Profound Implications of an Environment of Human Origin

March 15, 2008.

In its February 21, 2008, issue, the scientific journal nature reported a study on genotype, haplotype, and copy-number variation in worldwide human populations. The study is reportedly based on a worldwide sample of 29 populations, 485 individuals, and five geographic regions of the world, namely, Africa, Eurasia, East Asia, Oceania, and America. The study supports the theory that humanity originated in Africa and spread to the other parts of the world.

The study also suggests that the geographic distance is a primary determinant of human genetic differentiation and draws parallels between linear increase in genetic distance and geographic distance from East Africa.

Citing the same study and another study published in the journal Science, The Los Angeles Times reported that humans spread from a single location near Finfinne (Addis Ababa), Ethiopia's capital, 100,000 years ago.

In an interview with Wendy Belcher, the late Ethiopian Laureate Tsegaye Gebre-Medhin had the following to say: "The cradle of man is here [Ethiopia], the beginning of man is here, there is no refuting that. Archaeologists, geologists have dug everywhere and they have come up with the bones to prove that man started here. And that man was not sleeping, from the moment he was created he started creating. The heritage of that man, of the ancestor, is the heritage of the world."

Now that these stories and other stories that may come out in the future seem to continuously reinforce the thesis that Africa in general and Ethiopia in particular are the sources of humanity, it is incumbent upon Ethiopian intellectuals to critically evaluate the implications of this thesis. While this is not a matter to be left only to them, the possibility that Ethiopia will be the center of focus for many things about the past, the present, and the future should be at least as equally important to them as it is to others.

To put it lightly, this story has profound implications not only in terms of human migration, but also in terms of language origin, biodiversity within Ethiopia, disease resistance, interactions with and consciousness about nature, societal dynamics and the tools used in addressing it, and so on.

While addressing all these issues pose tremendous challenges, they also avail important opportunities in various ways. For example, the biodiversity of the region, its resistance to diseases, and the quality it draws from a naturally important environment is likely to have immense economic importance.

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