Human evolution Intelligent Design

New Scientist: Evolution “more baffling than we thought”

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Every assumption has been called into question over the last fifteen years, Colin Barras tells us:

Do you believe that human brains have been getting steadily bigger for millions of years, culminating in the extraordinary machine between your ears? Think again, because over the past 15 years, almost every part of our story, every assumption about who our ancestors were and where we came from, has been called into question. The new insights have some unsettling implications for how long we have walked the earth, and even who we really are. Once upon a time, the human story seemed relatively straightforward … It began roughly 5.5 to 6.5 million years ago, somewhere in an east African forest, with a chimpanzee-like ape. (paywall) More.

One’s first and probably wisest reaction is not to bet the farm on the new story either. The new story, behind the paywall, covers such topics as

– “layer upon layer of complexity and confusion” around newly discovered species that date back to 5.8–7 million years ago. Humans and chimps, many now think, could have split as early as 13 million years ago.

– It’s not clear that early humans were swinging in the trees. “Ardi” at 4.4 mya was walking upright. Chimps may have gained that ability later.

– Stone tools have been found from 3.3 million years ago. “In any event, determining which hominins evolved into humans is no longer as clear-cut as it once was.”

And so on. An obvious problem is that there just aren’t very many fossils. As Neanderthal genome mapper Svante Paabo has observed, there are more paleontologists than important fossils in the world. This isn’t so much a second draft of human history as a few more notes found on scraps of paper. But any progress in such a case means knocking down numerous false certainties, which is a start.

See also: The Science Fictions series at your fingertips: Human evolution

25 Replies to “New Scientist: Evolution “more baffling than we thought”

  1. 1
    Axel says:

    New Scientist: Evolution “more baffling than we thought”

    But we thought it was only a thought-construct, a theory. Why have you ‘put the cart before the horse’ ? I’ve never heard of a hypothesis being accepted and then thought to be puzzling.

  2. 2
    tribune7 says:

    –Stone tools have been found from 3.3 million years ago.–

    Hmm. How could they determine the stone items were designed tools? I thought determining design was a religious mythological thing and not a scientific one.

  3. 3
    polistra says:

    Linearity is the permanent disease of scientists.

    When you look at the way a gorilla stands and walks, you don’t automatically think “halfway between quadruped and human”. You think “Formerly upright, decided to drop down for better balance.” There’s no way the gorilla’s proportions and joints could have developed PRIMARILY from something like a bear.

  4. 4
    Mung says:

    Evolution is baffling like miracles are baffling. It is therefore rather obvious that we should declare evolution to be a natural phenomenon and miracles to be a supernatural phenomenon. Just don’t ask me why.

  5. 5
    Dionisio says:

    Ok, let’s stop whining, can we?
    All the comments in reaction to this OP show once more that we don’t understand evolution. That’s all. We should learn evo 101 first, then we should be able to understand it well. There are many textbooks we can read out there.
    Let’s stop being so ignorant, ok?
    🙂
    We may learn from the example of professor Tour, who is honest to admit he doesn’t understand it either. If that professor, who knows a few* things about organic chemistry more than any of us, is humble enough to admit his lack of understanding of the evo thing, then what is holding us from doing the same?
    🙂

    (*) a few? yeah, we wish. 🙂

  6. 6
    Dionisio says:

    The OP referenced article talks about the past 15 years, but apparently 8 years ago the authors of the below linked paper –filled with pseudoscientific hogwash– were not baffled.

    Actually they sounded very sure about the whole evo thingy:

    https://www.researchgate.net/profile/David_Reznick/publication/24003449_Darwin%27s_bridge_between_microevolution_and_macroevolution/links/0912f510bfd8e7cb2d000000/Darwins-bridge-between-microevolution-and-macroevolution.pdf

    Are the authors of the following paper asking for a revision of the Darwinian ideas?

    http://rsfs.royalsocietypublis.....5.full.pdf

  7. 7
  8. 8
    Dean_from_Ohio says:

    Shorter New Scientist: [Whatever a tribal elder from a Melanesian cargo cult says when he crawls into the Space Shuttle]

    As an antidote: here’s the text of Richard Feynman’s address on Cargo Cult Science, from 1974: https://www.lhup.edu/~DSIMANEK/cargocul.htm

  9. 9
  10. 10
  11. 11
    mike1962 says:

    We have a few scraps of paleontological and archaeological evidence from which to deduce some kind of “evolution.” But nobody knows a damn thing about how brains could possibility “evolve.”

    Somebody ring me when there’s something signicant to be said about that.

  12. 12
  13. 13
    Dionisio says:

    mike1962

    Well, don’t hold your breath while waiting for someone to ring you… it won’t be soon… 🙂

    Well, it depends what you consider significant

    🙂

  14. 14
    Dionisio says:

    Is this New Scientist a pop science journal?

    Then it doesn’t count as serious.

  15. 15
  16. 16

    The more “baffling” evolution becomes, the more faith is required to believe in it. It is a faith-based philosophical belief system.

  17. 17

    Dionisio @ 15: Thanks for sharing that link.

  18. 18
    john_a_designer says:

    What do we mean by evolution? Darwin himself tried to avoid the word. Apparently he thought the term evolution was implicitly teleological.

    There are two basic possibilities: evolution is either guided or unguided.

    Naturalists/ materialists believe that “evolution” is unguided. But is this something they know or is it just what they believe? If it’s the former, how do they know? Is it something which is self-evidently true? If it is then prove that it is.

  19. 19
    ET says:

    john_a_designer:

    There are two basic possibilities: evolution is either guided or unguided.

    It’s both. Unguided evolution gives us genetic diseases and deformities whereas guided evolution gives us nylonase, beak differences and all other adaptations. 😎

  20. 20
    john_a_designer says:

    I was referring to evolution in the overall “macro” sense. Is life and human existence just a “lucky” accident? If it is, can you prove that it is?

  21. 21
    ET says:

    There isn’t even a methodology to test the concept that unguided evolution produced the diversity of life on earth.

  22. 22
    PaV says:

    Another day; another bad day for Darwinism!

  23. 23
    J-Mac says:

    @Truth Will Set You Free

    “The more “baffling” evolution becomes, the more faith is required to believe in it. It is a faith-based philosophical belief system.

    Good point! However, even faith has to make some sense…
    If it doesn’t, adding more faith will not make it true but rather blind…

  24. 24
    Axel says:

    From the first time I read that ‘scientists’ had equated the size of the brain with the same creature’s level of intelligence, I found it breath-takingly stupid. Something only an infant with the most limited knowledge could imagine.

    Later, I even read that some half-wit had stolen Einstein’s brain… for research purposes…. ! Truly, truth is stranger than fiction. Ironically, he might well have had a string of degrees. Although I think through ‘burning the midnight oil’, rather than native intelligence.

    Yours is a very amusing post, J-Mac. But how can these posts not be ? It’s all so wall-to-wall, I feel like a groundling who’ll laugh at any nonsense, when I read them, so dificult is it, to remain straight-faced and soberly pensive at the seemingly endless folly of the materialists.

  25. 25
    Axel says:

    ‘ You think “Formerly upright, decided to drop down for better balance.”

    Interesting that you should have mentioned that, polistra. It occurred to me recently that the reason old geezers, such as myself, tend to walk hunched forward was precisely that : to prevent myself from fallng over backwards !

    It doesn’t speak well of our nous, does it, that our autonomic intelligence is so much smarter than ourselves, at least, on occasions.

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