Evillution

Meet Ida your Aunt

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In 2009, Mayor Bloomberg of New York held a special ceremony to laud the recently discovered fossil Ida (pictured above), said to be the “missing link” between humans and other primates. Significantly, Bloomberg thought Ida improved his re-election chances before the fossil experts had spoken. And that she wouldn’t have harmed his career if she failed their tests. Real and imagined “human evolution” is now so integral to our culture that demand outpaces authenticity. The disappointing history of Sahelanthropus, Orrorin, and Ardi, all hailed in 2001 as human ancestors (http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/02/110216132034.htm ), attests to the frustrating search for “missing links.” Sediba, another supposed ancestor, fared no better in 2013. A science writer at Wired, not known for intelligent-design sympathies, derides the ceaseless buzz as “ancestor worship.” (http://www.wired.com/2011/02/ancestor-worship/).

Late last year, it was announced that the oldest assumed human sequence then published (400 kya) baffles experts because it belongs to an unknown group, one more like Denisovans (an extinct type of human) than Neanderthals. The DNA results from the “Pit of Bones” site in Spain were described as baffling (Nature-http://www.nature.com/news/hominin-dna-baffles-experts-1.14294), perplexing (BBC- http://www.nature.com/news/hominin-dna-baffles-experts-1.14294 ), hard to make sense of (The Scientist- http://www.the-scientist.com/?articles.view/articleNo/38521/title/Oldest-Hominin-DNA-Ever-Sequenced/ ), don’t quite know what to make of it (New Scientist- http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg22029462.600-oldest-human-genome-dug-up-in-spains-pit-of-bones.html#.U0V6bPmQyM5 ), and creating new mysteries (New York Times- http://www.uncommondescent.com/human-evolution/new-york-times-new-human-fossil-dna-find-means-new-mysteries-instead-of-neatly-clarifying-human-evolution/ ) instead of neatly clarifying human evolution.

There are many definitions of “species,” so the term can be flung around freely, if accompanied by suitable credentials. http://scienceblogs.com/evolvingthoughts/2006/10/01/a-list-of-26-species-concepts/ Here is a working list of the various species concepts presently in use. I believe there is only one concept – “kind”, and all the rest are preconceived conceptions, ideas or refinements, of that concept. Until the evolutionary biologists can definitively state that this set of features make up a species they are wallowing in their own tar pit. But it does provide them with an excuse to attack ID scientists or Biblical scientists even though our concept is the simplest and hasn’t been proven wrong by them yet anyway.

For all practical purposes, today’s humans are orphans, seeking our roots via scraps and artifacts, many of unknown authenticity or significance. If we are convinced that any discovery we make is better than uncertainty, we are in a suitable frame of mind to explore the questions.

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When interpreting the various accounts, we need to keep in mind several narrative biases that can become distortions. Usually, we won’t know what has been put in or left out in order to fit the narrative bias. The controlling bias is fully natural evolution: Humans evolved over a long period of time from a shrew-like creature into our current state. There is much less evidence for this proposition than the TV documentaries would have us assume.

At least some parts of human evolution might have happened according to purely natural laws or the vagaries of circumstances. We will, however, find ourselves dealing with one very large problem indeed: Human evolution includes the origin of the human mind. Theoretical physicist Roger Penrose has said (http://www.npr.org/blogs/krulwich/2012/07/24/157282357/which-is-bigger-a-human-brain-or-the-universe ) : “If you look at the entire physical cosmos, our brains are a tiny, tiny part of it. But they’re the most perfectly organized part. Compared to the complexity of a brain, a galaxy is just an inert lump.”

Well, one way we are different is that we acquired a history, a history of choices made, skills learned, and insights passed on. Let us see what our found collection of scraps and artifacts can tell us- but let’s not do it by making leaps of faith and preconceived assumptions- let’s just stick to the known facts of what it is we have before us.

When interpreting the various accounts, we need to keep in mind several narrative biases that can become distortions. Usually, we won’t know what has been put in or left out in order to fit the narrative bias. The controlling bias is fully natural evolution: Humans evolved over a long period of time from a shrew-like creature into our current state. There is much less evidence for this proposition than the TV documentaries would have us assume.

At least some parts of human evolution might have happened according to purely natural laws or the vagaries of circumstances. We will, however, find ourselves dealing with one very large problem indeed: Human evolution includes the origin of the human mind. Theoretical physicist Roger Penrose has said (http://www.npr.org/blogs/krulwich/2012/07/24/157282357/which-is-bigger-a-human-brain-or-the-universe ) : “If you look at the entire physical cosmos, our brains are a tiny, tiny part of it. But they’re the most perfectly organized part. Compared to the complexity of a brain, a galaxy is just an inert lump.”

Well, one way we are different is that we acquired a history, a history of choices made, skills learned, and insights passed on. Let us see what our found collection of scraps and artifacts can tell us- but let’s not do it by making leaps of faith and preconceived assumptions- let’s just stick to the known facts of what it is we have before us.

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