Brace's review of Tattersall's new book

From: Glenn Morton (
Date: Wed Jan 16 2002 - 23:55:25 EST

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    I may regret it, and many here who have had peace with me gone will also
    regret it, but I have resubscribed since I have a few conversations going
    and with this one.

    Marco Pie wrote
    >I just came across this review of Tattersall's new book "The Monkey in the
    >Mirror; Essays on the Science of What Makes Us Human" by C. Loring Brace:
    >Although I didn't read the book myself, I was surprised by the number of
    >Tattersall's "unorthodox" ideas about evolutionary processes.

    Brace wrote:
    "In his view, then, the hominid fossil record should have been the product
    of at least twenty different species, all but one of which has become
    extinct. "

    This is one of the things I have worried about Tattersall. He lets his
    presuppositions get in the way of his data. This is why he and Schwartz
    decided that some anomailies they thought they saw (or made up) in the noses
    of Neanderthals qualified them for different species status. Of course to
    claim that nasal differences require us to be different species, if appllied
    to other traits, would force us to conclude that chinese and Europeans are a
    different species! And then there is the problem of whether or not he is a
    very capable observer. This is from PNAS:

    Vol. 96, Issue 4, 1805-1809, February 16, 1999

    Neandertal nasal structures and upper
    respiratory tract "specialization"

    (human evolution / Late Pleistocene / nasal morphology)

    Robert G. Franciscus*

    Department of Anthropology, University of Iowa, Iowa City,
    IA 52242

    Communicated by Erik Trinkaus, Washington University, St.
    Louis, MO, December 11, 1998
    (received for review November 11, 1998)

    Schwartz and Tattersall [Schwartz, J. H. & Tattersall, I. (1996) Proc.
    Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 93, 10852-10854] have argued for a previously
    unrecognized suite of autapomorphies in the internal nasal region of
    Neandertals that make them unique, not only among hominids, but possibly
    among all other terrestrial mammals. These purported autapomorphies
    include (i) the development of an internal nasal margin bearing a well
    developed and vertically oriented medial projection; (ii) a pronounced
    medial swelling of the lateral nasal wall into the posterior nasal cavity;
    and (iii) the lack of an ossified roof over the lacrimal groove. In
    addition, Laitman et al. [Laitman, J. T., Reidenberg, J. S., Marquez, S. &
    Gannon, P. J. (1996) Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 93, 10543-10545] pointed to
    these features as evidence for upper respiratory tract specializations
    among the Neandertals, indicating potential differences in behavior
    compared with modern humans. Critically reviewing the anatomical basis for
    Schwartz and Tattersall's contentions reveals several serious problems with
    their analysis, including (i) reliance on specimens with damaged,
    incomplete, or, in some cases, entirely absent relevant anatomy; (ii)
    failure to consider primary vs. secondary spatial consequences in nasal
    trait conceptualization; and (iii) failure to consider actual ranges of
    variation in these traits in both fossil and recent humans. Accordingly,
    the unique phylogenetic and adaptive "specializations" attributed to
    Neandertal internal nasal structures are unwarranted.

     His views are not really well respected, even among the anthropologists who
    agree with him on some of the fundamental errors. When Tattersall criticized
    the Neanderthal hybrid child found in Portugal, a rather famous
    anthropologist who believes that there was little breeding between
    Neanderthals and moderns felt that Tattersall had made up the data and he
    told me that he frankly didn't trust the man in spite of being on the same
    side of the argument.

    I will say, though, Tattersall is a good writer as Brace notes.

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