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Todd Wood: New findings on homo Naledi?


Comments on a new study on the phylogeny of Homo naledi published today in the August issue of Journal of Human Evolution.

For this analysis, Dembo et al. used Bayesian methods to infer the phylogeny. I’ve always been a bit suspicious of Bayesian methods, mostly because of the need for a model for which the probability is known. That’s technically not knowable, but Bayesian methods get around this by drawing model probabilities from a set of “random” models. So it ends up sort of like a bootstrap in traditional parsimony studies. What Bayesian methods get you is the ability to test many more models and model parameters than you could with other phylogenetic methods, and that’s really a big deal. In this new paper, Dembo et al. include a fairly nice summary of Bayesian methods for those already familiar with other phylogenetic methods.

So what is Homo naledi? To date, the most comprehensive creationist analysis says they’re human. The new Dembo et al. study shows that they’re definitely Homo but probably not Homo erectus. Other than that, none of us are very certain. More.

See also: Todd Wood on whether homo Naledi buried their dead

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