October 17, 2013

Species do not exist!

Most of the career incentives in the paleoanthropology business encourage scientists to declare whatever piece of ancient skull they dig up represents a new species previously unknown to science, or even a new genus. 

But what does it mean to say that two bones from different eras represented different species? We barely have a workable definition of species for living creatures. Ernst Mayr's definition -- can and/or will two individuals mate and produce fertile offspring -- is about the best we've got, and it has obvious problems. (For example, are dogs, coyotes, and wolves different species or not? If they are all one species, should the Endangered Species Act apply to wolves? What about the protected Red Wolf, which is actually part coyote? Etcetera etcetera).
Skull Fossil Suggests Simpler Human Lineage 

After eight years spent studying a 1.8 million-year-old skull uncovered in the republic of Georgia, scientists have made a discovery that may rewrite the evolutionary history of our human genus Homo.

It would be a simpler story with fewer ancestral species. Early, diverse fossils — those currently recognized as coming from distinct species like Homo habilis, Homo erectus and others — may actually represent variation among members of a single, evolving lineage. In other words: just as people look different from one another today, so did early hominids look different from one another, and the dissimilarity of the bones they left behind may have fooled scientists into thinking they came from different species.

In other words, different races existed back in Ye Olde Days, just like today. Of course, that, in turn, raises the question of "What is a race?"
... Dr. Lordkipanidze and his colleagues said the differences between these fossils were no more pronounced that those between any given five modern humans or five chimpanzees. The hominids who left the fossils, they noted, were quite different from one another but still members of one species.

Or maybe not. Maybe they wouldn't breed together because they disliked each other's smell. Who knows?

Yet, all these inherent uncertainties don't mean Species Do Not Exist.


Anonymous said...

So Carelton Coon may have been right after all. To greatly simplify his argument, Coon theorized that modern human races evolved from geographically dispersed clades of Homo erectus and that the seperation of the main human racial groups must have occured much earlier than was suspected. One powerful piece of evidence was that modern human anatomists can readilt geo-locate Homo erectus skulls using the same morphological markers that are used to distinguish African, European and Asian skulls of modern humans. No one has yet satisfactorily explained this factoid within thge currently accepted theories of hominid evolution.

I first learned of Coon's theory, back in my undergraduate days, before I'd ever heard of Franz Boas, when I took a physical anthropology course that in retrospect was obviously taught by one of his ideological acolytes. This professor dismissed Coon's theory by saying that it reduced to the idea that Asians were descended from Orangutangs, Africans from chimpanzees, and Europeans from gorillas. Maybe Coon will wind up having the last laugh.

Anonymous said...

How can humans have descended from any extant species?

Anonymous said...

The article doesn't that species don't exist. It says what may previously have been regarded as different species may have part of the same species.

Since Neanderthals and homo-sapiens interbred to produce fertile offsprings, I say there were different races than species of humans.

Power Child said...

Of course species EXIST, Steve, we're just saying it's a social construct rather than a biological one!

Anonymous said...

Steve, the species is not defined by the 'ability' to mate with each other and produce offsprings (donkey and zebra can produce an offspring), but whether they do that in their natural environment. I.e. a specie is a set of individuals that interbreed in their natural environment.

Best, Jamie_NYC

Bill said...

I had a Ugandan anthropology professor back in the 90s who said the same thing. He showed us a bust of an australopithecine and said "this is a human." He was as black a man as they get, yet had no problem aligning himself with Coon and other multiregionalists. He also said with absolute conviction that Europeans were part Neanderthal, years before DNA analysis proved this to be true. However, he maintained that the neanderthals who contributed to the European gene pool were Central Asian neanderthals, who were less morphologically distinct from moderns than Western European neanderthals.

The American view of anthropology is profoundly corrupted by our biblical traditions, Genesis and Exodus in particular, hence the "out of Africa" theory which mirrors certain biblical stories. The rest of the world is way ahead of us in this regard.

wren said...

I recently saw a show on a missing link type hominid, Sediba, discovered in South Africa by a nine year old white boy.

I was struck by the diversity of the academics working on the find.

Maybe they wouldn't breed together because they disliked each other's smell. Who knows?

I'd guess that the majority stayed away from each other, but if even one pairing made attractive kids, things could get mixed up fast.

Andrea Ostrov Letania said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Does life exist? Is 'alive' a construct as opposed to 'dead'? I mean dead things are turned into life and life turns into dead things.

Besides, it is the consciousness of advanced 'living things' that differentiated 'living' things from 'dead' things.
I mean lower forms of life don't know they are alive. And dead things don't know they're dead.

So, maybe it's all just a construct, along with reality itself.

Anonymous said...

Isn't 'poverty' and 'affluence' also social constructs? After all, what is poor in one nation could be rich in another nation and what is rich in one nation could be poor in another nation.

