Thursday, December 20, 2018

British Columbia Leading War in Canada against Creationism...Or Is It?

Support for young earth creationism is, apparently, somewhat variable when it comes to the different Canadian provinces.  This is not surprising, since one might reasonably same the same thing about the fifty United States. is reporting on efforts in British Columbia to assert control over this situation.  Mario Canseco writes:
There are many reasons for these regional variances. Over the past two decades, British Columbia has positioned itself as closest to secularism than any other region of Canada. Fewer British Columbians describe themselves as having “a religion” every time the census rolls around. Still, the last municipal election saw candidates running for school board seats – and winning – after outlining creationist views. Quebec has always been a land of contrasts when it comes to religion. The presence of a crucifix inside the National Assembly is debated extensively in a province where fewer residents are attending church services than ever before.
The odd thing here is that the writer of the piece has invoked a non-sequitur in the interpretation of the data, it seems.  He remarks that 55% of residents of BC would "keep creationism out of schools," but that conclusion doesn't follow from any of the graphs presented.  That is not the question asked.  The questions being asked are whether or not humans evolved or were created within the last 10,000 years.  While it is quite true that the two concepts are similar, one does not necessarily follow from the other.

Furthermore, it is not clear where he is getting his 55% number from, nor where he concludes that BC is leading the pack.  Eyeballing the graphs seems to indicate that BC is behind Alberta and Quebec in their acceptance of human evolution.

I am not sure I would put a lot of faith in this. 

Monday, December 10, 2018

Little Foot Finally Extricated

Nature News is reporting on the excavation and description of "Little Foot," a fossil initially discovered twenty years ago by Ron Clarke, at Sterkfontein Cave, in South Africa.  Colin Barras writes:
After a tortuous 20-year-long excavation, a mysterious ancient skeleton is starting to give up its secrets about human evolution.

The first of a raft of papers about ‘Little Foot’ suggests that the fossil is a female who showed some of the earliest signs of human-like bipedal walking around 3.67 million years ago. She may also belong to a distinct species that most researchers haven’t previously recognized.

“It’s almost a miracle it’s come out intact,” says Robin Crompton, a musculoskeletal biologist at the University of Liverpool, UK, who has collaborated with the research team that excavated the skeleton.
Why has this task taken so long and why is it so important? Barras continues:
By late last year, Clarke’s team had successfully removed enough bones to reconstruct more than 90% of the skeleton, and the specimen was unveiled to the world. No other Australopithecus fossil comes close to that level of completeness. For comparison, the most famous Australopithecus — Lucy — is around 40% complete.
Clarke and colleagues have posted a number of papers on the BiorXiv biology pre-print server. One of the papers is titled "The skull of StW 573, a 3.67 Ma Australopithecus skeleton from Sterkfontein Caves, South Africa."  Because these papers are unpublished, they are open-access. 

As Clarke and Kuman notes, this fossil is unlike those of Australopithecus africanus, a species ubiquitous in South Africa but more closely resembles, in some ways, Au. afarensis (Lucy) and Au. anamensis, both of which are north east African variants of Australopithecus and are the earliest members of that genus.  The fossil has been included, taxonomically, with a species originally described by Raymond Dart in 1948: Australopithecus prometheus.  Given its early date, the researchers argue that it cannot be descended from Au afarensis but must be coeval with it.  This suggests that both are descendants of an earlier species that had a large home range. 

More pieces to the puzzle.