Indonesian Hobbit No Numbskull

first_imgWhoever Homo florensiensis was (see 10/27/2004 entry), it was no dumb half-ape.  This miniature human packed a lot of brains into a small skull, says Michael Balter in Science1 (see also EurekAlert, National Geographic and BBC News).  A cast of the brain made from the skull shows complexity: convolutions in the frontal lobe suggest an intelligent mind, a revelation corroborated by the presence of stone tools and evidence of fire nearby.  Balter quotes an evolutionary anatomist on the implications: the new study “upsets one of our main concepts of human evolution, that brain size has to increase for humans to become clever.”  Another calls the finding “a real stunner.”    All the same, News&Nature is claiming this silences the critics, like Teuku Jacob (who took possession of the fossils till recently returning them) who claimed the creature was only a modern human suffering from the disease of microcephaly (small brain).  Yet with so few microcephalic skulls available for study, others are not sure Jacob’s claim has been discredited.  Because the fossil doesn’t resemble that of a pygmy or a microcephalic individual, many are ready to call it a new species of hominid.  But then, because its skull showed evidence of “advanced development of the front lobes of the brain, where reasoning occurs,” ([email protected]), it is hard to consider it primitive.  Paleoanthropologists are divided between explaining H. florensiensis as a degenerate form of modern human, or a case of “a small-brained, small-bodied, pre-erectus hominid managed to get to Flores in the distant past, and then, in a case of parallel evolution with modern humans, evolved a relatively advanced brain on its own.”    Balter quotes Fred Spoor (University College, London) giving the bottom line: “The real take-home message here is that advanced behaviors, like making sophisticated stone tools, do not necessarily require a large, modern, humanlike brain.  It can be done by reorganizing a small brain, with convolutions and rewiring, and this goes to the heart of our understanding of human evolution.”1Michael Balter, “Small but Smart?  Flores Hominid Shows Signs of Advanced Brain,” Science, Vol 307, Issue 5714, 1386-1389, 4 March 2005, [DOI: 10.1126/science.307.5714.1386a].Any evolutionists thinking they have an “Aha!” case of a missing-link fossil to discredit creationists have a slippery object to try to hang onto.  If brain size does not correlate with intelligence, then a century and a half of human-evolution storytelling goes down the drain.  Fine measurements of skull capacity were a staple of human phylogenetic studies; some, like Paul Broca (now considered a racist), made a career out of it.  It should have been obvious that even modern human “small people” like Tom Thumb could be smarter than local fatheads.  And didn’t we learn that birds, with much smaller brains, outwit chimpanzees? (see 02/01/2005 entry).    If hobbitkind were degenerate modern humankind, there is no evolution story to tell.  But if they evolved smart brains independently, in parallel with other upwardly-mobile hominids, then human evolution has been falsified twice (see 12/30/2004 entry).  Take your pick, Darwin Party.  If indeed “this goes to the heart of our understanding of human evolution,” it whacks it with a sharp stone tool.(Visited 15 times, 1 visits today)FacebookTwitterPinterestSave分享0last_img

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