Saturday, 22 April 2017

The Little 'Hobbit' is a Big Problem for Creationists

An artist's impression of Homo floresiensis based on recent research. Dubbed a human "hobbit", the species of humanoid was about a metre tall and died out about 54,000 years ago.
Photo credit: ANU
© 2017 Katrina Kenny (CC-BY 4.0)
Origins of Indonesian hobbits finally revealed:

In its slow, methodical way, science shed a little more light on one of the mysteries of the evolution of the hominid family tree - the origin of the so-called hobbit, Homo floresiensis. The remains of H. floresiensis were found in a cave in Liang Bua in the Indonesian island of Flores in 2003. Initially, they were thought to be about 12,000 years old but later analysis has pushed this back to about 50,000 years.

The mystery isn't so much now how they came to be still living in isolation up to 12,000 years ago or why they are so small, being only about 1 metre tall, but where they fit in the hominid evolutionary tree and how they got to Flores Island.

Now a team from The Australian National University (ANU) has carried out a detailed statistical analysis and has concluded that features such as the primitive jaw indicate that H. floresiensis did not, as has been proposed, evolve in isolation from the much larger H. erectus but from a common ancestor with H. habilis, the ancestor of H. erectus. Regrettably, their paper, published in the Journal of Human Evolution, is not open access and the publishers, Elsevier Science, want £23.37 for the right to reprint the abstract here.

Photo credit: ANU
© 2017 Katrina Kenny (CC-BY 4.0)
The suggestion now is that H. floresiensis was a sister species of H. habilis that either evolved in Africa and migrated out or evolved from an earlier migration of this common ancestor. The small stature can of course be explained by the common phenomenon of island miniaturisation, Flores Island itself being home to a now-extinct pygmy elephant.

Something like Homo habilis spread out of Africa 2 million years ago, changing as it went through tropical Asia to become a separate species on Flores. We don't know when as we lack the fossils.

Professor Colin Groves, co-author.
This is entirely consistent with thinking I reported on in 2013, that H. floresiensis might even be descended from a pre-hominid Australopithecine because H. habilis takes us back close to the transition of an Australopithecine into what taxonomists classify as Homo. In reality, of course, there never was a point at which Homo ancestors suddenly became Homo.

This also means that there was an earlier migration of a hominid out of Africa in addition to the migration of H. erectus and later H. sapiens.

I wonder how creationists cope with the evidence of H. floresiensis existing at all, let alone this evidence that it was the descendent of a species close to the divergence of an Australopithecine such as A. afarensis into the earliest Homo species.

Or maybe they conclude that their creator god put H. floresiensis, fully formed, on Flores Island. Perhaps a creationist would like to tell me whether they regard the Hobbit as a human or an ape, or some intermediate species, or maybe even a failed experiment by their creator god when practising to make proper humans.

Debbie Argue, Colin P. Groves, Michael S.Y. Lee, William L. Jungers
The affinities of Homo floresiensis based on phylogenetic analyses of cranial, dental, and postcranial characters
Journal of Human Evolution, 21 April 2017 DOI: 10.1016/j.jhevol.2017.02.006

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  1. Hi mate. You might be able to get through the paywall legally via this:

  2. How do the scientists know that this is related Homo sapiens at all. It may well be another apelike creator that lived on the earth, like dinosaurs, lived at one time. All of these findings are still purely hypothetical, no concert proof! Doesn't science pride itself on concrete proof? Yet they do not have it nailed down. Many species or kinds have lived and died on this planet with no connection to each other. Today there is a species of cat that completely looks like another cat, yet they are two different creatures when the DNA was examined.

    1. Are there any other examples of such a high degree of convergent evolution? Your use of the word 'proof', when proof is not a scientific concept betrays you lack of familiarity with how science works. Please present your evidence that there have been many species with no connection to any others, and please provide a citation for your cat claim, or explain why you are bearing false witness.


    2. You write about ONE episode in which scientists corrected themselves when they had more data. There are millions of other episodes in which scientists have been proven correct over and over again, and many others where they have updated their knowledge when they discover they were incorrect. This proves their dedication to "concrete proof". If only the religious were prepared to change their views when they had new data, the world would be a better place.

      When you can provide any proof whatsoever that a god created the universe and everything in it you might have a leg to stand on. In the meantime, there is vastly more proof for everything that Rosa writes about than any of the imaginings that come from creationists and intelligent design believers.

    3. And I don't need to invent stories about cats with entirely different DNA because I have real facts I can use...


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