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Human Origins Theory Tested By Recent Findings 272

annamadrigal writes "The BBC news is reporting on findings presented in Nature which suggest that Homo Erectus and H. Habilis were in fact sister species which co-existed. This challenges the view that the upright humans evolved from the tool users."
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Human Origins Theory Tested By Recent Findings

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  • BS (Score:5, Insightful)

    by dynamo ( 6127 ) on Wednesday August 08, 2007 @11:56PM (#20165739) Journal
    It doesn't "challenge" that view at all. Evolution is mutation plus competition, you need the competition part. Of course they co-existed, as must have all consecutive evolution stages in every being's evolution.

  • Well... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by maelfius ( 592856 ) on Thursday August 09, 2007 @12:01AM (#20165773) Homepage
    After glancing over the TFA it appears that it is shown that the two species simply existed together and one eventually out-competed the other. What isn't definitively shown as not being the case is that the Evolutionary chain didn't also occur with a net result of both species existing at once. An overlap could be caused because both species in different areas (even locals) were well suited for the environment. I guess I could just want to be argumentative after a long day of meetings with the subspecies PHB which is probably more akin to the chimpanzee than anything vaguely human ... in fact I'm sure of that last statement, PHBs are NOT human. Everything has to be black and white -- nothing can be grey in science. The truth is that science is all grey and we want to see in black and white.
  • Homo Mormonus (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Tablizer ( 95088 ) on Thursday August 09, 2007 @12:01AM (#20165779) Journal
    If erectus was very sexually dimorphic [sex size diff] it may have had multiple mates at a time. This differs from the more monogamous nature of modern humans, indicating that Homo erectus was not as human-like as once thought.

    Polygomy is and was fairly common in humans.
  • Re:BS (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Tablizer ( 95088 ) on Thursday August 09, 2007 @12:05AM (#20165805) Journal
    Indeed. Coexistence of divergent species is fairly common. Coexistence in no solid way rules out one species evolving from another. The reasoning used is not clear.
  • by Reverse Gear ( 891207 ) on Thursday August 09, 2007 @12:09AM (#20165845) Homepage
    You are right this doesn't look like any real news.

    The article is really written in a very unscientific way, for example this statement:
    What the scientific society thinks doesn't usually change all that fast, the hypothesis first has to be verified and tested etc.
    But then again in this kind of archeology this thing with verifying and testing hypothesis can be a bit difficult even though they try as they best can, but trying to figure out how humans evolved through evolution is imho as much guesswork as it is science with what we have of evidence so far.
  • by jd ( 1658 ) <imipak AT yahoo DOT com> on Thursday August 09, 2007 @12:12AM (#20165873) Homepage Journal
    First, the article makes it clear that the two hominids didn't compete. They operated in different environments and ate different food. Even when primates do operate in similar realms, they can coexist for millions of years - as humans have with chimps and gorillas. The relatively peaceful coexistence of humans and Neanderthals is also well documented. They simply ignored each other. It is also suspected - but unproven - in the case of Homo Florensis. Besides which, even when replacement occurs, it's going to occur slowly. Populations grow exponentially, but only over a vast timeframe. It isn't overnight. The multiple migration theory also suggests that multiple hominid types co-existed, or there wouldn't be distinct populations migrating. (In fact, the mere existence of the theory shows some paleontologists have always believed in multiple co-existing branches.)
  • tool users? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Lord Ender ( 156273 ) on Thursday August 09, 2007 @12:27AM (#20165945) Homepage
    What is with the obsession with tools? Plenty of animals use tools. Humans aren't unique in that respect.

    There is a saying amongst psychologists that at some point, each must come up with a reason why humans are fundamentally different from the other animals, only for someone to eventually prove them wrong.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 09, 2007 @01:38AM (#20166219)
    or maybe +1 Pedantic
  • by jshriverWVU ( 810740 ) on Thursday August 09, 2007 @02:01AM (#20166327)
    "Their co-existence makes it unlikely that Homo erectus evolved from Homo habilis,"

    I don't see why co-existence would discount evolving from Homo Habilis. Since after all if we really did evolve from primates, there would be no primates today under this logic.

    It' still possible that some Homo Habilis evolved into Homo erectus while others remained homo habilis. Just as monkeys evolved into whatever became the H. Habilis, yet monkeys still exist.

  • Re:BS (Score:5, Insightful)

    by greg_barton ( 5551 ) * <greg_barton@yahCOWoo.com minus herbivore> on Thursday August 09, 2007 @03:48AM (#20166821) Homepage Journal

    Evolution is mutation plus competition...

    I know this wasn't the point of your post, but this is a pet peeve of mine. There's mutation, competition, and cooperation, both inter and intra species. We'd be screwed without mitochondria. We'd be screwed without each other. Nonzero sum, mutually beneficial relationships (cooperation) affect evolution, just like the zero sum (competition) ones.

    Carry on. :)
  • Re:tool users? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by eddy ( 18759 ) on Thursday August 09, 2007 @04:44AM (#20167037) Homepage Journal

    >There is a saying amongst psychologists that at some point, each must come up with a reason why humans are fundamentally different from the other animals, only for someone to eventually prove them wrong.

    I accept your challenge!

    "Humans are fundamentally different from other animals, because we can travel into space using only tools we built."

  • Re:tool users? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Yvanhoe ( 564877 ) on Thursday August 09, 2007 @04:53AM (#20167073) Journal
    "Man had always assumed that he was more intelligent than dolphins because he had achieved so much - the wheel, New York, wars and so on - while all the dolphins had ever done was muck about in the water having a good time. But conversely, the dolphins had always believed that they were far more intelligent than man-for precisely the same reason."

    H2G2 -- Douglas Adams
  • by TheRaven64 ( 641858 ) on Thursday August 09, 2007 @06:24AM (#20167505) Journal

    Noah did not really have two of every species on the ark (I guess somebody calculated that the ark would not have been able to hold all of them), rather he had two of each "type".
    This is something I really don't understand. You can accept that the bible is true, and discount evidence to the contrary by saying 'God did it with magic,' and you have a fairly consistent set of beliefs. Alternatively, you can say 'much of the bible was written a long time ago by people who didn't know much,' and accept that bits that contradict observable evidence are just plain wrong, but continue to believe that it carries an important philosophical and ethical message (for example, don't crucify people, because it might turn out their dad is someone important). Again, you are left with a consistent set of beliefs. Once you start saying 'this bit of the bible is the literal truth, but this bit is made up,' where do you stop? Why couldn't a god capable of feeding 5,000 with two fish and five loaves of bread and flooding the entire world have twisted space a little so that two of every kind of animal could fit inside an ark? And if you're going to start placing arbitrary limits on the abilities of God, why bother with religion at all?
  • by AftanGustur ( 7715 ) on Thursday August 09, 2007 @07:40AM (#20167847) Homepage

    It doesn't "challenge" that view at all. Evolution is mutation plus competition, you need the competition part. Of course they co-existed, as must have all consecutive evolution stages in every being's evolution.

    Exactly my thoughts.

    Think about this, archaeological and genetic evidence points to modern humans having left Africa 50000-100000 years ago. Modern humans are only about 200.000 years old as a species and yet, the Scanvinavians already have lighter skin full facial beards and some other biological features which make them distinct from those who didn't leave Africa.

    We could say that the scandivavians "evolved" from the Africans to suit the cold climate, nonetheless the two are still co-habiting almost everywhere in the world.

    The time period which the article states as a "proof" is 500.000 years long. Just imagine how the scandinavians, ot the inuits might look after 450.000 years if there was no communication between the two groups.

  • by somersault ( 912633 ) on Thursday August 09, 2007 @08:43AM (#20168221) Homepage Journal
    I wouldn't usually call the bible's language 'beautiful'. Maybe some of it. It's obviously a personal choice what to believe :P It is interesting to see that not much has changed in the world in the last several thousand years anyway. If you're stupid enough to think that the book of chronicles, book of kings and all that aren't Jewish historical documents then *shrug* meh
  • by BakaHoushi ( 786009 ) <Goss DOT Sean AT gmail DOT com> on Thursday August 09, 2007 @08:59AM (#20168403) Homepage
    Ugh. You're killing me here. I'm reminded of all the times I've heard "Creationist scientists say dinosaurs ate leaves and used their sharp teeth to grind leaves."

    No. Just... no. No, no, no, no, NO!

    Honestly, I'd LOVE to see a T-rex or an Allasaurus or another obvious carnivore TRY to eat leaves with a mouth like that. We KNOW today that flat teeth are used for grinding plants. I mean, it's basic instinct. When you eat meat, you use your slimmer and pointer front teeth to tear it into slimmer pieces. When you eat a salad, you don't use your front teeth at all, and simply let the back teeth grind the leaves.

    It's pure bullshit, and it's easily debunked by anyone with two brain cells to rub together. Same for sharks. They have rows upon rows of sharp, serrated teeth. Are you going to tell me they ate kelp?

    Not to mention that we see hundreds of cave drawings of bison and deer and other roaming mammals... yet does anyone find it strange that no caveman decided to draw a HUGE monstrous death machine roaming the lands? I mean, not ONE SINGLE MENTION anywhere in all of human culture until we discovered their bones?

    No, I am no a biologist, archaeologist, or any other professional, but I think my evidence stands as is. I'm sure a real scientist could provide FAR more examples.

    Creationism science is an oxymoron, because Creationism is the polar opposite of science. You start with a conclusion (God made the Earth and the Bible shows how he did it) and then proceed to find evidence that supports that, as opposed to finding evidence and then making a conclusion based on the evidence.

    The Bible is not literal. Period. It is a series of stories and ideas put into writing in ancient times to explain, back then, how they thought things came to be.

    To me, believing in Creationism is like saying "I believe the sky is green." It's just wrong. Yes, there is a degree of uncertainty in it, such as how "green" something is before it's green, but with science, we can break down light and find its wavelength and say "This light is blue." You can still believe that it is green, just as you can believe men walked the earth alongside dinosaurs, that a man with a boat carried two of EVERY species of animal on Earth for over a month after a God gave him the designs for it, and the first woman came from the ribs of the first man.

    But you'd be wrong. "Believing" that 2+2=5 doesn't change the fact that it's 4, even if you call it an "opinion." Facts do not care what you think.

    (Note: Yes, I know the Parent was joking. But this stuff SERIOUSLY pisses me off)
  • Re:My own $0.02 (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Ginger Unicorn ( 952287 ) on Thursday August 09, 2007 @09:33AM (#20168797)
    From the AI stuff I read, I got the impression that in order for the entire evolutionary process to occur at all, you need a pre-existing set of heuristics (the "genetic algorithm") that define what "evolutionary fitness" means for a given species.

    Hence, a chicken-and-egg problem. Once you've got the GA, the whole process can go along just fine, working according to the rules of the GA. However, the burning question is, how did the GA itself get there? I've never heard of any scenario where a GA itself can evolve via an atheistic process, but if anyone knows of one, please share.

    In the context of natural evolution, the heuristic is physical survival. As opposed to a simulation, where the heuristic is whatever characteristic the programmer is trying to induce.

    I'm not sure I entirely understand the point you are making but if you are saying how can a computer simulation evolve naturally, all I can say is GAs are designed by humans. Humans evolved naturally. So such simulations are ultimately the product of natural processes.

    If on the other hand you are likening biological evolution to a GA, and then saying since GAs are designed, so must biological evolution be, then you are making a rather confused point. GAs were originally inspired by the natural process of biological evolution. We stole the idea from nature. Mutation with natural selection and heredity are self evidently intrinsic to the logic of our physical universe. Your question implies circularity but only by implying its own answer.

    Thus, when I think about it at all, at least at the moment I'm inclined towards a hybrid theory of how we got here, which actually includes elements of both creationism and evolutionary thinking. My own perspective is that yes, evolution happens. We see the end products of it all the time, and yes, to a degree the process has been successfully simulated (with some interesting results) in the AI field.

    However, where God steps into the picture for me in this context is as the provider of the initial GA, after which organisms can themselves take over the process from there. I'm not claiming (at least in this context) to have any definite idea of what God actually is or was, either...but I do think that there are at least a couple of areas, (such as the GA question) which atheistic evolutionary theory alone can't really account for.

    You're talking about aspects of the universe outside of evolutionary theory. Evolutionary theory describes how biological organisms change over generations. The gap you are filling with god is the creation of the physical laws of the universe. This has nothing to do with evolutionary theory. It's an important distinction to make, as a lot of anti-evolution crackpots use the tactic of lumping the stupendously well established theory of evolution in with a bunch of questions that have yet to be satisfactorily answered, such as abiogenesis and the source of the universe, in an attempt to undermine the credibility of the theory of evolution in a kind of guilt-by-association. Your position regarding the creation of the universe is covered here http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cosmological_argument [wikipedia.org]

    The other thing I'd like to have an atheist tell me is how they believe water got here initially, and more specifically, why the water cycle starts on some planets and not on others. From what I was reading a while back, water actually initially gets produced in a closed-circuit chemical reaction, with the three elements, hydrogen, oxygen, and carbon. Once it gets started, the loop can keep going as long as those three elements are all present; my question is, how did those three elements become present here on Earth, especially when oxygen in particular seems to be rare almost to the point of being entirely unique in the universe, from what I've seen?

