A More Inclusive Homo Sapiens

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Apparently a debate is now going on about whether all the purported missing links between humans and apes (e.g. Lucy, Java Man, the Neanderthals, the recent New Zealand Hobbit people) are of other species at all. [Hat tip: A Physicist's Perspective] I've read that what we have of Neanderthals is consistent with arthritic homo sapiens, but I didn't know if that was a reliable source. I also know that many have questioned whether Australopithecus can play the role it does in standard models of human evolution. Well, now some people who are not in any sense creationists are claiming that not one of these transitional forms is what it's supposed to be. The genetic variation is well within the realm of considering them all part of the same species, just at various stages of development along what is roughly a continuum, but stages within the development of one species.

If this is right, it turns out to be completely consistent with even the most conservative of creationists, who insist that they do believe in the empirically observable aspects of evolutionary theory, i.e. microevolution. I'm not about to defend any view on most of the issues people argue about related to this, but I found it interesting that some people who have not in any way given up the standard evolutionary picture have now reverted to seeing all the purported transitional forms as well within the range of variation to count as homo sapiens. I don't know what bearing this will have on evolutionary theory. Presumably it favors Gould over Dawkins. What I'm worried about is if it's going to have a bearing on the role genetic variation plays in arguments about race. If it does, I'll have to rework some of the arguments I've been working on.

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An article in the Telegraph (via Parablemania via A Physicists Perspective via Weapon of Mass Distraction) states that various human and human-like species may all "lie within the range expected for just a single species." This includes the recently ... Read More

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It shouldn't have any bearing on evolutionary theory at all, either in terms of "Gould over Dawkins" or the fact that humans evolved from a common anscestor with modern apes. The only implication it would have is for the particular lineage of one species -- ours.

Of course, that's assuming that Henneberg is right, and from what I can tell, most experts are skeptical. There are important differences, even between Neanderthals and homo sapien sapiens that are probably not explainable due to intraspecies variation. Still, it may be that Henneberg has highlighted an important problem in the research on hominid skeletons, and it's not improbably that the result will be better methods and some change in the accepted view (probably something between Henneberg and the current orthodoxy).

"New Zealand Hobbit people"

All the hobbits left our country after Peter Jackson stopped filming, I'm afraid. I think the ones you have in minds were from some Indonesian island, weren't they? (Flores Is., I think?)

The reason I thought it might affect the Dawkins-Gould dispute is that it seems to be the sort of thing that would change the timetable significantly. Wouldn't it?

Richard, sorry about the Hobbit thing. I was just reading someone referring back to that, and they listed it as New Zealand in conjunction with the Great Eagles just found in NZ. Now that you've mentioned it, I do sort of remember that it was some small island somewhere else.

I don't know about Neanderthals being consistent with arthritic homo sapiens, but they seem to be pretty consistent with Johnny Damon (sorry, I couldn't resist).

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