Why Origins matter

Far from supporting a purely academic pursuit, PAST uses the science of our origins to promote three major themes of great relevance to modern social issues and future prospects in Africa, and, indeed, across the world.

1. African Pride and Dignity
The knowledge that Africa is humankind’s birthplace bestows a deep dignity upon the continent while providing Africans with a tremendous sense of pride. As the place to which all people can trace their ancestry, Africa alone preserves the full prehistory of humankind in the form of a remarkably rich series of fossil and archaeological finds spanning the last seven million years. These finds show that all defining aspects of humanity, including our technological prowess, supreme intelligence, artist ability and language, originated in Africa.

2. Unity Amid Diversity
Cultural and physical differences ensure the uniqueness of every individual. Yet underlying this diversity is a deeply woven humanity common to all people. We have been differentiated into geographical populations popularly referred to as races for only the most recent 1% of the seven million years since our first upright-walking ancestors emerged. Racial differences such as skin color are superficial and overwhelmed by our long period of common ancestry, resulting in a 99.9% similarity between the genetic codes of any two people. Our shared African roots should be a potent source of global unity.

3. Our Place in Nature
Africa’s fossil heritage shows that the environment played a major role in the evolution of life and humankind. If the pace and extent of environmental change is too rapid or large for species to adapt, some will go extinct. The rate of species extinction in the last 10,000 years, since the advent of agriculture, and especially since the beginning of the industrial revolution, is greater than in the last 66 million years, when the fifth mass extinction in the history of life killed off the non-avian dinosaurs and over three-quarters of other plant and animal species. The current ‘Sixth Extinction’ is due largely to human activities. The origin sciences thus becomes a close ally of environmental conservation by showing that humans are a part of nature, and not apart from nature,