Monday, November 09, 2009

Why did our species survive, not the Neanderthals?

Interesting article in New Scientist on Neanderthal extinction. It directly contradicts something I thought about Neanderthals and technology / tool creation so I must have a look into it to see if this is something under debate or if I should be changing my mental model.

"The history of the Neanderthals isn't a Brothers Grimm fairy tale, but much of what has been written about the ancient human species may as well be, says evolutionary ecologist Clive Finlayson in his informative monograph...

"None of these just-so stories quite add up, Finlayson says. There is no clear indication that Neanderthals were any less intelligent than H. sapiens, and genetic evidence has shown that they share with humans key changes in Foxp2, a gene involved in speech and language. The distinction between Neanderthal and human technology isn't as clear-cut as palaeoanthropologists sometimes suggest, and Neanderthals hunted smaller game and seafood where it was available. Meanwhile, a first-draft sequence of the Neanderthal genome offers no sign that they contributed to our gene pool."

Article - 08 November 2009 - New Scientist.

Creationism and Islam

In a very similar way to how some extreme fundamentalist Christian sects reject evolution, so do some Islamic people. I haven't watched it recently, but Auckland's Triangle Television community station used to run anti-evolution programs made by these Muslims and I found them fascinating ... not because I agree with them, but for the way they were nearly identical to Christian anti-evolution films.

The biggest single difference was the the Islamic ones would have sound-bites from Jewish and Christian scholars -- presumably to show that their word-view was shared.

In 2008 New Scientist interviewed Salman Hameed an American academic who makes a number of pro-evolution points from an Islamic viewpoint including

  • "The Koran itself does not provide a single clear-cut verse that contradicts evolution."
  • "One of the big evolution problems from the US creationist perspective is the age of the Earth. Logically speaking, if you believe in a 6000 or 10,000 year-old Earth, then you have to reject evolution"
  • "The Catholic church and Anglican church are not, as far as I know, atheistic organisations. These are religious organisations, but they accept evolution as a working principle behind the diversity of species. I think the same argument can and should be made in the Islamic world."

The interview is well worth a read.