Human Species

I’ve just started taking a class on Coursera, ‘A brief history of humankind’. The first lecture was very interesting and I learned that the multiple species of humans–homo erectus, homo neanderthalensis, homo floresiensis and so on–were not simply links in a chain leading to us, homo sapiens.

All these species of humans lived at the same time, and even interbred at times. It has been found recently that we have about 4% neanderthal genes.

This talk of different human species living together got me wondering if it could happen again. What would our world be like with multiple human species? Not something so trivial as ‘race’ but actual different species with different biologies who can’t interbreed. For it to happen by evolution at least two groups of humans would have to be separated from each other in different environments for a very long time.

But, we humans have been becoming more and more adept at manipulating genes. And despite what moral and ethical problems people have with it, it is only a matter of time before we start playing around with our own genes, and those of our unborn children.

If style and language and ideas and opinions are affected by the culture you live in, why wouldn’t the choice in gene manipulations be a product of your culture? Would Americans manipulate their children’s genes in different ways than Japanese or Indians? If we change ourselves enough, and in enough varying ways, there could be dozens of separate human species in the span of a few generations.

Or would humanity coordinate and globalize, keeping all but the few inevitable outlliers in line with each other? And if they did, would the result of a few generations of genetic manipulation still be ‘homo sapiens’? Or something new?



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