Sunday, June 30, 2019

Neandertals Occupying Open-Air Site in Israel

There is evidence of Neandertal occupation at an open-air site in northern Israel called Ein Qashish.  From the researchers:
Whereas many open-air settlements are thought to be short-lived and chosen for specialized tasks, 'Ein Qashish appears to be the site of repeated occupations each of which hosted a range of general activities, indicating a stable and consistent settlement system. The authors suggest that within a complex settlement system, open-air sites may have been more important for prehistoric humans than previously thought.
The vast majority of Neandertal sites in France and the Levant are cave sites so this represents a sharp contrast in societal behavioral patterns.  The site appears to have been repeatedly occupied by Neandertals from around 70 to possibly 54 thousand years ago, representing potentially an 18 thousand year span, although the span is probably 70-60 kya.  Although the hominin remains at the site are fragmentary,  a designation of Neandertal was made based on the morphology of a third molar and a complete femur. 

This is more evidence that Neandertal society and life-styles were much more complex and advanced than most researchers have allowed.

Here is a link to the open-access PLoS ONE paper, Persistent Neanderthal occupation of the open-air site of ‘Ein Qashish, Israel.

Saturday, June 29, 2019

The Ancient History of Neanderthals in Europe

The Max Planck Society has a post in PhysOrg, a highly-regarded science site, on the history of Neandertals (they have used the old spelling). 
Researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, have retrieved nuclear genome sequences from the femur of a male Neanderthal discovered in 1937 in Hohlenstein-Stadel Cave, Germany, and from the maxillary bone of a Neanderthal girl found in 1993 in Scladina Cave, Belgium. Both Neanderthals lived around 120,000 years ago, and therefore predate most of the Neanderthals whose genomes have been sequenced to date.
Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the research was how much evolution within Neandertals was revealed:
Intriguingly, unlike the nuclear genome, the mitochondrial genome of the Neanderthal from Hohlenstein-Stadel Cave in Germany is quite different from that of later Neanderthals—a previous report showed that more than 70 mutations distinguish it from the mitochondrial genomes of other Neanderthals. The researchers suggest that early European Neanderthals may have inherited DNA from a yet undescribed population.
As with what is going on in human fossil research in China, it seems as though there is a tangled web of relationships between human populations extending through both time and space.  Whatever complexity we envision for these groups, it is probably far more so.  As I wrote about the Chinese material:
The implications of these skulls are stark: there has been widespread population mixing and regional continuity in Europe and Asia for at least 400 thousand years. Not only did the Neandertals feel enough cultural kinship to mate and have children with these East Asian people, the early modern humans coming out of Africa did, as well.  As Chris Davis of China Daily News put it: “One big happy family.”
It is becoming increasingly clear that our simplistic notions of population replacement and regional continuity are probably wrong. Is evolution occurring in these human groups? It absolutely is. Just how these puzzle pieces relate to each other is the question.

Friday, June 28, 2019

Paul Braterman: Why Historical Sciences Are More Useful Than "Rule-Seeking" Sciences

Paul Braterman has a post that comes in response to what can only be called a Usenet forum on young earth creationism.  His post outlines the value of historical sciences.  Ken Ham has been highly critical of historical sciences with his patented “Were you there?” shtick. Braterman counters this nicely.  He writes:
What about reproducibility, prediction-making, and testing against observation, traditional hallmarks of good science?

All we need to be able to reproduce is our observations, not necessarily the event that caused them. We cannot duplicate the asteroid impact that killed the dinosaurs, but we can duplicate the observations from which we infer that it occurred. We cannot duplicate the formation of the Cretaceous limestones of Europe and North America, but we can repeatedly confirm that they contain similar microfossils, showing them to be of the same age. And when we speak of prediction-making in science, we are using the word “prediction” rather loosely, to include relevant information about the past. Thus when William Halley used Newton’s physics to work out the trajectory of the comet that bears his name, he “predicted” that the comet would have appeared previously around 1531 and 1607, in accord with recorded observation.
While some of the examples he gives could be solidified a bit, they are instructive on why historical sciences are very bit as useful and rigorous as observational science.  He also invites comments.

Friday, June 07, 2019

Ark Encounter Suffers Serious Rain Damage, Insurance Refuses to Pay

The Ark Encounter suffered serious rain damage...let that one sink in for a second...and the insurance company is refusing to pay out to cover it.  From the Christian Post:
The Young Earth creationism museum Ark Encounter in Kentucky filed a lawsuit against an insurance company for refusing to cover $1 million in repairs that were needed following damage caused by heavy rainfall.

Filed last week in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Kentucky, Northern Division at Covington, the suit is leveled against the Allied World Assurance Company.

According to the suit, Allied World refused to cover the $1 million cost in road repairs that had to be done in response to about two years of heavy rainfall that damaged the Ark Encounter property.

“Defendants continue to contend that Plaintiffs’ loss is not covered because the physical damage was caused by faulty design or workmanship, even though the Defendants have already conceded that the policy language provides coverage for damage resulting from faulty design or workmanship,” stated the lawsuit in part.
The story, unfortunately, does not include the insurance company's (Allied World) response to the charges, which are stated in the harshest words by Ark Encounter: 
“At all times relevant hereto, Defendants acted with oppression, fraud, and malice toward the Plaintiffs, entitling Plaintiffs to an award of punitive damages.”
While I sympathize with Ark Encounter in trying to recoup the losses from an insurance company, the idea that the Ark Encounter suffered rain damage...the jokes write themselves.