Saturday, March 31, 2012

A New Species of Hominin Coeval With Lucy?

Great Googlymoogly! A new discovery has been made in the Afar triangle that indicates that a similar species of Australopithecus that was not A. afarensis lived alongside them. Science Daily writes:
The Burtele partial foot clearly shows that at 3.4 million years ago, Lucy’s species, which walked upright on two legs, was not the only hominin species living in this region of Ethiopia,” said lead author and project leader Dr. Yohannes Haile-Selassie, curator of physical anthropology at The Cleveland Museum of Natural History. “Her species co-existed with close relatives who were more adept at climbing trees, like ‘Ardi’s’ species, Ardipithecus ramidus, which lived 4.4 million years ago.”
There is nothing to dictate that there were no intermediates between Ar. ramidus and Au. afarensis or that there were not several hominins on the landscape at this point. We know that there were two species of Ardipithecus. It is possible that this represents a descendent of Ar. ramidus or a descendent of a species that lived at the same time as Ardi and gave rise to a hominin that was more arboreal in nature. Until we have more to go on, it will be hard to construct any relationships that are even provisional.

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Tuesday, March 27, 2012

SB 893 Goes to the Governor

The Knoxville News Sentinel has a story on the migration of the “monkey bill” from the floor of the senate to Bill Haslam's office for signing. Tom Humphrey writes:
Haslam was asked his views on the bill last week after announcing plans to use federal funds to build three new Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) schools in the state.

"I don't know that I have any great insight there for you on that one," Haslam said, adding that he had heard of the bill but knew little about what was involved. The governor said he plans to ask state Board of Education officials about it.

"I think it is a fair question as to what the General Assembly's role is, I think that's why we have a State Board of Education," he said. "I think the General Assembly, though, does represent people and their votes and thoughts matter there."
I am not sure what the Tennessee School Board will do but I do not have high hopes. It just boils down to the fact that politics and science don't mix.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Todd Wood Thinks SB893 is Superfluous

Todd Wood has written to Governor Haslam, arguing that the passage of SB893 is pointless. The link to the letter appears to be broken on Todd's page, so I quote it in part. He writes:
Because of my religious convictions, I am a committed creationist, but unlike many creationists, I have grown quite weary of the creation-evolution propaganda war. I believe this bill is an ideal example of what's wrong with the creation-evolution war. For example, since the bill clearly states that religious discussions are not protected, it could not be used to permit "some Sunday school teachers to hijack biology class by proxy," as the editorial in the March 21 edition of the Tennesseean suggested. On the other hand, my own reading of the bill indicates that it provides no protection that teachers don't already have. Teachers are already well within their rights to discuss any scientific evidence that pertains to the prescribed curriculum and to encourage critical thinking about it. Many already do.
Interestingly, he hits on a particular problem in his opening statement involving creationism: it doesn't stand on its own merits. It is specifically tied to a “religious commitment.” This is counter to the position by the mainstream organizations such as AiG and the ICR, which have argued for decades that their science is as good as mainstream science and shows that the earth was created in six days six thousand years ago.

I have often wondered if a challenge should be issued: that someone would come forward who is convinced beyond a shadow of a doubt that the earth and the universe were created in six twenty-four hour days six thousand years ago and that the geological column represents the effects of a world-wide flood but who is either an atheist or a hard-line agnostic. I doubt such a person exists.

The second problem that I have is that I don't think that the law is superfluous. Right now, if someone teaches recent earth creationism in the classroom in public school, they run the risk of being fired, like John Freshwater was. Now that the law has been passed, there is no oversight and such teachers are beyond the veil of accountability. The only way such a person would be stopped is if a lawsuit such as the one at Dover, PA were brought forth. Does the state really want that, with the media circus it would entail? Then it really would be Scopes II.

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Thursday, March 22, 2012

Casey Luskin on “The Monkey Bill”

Casey Luskin has written a piece addressing the Tennessee legislation 893, known colloquially and uncharitably as “The Monkey Bill.” He writes:
The bill enjoyed bipartisan support from all the Republicans, and over 35% of Democrats, in the Tennessee State Senate. The proposed legislation is a standard academic freedom bill that would apply generally to the teaching of controversial scientific theories, not just evolution.
This is disingenuous. This bill is aimed at evolution. Everyone connected to the bill knows this. Descriptions of the bill are always phrased as “evolution and other subjects” but nobody ever mentions the other subjects.

