— The Erimtan Angle —

Archive for the ‘Evolution’ Category

Dawkins and Mehdi Hasan

The well-known atheist Richard Dawkins debates the Al Jazeera journalist Mehdi Hasan, who is clearly out of his depth and apparently unable to imagine a world without purpose or meaning. Published on Jun 21, 2016.

 

Allah-005

Inside Story: A new member of the human family?

‘Scientists say they have uncovered the remains of a new human-like species in South African cave. Patrick Randolph-Quinney, Ashley Kruger and Briana Pobiner talk about the newly discovered Homo naledi. Published on Sep 11, 2015′.

Human-Climate Interactions and Evolution — Past and Future

‘CARTA – Center for Academic Research and Training in Anthropogeny: This symposium presents varied perspectives from earth scientists, ecologists, and paleoanthropologists on how climate may have shaped human evolution, as well as the prospects for the future of world climate, ecosystems, and our species. Elizabeth Hadly begins with a discussion about A Tipping Point: Using the Past to Forecast Our Future, followed by Naomi Oreskes on Human Impacts: Will We Survive the Future?, and Veerabhadran Ramanathan on Climate Change Mitigation: In Pursuit of the Common Good. Recorded on 05/15/2015′.

SciShow: Where Did Humans Come From?

The vlogbrother Hank Green tells us about new and confusing discoveries in the field of Human Evolution (26 Oct 2013).

The “study, mentioned by Hank Green, and “published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, focused on a collection of 1,200 premolars and molars from prehistoric humans. Researchers identified landmarks on the teeth and then reconstructed the tooth shape to model what they thought would be the tooth shape of humans’ common ancestor with Neanderthals. They concluded with high statistical confidence that the common ancestor does not belong to the species previously suggested, including Homo heidelbergensis, H. erectus and H. antecessora”.[1]

But leaving the question of the common ancestor with the Neanderthals aside, ad as written by the Guardian’s science correspondent Ian Sample, the “spectacular fossilised skull of an ancient human ancestor that died nearly two million years ago has forced scientists to rethink the story of early human evolution. Anthropologists unearthed the skull at a site in Dmanisi, a small town in southern Georgia, where other remains of human ancestors, simple stone tools and long-extinct animals have been dated to 1.8m years old. Experts believe the skull is one of the most important fossil finds to date, but it has proved as controversial as it is stunning. Analysis of the skull and other remains at Dmanisi suggests that scientists have been too ready to name separate species of human ancestors in Africa. Many of those species may now have to be wiped from the textbooks. The latest fossil is the only intact skull ever found of a human ancestor that lived in the early Pleistocene, when our predecessors first walked out of Africa. The skull adds to a haul of bones recovered from Dmanisi that belong to five individuals, most likely an elderly male, two other adult males, a young female and a juvenile of unknown sex”.[2]  Tim White, an expert on human evolution at the University of California, Berkeley, stated convincingly that “Some palaeontologists see minor differences in fossils and give them labels, and that has resulted in the family tree accumulating a lot of branches. The Dmanisi fossils [now] give us a new yardstick, and when you apply that yardstick to the African fossils, a lot of that extra wood in the tree is dead wood. It’s arm-waving”.[3]


[1] Zoe Mintz, “Fossil Teeth Study Says Common Ancestor Of Neanderthals And Humans Belongs To ‘Some African Species’” International Business Times (17 October 2013). http://www.ibtimes.com/fossil-teeth-study-says-common-ancestor-neanderthals-humans-belongs-some-african-species-photo.

[2] Ian Sample, “Skull of Homo erectus throws story of human evolution into disarray” The Guardian (17 October 2013). http://www.theguardian.com/science/2013/oct/17/skull-homo-erectus-human-evolution.

[3] Ian Sample, “Skull of Homo erectus throws story of human evolution into disarray”.

Creationism Vs Evolution – Poll

A recent Gallup poll has some depressing facts about Americans and creationism, evolution, and divine intervention. Does the Bible trump science? Is God behind evolution? How many creationists are in America? Ana Kasparian and Cenk Uygur discuss on The Young Turks (9 June 2012).

The Scopes Monkey Trial, 1925

Formally known as The State of Tennessee v. John Thomas Scopes and informally known as the Scopes Monkey Trial—was a landmark American legal case in 1925 in which high school science teacher, John Scopes, was accused of violatingTennessee’s Butler Act which made it unlawful to teach evolution in any state-funded school.

This “legal precedent” has achieved a remarkable status today, due to the continued “debate” between Creationists and Evolutionists . . .

 

Atheist or Agnostic??? Reasonable or Faithful???

I just stumbled across this video on Facebook. It is the astrophysicist Neil De Grasse Tyson explaining his position on the vexing issue of religion: ‘Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson claims the title “scientist” above all other “ists.” And yet, he says he is “constantly claimed by atheists.” So where does he stand? “Neil deGrasse, widely claimed by atheists, is actually an agnostic”’.

