Re: An alternative to ST and AAT

Tom Clarke (
3 Dec 1996 09:11:40 -0500

Phillip Bigelow <> writes:

>Thomas Clarke wrote:
>> In article <> Phillip Bigelow <> writes:
>> >1) Collection of raw data (on-going)
>> > How many different species of each hominid can we find?

>> You omit one thing. How do you go about finding new fossils?

>The usual practice in paleontology is to:

>1) Find sedimentary rocks of the appropriate age.
>2) Determine what processes deposited these rocks. Then,
>3) If one is looking for land vertebrates,
> then lacustrine and fluvial and aeolian and
> floodplain deposits are the
> preferred rock facies to prospect.
>4) If one is looking for aquatic verts. then scratch
> aeolian and floodplain deposits, and just search lacustrine
> and fluvial. The paleoenvironment of marine verts is pretty self-
> explainatory.

Sure. But Leakey didn't look in America for Hominids despite the
presence of rocks of the appropriate ages. He had other evidence,
other theries that led him to believe that Hominids would only
be found in Africa.

>From what I know of the history of P.a, few Hominid fossils
were found by searchers just looking for land vertebrates.
They were specifically looking for Hominid fossils.
At the very least their funders (e.g National Geographic) backed
them because they were likely to find Hominids among all the
other fossils that they would uncover.

>> >2) Analysis of the raw data (on-going, and much to be done)
>> ... list of practical research questions omitted for brevity ..

>> Also, I think the existence of your list implies that hominid
>> fossils are "special". After all they are the fossils of your
>> most immediate "ancestors".

>Hominid fossils aren't any more special than is a good-quality fossil
>Desmatophocinae skull, as far as I am concerned.

I'm sure that makes your colleagues happy, but how does
a Desmatophocinae skull play at a cocktail party?

>My interests are in verts' OTHER than hominid. I was simply suggesting
>a list of appropriate questions that can be addressed by analyzing
>hard data (fossil evidence). *Some* speculation is required in science,
>but I get really bored with excessive speculation.

Maybe PA is too small a field. IN physics those who are bored by
speculation become experimentalists, those who can't get enough
become theorists. But it probably takes a big body of researchers
to support such a division.

Be careful of your dual use of the word "hard". Yes fossils are
hard in the Moh sense, but whether they are the only hard (rigorous)
source of data about evolution is another question.

>That is why
>I tend to stress fossil evidence, rather than the pervasive
>tendency of some on this newsgroup to use comparative
>soft-tissue anatomy between modern H.s.s. and hypothetical hominids.
>The soft tissue anatomy of hypothetical hominids, in addition to those
>already-discovered fossil hominids, will never be conclusively

Don't take up cosmology. You'd hate it. The first three minutes
will be forever even less known than Lucy's cup size.

Tom Clarke

There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.
Hamlet - Shakespeare