He continues:
Thus, the bill includes a clear statement that it only applies to teaching science and does not protect teaching religion. Don't expect that to satisfy critics, who will predictably ignore the actual language of the bill and falsely claim it would introduce religion in the classroom.
Teaching religion is not the issue. That is a smokescreen. The issue is the teaching of evolution.If it allows teachers to promote young earth creationism in the classroom, it will introduce religion into the classroom, even if it does so through the backdoor. With this bill in place, there is nothing to stop a teacher from teaching what they consider “weaknesses” in a scientific theory, even if those “weaknesses” are not scientifically supported.

Teachers will also interpret the meaning of “curriculum framework” in different ways and if, as was the case in Ohio with John Freshwater, they honestly believe in young earth creationism, that is what they will insert into their classes. Who will hold them accountable if they do that?

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HuffPo on The “Monkey Bill”

Cara Santa Maria of the Huffington Post has a short video on the Tennessee anti-science bill 893.

The ending interview with “a student” is devastating.

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The Tennessean Weighs in on SB893

The state newspaper, The Tennessean has written an editorial on the passage of SB893, the “Monkey Bill,” called “Our View.” They write:
Does anybody think that Senate Bill 0893, as amended, is really about making our children smarter, more intelligent and better critical thinkers? No, not on any side of this argument. This bill is about wedging open a door to include a radically divisive, ultra-conservative Christian agenda disguised in politically correct language.
If the point were about making our children more critical thinkers, it would not be aimed solely at evolution. That it is ought to tell the average reader that the real purpose behind the bill is to attempt to water down evolution teaching or, in the hopes of some, remove it altogether by making its teaching so controversial that teachers won't want to bother. That is the purpose behind the bill. Those that promote it need to be honest about that.

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Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Did Competition Put Us On Our Feet?

Simply, yes. That is not earth-shattering. Cambridge News has a story on work done with chimpanzees that seems to confirm that behavioral alterations in higher level primates help with competitiveness. They write:
Anthropologists studying chimpanzees found the great apes, who usually walk on all fours, walk upright and free their hands for carrying when they need to grab more hard-to-find resources in one go, in the face of competition.

The team from the University of Cambridge and Kyoto University in Japan believe the benefit of “first come, first served” and getting a bigger share of scarce food supplies could, over a long period of time, have led some of our earliest “hominin” ancestors to evolve into “bipedal” primates walking on two legs permanently instead of four.
This has always been part of the bipedality model, that early hominins exploited the forest/fringe environment where they could get what they needed from the trees and from the savannas. The fact that Ardipithecus ramidus demonstrated bipedality in a forested environment sort of threw cold water on the more conservative of those models but it is also clear that even the level of bipedality continued to evolve over time and that, by the time later australopithecines had completely human, obligate bipedal locomotion, these hominins were living in the open and competing for those resources. It was at this point that our brains began to expand as well.

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Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Eugenie Scott on “Critical Thinking Bills”

Robert Luhn at NCSE sent me a link for this lecture by Eugenie Scott at the University of South Florida, in February of 2012 on the “academic freedom” or “critical thinking” bills. My only quibble is that it is referred to as a “Darwinism” lecture. That is like having a physics lecture called a “Newtonism” lecture.

It is bit lengthy but is very good and outlines the problem concisely including the whole false Belief in God/Evolution dichotomy.

WARNING! Around 7:30 in, she has a horrific feedback problem, after which she has fairly good stereo separation.


The Senate bill 893 passed 24 to 8. I read a partial vote earlier. Finally, some local coverage.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Ben Bova on Evolution and Global Warming

Science fiction author Ben Bova, who will turn eighty this year, has written an editorial on the “marching morons” who refuse to accept evolution and climate change. He opines:
We have serious candidates for the presidency announcing that they don't believe in Charles Darwin's concept of evolution. They want to give equal time in classrooms to ideas such as creationism and intelligent design. Either they are grossly ignorant of Darwin's work or they are cynically misleading the public in an attempt to win votes from those who actually are grossly ignorant.

Evolution is real. We see it everywhere in the natural world.

There are literally tons of evidence to support the concept of evolution — fossils from millions of years ago, physical links from one species of plant or animal to another. We see evolution taking place before our eyes when we watch bacteria become immune to antibiotics.

