Paleoanthropologists Fight Tooth and Nail
Ann Gibbons, reporter for Science, seems to enjoy watching the fights about human ancestry. At Science Now, she began a news item about an alleged fossil human ancestor with a joke:
How many paleoanthropologists does it take to locate a molar on the correct side of a fossil jawbone? The short answer to this joke, which was has been winging around the Internet this month, is 28. That’s the number of paleoanthropologists who, in the current issue of the South African Journal of Science, declare that a fossilized wisdom tooth belonged in the right rather than the left lower jaw of a famous fossil of a putative human ancestor from Chad.
Her description of the row includes allegations of withholding publication of findings, using questionable methods, conflict of interest, intimidation tactics, and squelching scientific debate. Gibbons metaphorically describes the controversy as “fighting tooth and nail” and “kicking their teeth in.”
This is boring stuff; what would really be news would be if the human-evolution crowd actually behaved like civilized people and agreed on something. How many paleoanthropologists does it take to screw in a light bulb? The answer is irrelevant, because they never get that far; since they can never agree on the socket type, the wattage, the voltage, the location, or how long the old bulb has been there, they just keep arguing in the dark.