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Wednesday, July 17


From the New York Times:
July 11, 2002
A Fossil Unearthed in Africa Pushes Back Human Origins

French scientists digging in Central Africa have uncovered a skull, virtually complete and almost seven million years old, that belonged to an individual about the size of a chimpanzee. It is, they say, the earliest known member of the human family, by perhaps as much as a million years.

The discovery, described in today's issue of the journal Nature, is being hailed as the most important fossil discovery in decades. Surprised by the age, complexity and geography of the fossils, paleoanthropologists spoke of the find as a critical and perhaps revolutionary turning point in the study of human origins.

The scientists said it was too early to know whether the skull represented a species on a direct ancestral line to humans. In fact, the fossils a cranium, two lower jaw fragments and several teeth suggest an evolutionary complexity and diversity in human origins that seem to defy description by the simplified family trees of the past.

Comment: Whoa. "Too early to know whether the skull represented a species on a direct ancestral line to humans"? Someone needs to tell that to their headline writer. I thought this discovery pushes back "human origins"? The fact is that science has not established any of the so-called primate or "hominid" remains as a direct ancestor of homo sapiens. Read this piece carefully and you will see assumptions being made throughout. No one has established the lineage; what was found was an incredibly old primate skull. Even if you believe evolution from primates, this find adds nothing to your knowledge since it may well be true that this particular species died out and never "evolved" further, as seems to be the case with the Neanderthal "Man." In the popular press everyone assumes evolution from primates to homo sapiens to be true and an established fact, even though the pathway of descent is still missing and unknown and disputed because the evidence isn't there. The "simplified family trees of the past" being defied were speculative, never proven, and easily defied for those very reasons. Yet whenever someone finds an old chimp skull, they throw it in as just another piece of evidence for something they have assumed but not proven. In this way you can write that same headline over and over, creating the impression that the evidence is piling up, when in fact the finding may have nothing to do with your unproven assumption.

2:08 PM

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