Against all this evidence, the creationists have no evidence at all. They rely on the word of the Bible, books written centuries ago by writers who were trying to understand the history of Israel, not explaining the workings of the natural world.
How is it that most theologians understand this and most lay evangelicals do not? Bova is equally vituperative against the detractors of global warming. Read the whole thing.

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Video on the Deliberation of SB893

Here is the deliberation of the senate bill by Bo Watson, which passed 7 to 1, with one abstaining (click on SB0893). There was one amendment to the bill in which the word “controversial” was replaced with “debated or disputed.” I do not know how that changes anything. They are only disputed by those who do not grasp the evidence.

Watson claims that school teachers should have the freedom to debate the controversial nature of these subjects in science class but that such debate should occur within the constructs of the state curriculum standards. Guess what? Such safeguards were in place in Dover, Pennsylvania. Didn't matter. They were in place in Louisiana. Didn't matter. Young earth creationism was introduced in both cases. In Dover, some of the local school board members even lied about what kind of curriculum they wanted taught, trying to introduce YEC arguments under the cover of ID.

Science and politics simply should not mix. It never ends well. Expect fallout like that which occurred in Louisiana (stories here and here).

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Sunday, March 18, 2012

Tennessee “Academic Freedom” Bill Returns

One of my favorite Murphyisms is “No one can kill a bad idea.” True to form, the NCSE reports on Tennessee Senate Bill 893, which is the counterpart to House Bill 368, which passed in April of last year 70-28 is scheduled for a vote tomorrow. Here is the text of the bill:
This bill prohibits the state board of education and any public elementary or secondary school governing authority, director of schools, school system administrator, or principal or administrator from prohibiting any teacher in a public school system of this state from helping students understand, analyze, critique, and review in an objective manner the scientific strengths and scientific weaknesses of existing scientific theories covered in the course being taught, such as evolution and global warming. This bill also requires such persons and entities to endeavor to:
(1) Create an environment within public elementary and secondary schools that encourages students to explore scientific questions, learn about scientific evidence, develop critical thinking skills, and respond appropriately and respectfully to differences of opinion about controversial issues; and
(2) Assist teachers to find effective ways to present the science curriculum as it addresses scientific controversies.

“...such as evolution and global warming.” Why single those two out for special treatment. Surely there must be weaknesses in other scientific theories, such as physics. Why isn't that mentioned? It isn't mentioned because the writers of these bills have no interest in anything except evolution and global warming. It is not even clear that there is much interest in global warming, but evolution they want gone.

What this bill does is give cover to someone who disagrees with the evidence of evolution to institute what they think should be taught without any accountability for doing so. We have already seen how this has played out when young earth creationism was almost implemented in Louisiana, in Livingston Parish after the passage of a similar “academic freedom” bill, which has been subject to almost continuous efforts to have it repealed by science groups since its passage and seen the state subject to almost universal condemnation by science groups.

To this end, several groups have come out against the Tennessee bill and have written signed letters to that effect. The letter from the Tennessee Members of the National Academy of Sciences reads, in part:
These bills misdescribe evolution as scientifically controversial. As scientists whose research involves and is based upon evolution, we affirm -- along with the nation’s leading scientific organizations, including the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the National Academy of Sciences -- that evolution is a central, unifying, and accepted area of science. The evidence for evolution is
overwhelming; there is no scientific evidence for its supposed rivals ("creation science" and "intelligent design") and there is no scientific evidence against it.
The American Institute of Biological Sciences also wrote a letter to Governor Haslam, which reads in part:
It is important to note that there is no scientific controversy about the legitimacy of evolution or global climate change. These scientific concepts have repeatedly been tested and grown stronger with each evaluation. Any controversy around these concepts is political, not scientific. Indeed, evolution is a core principle that helps to explain biology and informs the development of biology-based products and services, including pharmaceuticals, food, and biotechnology.
They are absolutely correct. The controversy is manufactured. The problem is that state legislators do not know this and, as importantly, the vast majority of their constituents do not, either. Such is the state of modern scientific education. Evolution is settled science and has been so for almost a hundred years. There is no controversy. Further, as we have seen from the genetic revolution, the evidence for biological evolution just gets better every day.