Richard Dawkins, “Darwin’s Rottweiler”, famously adheres to the same position, namely that there are certain things which cannot be known – “known unknowns”, as it were – and that he therefore is happy to state that he is an agnostic, adding however, “I think the probability of a supernatural creator existing is very very low”.[1]  It seems to me that admitting that one cannot be sure about the existence of a supernatural deity is but a natural and even logical thing to do . . . The recent phenomenon of New Atheism has produced many outspoken and aggressive atheist who are always talking about their belief in reason, somehow forgetting that the human being is not a reasonable creature. Man is an irrational animal that in the course of its evolution has achieved self-consciousness and a remarkable mastery over the natural world. Following the writings of the famous biologist Desmond Morris, one could describe man as a primate that has acquired carnivorous habits as a result of its changed habitat. From a forest-dwelling ape, happily feeding on freely available vegetables and fruits, man’s ancestor entered the wide open landscape and into competition with carnivorous wolves and big cats to ultimately become the most successful predator dwelling on earth. As a living thing, man’s ultimate fixation is procreation and the acquisition of digestible foodstuffs. Far from being a paragon of rationality, man is constantly subject to his or her sexual urges. Man’s ability to be cognizant of his (or her) own existence does turn him (or her) into a most peculiar animal, but at the end of the day, man is but an animal, man is but a naked ape wearing clothes as a means of controlling his (or her) constantly present sexual urges . . . Man is not controlled by reason, but by his procreational compulsion to ensure the survival of the species and the continuation of certain genetic material . . . and, to paraphrase Freud, civilization is but the outcome of a constant struggle to control the human sex drive . . . or as phrased by Adam Christian, “Freud notes that civilization’s antagonism toward sexuality arises from the necessity work of building communal bonds based on friendship. If the activity of the libido were allowed to run rampant, it would likely destroy the monogamous love-relationship of the couple that society has endorsed as the most stable”.[2]


[1] John Bingham, “Richard Dawkins: I can’t be sure God does not exist” The Telegraph (24 February 2012). http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/religion/9102740/Richard-Dawkins-I-cant-be-sure-God-does-not-exist.html.

[2] Adam Christian, “Chapter 5”, ‘Civilization and Its Discontents Summary and Analysis’. GrAdeSaver. http://www.gradesaver.com/civilization-and-its-discontents/study-guide/section3/.

Something from Nothing, and other Imponderables

Join critically-acclaimed author and evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins and world-renowned theoretical physicist and author Lawrence Krauss as they discuss biology, cosmology, religion, and a host of other topics. The authors will also discuss their new books. Dawkins recently published The Magic of Reality: How We Know What’s Really True,[1] an exploration of the magic of discovery embodied in the practice of science. Written for all age groups, the book moves forward from historical examples of supernatural explanations of natural phenomena to focus on the actual science behind how the world works. Krauss’s latest book, A Universe from Nothing: Why There is Something Rather than Nothing, explains the scientific advances that provide insight into how the universe formed. Krauss tackles the age-old assumption that something cannot arise from nothing by arguing that not only can something arise from nothing, but something will always arise from nothing. Founded in 2008, the ASU Origins Project is a university-wide transdisciplinary initiative aimed at facilitating cutting edge research and inquiry about origins questions, enhancing public science literacy, and improving science education. Since its inception, the Origins Project has brought the world’s leading scientists, including Nobel Prize winners, to Tempe to explore origins questions. The Origins Project has hosted workshops and public events that have focused on questions as fundamental as the origin of the universe, how life began, the origins of human uniqueness, and the origins of morality (14 Feb 2012).

 


[1] Cfr. “The Magic of Reality: Dawkins Returns” A Pseudo-Ottoman Blog (07 November 2011). https://sitanbul.wordpress.com/2011/11/07/the-magic-of-reality-dawkins-returns/.

The Magic of Reality: Dawkins Returns

On the popular website Boing Boing, Cory Doctorow reveals that “Richard Dawkins has a new kids’ book coming out in October 2011 called The Magic of Reality, which explains just how gosh-darned awesome the actual scientifically explained world is, and how wondrous the universe is when considered as a material, non-supernatural phenomenon. And if that wasn’t awesome enough, the book is illustrated by the wonderful Dave McKean”.[1]  Dawkins has been highly critical of the way in which children are being used by religious institutions, and has thus also been most vocal about the injustice of subjecting children to religious indoctrination, or should I say education: “Innocent children are being saddled with demonstrable falsehoods . . . It’s time to question the abuse of childhood innocence with superstitious ideas of hellfire and damnation. Isn’t it weird the way we automatically label a tiny child with its parents’ religion?”.[2]  In his quest to counter the religious indoctrination of ‘innocent children’, he has now finally taken the initiative by means of writing a book aimed at a younger audience, arguably in the hope that parents would choose his book to enlighten their offspring. And here is Dawkins selling his book on Thom Hartman’s radio show (6 Oct 2011) .

