Wednesday, March 5, 2008

New Twist on Hobbit-Human Debate

First a little background here - Just in case you didn't know, in 2004 scientists in Indonesia discovered a new species of hominids. They were classified as Homo floresiensis and nicknamed "Hobbits" after the Tolkien characters. This is largely because of their stature. Apparently these creatures were about a meter tall.

Here are some comments about the 2004 discovery from "Creation Update": "Homo floresiensis" (Real Media file)

Now, you'll hear in the news reports that these "Hobbits" were "humans." But remember, as I've written on this blog before, the way the media uses the word "human" isn't what we normally think of as being "human." From the perspective of the Christian worldview, a "human" is a descendant of Adam and Eve. All other bipedal primates, such as Neanderthals and "Hobbits", we call "hominids."

Today, the BBC web site ran a story reporting a new twist in this whole discussion.
An Australian team claims the little people were not a new human species, but modern humans with a form of dwarfism caused by poor nutrition.

Now of course, this study isn't without its detractors.
The hypothesis has been described as "sheer speculation" by some experts, including Professor Peter Brown of the University of New England in Armidale, Australia, one of the original members of the team that discovered the remains.

"The conclusions in this paper are not supported by the facts," he said. "The authors have not examined the original fossil, have little and no experience with fossil hominids and depend upon data obtained by others."

Here are a couple of critical thinking questions for students:

- How do these "Hobbits" fit into the two major creation models?

- If these "Hobbits" were living in Indonesia 30,000 years ago, then how does that fit into the young-earth creation model? (How were these specimens dated? What techniques were used?)

- If these "Hobbits" were living in Indonesia 30,000 years ago, then how does that fit with the idea that Noah's flood wiped out all of humanity because all of humanity was still living in Mesopotamia (according to the RTB flood model)? (I guess you'd have to push the flood back to 30,000+ years ago.)

In my mind, both of these scenarios have some problems. But that's a discussion for another day.

Here is a link to the actual journal article for those of you who understand these sorts of things: "Are the small human-like fossils found on Flores human endemic cretins?" Proceedings of the Royal Society B (Tuesday, March 04, 2008)

Once again, I think the deciding factor could be genetic testing. If they could get a clean sample from these "Hobbit" specimens, it could settle the whole debate, much like genetic testing has severed the ancestral link between Neanderthals and modern humans. I'll keep you posted if I find out anything else.

UPDATE: Dr. Fuz Rana has a short podcast commenting on this research that you might want to check out. He explains things in a pretty clear way. "Tiny Palau Skeletons Suggest "Hobbits" Were Dwarfs"

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