We managed to get a biology teacher named Bob Stearns at A.Y. Jackson high school to explain this to you.
Nobody really knows how living things started here on Earth. The theory that most scientists accept is that, about one billion years after the Earth was formed, (3.5 billion years ago), when it had had enough time to cool down from its hot, molten rock conditions, that the waters on Earth were like a beef soup. There were lot of chemicals similar to those we find in our food, and very much like those we find in beef soup. These chemicals, especially the fatty chemicals, were able to form shapes, like tiny, tiny plastic bags. Except the bags were not made out of plastic -- they were made out of fatty chemicals. Inside these tiny "bags" other chemicals, chemicals important to life, were protected. And some of these chemicals eventually were able to cause the bag, in which they were held, to grow, to eat, to drink and to reproduce. These were the very first truly living things on Earth.
Gradually these living bags -- called cells, started to clump together to give each other protection. And then eventually some of them, those on the outside of the clump, started to change so that the whole clump of cells could move wherever it needed to go. Some of the cells inside the clump started to become very good at digesting food that the "clump" would find here and there. And then gradually these clumps started to spread out over all the oceans and become very different form each other as they reproduced and reproduced and reproduced. Eventually, there were millions of different kinds of the clumps of cells -- we call them organisms. Some even managed to live on land, or in the air. Fish, birds, land animals, and even we, all came from these clumps of cells. After all, YOU are a clump of cells yourself -- a clump of 60 trillion cells (that's 60,000,000,000,000)!!!
People did not just suddenly appear. We had ancestors that looked very similar to us, except that they were a little taller, a little hairier, more muscular, and not quite as smart because they had smaller brains.
These ancestors of ours also had their own ancestors who had even smaller brains and were hunched over like apes are today. And then these ancestors had earlier ancestors who looked even more like apes (gorillas).
In fact, if we look at the family tree for people and the family tree for apes, then it seems that one time, many millions of years ago, both people and apes had the same ancestors!
So where did people come from? It seems that several million years ago there was a type of animal that looked something like a small gorilla or small chimpanzee. This was our ancestor. Over the millions of years after that, he (it) gradually changed in size, in hairiness, and in his ability to walk while standing up straight. Most importantly, our ancestors brains got larger and larger, and smarter and smarter. And here we are today. I wonder what people will look like a few million years from now???
Compton's Encyclopedia has the following information about Humans on Earth:
"Manlike mammals with fairly erect postures have been traced back 2½ million years. Skulls 1¾ million years old somewhat resemble those of modern man. The brains in those ancient skulls were probably too small to have "invented" speech. Yet some of the skulls have been found near stones that might have served as rudimentary tools. Other ancient skulls-700,000 to 500,000 years old-once contained brains large enough for speech. "
So considering that the Earth is about 4 billion years old and humans have only been here about 1 million years, we're really the new kids on the planet.
If you want more information about evolution, look into the encyclopedias in your school library under the topics MAN, or EVOLUTION.
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€How were people, plants and animals made?
Miranda Gillingham, Room 2, Mrs. MastineBack to