It appears there is another ape in the neighborhood. Well, there was another ape and the neighborhood is the human family tree. Researchers have found parts of what they think is another species of human that lived roughly 50,000 years ago. The discovery was made in a cave on the island of Luzon, which is in the Philippines, a dozen years ago, but the announcement has just been made after years of research. There’s a lot of work to be done to figure out where this new species fits, but they seem sure it is a new species.
This is not the first time a new species has been found in the South Pacific. In 2004, Homo floresiensis was found on the island of Flores in Indonesia. They actually found quite a few skeletons, so they were able to more quickly figure out that it was a new species and not just some odd bits of an existing species. This was the one they nicknamed the hobbit, because the species stood about 4-feet tall as adults. Finding a second species of short people on another island adds another mystery to the human origin story.
That’s the real back story to these finds. For a very long time, the generally accepted narrative had modern Neanderthals leaving Africa first, followed by modern humans, who either out-competed or replaced Neanderthals. The out-of-Africa story not only fit the fossil record, but it fit the popular narratives of the modern West. The argument that people are all the same, except for the trivial differences in appearance, works a lot better when everyone has the same origin story. Recent data is calling that into question.
One important thing that these two discoveries confirm is something some have been denying for a long time. That is, evolution is recent and local. An important part of the important narrative has been that no real important changes in humans happened after our ancestors left Africa. These two finds make clear that evolution never stops and will accelerate when a species enters a new environment. In other words, humans not only kept evolving, they evolved to adapt to local conditions and local challenges.
Another issue raised by these finds is that there may have been many human species in Africa at the same time. It’s possible these bones are from another type of human that also made it out of Africa, settled on these islands and was cut-off. Genetics has found evidence of a “ghost” population in sub-Saharan Africans that does not exist in other humans. Just as Neanderthal DNA is found in Eurasians, but not Africans, this ghost population does not appear anywhere else. We may not all have the same ancestors.
The significant physical differences found in these skeletons confirms something else that has not always been popular. That is, small difference can have big differences downstream. In other words, having 99% of the same DNA may not mean the final product is 99% alike. These two species are dated to around the same time and most likely share a common recent ancestor, but small differences in their evolutionary history resulted in big differences in their appearance and big differences from their mainland relatives.
Of course, there is another aspect to a find like this. Any time new information undermines old assumptions, it calls into question other old assumptions. If the out-of-Africa narrative has been mostly wrong for decades, maybe it is just wrong. Maybe humans did not first appear in Africa, but maybe started to appear in several places. The evidence does not point this way, but maybe science has been looking in the wrong places for the wrong things, based on the old theory. Maybe there is many new chapters to the story.
More important, the evidence is mounting that a major claim of the ruling orthodoxy is flat out wrong. Science does not support their claims. Human evolution is real, it is recent and it is local. However humans got to Eurasia, whatever common ancestors they have with humans around the world, they started to change as soon as they settled in their new lands, in order to thrive in those new lands. The question is not how much are we the same, but rather how much are we different and how important is that now.
That’s what makes this an interesting age. Just as heliocentrism was seen as a threat to the prevailing orthodoxy, ancient DNA and the archaeological record is quickly becoming a challenge to the orthodoxy of this age. In fact, the current orthodoxy may be much more fragile than what Galileo faced 500 years ago. The organization of Europe did not depend on the sun revolving around the earth. Even the authority of the Church was not dependent on that model. Christian Europe was not invalidated by the telescope.
In this age, differences in origin stories and differences in evolutionary history will cripple our civic religion. You can’t claim people are amorphous blobs, if evolution is true, and you cannot claim all people are biologically equal if they are not. Further, the true believers cannot claim the mantle of science, if their beliefs are in conflict with science. The church of the secular Left is not just wrong about a few things, it turns out that its reason to exist is entirely false. That’s like discovering Christ never existed.