The Out-of-Africa Theory
We share a common ancestor -- a man who lived in Africa around 60,000 years ago. That's only about 2,000 generations... We're all effectively members of an extended family."
Spencer Wells, Genographic Project director

    In this Section, 1 we examine the Out-of-Africa 2 (“OoA”) answer to the question, “When and where did man become modern?” About 2 mya Homo erectus inhabited Africa, Europe, and Asia. In one of those locations he evolved into an archaic form of our species, Homo sapiens (Hs), then into modern man, Homo sapiens sapiens (Hss) and the people living today.
    We will call the promoters of OoA, the dominant theory of our time, “afrocentrists.” They believe that it was the African erectus that evolved into Hs and that Hs evolved into Hss in Africa, then those modern African Hss migrated out of Africa “replacing” all the more primitive people who were then living in Europe (Neanderthals) and Asia (Homo erectus). Once those modern Africans moved into Eurasia, they lost all the African traits described in Section II and evolved all the Eurasian racial traits we see in today’s Asians and Europeans. That theory is consistent with egalitarianism because OoA holds that not very long ago all modern humans were Africans, so recently, in fact, that everyone is still virtually genetically the same, and therefore equal, particularly in behavior, intelligence, and the capacity for learning, but excepting “very superficial features like skin color and hair form.” 3 Genetic differences between populations are of no biological importance, however, only if they are neutral, i.e., they have no effect on the reproductive success of those populations. But, as Section II shows, genetic differences between races, including skin color and hair form, were the result of natural or sexual selection, which means that they did affect reproductive success. 4
    The principal competing theory, the Multiregional theory, 5 is out of favor and is clung to by only a few die-hard scientists. And last, there is the theory presented in this book, which holds that Hs and Hss evolved in Eurasia (Out of Eurasia, “OoE”), not Africa. That theory will be presented in Section IV.
    Figure III-1 is a tree that shows the OoA theory, where “LCA” is the last common ancestor of man (Homo) and chimpanzees (Pan).
Figure III-1

    The tree shows that all modern humans (Hss) evolved in Africa from an African Homo erectus. The tree also shows that Africans migrated out of Africa and into Asia 65,000 ya and Asians migrated into Europe 46,000 ya, becoming Caucasians. (Mellars, 2006). According to OoA, the LCA in the tree lived in Africa; most scientists believe that all the hominoids in the human lineage, going back to a primitive mammal, lived in Africa.
    The date of the proposed migration out of Africa is critical, as that date must be consistent with fossil and genetic data. A date prior to 50,000 ya is needed to provide enough time for Africans to go to Asia before the earliest date of the modern cultural sites in Asia, 6 and then on to Europe and Australia before the date of Hss fossils discovered there.
    On the other hand, since OoA holds that Hss, modern humans, arose 160,000 ya in Africa, the migration of Hss out of Africa must have occurred tens of thousands of years after that (Lewin, 1993, p. 98), which raises the question of what took them so long to leave? Also, the afrocentrists want to claim that the M and N macrohaplogroups coalesced (explained in Chap. 20) in Africa, before the migration out of Africa because those are the groups that modern Eurasians fall into. (If the coalescence occurred in Eurasia then, because M and N are modern, modern man arose in Eurasia, not Africa.) Since that coalescence occurred about 65,000 ya, the supposed migration must have occurred more recently than about 65,000 ya. The March, 2006, issue of National Geographic magazine (Shreeve, 2006) states that it is “virtually certain” that the date was between 50,000 and 70,000 ya, 7 so a date of 65,000 ya will be used. 8
    With that tree in mind, let’s take up the story of man again with the OoA version and see how well OoA explains the facts. But first, let’s clarify what “Africa” means. OoA deals with the migration of “Africans” 65,000 ya, who are presumed to have had traits similar to the people living south of the Sahara Desert in Africa today. (“Africans,” in this book means those people living in sub-Sahara Africa, particularly the Congoids). Most of the fossils the afrocentrists cite in support of their theory, however, come from NE Africa, which is part of sub-Saharan Africa, but very close to the Middle East. Moreover, as we shall see in Chapter 26, the territory north of the Sahara, at least until several thousand years ago, was occupied by whites. So, for these reasons, “Africa” will refer to sub-Saharan Africa.
    The OoA story is that all species of Homo, including even Heidi and the Neanderthals, evolved in Africa. Early man, e.g., erectus, migrated out of Africa, but did not evolve into modern man outside of Africa. The evolution of erectus into sapiens happened only in Africa, by about 160,000 ya, most likely in NE Africa. That raises the immediate questions, “If modern man was in Africa 160,000 ya why are today’s Africans still primitive according to all the traits discussed in Section II?” Did present day Africans de-evolve from more advanced ancestors and become more primitive?
    Another question that pops to mind is, “Why would tropically-adapted Africans leave Africa 65,000 ya when that was right in the middle of the first ice age (about 73,000 to 55,000 ya, pp 31-32), and large numbers of cold-adapted Eurasian hominids were moving south?”
    And, one last question, “Why did African erectus become sapiens, rather than Asian or European erectus, especially since the environment in Eurasia was more selective for modern traits and the pay-off for becoming Hss was greater there?” The OoA answer to that question is that evolving into Hss was a chance event and Africa just got lucky. However, as discussed previously (Chapter 4, FN 12), chance is overrated as an explanation for biological phenomenon.
    In the next chapter, we examine the fossil skulls that the afrocentrists cite to show that modern man was in Africa before he was anywhere else.

Chapter 17

Table of Contents


1. Most of the ideas and references in Section III came from Ronald A. Fonda and are described in (Fonda, 2001) and on his web site. Back

2. Aka, Recent African Origin (“RAO”), Recent Single Origin Hypothesis (“RSOH”), and Replacement Hypothesis. (Wikipedia, “Recent Single Origin Hypothesis”). Back

3. “It looks as though all non-African diversity is a product of the second migration of Homo sapiens out of Africa - a migration so recent that there just hasn't been time for the development of much genetic variation except that which regulates some very superficial features like skin color and hair form.” (“Race: The Power of an Illusion,” PBS television series, interview with Stephen Jay Gould, 2003). Back

4. An egalitarian can argue that modern civilization has made at least some of those differences neutral, but it is difficult to prove a negative (no effect) and some effects may be subtle and hard to detect. Back

5. The Multiregional Theory (aka “Regional Continuity”) holds that man evolved in Africa, left Africa about 2 mya for Eurasia and independently evolved on Africa, Australia, Asia, and Europe, with significant interbreeding. It is supported by Dr. Alan Thorne, a visiting fellow at the Australian National University's research school of Pacific and Asian studies, along with Professor Milford Wolpoff of the University of Michigan; also, Fred Smith and David Frayer in the U.S. and Wu Xinzhi in China. Also see (Coon, 1962) and (Weidenreich, 1947). “Unfortunately the implications of these rival theories have not been lost on either racists or anti-racists and there is a danger that the debate could become politicized.” (Haywood, 2000, p. 42). Back

6. Modern humans were living in India prior to the explosion of Mt. Toba, 73,000 ya. (Petraglia, 2007). Back

7. The same issue states that an earlier migration of modern humans made it to Israel, but died out about 90,000 ya. Back

8. However, a new study states, of the European-African split, “… we find a lower bound at 120,000 yrs and no upper bound.” (Plagnol, 2006). Others believe there were at least two major population expansions out of Africa; one about 600,000 ya and another about 95,000 ya (Cann, 2002) and that a much earlier expansion of Homo erectus from Africa occurred 1.7 mya. (Templeton, 2002). Back