This Week In Comments: Aug 20th—27th, 2017
Another week, another selection of the wittiest and most chin-strokingly interesting comments from our Facebook audience.
And away we go...
Comment Of The Week — Nick Armin: I agree that we want elite people to perform tasks of great importance. Buuuut, we shouldn't continue along with a society that prefers classism and only benefits an exclusive few.
Currently we are in a time when plutocrats rule because they found a way to consolidate power from our supposed democracies. I think a better way to term the thing Dawkins supports is a 'technocracy' which is a society that places specialized individuals into positions of leadership.
But I think we can do better than that. We can develop a direct democracy (with proportional representation in the legislature) that takes its cues and gives deference to and from an erudite class.
This is not to say erudite people, such as physicians, physicists and educators would be a new elite class, but they would be respected and have the floor in public discussions, rather than elitists in the business sector or politicians who rely on rhetoric and propaganda to disseminate their agenda to the public.
The term elitism today is specifically aimed at the CEOs and politicians that support multinational corporations and the disparity in wealth and socioeconomic classes in the global economy. This distinction needs to be drawn before we use the term 'elitist'.
Cara Ramsey: Substitute the phrase "being polite to other human beings" every time you want to piss on "political correctness". "I don't like political correctness" really means "I don't like being polite to other human beings". "Political correctness stifles free speech" really means "Being polite to other human beings stifles free speech". "People have a right to ignore political correctness" really means "People have a right to ignore being polite to other human beings".
It's not hard to understand what "poltiical correctness" is when you strip it of right wing fascist attempts to "frame" it negatively and instead realize it's about human beings.
Michael D. Melecio: They were highly aggressive when forced into a position that made aggression necessary and they were cooperative when that was necessary. They set the parameters of the test to determine the most logical outcome of a very basic test. Stop making this sound like a bad thing.
(Good point! - Editor)
Michael Barreto: They're an open symbol of bigotry and glorify those that fought to keep an entire race of people enslaved for the gain of an elite few... Is this really that fuckin hard to grasp?
And with the entirely opposite but equally valid opinion...
Richard E. Parisi: Polls are showing that most Americans don't want to tear down historic public art work. This is really just political correctness being taken too far. Besides, tearing statues down is not going to impact on anyone's rights or anyone's ability to earn a living or gain an education or be safe in their daily routine.
Wesley Hovis: Trump won despite all conventional projections because of meme magic. The left needs to drastically step up its meme game if we're going to save humanity.
Juka Lukkari: The Left can't meme.
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- Scientists at Cornell University devise a material with 3 key traits of life.
- The goal for the researchers is not to create life but lifelike machines.
- The researchers were able to program metabolism into the material's DNA.
Experts argue the jaws of an ancient European ape reveal a key human ancestor.
- The jaw bones of an 8-million-year-old ape were discovered at Nikiti, Greece, in the '90s.
- Researchers speculate it could be a previously unknown species and one of humanity's earliest evolutionary ancestors.
- These fossils may change how we view the evolution of our species.
Homo sapiens have been on earth for 200,000 years — give or take a few ten-thousand-year stretches. Much of that time is shrouded in the fog of prehistory. What we do know has been pieced together by deciphering the fossil record through the principles of evolutionary theory. Yet new discoveries contain the potential to refashion that knowledge and lead scientists to new, previously unconsidered conclusions.
A set of 8-million-year-old teeth may have done just that. Researchers recently inspected the upper and lower jaw of an ancient European ape. Their conclusions suggest that humanity's forebearers may have arisen in Europe before migrating to Africa, potentially upending a scientific consensus that has stood since Darwin's day.
Rethinking humanity's origin story
The frontispiece of Thomas Huxley's Evidence as to Man's Place in Nature (1863) sketched by natural history artist Benjamin Waterhouse Hawkins. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)
As reported in New Scientist, the 8- to 9-million-year-old hominin jaw bones were found at Nikiti, northern Greece, in the '90s. Scientists originally pegged the chompers as belonging to a member of Ouranopithecus, an genus of extinct Eurasian ape.
David Begun, an anthropologist at the University of Toronto, and his team recently reexamined the jaw bones. They argue that the original identification was incorrect. Based on the fossil's hominin-like canines and premolar roots, they identify that the ape belongs to a previously unknown proto-hominin.
The researchers hypothesize that these proto-hominins were the evolutionary ancestors of another European great ape Graecopithecus, which the same team tentatively identified as an early hominin in 2017. Graecopithecus lived in south-east Europe 7.2 million years ago. If the premise is correct, these hominins would have migrated to Africa 7 million years ago, after undergoing much of their evolutionary development in Europe.
Begun points out that south-east Europe was once occupied by the ancestors of animals like the giraffe and rhino, too. "It's widely agreed that this was the found fauna of most of what we see in Africa today," he told New Scientists. "If the antelopes and giraffes could get into Africa 7 million years ago, why not the apes?"
He recently outlined this idea at a conference of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists.
It's worth noting that Begun has made similar hypotheses before. Writing for the Journal of Human Evolution in 2002, Begun and Elmar Heizmann of the Natural history Museum of Stuttgart discussed a great ape fossil found in Germany that they argued could be the ancestor (broadly speaking) of all living great apes and humans.
"Found in Germany 20 years ago, this specimen is about 16.5 million years old, some 1.5 million years older than similar species from East Africa," Begun said in a statement then. "It suggests that the great ape and human lineage first appeared in Eurasia and not Africa."
Migrating out of Africa
In the Descent of Man, Charles Darwin proposed that hominins descended out of Africa. Considering the relatively few fossils available at the time, it is a testament to Darwin's astuteness that his hypothesis remains the leading theory.
Since Darwin's time, we have unearthed many more fossils and discovered new evidence in genetics. As such, our African-origin story has undergone many updates and revisions since 1871. Today, it has splintered into two theories: the "out of Africa" theory and the "multi-regional" theory.
The out of Africa theory suggests that the cradle of all humanity was Africa. Homo sapiens evolved exclusively and recently on that continent. At some point in prehistory, our ancestors migrated from Africa to Eurasia and replaced other subspecies of the genus Homo, such as Neanderthals. This is the dominant theory among scientists, and current evidence seems to support it best — though, say that in some circles and be prepared for a late-night debate that goes well past last call.
The multi-regional theory suggests that humans evolved in parallel across various regions. According to this model, the hominins Homo erectus left Africa to settle across Eurasia and (maybe) Australia. These disparate populations eventually evolved into modern humans thanks to a helping dollop of gene flow.
Of course, there are the broad strokes of very nuanced models, and we're leaving a lot of discussion out. There is, for example, a debate as to whether African Homo erectus fossils should be considered alongside Asian ones or should be labeled as a different subspecies, Homo ergaster.
Proponents of the out-of-Africa model aren't sure whether non-African humans descended from a single migration out of Africa or at least two major waves of migration followed by a lot of interbreeding.
Did we head east or south of Eden?
Not all anthropologists agree with Begun and his team's conclusions. As noted by New Scientist, it is possible that the Nikiti ape is not related to hominins at all. It may have evolved similar features independently, developing teeth to eat similar foods or chew in a similar manner as early hominins.
Ultimately, Nikiti ape alone doesn't offer enough evidence to upend the out of Africa model, which is supported by a more robust fossil record and DNA evidence. But additional evidence may be uncovered to lend further credence to Begun's hypothesis or lead us to yet unconsidered ideas about humanity's evolution.
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