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Earth Science

"Out of Africa" Theory Called Into Question By Originator 169

Amiga Trombone writes "Christopher Stringer is one of the world's foremost paleoanthropologists. He is a founder and most powerful advocate of the leading theory concerning our evolution: Recent African Origin or 'Out of Africa.' He now calls the theory into question: 'I'm thinking a lot about species concepts as applied to humans, about the "Out of Africa" model, and also looking back into Africa itself. I think the idea that modern humans originated in Africa is still a sound concept. Behaviorally and physically, we began our story there, but I've come around to thinking that it wasn't a simple origin. Twenty years ago, I would have argued that our species evolved in one place, maybe in East Africa or South Africa. There was a period of time in just one place where a small population of humans became modern, physically and behaviourally. Isolated and perhaps stressed by climate change, this drove a rapid and punctuational origin for our species. Now I don't think it was that simple, either within or outside of Africa.'"
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"Out of Africa" Theory Called Into Question By Originator

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday September 17, 2012 @04:30PM (#41366891)

    I don't care what they say. It was a good movie.

  • I hate Biology (Score:1, Informative)

    by chubs ( 2470996 ) on Monday September 17, 2012 @05:46PM (#41367875)
    This is one of the reasons I hated Biology as a subject. The best definition I ever got for 'species' was a set of organisms that could interbreed and produce fertile offspring. This guy reminds us "remember, that's not always the case". So, if that's not the definition of species, what is? Poke and prod any Zoology professor long enough and he'll finally say "that's just the way it is, so just memorize it". There's no logical process defined for assigning organisms a place in our taxonomy. The only answer is "They guy credited with finding these arbitrarily decided that it belonged in this phylum, genus, etc" (I forgot the orders because, like I said, it's all arbitrary anyway). There is no sure-fire way to decide whether 2 organisms belong to the same species (much less any more generic taxon) because the reproduce with fertile offspring test is not necessarily the answer. It then comes down to "Well, they look different and they act different enough that I now officially say so". Bah. Is anything that arbitrary truly a science?
  • Re:Duh! (Score:3, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday September 17, 2012 @05:49PM (#41367933)

    Pro tip:

    Phrases like "the earth is trying defend itself" and "starving the earth of resources" put you in the crazies column.

    But you'd still be qualified to be Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy [].

  • Re:Simple reason: (Score:0, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday September 17, 2012 @06:10PM (#41368221)

    I thought mixing of genes produces even more diversity. The same diversity you are arguing for but arguing against the process that produces this diversity. What makes you think that evolution of species (or growing diversity) will stop if we mix these genes. Its a scientific fact for preservation of animal species that the more diversified genes its representative animals have, more chances of survival the specie has. Even a simple experiment from Mendal (if you know who he was) proved that mixing of same two genes twice doesn't produce same result both the times. In simple terms it increases diversity (or differences in your language).

  • Re:Simple reason: (Score:2, Informative)

    by Internetuser1248 ( 1787630 ) on Monday September 17, 2012 @07:12PM (#41368919)

    Why has the out of africa THEORY been presented as fact despite the growing evidence against it? Why have all other theories been so violently opposed?

    Simple reason!


    My mod points just expired. Can someone mod this guy and all children down (including my own post).

    To mitigate the poster's obvious paranoia I would like to offer the following explanation as to why his post is misleading and inaccurate and should be modded down in the interests of keeping facts at the forefront of discussion and leaving knee-jerk dogmatism and prejudice to the thousands of other websites dedicated to them.
    1. The writer of the above post clearly didn't read the article (yes I know he is not the only one) and seems to have missed the fact that the author, and all other respected paleontologists, clearly believe that we are in fact all one species. It is referred to in the article as 'modern human'. The entire post hinges on the misguided idea that someone in the world who has studied the subject and knows what he is talking about believes that 'foreigners' are a different species from 'us'. This is not the case. 'Us' of course in this case meaning caucasian Europeans.
    2. The post is in essence a diatribe against a world wide government conspiracy trying to achieve in his words 'the genocide of the European species'. When I talk about conspiracies that involve multiple world governments I generally get modded down on the grounds that world governments are't organised enough and hate each other too much to perpetrate real conspiracies together. While i disagree with that in general with regard to small groups of nations I think this particular theory has far less evidence and is far more unlikely than any I have suggested.
    3. The main justification of the points of view put forward is that the phrase 'Out of Africa' is somehow a lie. As the leading expert in the article states modern humans did in fact originate in Africa, it is not a lie, it is not even disputed by any serious paleontologists (to my knowledge). The new modifications to the theory proposed here suggest no reason to change the name of the theory. What the article says is that our species interbred with other types of prehistoric humans, far in the past, and that traces of their DNA exist in ours to prove it. The slashdot headline might be partly to blame for the confusion here.
    4. At the time of posting he has +1, I know the quality of slashdot has declined as the number of users has increased but as someone with mod points you have a small amount of control over this. Take a little pride in the site and make sure someone who posts personal opinions as uninformed and lazily researched as this are far from those gentle impressionable readers who come here for reliable information. If this poster is not trolling he as at least far enough from reality that a troll moderation is called for, especially given that there is no downmod for lies or misinformation.

  • by nowsharing ( 2732637 ) on Monday September 17, 2012 @07:32PM (#41369183)
    Your points are either incorrect or untestable:

    The problem with pinpointing human origins is we keep digging where 1) human remains are close to the surface, making them easy to dig up, with yearly rains washing away more and more making it even easier,

    See the cave sites in France. Actually, see cave sites across the world, where excavation involves chipping rock away to find the remains. It's nearer to sculpting and excavation. That's hardly easy, nowhere near the surface, and is standard practice in paleo excavations.

    2) the conditions for fossilization are highly salient. We very well could have come from environs where fossilization processes are nearly impossible, leaving no trace of our ancestors.

    The burden of proof is on you for this point. You need to give the reasons why you think humans were present in a specific area, and yet their remains (bone, stone, etc) are not present. You may be right now and then, but you can't simply make a broad blanket statement like this. There are hundreds of markers for a human presence that can be examined beyond fossilized remains.

    We also like to dig where early humans leave behind stone tools. We don't dig where humans uses wood tools, because they fossilize way less often. It's hard to study what's not left behind! However, it's probable more humans used wood tools earlier and longer.

    Humans didn't need stone tools in any areas that had ample bamboo present. It's easier to make and acquire, and just as sharp. However, there is intense work across SE Asia and Indonesia where human remains were found with and without stone tools, probably because bamboo was being used. So again, you're wrong on this point. This is where science takes over. It looks at broad, perhaps logically seeming statements and questions them. Answers come by interpreting evidence. Paleoanthropologists are doing an excellent job, and critiquing them with your own common sense will not lead to you to good answers.

Fear is the greatest salesman. -- Robert Klein