On Living

Is Sapiens The End of Our Species?

There is only one human species today. Homo sapiens. But when we look over the human history, we come across many species of humans. Moreover, among them, there are those who are stronger than modern humans, “homo sapiens“. So how did we, the relatively “weak” ones, survive while other species went extinct? Will we go extinct like the others?

Species or Genus?

We have all seen in biology lessons that living things are divided into certain groups in its hierarchy from highest to lowest, as domains, kingdom, phylum, class, order, family, genus and species. For the topics we will talk about in today’s article, it will be sufficient to remember the concepts of family, genus and species from these groups. Let’s go first from the animal kingdom. If the offspring that are born when the animals are mated have the characteristics suitable for continuing the lineage, these animals are considered to belong to the same species. For example, when two horses mate, another baby horse is born and that horse has the ability to reproduce under normal conditions. However, when a horse and a donkey mate, a sterile creature called a mule is born and is incapable of reproduction. As a result, the horse and donkey are not the same species, but they certainly descended from a common ancestor. In other words, horse and donkey are two different species of the same genus.

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As for humans; hundreds of species belonging to theHomo” genus such as Homo sapiens, Homo erectus, Homo rudolfensis, Homo neanderthalensis (known as Neanderthal) have emerged. Homo means human in Latin, and all these species actually belong to the human genus. The suffixes that follow also show their type. We can also translate the word Sapiens as “thinker, wise”. Homo sapiens actually means the intelligent species of the human genus.


History of Sapiens

Many of you have heard or read the book called “Sapiens” by Yuval Noah Harari, a very famous historian. In this book, Harari gave information about our species and its interactions with other species with his vast knowledge. In this article, we would like to share with you a few remarkable and important issues based on the Sapiens book.
The Sapiens species was physically in a very weak position against almost all of the other species of the genus “Homo“, some of which were mentioned above. Neanderthals, on the other hand, were a very strong species. For evolutionary reasons, each species has adapted to the conditions of its own geography, and each generation within the species has become more survivable against environmental conditions. For example, species living in cold places have thickened the oil layer, making them able to withstand harsh weather conditions.

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In short, all species have adapted to their regions. But the mysterious thing is that Sapiens’ evolution took place with the development and growth of the brain rather than physical development. But this was hardly ever a necessary condition for the Sapiens species to survive. While the most important thing to keep us alive at that time was the increase in our physical capacities, we had bodies that were not very strong. For this reason, we were one of the weakest species of that time, and we were not able to fight strong species such as Neanderthals and then we started to be eaten by animals.

How Did We Become a Superior Species?

Interestingly, as time progressed, Sapiens was no longer the weakest species. It started to take place at the top of the food chain; tertiary consumer class that eats both meat and grass. Also, it started to destroy other kinds of “Homo”s. So what made this happen?
First of all, although it is obvious that we could not achieve such a development by gaining physical superiority, the reason is still not fully known. However, according to some estimates, Sapiens realized its mental superiority and began to manipulate the natural conditions. For example, although it is said that the species who discovered and used fire for the first time was Homo erectus, it was the human who consciously took it under control and started using it actively. Using fire, she/he cooked and ate the meat of the animals she/he hunted. Thanks to this, his/her body was better fed, his/her head worked better, she/he began to produce energy more efficiently.


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Can Fear Related With The Power?

While Sapiens was in the middle of the food chain in the first years of its emergence, it began to take its place at the top within a few centuries. It is interesting that this happened at a time when Neanderthals still existed. Let’s look at from a psychological point of view how Sapiens came to be at the top of the food chain.

We all know that people cannot beat a lion under normal circumstances. So, even today, our fear of the lion is still alive. Likewise, it is unlikely that we could defeat a Neanderthal under normal conditions. So what happens in this case? Sapiens are afraid of Neanderthals.

Fear is the main source of superstition, and one of the main sources of cruelty. To conquer fear is the beginning of wisdom.”

– Bertrand Russell

To reconsider the words of the English philosopher Russell, fear causes cruelty. We are still afraid of the lion. In fact, we are afraid of everything we do not know. Therefore, we tend to create a defense mechanism against anything alien to us or to harm it by thinking it poses a danger. Also, this is not true just for species other than ours. Within the Sapiens species, some people classifies the others according to their color, religion, family, profession, appearance and disability, and somehow harms them. We can give many examples from history: Between 1938-1945, what happened to Jews, disabled children, and even all individuals who did not fit the definition of pure German? What about recent genocides, wars, diplomatic attitudes, and even the ongoing blood feuds of people within the same country?

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It is very sad that as long as it continues like this, it seems that the Sapiens species will lose its dominance by its own hands and will be doomed to extinction. As Canadian scientist Hubert Reeves said, “We are at war with nature. If we win, we are lost.

What is the main reason of the anger, the hatred and the cruelty, although we are intelligent species that can learn and develop? Because, sapiens forgot the most important things: Thinking and questioning. Therefore, ignorance has become widespread. Ignorance; taught people to destroy but never to build. Because Fear is the main source of superstition, and one of the main sources of cruelty. To conquer fear is the beginning of wisdom”.

References and Future Readings

In the “On Living” category of the website, the author is not obliged to cite any source, as he includes his own thoughts. However, if the topic has piqued your interest, you can read further from the source below.

Harari, Y. N. (2014). Sapiens: A brief history of humankind. Random House.

The proofreading has been done by Çiğdem Alkan and Mete Esencan.

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Tufan Özdemir

Hello there! I'm Tufan Özdemir. I am a philosophy student at METU. Philosophy has been a big part of my life and my life. For this reason, most of my articles on this site are on philosophy.
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