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Sunday, June 28, 2009

Human evolution: From a note to a friend:

A friend had published an essay on controversies over human evolution, which prompted me to write:
One thing we might do well to keep in mind is t hat little is known about early humans - compared, say, to what we know about the Roman Empire.

As a result, the field is rife with speculation, but the speculation is often represented as fact. Changing opinion based on fragmentary information is represented as growth of knowledge in the field.

The problem is that one opinion rules out another rather than adding to a body of knowledge.

Just yesterday, I noted an article that claims that Neanderthal Man died out because homo sapiens ate them:
The controversial suggestion follows publication of a study in the Journal of Anthropological Sciences about a Neanderthal jawbone apparently butchered by modern humans. Now the leader of the research team says he believes the flesh had been eaten by humans, while its teeth may have been used to make a necklace.

Fernando Rozzi, of Paris's Centre National de la R├ęcherche Scientifique, said the jawbone had probably been cut into to remove flesh, including the tongue. Crucially, the butchery was similar to that used by humans to cut up deer carcass in the early Stone Age. "Neanderthals met a violent end at our hands and in some cases we ate them," Rozzi said.

Izzatso? Based on the above "vast mass" of evidence?

We don't know why the 'thals went extinct, and there are usually a number of causes of an extinction.And other scientists are not exactly buying into this theory. For one thing, it isn't clear why they didn't eat us.

People read this stuff because they are interested. No harm is done if no one takes it seriously. But some do because it supports their atheistic worldview, in the same way that some Christians take End Times speculation seriously. The former, however, are more likely to receive respect from academic sources, and that matters.


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