These bills are irresponsible and badly conceived. It is almost certain that they will lead to the teaching of young earth creationism in some school districts which will, in turn, likely lead to more court cases like the one in Dover, Pennsylvania. That is something that neither the students nor the state can afford.

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Friday, March 16, 2012

David Coppedge and David Klinghoffer

The Pasadena Star-News is reporting that the trial of the JPL employee that worked on the Cassini spacecraft and was accused of pushing intelligent design before he was sacked has begun. Brian Day writes:
David Coppedge, who was laid off from JPL in La Canada Flintridge last year, claims his termination was motivated largely by his belief in intelligent design, and his distribution of documentary DVDs on the subject in the workplace. The theory states that the complexity and order apparent in the universe points to the intervention of an intelligence, rather than the forces of nature and chance alone.

The aerospace company has denied wrongdoing. Coppedge's termination took place during a time when the Cassini program -- a spacecraft mission to Saturn which Coppedge worked to support -- saw about a third of it's employees laid off.
The NCSE has been following this case and has put up their own page of documentation here. Interestingly, the defense case seems to rest on two things: there was a 50% cut in funding in FY 2011 for the Cassini project so that layoffs were inevitable and that David Coppedge was very hard to get along with so that when the layoffs did occur, he was not exactly a moving target. The court recorder quotes Gregory Chin:
Chin received complaints from twenty five different managers about Coppedge's uncooperative attitude and poor interpersonal skills

...“Now you used the word “Personality issues”...what didn't they like about it?”

“His personality in terms of they did not like working with him. They felt he was insincere. They would talk to him. They would believe they would not listen to them and has already formed an opinion about what he is going to do and just ignore them. He was pleasant but they felt he was being insincere about it. And I guess that annoyed them.”
The complaint goes on to list a large number of people who either were frustrated with or chose not to work with Coppedge. As someone who has worked with a coworker who doesn't listen to what you say or to anyone else around them, I can tell you that this makes for an extremely tense and frustrating work environment. This is doubly so if this person is (as was in my case) someone that you have to interact with on a daily basis.

What further comes out in this transcript is that program management had come to Chin and asked that Coppedge be removed from the project:
Q: He said it would be best to get rid of David? A: I cannot be sure of those exact words, but I am paraphrasing. He said “What can we do to get David off Cassini?”
Critical to this testimony is that these conversations took place in the early 2000s and that one of his supervisors, Clark Burgess specifically protected him at the time. When the workforce downsized, and, as they put it, jobs became tight, there was talk of moving him on to other projects. The complaints about his intelligent design support did not appear until 2009. Whether or not he was obnoxious regarding those, if we are to believe the transcripts, there certainly was ample reason to let him go when the money got tight.

David Klinghoffer, of the Discovery Institute, has written on the subject here. Klinghoffer thinks that the case is about the wrong things. He writes:

The LA Times writer is referring to Judge Hiroshige's decision not to hear from a legal scholar (not a religion expert) on the larger context of anti-ID discrimination in academia. Crucially, no one but no one on either side is asking the judge to rule on the scientific status of intelligent design. JPL's legal team and Coppedge's lawyer William Becker have cast the trial very clearly as an employment discrimination case.

In the conclusion of his statement, Becker underlined that it's all about "an employee who was treated differently because of his interest in intelligent design; who acted in a manner he thought was appropriate to protect his rights and his job, and for just that reason his job was taken away from him." (You may wish to check the final transcript for the precise quote.)

Klinghoffer remarks that it is very peculiar that, in all of these criticisms about Coppedge’s conduct, no official records were kept. He writes:
Oddly, though, none of this appears ever to have been documented contemporaneously by any of these folks, in a workplace that was otherwise very good about putting such matters down in writing. Not in reports, emails, written complaints, nothing.
This is not odd, however, if you read the testimony, in which it is noted:
Burgess did not document many criticisms in Coppedge's annual performance to maximize Coppedge's chance to transfer to another project.
Burgess states:
“Part of the transfer scenario that I imagined would be—one thing that would be involved in that would be the review of the documents by his prospective new customer and I didn't want to put too much negativity into the ECAPS.”
The testimony then continues and it records that they were trying to protect Coppedge against further, documented complaints and had even bandied around the idea of terminating him long before the ID charge surfaced in 2009. Coppedge was even advised not to continue with this particular line of conversation with his fellow employees because, in concert with the preceding problems, he was told that it would not go well for him.

