Re: origin of life and such

Keith B Miller (kbmill@ksu.edu)
Tue, 15 Dec 1998 22:22:52 -0600

Robin asked:

>b) Is the human evo. tree really as confused as some say? Does anyone have
>a order of the known species that stands up? I saw a art. in Discover today
>that seemed to even concede that the Australopithecine A.Afarensis sequence
>is doubtful.The data on this subject is arranged to support or deny evol.
>depending on the source. Either someone is misleading or the data is super
>ambiguous.

Human evolution is not my area of expertise, but it can be approached in
the same manner as any other transition within the fossil record. While
there are some significant gaps in the fossil evidence so far obtained, the
record is still quite good. It is easy to get side-tracked from the
evidence with all the alternative scenarios being argued. I find it very
helpful to become familiar with the actual fossil material, both what
fossils are known and their ages. An excellent source is the book "From
Lucy to Language" by Donald Johanson and Blake Edgar. This book has
beautiful photo documentation of all the primary specimens. By connecting
abstract arguments to the actual specimens it makes the nature of the
dissagreements within the scientific community come into clearer focus.
One important distinction is that reconstructing general evolutionary
patterns and trends is much easier than trying to reconstruct precise
ancestor/descendant lineages. Often disagreements about the best
reconstruction for hominid lineages within the scientific community are
seen by opponents of evolution as evidence that the fossil record does not
support any evolutionary pattern. This is simply not true.

Keith

Keith B. Miller
Department of Geology
Kansas State University
Manhattan, KS 66506
kbmill@ksu.ksu.edu
http://www-personal.ksu.edu/~kbmill/