History of Science in Evolutionary Biology
An Upright Ancestor for the Apes
Evo-Devo in Paleoanthropology
Evolution Biology Update
Science of Human Origins
Human Evolution and the Hox Genes
Lucy, Australopithecus and the Birth of Humanity
Dinosaur Origins
The Upright Ape: A New Origin of the Species

by Aaron G. Filler MD, PhD

with a foreword by

David Pilbeam

Professor of Anthropology, Harvard University

Aaron Filler, MD, PhD
Aaron G. Filler, MD, PhD

About the Book

The story of evolution is undergoing dramatic change. The genetic story that underlies the biological world around us is finally being revealed in stark detail. Everything but evolution itself is in question. This book is an introduction to the strange new world of biology that is just now starting to emerge. It is meant for the general reader interested in science. In many ways it allows the reader to jump to the front of the class. Scientists who have spent their entire careers believing that they understood the major sequence of events in biological history are finding out that much of what they relied on and taught to students is being turned upside down.

In the 1950’s DNA was discovered as the material basis of the genetic material. During the 1960’s 70’s and 80’s we learned to read the genetic code to understand the detailed structure of numerous important molecules. Next it became possible to rewrite the family tree by tracing out relationships and predicting ancient splitting points based on the information in the genes.

The next act is only now coming to fruition. We are learning how the shape and architecture of organisms is written out in the genes. We are learning to read the blueprints and to see exactly how they have been rewritten across vast expanses of times. The blueprints have started to reveal a series of stunning surprises.

One of the greatest surprises is the unexpected proof that we share far more of our ancestry and architecture with insects and spiders than anyone has believed for many years. Oddly enough, however, this finding is a proof of the leading biological theory about the similarities among animals that was current before the time of Darwin.

In the first three chapters of this book, the reader learns about the biological ideas that came before Darwin. This used to be a matter of discarded history. Now however, since modern genetics has proven the validity of the central ideas of Goethe and Geoffroy  the history of these two epic geniuses and what they had to say becomes far more important relative to Darwin’s ideas. The foundation of evolution is no longer Darwin’s alone.

The next three chapters (4-6) reveal a tectonic change in our understanding of the mechanisms and methods by which important changes take place in evolution. Darwin and his acolytes have always emphasized the role of gradual change of small alterations in the genetic make-up of a species – the playground of natural selection. However, what we now see is that some of the most transforming events in the history of life, the origins of some of the most important architectural innovations took place in sudden ways rooted more in the structural mechanisms of genes than in the interactions of environment and competition for survival.

This new history of evolutionary ideas and new understanding of the mechanics of evolution then set the stage for a fresh look at how the most interesting organisms came to be and who they are. From spiders to dinosaurs to mammals – the starting points of these major groups needs a new understanding and this is what is introduced and explained in chapters 7 and 8.

Finally and most remarkably – what does all this mean for human evolution? Don’t we already know so much and don’t we know it such detail that nothing really major could change? Not on your life. The history of human origins is also about to be turned upside down and inside out.

In the light of the new mechanisms we are coming to understand, a series of unexplainable fossils now make stunning new sense. Humanity appears to have originated more than 20 million years ago as the result of an abrupt and unusual change in the genetics of our embryological assembly. We have believed that humanity came into being small step after small step across tens of millions of years as we gradually adapted to the world and acquired the trapping of human form. Even six million years ago, when the chimps and the ancestors of Australopithecus split we have been told that the common ancestor was an animal looking unmistakably like an ape ambling around on all fours.

The last two chapters of this books pull human evolution apart and put it back together again in radically reorganized form. Upright bipedal humans appear to have emerged before the lineages of any of the existing apes. There is unsettling but unavoidable evidence that an upright bipedal creature has existed in a series of species over  20 million years and not just over 5 million years.  Call it a human-like hominoid, call it a bipedal hominiform or call it an early human – call it whatever you like – this is an upright ancestor of the apes. This is a kind of human whose descendants include both the knuckle walking apes and the modern humans who have retained its ancient upright form while experiencing a steady advance in intelligence.

A new demoted role for Darwin in the history of evolutionary theory. New mechanisms of evolutionary change revealed by the advance of morphogenetics and genomics. A dramatically altered history of humankind. This is indeed a new origin of the species.