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Darwin-L Message Log 7:72 (March 1994)

Academic Discussion on the History and Theory of the Historical Sciences

This is one message from the Archives of Darwin-L (1993–1997), a professional discussion group on the history and theory of the historical sciences.

Note: Additional publications on evolution and the historical sciences by the Darwin-L list owner are available on SSRN.


<7:72>From jacobsk@ERE.UMontreal.CA  Sun Mar 20 15:38:58 1994

From: jacobsk@ERE.UMontreal.CA (Jacobs Kenneth)
Subject: Re: Donnelly on TIME, fossils, and human origins
To: darwin-l@ukanaix.cc.ukans.edu
Date: Sun, 20 Mar 1994 16:38:37 -0500 (EST)

Bravo to Steven Donnelly for hitting the mark on two issues.First, blithely
assuming that mutations (macro-, or many, or both) had to have occurred and
the novel alleles to have spread for there to have arisen H. erectus is, I
think, a vestige of wishing that we were more different than we are.  As I
tried, without evident success, to say in a previous post, part of the trouble
we have in figuring out the finer points of human evolution often can be
traced back to a persistent trouble with the larger concept, to wit that we
are but very little modified versions of progressively (regressively?) less
modern-like antecedents.

	True too are his caveats about the "new" Indonesian dates.  It has
been known for nearly two decades (since Curtis et al.'s KAr work there) that
there were ca. 1.9 Mya volcanics to be found in the vicinities of nearly all
the Javanese "locales." The problem  _always_ has been linking with a high
degree of confidence the dated geological "object" (e.g., pumice chunk) to
the fossil one wanted to date.  Until there are serious, longterm excavations
during the course of which fossils are found in situ and can be related to
dateable strata, the dates of Javanese H. erectus are best considered unknown.
Someone brought up (a week or so ago) the parallel with the Turkana dating
hassles of the 1970s.  It would do well to remember this here.  With geologists
crawling all over the place every year, and with beautiful preservation of an
extraordinary sequence of volcanic horizons, and with dozens of hominid fossils
being found in situ, no one really knew, for the longest time, how old things
there really were.Does anyone recall when ER-1470 was proclaimed, without a
shred of doubt (it was said), to be _at least_ 2.6 My old?  How old is it
now?  And remember, that mistake was made under tightly controlled and very
high quality field conditions.

Ken Jacobs
jacobsk@ere.umontreal.ca

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