All attempts thus far to explain the evolution of the human brain and mind have failed. They all have in common the fact that human characteristics such as work, language, culture and consciousness, which all stand at the end of human evolution, should also simultaneously be considered to be the cause of humanity emerging i.e. at the beginning of humans evolving.
However, all these human characteristics were not present before the emergence of humans and therefore, they cannot be considered to be the actual cause of evolution that led to the existence of humans.
No other mind-set could have been more contrary to the Victorian way of thinking than the mere idea that humans could have descended from monkeys. Even if evolution could be scientifically proven for all other organisms, humans, with all their unique human characteristics, must certainly have emerged from a special act of creation.
Much to Darwin’s chagrin, even A.R. Wallace refused to concede that natural selection is what made human evolution work.
(Mayr 2002, p.499)
With these words Ernst Mayr sums up the dilemma that anthropologists have. On the one hand, the anatomy of humans, the results of palaeoanthropology and genetics, show the kinship of moneys and people as well as the origin of humans from their animal ancestors.
On the other hand, Western philosophy and religion have emphasised the great divide between humans and animals since their beginnings. They have also considered this to be part of the divine order of creation, and as such, as an inviolable taboo. The question is, can we resolve this dilemma today?
Charles Darwin was a child of the progressive 19th century. In his work, The Descent of Man, the moral qualities of our species played a major role, although it remains to be seen whether Darwin actually meant the moral qualities of the contemporary English gentleman or, more generally, spoke of the human species.
After the experiences of the blood-stained 20th century, we have become more humble with regard to the moral qualities of humankind, including, but not limited to, the fact that Sigmund Freud taught us that we are not at all, or at least not always, master of our own little destinies.