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Is Archaeology Like SETI, or is SETI Like Religion?

Archaeologists have their Rosetta Stone, but so far, SETI investigators have no artifacts.  Still, Douglas Vakoch wrote for Space.com, archaeologists and anthropologists can teach SETI researchers how to prepare for encountering “exotic cultures with strange languages.”     Vakoch recounted the interest in this angle at an anthropology conference last year: One of the best-attended […]

More Indications Neandertals Were Like Us

Two more hints that Neandertals were only variants of modern humans have surfaced recently.  British and American researchers publishing in PNAS1 studied tooth enamel growth patterns, and found that “Neandertal tooth growth and, by extension, somatic growth, appears to be encompassed within the modern human range of interpopulation variation.”  This finding was summarized on National […]

Men Aren’t Going Extinct – Yet

Not long ago, evolutionary biologists were predicting the demise of manhood (see 11/01/2001, 03/31/2004).  The idea was that the Y chromosome, with no redundant copy (unlike the female’s two X chromosomes, and all others) appeared to be shriveling up and mutating itself out of existence.  Now that the chimpanzee genome has been published (see 09/01/2005 […]

Chimpanzee Fossil Upsets Early Man Speciation Theory

Paleontologists need no longer lament the complete dearth of chimpanzee fossils.  Nature announced the discovery of the first fossil chimpanzee teeth.  The location, however – the Great Rift Valley in Africa – was unexpected.  The discoverers, Sally McBrearty and Nina G. Jablonski,1 explain: There are thousands of fossils of hominins, but no fossil chimpanzee has […]

Chimpanzee Genome Published: Is There a Monkey in Your Genes?

Nature’s cover story September 1 is about the publication of the chimpanzee genome.  Evolutionists are digging through the data for evidence of human common ancestry.  Have they found it?  The results, as usual, are mixed: MSNBC News states the situation concisely: “Genome comparison reveals many similarities – and crucial differences.”  Here is the gist of […]

Paleoanthropology: Start Over?

The September issue of National Geographic, featuring the African continent, has arrived in homes.  On page 1, Joel Achenbach of the Washington Post wrote about the quest for early man, asking, “Are we looking for bones in all the right places?”  The bulk of the article describes the “messy” story of human origins.  It used […]

History Channel Documentary on Human Ancestry: History or Fiction?

The History Channel aired a program called “Ape to Man” Monday evening August 7, alleging that modern science had finally pieced together the solution to the puzzle of human evolution.  Although it included debunking episodes of Piltdown (11/18/2003) and Java Man (02/27/2003), the flavor of the show was that the picture of human origins has […]

Obsessed With Sex: How Much Can Be Known About the Sexuality of Hominids?

Bruce Bower in Science News (June 11, 167:24, p. 379) reported on the controversy about the sex life of Lucy and her mate(s).  Owen Lovejoy and Philip L. Reno (Kent State U, Ohio) have “unabashedly” put forth a hypothesis that Mr. and Mrs. Australopithecus afarensis (let’s call him Desi) had long-term relationships and stable families […]

Neanderthals and Modern Humans May Have Interbred

They lived together, they morphed into one another, so were members of Homo neanderthalensis really a separate species from Homo sapiens?  Findings announced in Nature1 show a mixture of Neanderthal-like characteristics in modern human skeletons from Romania that led Science Now to state, “Oldest Europeans were swingers.”  Because new radiocarbon dates of these skeletons put […]

Gorilla or Hominid?  Toumaï Controversy Continues

Michel Brunet’s controversial Toumaï skull (Sahelanthropus tchadensis) made the cover of Nature last week,1,2 but rivals contend it was not part of the human line.  The skull he found in Chad in 2002 (see 07/11/2002 and 10/09/2002 entries) was badly disfigured and needed reconstructive surgery, leading to criticisms that any interpretations were subjective.     […]

Do Neurologists Understand Brain Evolution?

Jane Bradbury wrote a feature piece for PLOS Biology recently,1 entitled, “Molecular Insights into Human Brain Evolution.”  Help us find the insights.  First, she marvels on how “humans sit on top of the pile when it comes to relative brain size.”  Then she marvels at how quickly the human brain apparently evolved compared to apes.  […]

How to Get Something from Nothing: Genetic Code, Syntax Explained?

Two articles in recent science literature attempt to show that complex entities, like the genetic code and the syntax of human language, are no big deal.  They can emerge from precursors by chance.     In PNAS recently,1 veteran researcher Harold J. Morowitz (George Mason U) and two colleagues proposed a new theory for the […]

Are Stone Age Hunter-Gatherers Evolving or Devolving?

Anthropologists typically view stone age tribes as stuck in an eddy from primitive beginnings, never advancing into civilization.  Yet some tribes of hunter-gatherers in Thailand and Laos appear to have been farmers in their past, reports Science Now with apparent surprise: Traditionally, anthropologists thought that modern hunter-gatherer tribes like the Mlabri descended through the ages […]

Indonesian Hobbit No Numbskull

Whoever Homo florensiensis was (see 10/27/2004 entry), it was no dumb half-ape.  This miniature human packed a lot of brains into a small skull, says Michael Balter in Science1 (see also EurekAlert, National Geographic and BBC News).  A cast of the brain made from the skull shows complexity: convolutions in the frontal lobe suggest an […]

Dating Disaster: Is Neanderthal the New Piltdown?

We all know it by heart: Neanderthal Man was a big-boned, hairy cave-dweller that got pushed out of northern Europe 40,000 years ago by the smarter modern humans.  Could this all be wrong?  Did some bones actually belong to real people living in recorded history?     The man who dated some of these bones, […]
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