    All I can say about that is that you really need to do some reading.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 09, 2007 @09:37AM (#20168871)
    But only when those predictions are evaluated after what they supposedly predict has come to pass.
  • Re:My own $0.02 (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 09, 2007 @09:43AM (#20168941)

    I've also read Genesis, and tried to read the Origin of Species once. (Although most of that went over my head)
    I'm assuming that what went over your head was "The Origin of Species" by Charles Darwin, rather than Genesis? If that is so then I am surprised. I found "Origin" remarkably easy to read and that such basic material should have "gone over your head" is pretty clear evidence that even attempting a discussion with one of such limited capacity to understand is going to be an exercise in futility.

    I write only to warn people off wasting time on a "reasoned discussion", it will only be an exercise in futility.

    I sometimes wonder if even today we have two different species, Homo rationalis and Homo religious!
  • by Yusaku Godai ( 546058 ) <hyuga AT guardian-hyuga DOT net> on Thursday August 09, 2007 @09:50AM (#20169041) Homepage
    ...is not that H. habilis and H. erectus may have coexisted. It's been believed for some time that the direct lineage of H. habilis -> H. erectus may be naive. To quote the Scientific American article [sciam.com] on the finding:

    "Many of us have already abandoned this simple scheme" of habilis begetting erectus, says paleoanthropologist Philip Rightmire of Binghamton University in New York State and Harvard University, who was not involved in the study. "For me, it seems increasingly reasonable to suppose that a habilislike creature managed to disperse from Africa into Eurasia, sometime prior to 1.8 [million] to 1.7 [million years ago]."

    Anyways, the real story here is the incredibly poor coverage of this finding by the mainstream press. The BBC article linked to here isn't so bad, but just go to Google News and look at some of the headlines, in what I would consider increasing order of ridiculousness:

    "Fossil find casts doubt on origins of man"
    "new theory on the dawn of humanity"
    "Fossils Paint Messy Picture of Evolution"
    "Fossil Discoveries Challenge Theory of Human Evolution"
    "Darwin's rolling over"

    They make it look like this is somehow a CHALLENGE to THE THEORY OF EVOLUTION ITSELF. In other words, "let's take some story we don't really understand, but it hey it has the word 'evolution' in it, so we can manipulate this to stir up that ol' hornet's nest and sell papers!"

    I think this is the most disappointing example in a while of the sorry state of science journalism.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 09, 2007 @10:07AM (#20169267)
    Perhaps you should pull your head out of Bonds' asshole long enough to read the actual parent post, dumbass. "Meaningful legislation" referred specifically to healthcare reform, and generally to anything EXCEPT commenting on sports. Caring for the baby-boomer generation as they retire is going to bankrupt this country, our borders are a joke, Social Security is just a giant slush-fund that Congress regularly raids to fund their pork projects, Global Warming is being used as an excuse to take junkets around the world to exotic locations and $1200-per-night hotels to view the "damage", but these fuckers all have time to take a month-long vacation and congratulate a cheater. Well congratu-fucking-lations Congress and the President for fiddling while Rome burns.

    "Anyway, steroids didn't make Barry Bonds any better at being able to see a 90 mph fast ball, or move his hands quickly and expertly enough to hit the ball once he does."

    Wow, have you ever had an original thought in your entire worthless life? This mindless crap is being spouted all over the internet by all of Bonds' jock-sniffing apologists. It's such a stupid and easily-defeatable argument that I suspect it must have originated from some mindless commentator drone on Sports Center to justify their celebration of this asterisk-marked event. No, steroids didn't enhance Bonds' reflexes - but they DID enhance his ability to loft all those balls out of the yard. Maybe you should loft Barry's balls out of your mouth long enough to realize that everyone outside of San Fransisco hates his bitch-ass.
  • by mapkinase ( 958129 ) on Thursday August 09, 2007 @11:51AM (#20170657) Homepage Journal
    According to original article in Nature [nature.com].

    Anagenetic means one type of an organism is a direct descendant of the other type without splitting. Co-existance by definition eliminates that, meaning the individuals that lived at the same time are not descendants of one another but descendants of earlier generations. If you and I are of the same age, I cannot be your father and vice versa, but we still can share the same father, grandfather, etc...

