Friday, August 17, 2007

Human Evolution Revision, Part 2

A few more tidbits from the recent discoveries discussed in a previous post, and how this changes the theories (or speculations) about human evolution:
Dr. Spoor, speaking by satellite phone from a field site near Lake Turkana, said the evidence clearly contradicted previous ideas of human evolution “as one strong, single line from early to us.” The new findings, he added, support the revised interpretations of “a lot of bushiness and experimentation in the fossil record,” rather than a more linear succession of species.

Of course, a linear progression from species to species is what would support Darwin's theory. This is what has been sold to the general public and has led to one of the most enduring false icons of evolution in the popular mind: an ape becoming an ape-man becoming a man. "A lot of bushiness" in the fossil record tells us very little.

This revision of human evolution thinking/speculating is very similar to the revision of horse evolution, and the conflicting ways horse evolution has been presented at the American Museum of Natural History.

This discovery was actually made in 2000, but is only now being reported:
In recent years, scientists not involved in the project said, discoveries were hinting at possible overlap between the habilis and erectus species. But the implications were considered so profound that little was said about these dates, pending more conclusive evidence.

So profound, indeed. If the discoveries had been of new fossils supporting a clear linear progression from ape to man, do you think that we would have waited seven years to hear about them? You see, in this field, all evidence is not created equal. Frankly, I am somewhat surprised to see the NY Times reporting on this at all. The Lucy revision story was not reported, for example.

What do we really know about human evolution? Even before this discovery, there was no clear evidence that any fossil was anything other than fully ape or fully human. Homo habilis was the closest thing to something that was in between, and that was because tools were found nearby and it was presumed that Homo habilis used them.

What we are left with is more evidence of a fossil record reflecting sudden appearance and stasis, which does not support Darwinian theory, and arguably falsifies it.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

One More Reason Why ID Is Not Religion

It should be clear to anyone with a basic understanding of science and philosophy that intelligent design theory is not inherently religious in nature. The way most proponents define it, it should be considered science with philosophical implications. It could also be considered related to the teleological argument in philosophy with scientific data as its basis.

This article from the NY Times provides another possible explanation for the design of the universe that cannot be considered "religious" in nature:

Until I talked to Nick Bostrom, a philosopher at Oxford University, it never occurred to me that our universe might be somebody else’s hobby. I hadn’t imagined that the omniscient, omnipotent creator of the heavens and earth could be an advanced version of a guy who spends his weekends building model railroads or overseeing video-game worlds like the Sims.

But now it seems quite possible. In fact, if you accept a pretty reasonable assumption of Dr. Bostrom’s, it is almost a mathematical certainty that we are living in someone else’s computer simulation.

This simulation would be similar to the one in “The Matrix,” in which most humans don’t realize that their lives and their world are just illusions created in their brains while their bodies are suspended in vats of liquid. But in Dr. Bostrom’s notion of reality, you wouldn’t even have a body made of flesh. Your brain would exist only as a network of computer circuits.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Human Evolution Revision

I have wanted to comment on the new developments in the fossils related to the speculations about human evolution:

Two fossils found in Kenya have shaken the human family tree, possibly rearranging major branches thought to be in a straight ancestral line to Homo sapiens.

Scientists who dated and analyzed the specimens — a 1.44 million-year-old Homo habilis and a 1.55 million-year-old Homo erectus — said their findings challenged the conventional view that these species evolved one after the other. Instead, they apparently lived side by side in eastern Africa for almost half a
million years.

I hope to comment further later, but for now, some quick observations. Think about the logic of the third paragraph in the Times article:
If this interpretation is correct, the early evolution of the genus Homo is left even more shrouded in mystery than before. It means that both habilis and erectus must have originated from a common ancestor between two million and three million years ago, a time when fossil hunters had drawn a virtual blank.

Note the acknowledgment of mystery in the first sentence, followed by a statement about what "must" have happened in the second. Note the evidence supporting this statement of certainty. (There is none.) Is this science or philosophy? Feel the irony: in an article primarily about revising what scientists thought they knew, the reported tells us what must have happened despite the lack of evidence for it.

Honey, your presuppositions are showing.

Scrappleface has picked up on this story. But this post is not as funny as the Scrappleface post quoted here on a related topic.