One thing that we’re beginning to see is that we are extremely closely related to the Neanderthals. They’re our relatives. In a way, they’re like a human ancestor 300,000 years ago. Which is something that leads you to think: what about the Neanderthals? What if they had survived a little longer and were with us today? After all, they disappeared only around 30,000 years ago, or, 2,000 generations ago. Had they survived, where would they be today? Would they be in a zoo? Or would they live in suburbia? These are the questions I like to think about.
And it’s the question and not the answer that’s interesting because these questions have no answers. We will never know. But they are interesting questions to think about because they somehow reflect how we think about differences between us and our ancient ancestors.
Also, this eye-opener:
As an outsider to paleontologists, I’m often rather surprised about how much scientists fight in paleontology. And I am thinking about why that is the case. Why do we have less vicious fights in molecular biology, for example? I suppose the reason is that paleontology is a rather data-poor science. There are probably more paleontologists than there are important fossils in the world. To make a name for yourself is to find a new interpretation for those fossils that are extant. This always goes against some earlier person’s interpretation, who will not like it very much.
There are many other areas of science where we can agree to disagree, but at least we often generally agree on what data we need to go out and collect to resolve the issue and no one wants to come out too strongly on one side or the other because the data could, in a year or two, prove you are wrong.
But in paleontology you can’t decide what you will find. You can not in most cases go out and test your hypothesis in a directed way. It’s almost like social anthropology or politics — you can only win by somehow yelling louder than the other person or sounding more convincing.
Hat tip: Pos-Darwinista
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