Damagingly, however, Chin admits he yelled at Coppedge and created a “hostile work environment” for him. He also called Intelligent Design religion and that he was not to promote his religion in the workplace. This gave Coppedge the ammunition that he needed for the lawsuit. That does not negate the problems that JPL had with Coppedge, however.

Klinghoffer ends his article by writing:
The real question before Judge Hiroshige comes down this: Who is David Coppedge? The Coppedge that JPL depicts seems completely at odds with the Coppedge that I've come to know slightly since coming down here to Southern California and that other people tell me about. The idea that this guy could "harass" anyone is just not credible to me at the moment.
Maybe, but even if the harassment charge doesn't hold water, it doesn't mean that he was a good employee or easy to work with. JPL's defense focused on the actual problem: that Coppedge was too hard to get along with, not the Intelligent Design ruse that the Discovery Institute and Coppedge are foisting in an effort to cry wrongful termination.

When the money got tight and layoffs had to happen, JPL did what any good business would: they let go of what they considered to be a problem.

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Wednesday, March 14, 2012

New Hominin Finds in China

In somewhat hyperbolic terms, Discovery News reports on “Mysterious Dark-Skinned Stone Age People Found.” Jennifer Viegas writes:
A newly found Stone Age people featured darker skin, an unusual mix of primitive and modern features and had a strong taste for venison.

Remains of possibly four individuals of the so-called "Red Deer Cave People" were unearthed in southwest China and may represent a new species of human.

The fossils from two caves, date to just 14,500 to 11,500 years ago. Until now, no hominid remains younger than 100,000 years old have been found in mainland East Asia resembling any other species than our own. "We have discovered a new population of prehistoric humans whose skulls are an unusual mosaic of primitive, modern and unique features -- like nothing we've seen before," said Darren Curnoe, associate professor in the School of Biological, Earth & Environmental Sciences at the University of New South Wales and lead author of a study about the find in the journal PLoS One.
Curnoe wrote about the finds in 2009:
While the material falls within the range for modern human variation, the individuals show some archaic features and are robust. Only a handful of potential stone tools have been recovered from the site; many are hammer stones.
It would be quite peculiar if this were another species of human, although the evolutionary picture is getting muddy in Europe, so it stands to reason that it should be muddy in Asia, especially given that we have the Denisova evidence. In the PLoS article ( the authors remark that it is possible that they represent a late-surviving archaic group or that the Homo sapiens populations that were coming out of Africa were remarkably diverse morphologically and that these individuals represent a more primitive population of those migrants. There is reasonably good evidence that there were different groups that migrated to East Asia over the course of the last million or so years and this group may simply reflect one.

It is an odd mix of traits to be sure. The brain case is somewhat low (, and yet the mandibles have chins, a late-arriving characteristic, only present in modern humans. Additionally, the face is flat( and there is no space behind the last molar, indicating modernity. Either way, it is fascinating find but the headlines are unnecessarily over-the-top. Read the whole article.

Aside: Curnoe is a splitter with the best of them and in the mould of Bernard Wood. He was responsible for a new species of Homo, in South Africa, Homo gautengensis, because he felt that the remains differed from other specimens of early Homo enough to give them their own species designation. This name has not had traction in the palaeoanthropological community.

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Sunday, March 11, 2012

ASA Debuts New Online Magazine

The American Scientific Affiliation is now putting out the God and Nature Magazine which is:
a literary resource for everyone who's ever been confused, conflicted, intrigued, or inspired by the intersection of science and faith.
The first issue has an interesting interview with Richard Leakey. Check it out.

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Saturday, March 10, 2012

Gorilla DNA Sequenced

According to a story out of the LA Times, the gorilla genome has been completely sequenced. Eryn Brown writes:
By comparing the new gorilla DNA sequence with reference genomes of humans, chimpanzees, orangutans and macaques, scientists have already made a few surprising insights into the crucial periods when we diverged into separate species.

For instance, the new genetic data bolster fossil evidence that gorillas split off as a separate species about 10 million years ago and that humans and chimps parted ways about 6 million years ago. Previous genetic evidence had seemed to point to a more recent split, prompting a contentious debate between genetics experts and fossil scholars, said Durbin, who leads the genome informatics group at the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute in Hinxton, England.
This is good because it means that the last common ancestor can be as far back as six to seven million. Does this make Sahelanthropus or Orrorin hominins? Not necessarily but now it is a more easily acceptable position..

