Sunday, December 16, 2007

Evidence leads to human ancestor for the apes

Do we really need to consider turning everything upside down by considering the existence of a human ancestor for the apes? This suggestion definitely has the quality of blasphemy against religious doctrine. It just feels wrong and goes against our deeply held beliefs and understanding of the world. However, this is exactly where the evidence leads.
Overall, I don’t expect that the entire anthropology community will suddenly abandon everything that has been taught for decades. However, my point is the following...
What defines a “human?” I have taken the position that it is a body plan (bauplan). Most of us have accepted that early Australopithecines whose brains and skulls were chimp-like, should be considered human and not ape. When you find a fossil such as Sahelanthropus that has a “chimp-like” skull from the point of view of its face and brain, but has the skull base of a human (and presumably upright bipedal post-cranial anatomy) - how can you tell from the fossil if it’s an ape or a human?
The Hennigian cladistic approach lets us say that the isolation point between the chimp and human lineages - where hybridization became impossible - is the origin point of humans. However this means that the definition is arbitrary since ape and human would pretty much look identical at that time.

1 comment:

  1. What about trees?