Re: Skulls point to early human migration out of Africa

From: Stephen E. Jones (
Date: Tue May 16 2000 - 10:52:20 EDT

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    Here are some excerpts from CNN from 1-12 May 2000, with my
    comments in square brackets.


    ===================================================== CNN ...
    Skulls point to early human migration out of Africa. Partial human-like
    skulls found in the Republic of Georgia were dated as the oldest human
    ancestors ever found outside of Africa May 12, 2000 ... WASHINGTON
    (Reuters) -- Three skulls dug from under a mediaeval Georgian town and
    dating back 1.7 million years may represent the first pre-humans who
    migrated out of Africa and into Europe ... The skulls look like those of
    early humans who lived in East Africa at the same time, and a wealth of
    tools found at the site look like tools made by the African pre-humans.
    ...This is surprising because archaeologists had believed the species of
    hominid, called Homo ergaster, was too primitive to have made the long
    and difficult journey from African savanna to the challenging terrain of
    Europe. "These constitute the first well-documented humans that came out
    of Africa," ... "We suggest that these hominids may represent the same
    species that initially dispersed from Africa and from which the Asian branch
    of H. erectus was derived," ... "We are dealing with people who are very
    closely related to folks in East Africa at the time," ... The finding suggests
    the hominids moved quickly out of Africa across the Levant, what is now
    Syria and Lebanon, into Turkey and up into Georgia. ... Homo ergaster
    falls in between the more primitive Homo habilis and Homo erectus, a
    robust creature with advanced stone tools that just about everyone thought
    was the first to move out of Africa to populate Asia and Europe. It had
    been assumed that hominids had to develop more physically and
    technologically to make the jump out of Africa into the strange and
    extreme terrain of Eurasia .... "In my mind, also, they were advanced in
    ways that don't show up in their stone tools," .... This would include the
    use of wood, but also social development. ... The hominids would have had
    to be organized to survive at 3,000 feet elevation, where it snows heavily in
    winter. "We are not in Africa at all," ... And there would have been lots of
    them. "It looks like this was a pretty substantial occupation. These people
    made a lot of tools," .... "It raises the issue of were these people hunters."
    Susan Anton ... thinks it is probable. "... during that time in Africa, the
    savanna is expanding and there is a greater availability of 'protein on the
    hoof'," ... "With the appearance of Homo, we see bigger bodies that require
    more energy to run, and therefore need these higher quality sources of
    protein as fuel." ... The researchers had a run of luck, first in finding that
    the site, at Dmanisi, about 50 miles southwest of Tblisi, was so intact. "It
    was a very nice surprise to find these skulls," ... They were in good enough
    condition to compare them with East African finds, ... And the site ... built
    on layers of basalt laid down during volcanic activity 1.85 million years
    ago, offered many clues as to its age. One was provided by the periodic
    flip-flopping of the Earth's magnetic poles, which leaves a record in the
    rock. "We know that 1.78 million years ago the poles shifted from normal
    to reverse," .... The basalt is "normal" but the deposits on top which
    contain the artifacts and remains, are reversed. This geomagnetic evidence
    helped them check the other evidence provided by traditional dating of
    layers and by radiographic dating. The dates alone would make the
    hominids the first in Europe. "I don't think anyone, pushed into a corner,
    would say these are the first, because someone will always come along next
    week and find something even older," .... "We don't want to get into a 'first'
    game." ... [I like the modesty, which is a refreshing contrast to the usual
    paleoanthropological hype. At 1.7 mya in Georgia, this is an entirely
    different story to the Yahoo! one I posted the other day at: about
    125,000-year-old tools unearthed on the Red Sea coast of Eritrea in East
    Africa. This Georgian find may force a `demotion' of Homo erectus and a
    `promotion' of H. ergaster, although I thought that the latter was already
    regarded as more advanced than H. erectus?] CNN
    ... Sue fossil provides insights into T. rex's behavior and diet Paleontologist
    Chris Brochu poses in front of a projected CT scan from the
    Tyrannosaurus Rex fossil named Sue May 11, 2000 ... CT-scanning of the
    desk-sized skull of Sue, the most complete T. rex fossil ever found,
    suggests the supreme carnivore in North America 65 million years ago had
    acute senses. Its forward-pointing eyes provided a wide field of view, and
    ear structures suggest it could hear well. But Sue's key advantage was
    smell. Its olfactory bulbs were grapefruit-sized. The dinosaur "smelled its
    way through life," ... ... it was unlikely that the bones, however complete,
    would settle key debates about the superstar of dinosaurs. Among them: T.
    rex's color and vocalizations, whether it was warm-blooded, hunter or
    scavenger, male or female. ... He believes the Sue fossil is an older female.
