July 19, 2007

When you have a skull...

...everything starts looking like a nail...er, or something. Interesting story on the debate over whether modern homo sapiens evolved in one place and dispersed, or evolved in multiple places. Not being a specialist, I tend to prefer the single spot origin--even the single individual origin (imagined quite well in a passage in this book).

I like John Hawks' very measured response to the claim of single origin proponents that they've proved their case:

“I’m really thinking just the opposite of this paper,” Hawks said. “There are differences in the skull between populations, including their variability, but it is mostly due to very recent effects and not the origin of modern humans.”

At the end of the day, a resolution to the "Out of Africa" debate may be impossible, he said. Most of the evidence can be interpreted as supporting both human-origins theories. “It’s really hard to find observations that distinguish the two,” Hawks said.

“The multiregional idea is identical to the recent African origin idea, except for its prediction that Europeans and Asians were part of the single population of origin and didn’t become extinct.”

In any case, I think measuring skulls is a fine hobby. I have a replica of a neanderthal skull here at ideofact corporate headquarters, complete with Harvard baseball cap, that stares over my shoulder as I type...

Posted by Ideofact at July 19, 2007 01:07 AM