropogeny was first used in the 1839 edition of Hooper's Medical Dictionary and was defined as “the study of the generation of man”. The term was popularized byErnst Heinrich Haeckel (1834–1919), a German naturalist and zoologist, in his groundbreaking books, Natural History of Creation (German: Natürliche Schöpfungsgeschicht) (1868) and The Evolution of Man(German: Anthropogenie) (1874). Haeckel was one of the first biologists to publish on evolution. Haeckel used the term Anthropogeny to refer to the study of comparative embryology and defined it as “the history of the evolution of man”. The term changed over time, however, and came to refer to the study of human origins.
The root anthropos means human, -logia means discourse or study, and -geny means origin. Anthropology, therefore, is quite literally the study of humans, whereas anthropogeny is the study of the origin of humans.
According to Gregory (1933), anthropologists are interested in measuring and quantifying aspects of being human, whereas anthropogenists are interested in “piecing together the broken story of the ‘big parade’ that nature has staged across the ages”.
When did “behaviorally modern humans” (BMHs)—i.e., us, the single species that has taken over the planet using our unusual cognitive abilities—first arise? We do not know for sure, but anthropogeny, which takes a systematic approach to explaining human origins, offers some clues.
The published artwork of Haeckel includes over 100 detailed, multi-colour illustrations of animals and sea creatures (see: Kunstformen der Natur, “Art Forms of Nature”). As a philosopher, Ernst Haeckel wrote Die Welträtsel (1895–1899; in English: The Riddle of the Universe, 1901), the genesis for the term “world riddle” (Welträtsel); and Freedom in Science and Teaching to support teaching evolution.