A baby from Dinaledi

National Geographic updated us today on Lee Berger's announcement of the remains of an infant found at the bottom of the chute in the Dinaledi chamber.

“The more we find, the more we don’t know.” — National Geographic (@NatGeo) June 14, 2018 Yet more evidence that the Dinaledi chamber is a cemetery of the very young and very old.

Homo naledi is as human as you and I.

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Are all animal species really the same age?

Everybody's talking about a news reports that all animal species are basically the same age.  I've seen it on my social media feed.  I've gotten questions about it by email.  Creationists really want to know what this means.  So let's dive in.  (I should warn you to brace yourself.  This is going to be long and pretty technical.  Scroll down to the end for what I would tell the average person about these headlines.)

The research paper comes to us from the journal Human Evolution by authors Stoeckle and Thaler.  It describes the results of something called DNA barcoding, which started out as a means of classifying species using a small bit of DNA.  For animals, this DNA is a 600 bp region of the mitochondrial COI gene.  As you might imagine, barcoding wasn't really popular among taxonomists when it was proposed.  Barcoding was basically the young startup that thought it could replace years of expert study with a simple DNA sequence.  At least that was how it was pe…

The goodness of God's design

Back in March, I went to see the documentary The Riot and the Dance with Gordon Wilson, and I was deeply moved by what I saw (read my thoughts here).  I really had no idea what to expect from the movie, but what I got was a joy, a thrill, a celebration of God's wonders in creation.  I can't even put my feelings into words.  I want it to change not just the way I think but the way I am.  I want to react and feel and perceive and eventually think about creation as the amazing splendor of a loving Creator.  I want Gordon's perception of creation to become so natural to me it's just a reflex.  I think putting my reaction to The Riot and the Dance into words doesn't do the movie justice.  This is a film you should experience.

That doesn't mean people won't try to review the film, though, and that's understandable.  Ronny Nalin's reaction on the GRI blog was one such attempt that tried to boil down the emotion of the film to propositional truth.  Like me…

International Conference on Creationism 2018 Schedule!

The ICC posted their schedule today, and you can find it at their website.

And if you're thinking, "It sure would be nice to have a printable version where I could highlight my planned schedule," have I got a deal for you!  Check it out!
Download a PDF of the ICC 2018 schedule!
Feedback? Email me at toddcharleswood [at] gmail [dot] com. If you enjoyed this article, please consider a contribution to Core Academy of Science. Thank you.

Who are the creationists?

This year brings us yet another survey trying to diagnose what's wrong with creationists.  Oh goody.  I've commented on such studies before, and I'm always interested in what else I can find from the survey data that the authors of the research didn't really highlight in their publications.  Here's a sample of past "fun with surveys":

Post-Seculars and the war between science and faithMajority of Protestant pastors aren't sure, says BioLogos surveyWhat can we learn from polls?
So here we go again, this time with Weisberg and colleagues from the March issue of BioScience.  In a survey of 1,100 people, they tried to examine factors that influenced respondents to be creationists and found several of the usual suspects.  For example, they found that the more religious you are, the less likely you are to accept evolution.  Likewise, those who self-identify as liberal or very liberal are more likely to accept evolution, and conservatives and "very cons…

Did Homo naledi really bury their own dead?

After my piece last week on the brain of Homo naledi, I was reminded of the recent paper in PNAS describing the classification of hominin "burial" sites.  Since that paper casts some doubt on the conclusion that Homo naledi buried their own dead, I suppose I would be remiss to not share a few comments and thoughts.

First of all, the paper by Egeland and colleagues provides a "machine learning" approach to classifying accumulations of hominin bones.  Their objective was to evaluate claims that certain hominin sites represent deliberate burial (strictly in the sense of body disposal, without any of the mortuary symbolism that would accompany modern human burial).  The idea behind the analysis is to give a computer various characteristics of these bone sites and train the computer to recognize burials.  Their results showed that modern human burial sites were recognized by the computer as distinct from accumulation of bones due to predators (like leopards eating babo…

Cranial capacity isn't the whole story

Almost exactly a year ago, I published the graph shown above with the cranial capacity of hominins over conventional time.  I've seen this graph again and again from otherwise credible evolutionary biologists, and it's primarily used to discredit creationist claims about the uniqueness of human beings.  I guess I'm supposed to take from this that humans don't show obvious discontinuity from other (potentially nonhuman) creatures when you look only at one variable, brain size.  I've always found the graph a bit confusing because I'm not sure any evolutionary biologist would accept this as fully representative of human history any way.  And no one thinks modern humans emerged in some sort of march of progress, right?  Right?

With the publication of Homo floresiensis and Homo naledi, we had two important fossils that seriously deviated from the major trend, representing late-surviving and small-brained individuals.  I was generous in my first write-up of this, not…