Monday, March 24, 2008

Flores, the Debate Rages On!

PopSci has posted a story about the Flores "hobbits" (provisionally Homo floresiensis).  The drift seems to be heading away from pathology.  The author, Laura Allen, quotes Bill Jungers of SUNY Stonybrook.  His position is clear-cut:

When one of the first Homo erectus specimens was discovered in Java in 1891, it was deemed pathological by many; even called a "microcephalic idiot" by a prominent scientist of the day. And even as late as 1998, skeptics have suggested that Neanderthals were victims of cretinism.

I asked Jungers his take on the apparent urge to pathologize. “I consider it to be a scientific example of cognitive dissonance,” he said. “Here’s something out of the blue, no one anticipated; everyone’s got their mind made up about the course of [human] evolution. To have your scientific world view jarred like that is difficult to accommodate. It’s easier to dismiss it than to assimilate it.”

He is certainly right about that.

1 comment:

  1. As Dr. Junger from SUNY Stony Brook said the Palau find is “is really much ado about nothing.” Unfortunately, the likes of the late Dr. Teuku Jacob and Dr. Berger’s Palau find continue to muck the proverbial academic waters with their own murky agendas. No wonder the creationists feel so emboldened nowadays when they observe evolutionary scientists continuously getting embroiled in a pissing contest of personal egos. I guess the fact that none of the Palau bones found match the hobbits except for some superficial features really doesn’t matter. After all, the frontal cranium looks almost as high as a human’s but hey Dr. Berger implies some commonality with Homo floresiensis. Damn, can’t we complete a dig before we report the findings nowadays?

    Of course, I readily admit to having a vested interest in this discovery, having written a speculative fiction novel called Flores Girl: The Children God Forgot on the recent fossil find. If you are interested, there is more on this ongoing controversy about Homo floresiensis at or catch the free Flores Girl podcast at

    Erik John Bertel