    Sue has a wider pelvis that would accommodate egg-laying. And, similar to
    crocodile anatomy, she lacks an extra bone that male crocs and smaller,
    presumably male T. rex skeletons both have. ... Sue's teeth are foot-long
    cylinders with serrated edges. Her stomach contents included acid-etched
    bones of a duckbilled dinosaur. Other T. rex remains include bones from
    triceratops and other plentiful herbivores. A T. rex gulped everything and
    relied on a powerful digestive tract to process bone and horn. In the
    movies, T. rex is a solitary killer. But many scientists believe the real-life
    carnivores hunted in packs. ... How did Sue die? .... The left side of the
    skull is smashed, with holes along her jaw. Brochu doubts it is evidence of
    a fatal encounter. The holes don't line up with the bite of a T. rex, he said.
    Larson disagrees. "In her last fight she didn't do so well," ... [It is
    interesting that they still don't know if T. rex was just a scavenger.]
    CNN ... Cockroaches, slugs and snails feel pain, study says May 11,
    2000 ... LONDON (Reuters) -- New studies showing that slugs, snails and
    cockroaches suffer pain may prompt humans to tiptoe around the animal
    kingdom. The research, the subject of a meeting Thursday organized by the
    British charity Universities Federation for Animal Welfare, boosts lobby
    groups that argue that animals have emotions. "People who think insects
    do not feel any pain may be wrong," ... "Perhaps people should think twice
    before reaching for the fly spray." ... Dr. Chris Sherwin ... said insects
    reacted much like cats and dogs in their aversion to electric shocks. "If it is
    a chimp, we say it feels pain, if a fly, we do not. Why?" ... Studies carried
    out at Cambridge University discovered that cows can react emotionally.
    Another study revealed that sheep, in defiance of their dumb image, can
    distinguish one person from another. ... [That insects and even plants react
    to stimuli does not necessarily mean that it experiencing "pain" as we
    humans experience it. But it seems a reasonable assumption that the closer
    the nervous system is to ours, the more likely it is the pain resembles ours.]
    CNN ... Master genes for flowers could make brighter plants May 10, 2000
    .... LONDON (Reuters) -- American and German scientists said
    Wednesday they had discovered the master genes that regulate the
    development of flowers which could be used to produce new colorful
    varieties of plants. ... biologists ... identified a trio of genes that produce
    flowers within flowers. This plant abnormality, called the "double flower,"
    has puzzled geneticists. When the three nearly identical genes are all
    mutated, they produce the repetitive effect that continues indefinitely ...
    The genes are essential for the four rings, or whorls, of flowers. Sepals are
    the outermost ring. Inside the sepals is a ring of petals, then the ring of
    stamens, the male reproductive structures and at the center are the carpels
    or female organs. When the trio of genes are all mutated, all the rings are
    converted to sepals, causing the double flower ... By turning on the genes
    in leaves, where they are normally turned off, the researchers said they may
    be able to produce different varieties of plants. "This could well make for
    some very interesting new plant varieties that have, for example, colorful
    petals replacing the normal leaves," he added. [Another example of master
    genes with the latent potential to make everything when switched on. This
    supports a mediate progressive creation model where genes are prepared in
    advance but masked, and then switched on when needed. This might help
    explain Darwin's famous complaint that: "The rapid development as far as
    we can judge of all the higher plants within recent geological times is an
    abominable mystery" (Darwin C., letter to J. D. Hooker, 22 July 1879)]
    CNN ... Astronomers find evidence of eight objects orbiting distant stars ...
    May 9, 2000 ... WASHINGTON (AP) -- European astronomers say they
    have found evidence of eight planet-like objects orbiting distant stars,
    bringing to 43 the number of extrasolar system planets that have been
    found. An astronomy team from the Geneva Observatory reported finding
    six planet-sized objects and two more massive objects orbiting stars up to
    140 light years away from Earth. The planets range in size from a mass
    slightly less than Saturn, to about 15 times more massive than Jupiter.
    Jupiter is about 317 times more massive than the Earth and Saturn is about
    95 times more massive. Two of the new extra solar system objects are
    large enough to be classified as brown dwarfs. ... Extra solar system planets
    are discovered by measuring the motion of the host stars. The gravitational
    tug of a companion object causes a central star to wobble slightly. By
    measuring this motion, astronomers can determine the mass of a planet-like
    body and its distance from the central star ... The first extra solar system
    planet, or exoplanet, was found in 1995, and astronomers at centers in
    Europe and in the United States have been steadily adding new discoveries
    ever since. ... [More on exoplanets. This is another example of how is not
    necessary for a cause to be itself observable, but only its presumed effects,
    for it to be regarded as science. Demarcation criteria that intelligent design
    is not science because the Designer is not observable therefore fail.]