Ever since his God Delusion hit the bookshops in 2006, the Oxford professor Dawkins has become a public figure all across the world. As a result, many people have now become aware of his apparently controversial work and thinking. For instance, in Turkey his website was banned due to the machinations of the notorious charlatan Adnan Oktar, who employs the pseudonym Harun Yahya to distribute Islamic Creationist propaganda. The organisation behind Oktar has been active for many years, trying to  convince the gullible that Darwin was a buffoon and the theory of evolution just a theory, or rather a theory which does not explain the emergence of complex forms of life. But not just in Turkey, Dawkins has also become very “popular” in the U.S., as a figure personifying all that is wrong with non-religious people. Many have consequently taken it upon themselves to tell the professor just how wrong he is via e-mail. And here is Professor Dawkins reading his hate-mail . . . the internet is a great leveller indeed, now just about anybody, or rather anybody living in the affluent part of the world where computers are readily available and internet access equally easy to come by, can get in touch with the most learned of scholars, as long as he or she deems the ability to have a publicly accessible e-mail address a virtue. In this respect, Professor Dawkins is most virtuous indeed and he clearly revels in reading what less educated (and more gullible) mortals feel like telling him. We live in interesting times indeed . . .

(2008)

 

(2011)

As for the other side of the equation, here is the well-known YouTuber Laci Green reading her favourite, “brutal” Dawkins quote in one of her videos.

 

(22 April 2008)

Miss Green has since moved on to other pastures, here she is talking about the myth of Adam and Eve in graphic detail.

(12 September 2009)

Here she is, a little bit older and a whole lot wiser, telling the world of her own struggles with God, family, and life as she knows it.

(8 July 2010)

 


[1] Cory Doctorow, “Richard Dawkins’s science book for kids, illustrated by Dave McKean” boingboing (18 May 2011). http://boingboing.net/2011/05/18/richard-dawkinss-sci.html.

[2] “Dawkins: Religion equals ‘child abuse’ Scientist compares Moses to Hitler, calls New Testament ‘sado-masochistic doctrine’” WorldNetDaily (08 January 2006). http://www.wnd.com/?pageId=34248.

The Missing Link??? Australopithecus sediba

A skeleton discovered by a nine-year-old boy near Johannesburg in South Africa is being hailed as one of the most important finds in human archaeology. It is argued the skeleton provides the possible missing link between ape men and the human family and is said by experts to be the most complete skeleton of a human being ever discovered. It has not ended the debate however on how the species evolved. Some scientists argue, “Homo erectus” may have evolved before the skeleton from South Africa’ (29 September 2011).

 

In TIME, Michael Lemonick says that “[e]volution skeptics [also known as Creationists] like to trot out the argument that if  Darwin had been right, scientists would have discovered transitional fossils by now — creatures with a mix of features from earlier and later species. Since they haven’t, the deniers say, evolution must not be true. The truth is that paleontologists have found transitional species by the score, from many different time periods. But none have materialized from as crucial a point in our evolutionary past as a pair of skeletons whose discovery was announced [on 10 April 2010] by the journal Science. The fossils, which have been determined to be of a new species, Australopithecus sediba, were found by Matthew Berger, the 9-year-old son of paleontologist Lee Berger, of South Africa’s University of the Witwatersrand. (The elder Berger tried in vain to get the editors of Science to list Matthew as a co-author of the paper.) The bones belong to a preteenage boy and a woman estimated to have been in her late 20s or early 30s; the individuals died at about the same time, and before their remains had fully decomposed, they were entombed in an avalanche of sediment and were nearly perfectly preserved deep in the Malapa cave north of Johannesburg”.[1]

In Science, however, we can read that ‘[n]ewly exposed cave sediments at the Malapa site include a flowstone layer capping the sedimentary unit containing the Australopithecus sediba fossils. Uranium-lead dating of the flowstone, combined with paleomagnetic and stratigraphic analysis of the flowstone and underlying sediments, provides a tightly constrained date of  1.977 ± 0.002 million years ago (Ma) for these fossils. This refined dating suggests that Au. sediba from Malapa predates the earliest uncontested evidence for Homo in Africa’.[2]  And just to make sure nobody missed the point of the quote, here is the salient final sentence once again: the Australopithecus sediba remains “predate the earliest uncontested evidence for Homo in Africa”.

A team led by Professor Lee Berger, a renowned palaeoanthropologist, have described and named a new species of hominid, Australopithecus sediba, almost two million years old, which was discovered in the Cradle of Humankind World Heritage Site, 40 kilometres out of Johannesburg, South Africa. This video features introduction by the Vice Chancellor and Principal of the University of the Witwatersrand, Prof. Loyiso Nongxa.

 

 

 

 


[1] Michael D. Lemonick, “Found in South Africa: Key Link in Human Evolution?” TIME (08 April 2010). http://www.time.com/time/health/article/0,8599,1978726,00.html.

[2] Robyn Pickering, Paul H. G. M. Dirks, Zubair Jinnah, Darryl J. de Ruiter, Steven E. Churchill, Andy I. R. Herries, Jon D. Woodhead, John C. Hellstrom, Lee R. Berger, “Australopithecus sediba at 1.977 Ma and Implications for the Origins of the Genus Homo” Science (08 September 2011). http://www.sciencemag.org/content/333/6048/1421.