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Friday, March 09, 2012

Bill Filed to Repeal the Louisiana Science Education Act

The American Humanist Association is shedding light on a bill filed by Karen Carter Peterson (D-New Orleans) to repeal the Louisiana Science Education Act. They write:
Here are the facts: the Science Education Act requires state and local education administrators to promote "open and objective discussion of scientific theories being studied including, but not limited to, evolution, the origins of life, global warming, and human cloning." It also permits teachers to use "supplemental textbooks and other instructional materials to help students understand, analyze, critique, and review scientific theories in an objective manner."

Senate Bill 374 will end the distribution of unscientific literature in science classrooms and stop the teaching of creationism and intelligent design. Recently, 74 Nobel laureate scientists have spoken in favor of passing this bill and repealing the LSEA.
I don't ordinarily support humanist groups since they are typically so hostile to religion but this act is a very bad thing and has already let creationism in the front door in one parish. It needs to be repealed, although I have little reason to believe that the legislature will act smartly. Still, this bill is a step in the right direction, if nothing else to shine a spotlight on the LSEA.

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Thursday, March 08, 2012

Freshwater Loses Appeal

According to the Mansfield NewsJournal, John Freshwater, the Mount Vernon teacher fired for teaching creationism has lost his appeal. They write:
In a ruling released Monday, the Fifth District Court of Appeals said the scope of issues it could review were extremely narrow -- limited to whether the trial court abused its decretion [sic].

The ruling said the appeals panel did not find that an arbitrary or unreasonable decision was made.

"To the contrary, the referee's memorandum provides a well-reasoned and articulated basis for affirming the decision of the board and for the trial court to accept the recommendation of the referee," Judge W. Scott Gwin wrote for the three-judge panel.

The ruling said the referee set aside the Tesla coil incident, considering that case closed, but found multiple incidents where Freshwater repeatedly violated the Constitution, acted in defiance of orders by his superiors and failed to employ objectivity in his teaching of a variety of science subjects.
This is probably the end of it since I do not believe Freshwater can appeal this.

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Saturday, March 03, 2012

Neandertals Almost Extinct By the Time Modern Humans Got to Europe?

That is the story that Science Daily is running with. They write:
The results indicate that most Neanderthals in Europe died off as early as 50,000 years ago. After that, a small group of Neanderthals recolonised central and western Europe, where they survived for another 10,000 years before modern humans entered the picture.

The study is the result of an international project led by Swedish and Spanish researchers in Uppsala, Stockholm and Madrid. “The fact that Neanderthals in Europe were nearly extinct, but then recovered, and that all this took place long before they came into contact with modern humans came as a complete surprise to us. This indicates that the Neanderthals may have been more sensitive to the dramatic climate changes that took place in the last Ice Age than was previously thought”, says Love Dalén, associate professor at the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm.
This is not unheard of in human populations, and it may not have even taken a major change in climate to do this. There was a massive population die-off in the Middle Jomon period in Japan that has, to this day, largely gone unexplained.

This information does provide a bit more of an understanding as to why modern humans were able to swamp the Neandertal genome as quickly as they did. It also explains why by around 3o,ooo years ago, you only had scattered Neandertals such as St. Cesaire and Zafarraya. It looks like the whole Neandertal/modern human confluence is just getting more and more fascinating.

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Friday, March 02, 2012

Neandertals were Seaworthy

PhysOrg has a story that follows up on the evidence of Neandertal settlements on the Greek islands. It has now been suggested that the Neandertals were using sea craft to navigate to and from those islands. Bob Yirka writes:
Neanderthals, considered either a sub-species of modern humans or a separate species altogether, lived from approximately 300,000 years ago to somewhere near 24,000 years ago, when they inexplicably disappeared, leaving behind traces of their DNA in some Middle Eastern people and artifacts strewn all across the southern part of Europe and extending into western Asia. Some of those artifacts, stone tools that are uniquely associated with them, have been found on islands in the Mediterranean Sea, suggesting, according to a paper published in the Journal of Archaeological Science, by George Ferentinos and colleagues, that Neanderthals had figured out how to travel by boat. And if they did, it appears they did so before modern humans.
This is not a surprise. Neandertals were every bit as intelligent as we are.

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