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Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Uncommon Descent Contest Question 3: What do we know about human evolution that could not simply be overturned by a new find?

Here is Contest Question 3 at Uncommon Descent: Question 3: In 400 words, to be judged in two weeks, and printed as a post: What do we really know about human evolution that could not simply be overturned by a new find? The winner will receive a free copy of Expelled. The contest will be judged in two weeks, May 27.

Find out why there is an intelligent design controversy:

Flores find a clear misfit for human evolution sequence?

In 2004, a find of some very small humans (about a metre tall) was announced. They lived on the Indonesian island of Flores from about 93 000 years ago to about 12 000 years ago. At Access Research Network, Robert Deyes, in Homo Floresiensis: The Flower That Is Shaking The Human Evo Tree,
... what is becoming clear from these studies is that in many aspects of its anatomy H. floresiensis presents us with a clear 'misfit' for the human evolutionary sequence. In the words of one review "[H. floresiensis] threatens to overturn our understanding of where we come from and the type of ancestors that have shared the human family tree" (Ref 4).

[ ... ]

While Gee's wild speculation over missing species seems undeserved of the title of objective science, his concerns do tell of a crisis for evolutionary biologists. In short, H. floresiensis has today become the flower that is shaking the human evolutionary tree. Findings such as these turn our cherished notions of human evolution upside down since they show tool-making, small-brained hominin species living alongside humans as recently as 12,000 years ago.
Here's Nova on the subject.

In my view, the two most significant facts about homo Flo are that (1) they basically lived like other early humans for the many tens of thousands of years for which we have records and that (2) small brains did not stop them from doing so. I would take the "new species" claims with caution.

My Deprogram column on that at Salvo 7 here doesn't seem to be on line yet.

I see where Deyes also wrote about the migrating Monarch butterfly, noting,
Evolutionary biology must move beyond its hand-waving generalizations if it is to truly gain the title of a rigorous scientific discipline. In the meantime, protein systems such as the Monarch's Cryptochromes will continue to challenge what we claim to know about evolutionary origins.
The Monarch is our national butterfly in Canada, and also the national butterfly of the United States - no surprise, due it its remarkable migration.

The more we know, the less we believe in handwaving of any kind.

Find out why there is an intelligent design controversy:


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