Childhood and Human Evolution(2 customer reviews)

By Friedrich Kipp

Adonis Press, 2005
Paperback ISBN 978-0-932776-33-4
eBooks ISBN 978-0-932776-55-6
WebPDF ISBN 978-0-932776-56-3
128 pages; illustrated
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In this very accessible, groundbreaking work, Friedrich Kipp shows that childhood and youth – an extended period of nurture and protection from the struggle for existence – have been, and will continue to be, a necessary condition for human evolution. His observations confirm our intuitive feeling that this prolonged phase of human life holds the promise of our future.

Kipp’s comparative study of the juvenile stage in animals and humans also sheds surprising new light on the process of human evolution and our relation to the animal primates. In their earliest developmental stage, animals – and the animal primates in particular – display characteristics reminiscent of human children. However these more universal, humanlike characteristics are quickly lost as the animals adapt to specific ecological conditions. The animals’ early closeness to the human form and their developmental trajectory away from the human suggests that the main trunk of the evolutionary tree is intimately associated with human evolution.


1. Chronology
2. What Makes Early Independence Possible?
3. Behavioral Plasticity in Young Animals

1. Characteristic Features of Postnatal Development
Standing and learning to walk
The use of the hand
The ossification of the skull and the growth of the brain
Dentition processes
Sexual maturity and the adolescent growth spurt
2. The Meaning and Significance of Prolonged Youth
3. Human Plasticity

1. Distinguishing Human and Mammalian Structural Types
The structural type of the mammalian skull
The structural type of the human head
2. The Morphology of the Simian Head and its Ontogeny
The form of the simian head in early childhood
3. Conditions for the Development of the Human Head and Human Brain




1. The Form of the Head
2. Cerebralization
3. The Position of the Foramen Magnum
4. Changes in the Structure of the Hand
5. The Larynx and its Appendages
6. Psychological Findings

1. Homo Sapiens Fossils
2. Homo Neandertalensis
3. Steinheim Man
4. Homo Erectus
5. Australopithicus and Paranthropus
6. Other Fossils from the Tertiary
7. The Form of the Head in Fossil Hominid Children


1. Mammal Vocalization
2. The Free Use of the Voice in the Human Being
3. The Organs of the Mouth in the Service of Language


Bibliography … 120
About the Author … 123
A Related Book … 124



Forever young and becoming

by Martin Lockley

  CHILDHOOD AND HUMAN EVOLUTION by Freidrich Kipp,  Adonis Press,  Ghent, New York  2005,  192p,  p/b ISBN 0-932776-33-7  US$  14.95

 This delightful little book on human biology is translated, from German, in the thoughtful tradition of Goethean Science.  Those intrigued by the recent Verhulst book (Network 82) will surely enjoy this much shorter treatment of similar subject matter.  The main thesis is that we humans are many-sided, unlike overspecialized animals. We achieve this behavioral plasticity by extending post natal development ― a “tendency towards a prolongation of the juvenile phase”  This prolonged youthfulness- characteristic of apes is most advanced in humans, but no “external” adaptive or Darwinian “cause” is to be found.

            Our behavioral plasticity is most pronounced when young, allowing us to “learn” every thing from walking to language before any tendency to ossify sets in. Humans in fact are the physiological equivalent of premature apes until one year old. In contrast to apes and other higher animals which learn best when very young, but rapidly gravitate towards their behavioral specializations, humans have prolonged resistance to such specializations and can learn new tricks (including new languages) late into life: we “maintain physical development in a state of movement or becoming.” Fascinatingly such prolonged developments are not confined to intangibles such as language, thought and behavior: they are also very biological as in the slow ossification of skull sutures and hand bones. The chronobiology of mind and matter are synchronous.  Thus wisdom teeth erupt when our thinking matures. [Note that this mind-matter duality shows up in Darwinian v. Lamarckian paradigms which artificially separate notions of inherited physical characteristics and those “acquired” through learning.  Kipp shows they are inextricably linked].

             Our upright posture is more than a human oddity. Verticality is integrated into all our organs, especially the head ― which being carried aloft is much less modified by powerful jaw and neck muscles. With hands, instead of jaws, used for grasping food, our mouth can be co-opted for speech. Thus the animals’ head bears the stamp of tool-like jaws, but the human form of the head is determined by the brain. All vertebrate species except for humans show a type of physical descent into the jaws rather than maintaining an elevated center of gravity in the brain. Thus Bolk’s famous fetalization hypothesis  (that humans evolved from ape-like ancestors  through developmental retardation) is “untenable” in as much as it does not consider how human  brain development outstrips that of apes, or why baby apes are like humans but “distance themselves” from this condition as they mature ― thus undoing their human proportions. Could apes have “come into being through secondary deviation from the course of human evolution?”           

 I paused ― mid book ― to consider whether certain religious symbolism of humans as a fallen “species” of divine beings is not analogous to the notion of apes as fallen or failed humans! [Though skeptics may charge anthropocentrism ― and hold that we are no more special than animals in the grand scheme ― paradoxically it is precisely our human abilities to have these unifying thoughts that make us different].

             Kipp says parental care and long gestation particularly stimulates neural development. This in turn leads to emancipation from the environment ― an important and undeniable concept which turns traditional Darwinism (adaptation tothe environment) on its head, as far as humans are concerned. Are we the exception to the rule? Does an emancipational, anti-adaptational principle apply?  Kipp would argue ― yes! It is only through parental nurture (love, caring, ethics) that we have developed human traits (soul and spirit) that have not unfolded in animals.  [While this may be a hard, anthropocentric sell for Darwinists, it validates natural selection/adaptation as a mechanism for animals. Actually Loye ― reviewed Network 78 ―pointed out that Darwin said as much in his second evolution book ― the Descent of Man].

             Turning to the fossil record, Kipp again shows that young individuals of ancient hominid species are much more like modern Homo sapiensthan the adults. This he infers is because they were more protected in childhood and did not diverge in the animal direction until adulthood when they were forced to adapt to harsh circumstances. [Could this imply, rather counter-intuitively, that our present pampered culture enhances our potential for creative evolutionary novelty because we do not have to work for a living]?

            Kipp again fascinates us with his chapter on “the psychological implications of upright posture.’ We are the only higher species whose spinal axis is at 90 degrees to the direction of movement [radial not tangential]. “Standing over and against the world was a necessary precondition to forming a cognitive relationship with it…[becoming] conscious of ourselves as independent beings…the duality of our own self…and of the world…of subject and object.” Moreover the head was emancipated from instrumental functions (grasping food) by the hands, which in turn were freed from locomotion to engage in multiple creative endeavors.

             Kipp persuasively argues that human speech is quite different from animal vocalization and that our dentition is not, like animals’, “dictated by diet” as anthropologists claim, “but by the function of speech.” He quotes Goethe saying “animals are taught by their organs: human beings teach theirs and control them.”  We are “actively involved in building the structure of our human existence.” 

             Finally Kipp challenges science’s inadequate self-observationand “the materialistic doctrine, which attributes reality [including thinking] to physiological processes but not to spiritual activity.” This “has absurd consequences.”  One can not negate thinking with the “assertion that thinking is nothing more than…neural activity” since the claim “requires the aid of thinking.”  (Verhulst made similar observations about consciousness). Like our organs, our thinking is always in a state of becoming. Kipp teaches the need for deeper self-observation of biology and its spiritual underpinning. 

  Quote p. 74

Education Otherwise, December, 2005

 Childhood and Human Evolution by Friedrich Kipp

This book is as much a romance of apes and humans as it is a science documentary. It may not be everybody’s cup of tea, but I could not put it down. I have read a lot about human evolution, but this book holds more than the bare facts. It is a philosophy that helps you understand yourself, your species, children and apes. Kipp considers the features we have in common with our closest relatives in the animal kingdom: our bodies, minds, behavior and the fossils of our ancestors, and presents an explanation for our prolonged childhood and obvious differences from apes. He strongly suggests chimp children have mental capacities beyond the needs of adults and that they were once more ‘human’ than they are now but then diverged down a more animal path. Like the tadpole reveals the fish-like ancestry of a frog, the ape-child reveals the human-like ancestry of apes. Humans continued to develop the traits that the other apes diverged away from. “The evolutionary path that humanity took,” says Kipp, “led to individualism, or, one could say, to the experience of becoming an ‘I’.” 

If this has aroused your interest, then you must read it, I don’t want to reveal too much. What I like most about Kipp is that he sees no division between the emotive and the scientific and declares that science should be less mechanical and more passionate and considerate to its subject, nature. I’m hesitant to recommend the book to younger readers, it is quite scientifically written and does have some long words and advanced concepts. I think most sixteen-year-olds would struggle with some of the information although they would get the gist of it. But it is a great book for adults and children to work through together.