Saturday, September 26, 2009

Human origins in PNAS

This week's PNAS has a special feature called "Out of Africa: Modern Human Origins." All the articles are open access and worth looking at.

Tattersall. 2009. Human origins: Out of Africa. PNAS 106:16018-16021.

Weaver. 2009. The meaning of Neandertal skeletal morphology. PNAS 106:16028-16033.

Hublin. 2009. The origin of Neandertals. PNAS 106:16022-16027.

Richards and Trinkaus. 2009. Isotopic evidence for the diets of European Neanderthals and early modern humans. PNAS 106:16034-16039.

Hoffecker. 2009. The spread of modern humans in Europe. PNAS 106:16040-16045.

Rightmire. 2009. Middle and later Pleistocene hominins in Africa and Southwest Asia. PNAS 106:16046-16050.

d'Errico et al. 2009. Additional evidence on the use of personal ornaments in the Middle Paleolithic of North Africa. PNAS 106:16051-16056.

DeGiorgio et al. 2009. Explaining worldwide patterns of human genetic variation using a coalescent-based serial founder model of migration outward from Africa. PNAS 106:16057-16062.

Trying to figure out what creationists think about human origins is kind of a nightmare, mostly because human origins is probably the single most important issue that gets creationists' goats. So everyone has an opinion, even though most have no real background from which to make any conclusions. If there is a consensus among young-age creationists, Neandertals are considered to be "human," which I usually take to mean descended from Adam and Eve. A smaller number of creationists consider H. erectus to have descended from Adam and Eve also. Australopithecines are universally considered non-human animals. Dmanisi? Good question (CELD shows no results for 'Dmanisi'). Beyond that, there isn't much agreement. Some want Neandertals and erectines to be diseased (e.g. rickets); others think they're just really old H. sapiens. Neither of those ideas have any real evidence to support them. Among those who accept Neandertals and erectines as non-pathological, most simply want them to be "human," often with the implication that they are not truly different from modern H. sapiens. Sometimes I think that's at least as unrealistic as saying they're diseased. But then again, what do I know? I'm no anthropologist.