    CNN ... Conservationists warn that many primate species could vanish
    immediately These five rare primate species are among those teetering on
    the brink of oblivion May 9, 2000 ... Dozens of primate species are
    teetering on the brink of oblivion in a new extinction emergency that has
    left scientists astonished and angry ... No primate has gone extinct in the
    20th century. It was a remarkable feat of endurance for humankind's closest
    relatives at a time when 100 species -- especially cats, bats, insects and
    birds were vanishing every day. But what had been hailed as a conservation
    triumph is beginning to look like a sad illusion. ... Deforestation, poaching
    blamed for decline ... New estimates suggest that 10 percent of the world's
    608 primate species and subspecies on three continents are critically
    imperiled. Renewed surges of deforestation and poaching in the 1990s, as
    well as shrinking genetic diversity, suddenly are thinning the ranks of many
    species to just a few hundred individuals, or a few dozen. At any moment,
    they could vanish forever. .... In a few cases, scientists aren't even sure if a
    species still exists ... Primates are the highest order of mammals. Besides
    humans, they include apes, monkeys and prosimians, a suborder that
    includes more primitive lemurs and tarsiers. Primates have been in
    worsening trouble for decades as the world's human population crashed the
    6 billion barrier .... Researchers blame recent losses primarily on political
    unrest and commercial exploitation of the creatures' habitats ... Among the
    hardest hit species are orangutans and gibbons. .. In Africa, the biggest
    threat is poaching. Conservationists say hunters are slaughtering entire
    populations to supply urban markets with exotic meat. ...gorillas now are
    split into two species -- eastern and western -- and further divided into five
    subspecies. Scientists declared 200 gorillas living along the Nigeria-
    Cameroon border to belong to a new subspecies named the Cross River
    gorilla. ... See also: [At
    least *one* of Darwin's predictions looks like coming true: "At some future
    period, not very distant as measured by centuries, the civilised races of man
    will almost certainly exterminate, and replace, the savage races throughout
    the world. At the same time the anthropomorphous apes, as Professor
    Schaaffhausen has remarked,* will no doubt be exterminated. The break
    between man and his nearest allies will then be wider, for it will intervene
    between man in a more civilised state, as we may hope, even than the
    Caucasian, and some ape as low as a baboon, instead of as now between
    the negro or Australian and the gorilla." (Darwin C., "Descent of Man,"
    _06.html :-(]
    CNN ... Earth Matters: Pollinator decline puts world food supply at risk,
    experts warn Honeybees, the primary pollinator for many food plants, have
    seen a drastic decrease in numbers May 5, 2000 ... Domestic honeybees
    have lost as many as one-third of their Hives and their wild cousins have
    become virtually extinct in many places around the world. A variety of
    troubles threaten the pollinators: Endless waves of development destroy
    nesting and feeding grounds; pesticides decimate them along with other
    beneficial insects. Agribusiness increasingly treats honeybees as a mass
    commodity, exposing them to uncontrollable plagues of pests, introduced
    through human error. ... The cardon, largest cactus on earth, is pollinated
    by the lesser longnosed bat Each spring, the deserts of northern Mexico
    come alive. The centerpiece is the cardon. At heights sometimes over 60
    feet, it's the largest cactus on Earth. The cardon serves as a supermarket
    for the desert neighborhood, offering food and nectar to a diverse
    population of animals. But for a long time, no one knew what pollinated
    the cardon. Turns out it was neither the birds nor the bees but a flying
    mammal that arrives under cover of darkness: the lesser longnosed bat.
    When the cactus flower meets the tiny bat, the fit and the transfer of pollen
    are perfect. With each drink, the bat carries away thousands of pollen
    grains to be transported to the next flowering giant. The grains are
    obtained via a tongue that's as long as the bat's entire body. The tongue has
    a brushy tip with fibers on the end than enable it to act like a mop ... In the
    spring, the pregnant bats follow the wave of the cardon bloom northward.
    After bearing their young, they head south, fueled this time by flowering
    agave plants. If the gaps between food patches become too large, this
    ancient cycle could fail. The bats face increasing competition for agave
    from humans, who use the plant's roots as the source for mescal and
    tequila. ... Combine that with increased development wiping out vegetation
    along the coast near Acapulco, and another link is lost in the bats' nectar
    chain. For the bats to survive, their food plants must be preserved along
    their entire migration route. If the gaps between islands of habitat get too
    big, the bats could starve to death. ... [Darwinians would presumably claim
    that originally the lesser longnosed bat and the cardon cactus flower were a
    less than perfect fit, but there were a successive stream of genetic
    variations in *both* bat and flower which favoured a better and better fit?
    A factor in this might be that no other pollinator exists, so there should be
    strong selective pressure favouring an increasing better fit. It would be
    interesting to know if there is any fossil or other evidence (e.g. near
    relatives of both) that the bat's tongue and the cactus' flower were once not
    such a perfect fit and gradually converged on each other. Even if such
    evidence was found, there is probably no way of knowing how many
    genetic variations there were and if they were random. The Darwinists'
    claim is that the environment, via natural selection, `pumps' genetic
    information into the genome. But here the environment seems to be playing
    little or no part. Any information that is being added is being done so by
    already information-rich sources, namely the flower and the bat. Finally, if
    this is a prime example of Darwinian adaptation at work, it is going
    nowhere and doing neither species any good in the long run. They are now
    so over-specialised that they are probably both headed for extinction when
    the environment changes.]
    CNN ... Physicists: Earth weighs less than previously thought May 1, 2000
    ... LONG BEACH, California (AP) -- Using a new, precise measurement
    of the force of gravity, physicists have recalculated the mass of the Earth
    and determined the planet is a bit lighter than previously thought. The new
    estimate is that the third rock from the sun has a mass of 5.972 sextillion
    metric tons, or 5,972 followed by 18 zeros. Textbooks currently list the
    mass at 5.978 sextillion metric tons. ... The new measurement stems from a
    recalculation of the force of gravity, a constant represented by the big letter
    "G." It is one of three fundamental numbers that physicists believe are
    consistent across the universe. But in recent years, different measurements
    of G have produced wildly different results, raising the level of uncertainty.
    ... To arrive at the new constant, the Washington physicists refined an
    experiment first developed in the 18th century. A device called a torsion
    balance recorded the effects of the gravity of four stainless steel balls on a
    gold-coated plate. If the new value is accepted, it would reduce the
    uncertainty of G by a factor of 100. But the University of Washington
    researchers warned their findings are preliminary and subject to change. ...
    [And I thought it was *me* who had lost weight! :-)]
    CNN ... Australia disputes U.S. listing koalas as endangered Australian
    officials say adding the koala to the U.S. endangered species list is
    unnecessary May 10, 2000 ... CANBERRA, Australia (Reuters) --
    Australia criticized a decision by the United States on Wednesday to list
    the nation's native cuddly marsupial, the koala, under U.S. endangered
    species laws. Environment Minister Robert Hill said the decision by the
    U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service was "inappropriate and unnecessary" and
    ignored scientific data on the abundance of koalas in Australia. "All
    Australian states and territories where koalas occur have legislation
    protecting the species," .... "The U.S. decision will not contribute to the
    conservation of the species in Australia." ... The U.S. Fish and Wildlife
    Service said it hoped to raise awareness of the plight of koalas, a tourist's
    favourite, by listing them as threatened under the U.S. Endangered Species
    Act and prohibiting their trade by anyone subject to American law. ... The
    U.S. listing followed a petition from environmental lobby group Australia
    for Animals and its U.S. based affiliate, Fund for Animals. "However it
    does not take into account the conservation and wildlife management
    strategies in place in Australia," Hill said. Conservation programmes in
    Australia since the 1930s have protected koalas from hunters, who once
    killed them for their fur. Populations estimates now range from 40,000 to
    400,000 across the country but human encroachment and ensuing changes
    in the koala's habitats have been blamed for recent population drops.
    Nearly two-thirds of the eucalyptus forest and woodland ecosystem on
    which the koala depends has been lost, the Fish and Wildlife Service said.
    [There seems to be an urban myth in the rest of the world that koalas are
    on the verge of extinction. The fact is that they are now so numerous that
    wildlife officers have recommended permission to cull them for their own
    good! There is a related myth that koalas will only eat leaves from one
    species of eucalypt tree. The fact is that they will eat leaves from about
    eight different species of eucalypt trees. There is no doubt koalas
    habitat has been diminished due to clearing for farming. But OTOH
    they are no longer hunted by man, as they had been for 40,000 years.
    This seems to me to be just another example of `selective greenism'.
    There are plenty of Australian species under far more danger of extinction
    than the koala, but they don't look like the greenies' childhood teddy-bears!]

    "When adaptation is considered to be the result of natural selection under
    the pressure of the struggle for existence, it is seen to be a relative
    condition rather than an absolute one. Even though a species may be
    surviving and numerous, and therefore may be adapted in an absolute
    sense, a new form may arise that has a greater reproductive rate on the
    same resources, and it may cause the extinction of the older form. The
    concept of relative adaptation removes the apparent tautology in the theory
    of natural selection. Without it the theory of natural selection states that
    fitter individuals have more offspring and then defines the fitter as being
    those that leave more offspring; since some individuals will always have
    more offspring than others by sheer chance, nothing is explained. ...
    Unfortunately the concept of relative adaptation also requires the ceteris
    paribus assumption, so that in practice it is not easy to predict which of
    two forms will leave more offspring." (Lewontin R.C., "Adaptation,"
    Scientific American, Vol. 239, No. 3, pp.157-169, September 1978,
    Stephen E. Jones | |

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