Re: homo species

J. Moore (
Tue, 18 Jul 95 10:47:00 -0500

RH> >Having studied the brain endocats of Neandertals, I still
RH> >cannot understand anything about the morphology that would lead me to
RH> >believe they were a different species than ourselves. As for the rest
RH> >of
RH> >the morphology, I would expect differences as between Bushmen and
RH> >Australian aborigines, or Eskimos and Ituri forrest Pygmies, etc, to be
RH> >about of the same dimensionality.

Pn> I was trained to regard neandertal variation as subspecific but began to
Pn> question that after reading Ian Tattersall's paper in JHE on species
Pn> recognition in the hominid fossil record and, well, it just made a lot
Pn> of damn sense. I mean that much variation in any other animal would
Pn> result in a species level separation.

Pn> If we assume that species are real entities and not just arbitary
Pn> divisions of a lineage then we must accept the fact that among living
Pn> organisms there is no direct relationship between morophological
Pn> variation and speciation. Therefore, as Tattersall points out, we more
Pn> likely to be underestimating the number of species we see in the fossil
Pn> record.

I'm not picking on you, Phil, but that statement is, I feel, the
crux of the problem in paleoanthropology: the "if this", "then
that". I just don't buy it. We *do not* have to accept such a
"false fact", and to assume we must, as is often done, simply
denies that we cannot hope to know as much about fossil creatures
as we can about living creatures. We can see an awful lot in
fossils and artifacts, along with all the other relatedness data
and animal models, etc., but there's just no way in hell we can
possibly know as much about an extinct being as a living one.

RH> >expect to see your position become popular with time. Until the damn
RH> >things are discovered frozen in blocks of ice, and we can test the DNA
RH> >and perhaps experiment with the frozen sperm and eggs, we simply won't
RH> >ever know for sure. Ditto with language origins, sexual behavior, etc.,
RH> etc.

Even then, because of the way that beings develop, we wouldn't
know "for sure", since they wouldn't be developing in their world
with their people's background habits and knowledge. Interesting
problem, eh?

Pn> I blame it on that dreadful "Clan of the Cave Bear" book.

Jean Auel simply used what has been "common knowledge"; the
inaccuracies are not hers per se, but have been introduced by
experts over the years.

Jim Moore (

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