    This is is because of the mess with nomenclature which essentially stems from that we do not know if erectus and habilis were not able to mate producing successful progeny. Those guys might very well be Homo Bushus (no pun intended) and Homo Norwegius of that age - of the same human species and all the terminology around it is just Bullus Shitus.
  • by JustAnotherReader ( 470464 ) on Thursday August 09, 2007 @02:15PM (#20172723)
    Beyond that, Creation Science is NOT science. Science can make predictions. With science you can form an experiment who's result should align with the prediction. If the results of your experiment doesn't match then you have to change your theory.

    So, what does Creation Science or Intelligent Design teach? What does it predict? How can you form an experiment? Can the result from an experiment change the premise? If not then it's not science.

    As the Dover trial [millerandlevine.com] pointed out, all of the "evidence" for Intelligent Design is actually a false dichotomy logical fallacy. The argument consistently was "If Science doesn't know about X then the real cause must be God". However, it was discovered in the trial that the argument was closer to "if we ID folks don't understand X then it must be God" or "If we ID folks can misrepresent evolution and set up an easily destroyed straw man then the answer must be God."

    It's analogous to saying "I have a strongly held dogmatic belief that the answer to all math questions is 42."

    You may answer "But that's insane. 2+2 doesn't equal 42. 5*3 is not 42"

    Then I would say "OK then, what's the cubed root of 4376 ?" to which you may reply:

    "I don't know"

    "Well then it must be 42"

    I must admit, there is a big problem with this analogy. The problem is that there are SOME math problems to which the answer really is 42. That can be proven. But in thousands of years of humanity there is not a single piece of scientifically verifiable knowledge about how the universe works where the answer turned out to be "Well look at that! It really was God."

  • by Dragonslicer ( 991472 ) on Thursday August 09, 2007 @03:57PM (#20174029)

    Is the difference between a history book, which tries to represent historical events and a bible, which tries to represent spiritual philosophy, really that hard to comprehend?
    You haven't really read the Old Testament, have you? Yes, there is a fair amount of spiritual philosophy in it. There are also vast amounts of rather boring historical and genealogical information. I would say that the only stupid people are the ones that aren't capable of reading the Bible and separating the plausible and implausible.
  • by E++99 ( 880734 ) on Thursday August 09, 2007 @07:13PM (#20176551) Homepage

    The Bible is not literal. Period. It is a series of stories and ideas put into writing in ancient times to explain, back then, how they thought things came to be.

    These two statements are contradictory. If it's not literal, then it's not an explanation of how the natural world came to be. If it is a explanation of how such things came to be, then it is literal.

    To me, believing in Creationism is like saying "I believe the sky is green." It's just wrong. Yes, there is a degree of uncertainty in it, such as how "green" something is before it's green, but with science, we can break down light and find its wavelength and say "This light is blue." You can still believe that it is green, just as you can believe men walked the earth alongside dinosaurs, that a man with a boat carried two of EVERY species of animal on Earth for over a month after a God gave him the designs for it, and the first woman came from the ribs of the first man.

    The vast majority of people who would call themselves creationists do not believe the kinds of things you're talking about. Nor do they necessarily disagree with the concept of evolution -- just the neodarwinian version of it. If you want to attack people with the most extreme positions, then you're obviously free to do so, but don't lump them in with everyone who believes that the universe is a creation of God. That's just reinforcing a prejudice that is ripping society apart.
  • by Crazy Eight ( 673088 ) on Thursday August 09, 2007 @07:13PM (#20176563)
    I disagree. The bending of light implied by Relativity was not a prophesy or even a "prediction" critically speaking. It was an aspect of the scientific framework Einstein proposed that could be true or false. When verification became possible Relativity remained unfalsified.

    As for the book of Daniel, its date of origin varies by 400 years. One can argue for the earlier date and call him a successful prophet or the latter date and call him a successful practitioner of vaticinium ex eventu.

  • by aichpvee ( 631243 ) on Thursday August 09, 2007 @10:19PM (#20178035) Journal
    I think the AC was saying that the "prophecies" you people claim to have come true were extremely vague and general and that after events had occurred some idiot decided that it was the event described in the "prophecy" because they were superstitious and believed in such nonsense.

    As opposed to a scientific theory that makes a prediction about the way something is or the way something will behave, that is then tested to determine its accuracy.

    Your "prophecies" from the bible are more of the "there will be some powerful nation and it will collapse" variety. To prove my point here's a prophecy (about cars, just for slashdot): a rich and powerful man will wreck his car. There, you'd better start worshipping me or something because I just made a prophecy that is both obvious and guaranteed to come true.

10.0 times 0.1 is hardly ever 1.0.