Misunderstanding evolution

I’m not a paleontologist, nor do I know all that much about speciation, but this Yahoo news piece on human evolutionary origins needs a bit more thought…

New discoveries by Maeve Leakey have dated Homo habilis and Homo erectus specimens to the same period that were found within walking distance of each other. The conclusion reached in the news article is that, therefore, the latter is unlikely to have evolved from the former. Sounds logical, right? Two species that live at the same time can’t be descended from each other.

Well, there is absolutely no reason why an older species can’t remain while a younger species develops. Here’s one example of how: suppose that, due to environmental factors, one group of animals gets separated from a larger population. This group then, because it is isolated (for whatever reason) from the other, diverges to the point that it is no longer the same species. Then, at some later point, members of the new group travel back and live among the original population (that, because its environment hasn’t changed, hasn’t “evolved” all that much).

When we, millions of years later, look at fossils from the area where the two groups then lived, it’s easy come to the same conclusion as the folks in the news article. These two groups couldn’t have come from one another because they lived together at the same time. But, at an earlier point, they might not have.

It’s scary how easy it is to come up with explanations for historical discoveries (like those in paleontology) using evolutionary theory. (Is the theory, in fact, falsifiable? I’m not so sure.) But, it’s equally scary how easy it is to grab a hold onto any data that seems contradictory to evolution, and bank on it to boost creationism…


2 Responses to “Misunderstanding evolution”

  1. 1 Wonders for Oyarsa August 9, 2007 at 10:47 pm

    You’re one frightened papist, aren’t you? 😉

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: