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Homo floresiensis and Human Evolution

In the homepage for Human Evolution? — Science & Theology a subsection about unresolved scientific questions explains that "although most scientists... have reached a confident consensus about the major questions, there is disagreement about some details," including the shape of an evolutionary family tree.  For example:
• In 2003 on the Indonesian island of Flores, scientists discovered a small hominid skeleton (3 feet tall, or 1 meter) with an unusually small brain (400 cc, smaller than most chimpanzees) but (similar to larger-brained hominids) using tools, with physical characteristics that differ from Homo sapiens — an "archaic head shape, archaic shoulder and wrist structure, and very long arms and very long feet on a very short body" (Debbie Argue) — and it was declared to be part of a new species, Homo floresiensis.  But other scientists disagreed, wondering whether it was just a modern human whose small size and unusual anatomy were due to genetics (like a dwarf or pygmy) or disease (microcephaly).  Since then other skeletons have been discovered, with ages ranging from approximately 95,000 to 15,000 years ago.  If this is a new species, where does it fit into the family tree of modern humans?

note:  The original skeleton, found in 2003, was dated to 18,000 years.  Since then, other specimens have been found, some older and some more recent.  As is typical with age determinations, in the web-pages below there is a range of estimated ages for the oldest fossils (from 74,000 to 95,000 years ago) and the youngest (12,000 to 17,000 years ago).

• note:   Three other controversial questions ask, "Which model of evolution-and-migration — Single Origin (Out of Africa) or Multiregional — is more accurate for modern humans?" and "What is the genetic relationship between Neanderthals and Humans?" and "Did the history of human origins include Human Evolution with Common Descent?"

The rest of this page is rough and incomplete now, but will have more content later.

Here are some things to think about:

"Accepting it (Homo floresiensis) will require us to rewrite the textbooks." - William Jungers, Stony Brook University.

summary of scientific knowledge (in 2008) (audio or transcript) by Debbie Argue, with introduction by Robyn Williams

summary article (2006) by Tabitha M. Powledge

The Dilemma Posed by the Wee People by Glenn Morton, combines science with theology, arguing that Homo floresiensis behave like modern humans in many ways, and they have "the image of God" despite their small brains, which gives credence to his claim that early hominids (like Homo erectus or Australopithecus) also had human-like capabilities, despite their small brains, and we should also consider them to be fully human theologically. (published in journal of ASA)

Hobbits in the Haystack: Homo floresiensis and Human Evolution (The 7th Human Evolution Symposium at University of New York - Stony Brook) in April 2009.  The website of Becoming Human called it an "inconclusive meeting" about some questions, but says "there was a consensus reached among participants at this meeting that the condition of the ‘Hobbit’ was not due to a pathological condition, such as disease."  And a written report in the New York Times — A Tiny Hominid With No Place on the Family Tree — also links to a podcast.

Hobbit Controversy Flares Again (in 2006) due to questions about the data — an interview (with transcript & audio) of Robert Martin (skeptic) and Mike Morwood (defender) by Simon Lauder.

• from online encyclopedias: MSN Encarta & Wikipedia

Alien from Earth (TV show by Nova on PBS) asks "Do the remains of a tiny hobbit-like creature found on the island of Flores belong to a new human species?" and offers Q-and-A with Mike Morwood.

• a free archaeological essay from a pay-service, UK Essays

a links-page for more