Thursday, April 08, 2010

Anika Smith Comments on Hominid Discovery

Anika Smith of the Discovery Institute has written a comment on the hominid find that could help bridge the gap between the australopithecines and early Homo. It is silly. She writes:
Another year, another fossil with some serious media backing. This week it's a Homo habilis said to be "almost-complete" — of course, the report from the Telegraph also claims that Homo habilis was "previously unknown," so you might want to take that with a grain of salt.

In fact, you might want to read a bit more before you throw that OMG Missing Link Found! party I know you were planning. (Squatch is going to take it hard when you cancel his first music gig since the Sonics left town.) This is the same species that was reported in an AP article from 2007 which disowned
Homo habilis as a human ancestor. As far back as 1999, a paper in Science explained that this species should not even be considered a member of the Homo genus.
These statements suggest a complete lack of familiarity with the fossil record of these hominids. The reason that there is disagreement with the designation of Homo habilis is because there is considerable morphological variability within the specimens that make up Homo habilis as well as disagreement about how much the earliest specimens differ from the late australopithecines.

The article referenced from the NYT suggests that Homo habilis and Homo erectus lived on the same landscape for c. 500ky or so and thus, one was not unilineally descended from the other. So? That doesn't mean they didn't both have a common ancestor or that Homo habilis survived after Homo erectus split off. There are plenty of examples of descendant species coexisting with their progenitors. More silliness from the Discovery Institute.

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