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“Some of these stories are closer to my own life than others are, but not one of them is as close as people seem to think.” Alice Murno, from the intro to Moons of Jupiter

"Talent hits a target no one else can hit; genius hits a target no one else can see." Arthur Schopenhauer

“Why does everything you know, and everything you’ve learned, confirm you in what you believed before? Whereas in my case, what I grew up with, and what I thought I believed, is chipped away a little and a little, a fragment then a piece and then a piece more. With every month that passes, the corners are knocked off the certainties of this world: and the next world too. Show me where it says, in the Bible, ‘Purgatory.’ Show me where it says ‘relics, monks, nuns.’ Show me where it says ‘Pope.’” –Thomas Cromwell imagines asking Thomas More—Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel

My favorite posts to get started: The Self-Righteousness Instinct, Sabbath Says, Encounters, Inc., and What Makes "Wolf Hall" so Great?.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Ardi: One Sick Ape

It's exciting times for paleoanthropologists, what with the new skeleton of ardipithecus ramidus unveiled and described in Science. So, allow me to preempt the Intelligent Design reporters by spoofing them:

Paleoanthropologists are frankly baffled by the find. In their search for the famous missing link between humans and chimpanzees, it seems they've been frustrated yet again. Ardipithicus Ramidus, even though it's supposedly more than a million years older than the famed Australopithecus Lucy, doesn't look at all chimp-like. In fact, analysis of the bones of its hand suggest that they would have been poorly suited for the type of locomotion typical of chimpanzees called knuckle-dragging.

What's most striking about the reports of this new find is that the researchers never for a moment entertain the possibility that what they have on their hands is in fact not a human ancestor, even though it falls so far outside of the schemes they themselves have been putting forth since Darwin of how human evolution is supposed to have occurred. Could this single skeleton merely be an ape wracked by some sort of pathology? And in light of what happened at Piltdown we must also ask, could this be a hoax?

I hope I don't have to explain to anyone reading this post that humans didn't evolve from chimps but rather both evolved from a common ancestor. Knuckle-walking, it seems, evolved in chimps after our species went their own separate evolutionary ways. The Piltdown Hoax was 97 years ago. And fragments from several individuals were found.

1 comment:

caynazzo said...

11 papers in Science! It appears knuckle-draggers are not the ancestral type. Who knew!