So, why are we so obsessed about 'inequality'? The very idea is a social construct.

Anonymous said...

Is 'big' a social construct?

After all, if we say a fish is big, it maybe small compared to a whale. If we say a whale is big, it may be small compared to an island. And if we say an island is big, it may be small in relation to a continent. And so on. So, what is 'big'?

Anonymous said...

Isn't childhood a social construct?

In the US, a 17 yr old like Trayvon is a called a child... a child!!!

But in many cultures, you're treated like an adult at the age of 13. And in some cultures, girls are seen as marriageable material at the age of 12.

Also, some 10 yr olds are smarter than adults who are 30. And some 10 yr olds are bigger than full-grown adults.

So, who is to say who is and isn't a child?
It's all just a social construct.
I say let 5 yr olds vote. It's discrimination otherwise.

Anonymous said...

Aren't 'equality', 'diversity is good', and 'fairness' all social constructs? They sure as hell don't exist in violent and brutal nature.

So, it seems Libs are not opposed to social constructs per se, as most of their ideals and conceits are socially constructed.

They just don't like certain 'social constructs' such as tribalism, nationalism, patriotism, sex-ism, race-ism, and etc, except in the case of Jewish nationalism and black power.

In any case, even if right-wing 'social constructs' may not be entirely scientific or objective, they are a helluva lot more so than left-wing social constructs such as anti-race-ism, global open-borderism, multi-culturalism, trans-gender-ism(that involved artificial hormone injections and mutiltatory surgeries), and 10,000 hr-ism.

Races may not be totally real on the scientific level but they are helluva lot more real than the notion that they don't exist at all, which is a truly radical social construct that denies reality altogether.

So, while race-ism may be flawed and imperfect, anti-race-ism is just downright fantastical. I mean what kind of a moron sees no obvious differences between Burmese and Nigerians?

Anonymous said...

Value of art is a social construct. So, why do urban Liberal collectors shill out millions for the stuff?

Why do we preserve certain cultural treasures when the very notion that something is a cultural treasure is a social construct?

If such social constructs are worth preserving, what is wrong with preserving the social construct of race that values the unique qualities of a people and their traditions and attributes?

Anonymous said...

Race is a geographical construct.

Foreign Expert said...

Furniture doesn't exist because you can't define it.

vetr said...

A definition of an upper class young human is someone who can unreservedly reject a potential mate simply because their smell is not as pleasant as desired. As Aristotle might have said (something the self-styled "biologist" Mayr would have refused to understand for career reasons) it is all teleological.

Anonymous said...

Of course, in taxonomy, the great dichotomy has always been between the 'splitters' and the 'lumpers'. What makes a species? - the definitions involving common gene pools seem to be best. Thus we have the great family hominidae - which anthropological evidence tells us has existed for hundreds of thousands if not millions of years. A vasty, vasty expanse of time. Unfortunately, all we've got to look at from that vasty time - and all the different lineages and types that lived in those far off times are a few random fragments scattered hithe and thither - in fact no more than would fit in the boot of a family car. Saying that it is pretty clear from looking at the skull and skeleton of Neaderthalis, for example, that he is of us but not us at the same time.
The same phemonenom is still with us in all of nature - look at how many different species of dove and pigeon there are for just one example, A wood pigeon is not a rock dove, although they're pretty damned much one and the same. The truimph of the modern science of genetics tells us that it is the small things that matter - the odd fixed mutation here or there.
Such is the world of Darwin/Mendelism.

neil craig said...

Species differentiation is even worse for proto-humans. It takes at least half a million years for genetic drift to separate onto "species". That isn't difficult for most species which have been around for several millions of years. But human evolution has been extraodinarily fast.

We know Cro-Magnon ond Neanderthals interbred because we still have a few genes from the latter but it is likely that all proto-humans of the time were interfertile, they just didn't fancy each other's much.

Anonymous said...

"Yet, all these inherent uncertainties don't mean Species Do Not Exist." - Rank speciesism Mr Sailer.

Baloo said...

Of course, "Social Construct" is a Social Construct.

Anonymous said...

Rational arguments will not dent the true believer's faith when it comes to Cultural Marxism. Like all religions, it is not rationally based.

Cultural Marxism fulfills an emotional need in a certain type of individual. Only when it fails to do this, for some other reason, is that individual ready to acknowledge the many obvious fallacies and factual distortions of political correctness.

It is the same for many Christians who become atheists or agnostics; their emotional needs for security, etc become fulfilled by modern medicine or Good Government, and they then no longer feel compelled to engage in magical thinking.

Not many people have the emotional strength to approach either secularism or biological realism purely as a result of intellectual contemplation. Most have to go through some sort of shock.

The sort of shock that's awaiting all of us down the road, actually, come to think of it.