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New York Times writer tells story of human evolution (video)

By Carolina Astrain
Nov. 12, 2013 at 5:12 a.m.
Updated Nov. 13, 2013 at 5:13 a.m.

Nicholas Wade, New York Times science writer, talks about the last 50,000 years of the ancestral human population as part of Victoria College's Lyceum lecture series.

Nicholas Wade, a New York Times science writer, transported his audience Tuesday night to the dawn of humanity as part of Victoria College's Lyceum lecture series.

Wade, 71, cleared his throat from a corner of the Leo J. Welder Center for the Performing Arts stage as he explained the migratory patterns of humankind's earliest known ancestors.

"I'll be discussing some of the major headlines of the last 50,000 years," Wade said.

The veteran journalist of 45 years began writing about the origins of human evolution after amassing articles about genetics he had written before the publication of his 2006 book, "Before the Dawn."

"With the sequencing of the human genome, we can at least fill in the major chapter headlines of the saga," Wade said.

Wade peered through his glasses as he guided the audience through projected maps showing ancestral human movement from Africa to parts of Europe and Australia.

"How they got there (Australia) we don't directly know," Wade said. "But the obvious answer is that they didn't choose to go there. ... They didn't have any maps telling where to go, and they probably wanted to go where there was free land."

From stories of Neanderthals battling modern humanity's ancestors to the point at which our ancestors chose to begin settling down, Wade kept a captive audience.

"The story of human evolution is at the center of this story," Wade said. "Evolution cannot be stopped; it is dictated by mutation and time."

After the Industrial Revolution, Wade said, humans began to show a decline in interpersonal violence and an increase in literacy rates.

Because of this trend, former Victoria Mayor Will Armstrong said he walked away with a sense of hope for humanity after reading "Before the Dawn."

"He (Wade) will give us information that will lead us to being more optimistic about our future," said Armstrong during his introduction of the speaker.

Although, during the question-and-answer portion of the lecture, Wade said he's not sure there's too much to be optimistic about.

"We're likely to have another ice age in some time," Wade said. "I'm not terribly optimistic about that, but one can hope."



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