Last year a new species, Homo floresiensis, was introduced as the next “missing link” candidate for the origin of mankind (see Harrub, 2004). This latest fossil discovery was labeled hobbit man, and it received a great deal of media attention—most of which assured audiences that this was evidence for the evolutionary theory. However, Dr. Teuku Jacob, who was once described as “the undisputed king of paleoanthropology in a country rich in early hominid fossils” (Mervis, 1998, 279:1482), labeled the find as “an ordinary human being, just like us” (see ABC “Scientist Challenges...” 2004, emp. added). After evaluating the fossils, Jacob declared: “The skeleton is not a new species as claimed by these scientists but simply a fossil of a modern human, Homo sapiens, that lived about 1,300 to 1,800 years ago” (“Indon Experts...,” 2004). He went on to add: “So if they [the Australian scientists making the claim—BH] say the skeleton was the ancestor of the Indonesian people, forget it.” His expert opinion was that it was the fossil remains of an individual who had suffered microcephaly—a congenital condition that results in a very small brain.
Michael J. Morwood and his colleagues have published additional research in an effort to bolster their original “hobbit man” claim (see Morwood, et al., 2005). In this most recent study they reported new fossils which they compared to other alleged missing links, such as Australopithecus afarensis. Daniel Lieberman noted that the new analysis “focuses on the new mandible (LB6), a new tibia (LB8) and the LB1 [the designation for the single partial skeleton from the original discovery—BH] skeleton’s reunited arm bones” (437:957). Morwood speculated:
H. floresiensis’ diminutive stature, long arms, and nearly chimp-sized brain resemble body proportions of australopithecines. That group of human ancestors lived more than 2 million years ago. The Flores population may have directly evolved into a Homo species from an unknown Asian australopithecine (see Bower, 2005).
In the Nature article, the authors observed: “However, although tooth size and facial morphology dictate inclusion of the species in the genus Homo, the genealogy of H. floresiensis remains uncertain. Similarities in stature and body proportions with Australopithecus for example, may reflect phylogeny or secondary evolutionary convergence” (Morwood, et al., 2005, 437:1016).
So does this new “evidence” support hobbit man as an alleged missing link? Was it a branch from the Australopithecines—“Lucy’s” ancestors? Consider that the new mandible reported in this recent study was dated at 15,000 years old, and a child’s arm bone found within the deposits was dated to be 12,000 years old (Lieberman, 2005, 437:958). That would put this new species living as contemporaries with modern humans! Anthropologist Robert D. Martin of the Field Museum in Chicago is not buying it. He contends that such a small brained creature could not have made the sophisticated stone tools that were discovered in the same area. As Bowers noted: “Martin proposes that the Flores skull comes from a H. sapiens individual who had microcephaly, a genetic condition that drastically reduces brain size and causes other developmental abnormalities” (2005). But Jacob and Martin are not alone.
In his report of this latest discovery, Bruce Bower remarked:
Anthropologist Robert B. Eckhardt of Penn State University in State College, who examined the Flores partial skeleton and associated remains last February, agrees. Estimates of H. floresiensis’ brain and body size by Morwood’s team are too low, he says. Among the Flores fossils, the partial skeleton represents a short person who suffered from developmental problems that included microcephaly, Eckhardt argues. “I’m absolutely, totally confident that H. floresiensis will not last,” Eckhardt says (2005).
I agree. Surely this latest “missing link” will soon find its way onto the scrapheap of science alongside other evolutionary icons that have also been disproved. It is only a matter of time.
Bower, Bruce (2005), “Encore for Evolutionary Small-Timers: Tiny Human Cousins Get Younger with New Finds,” Science News, vol. 168, [On-line], URL: http://www.sciencenews.org/articles/20051015/fob5.asp.
Harrub, Brad (2004), “Hobbit Heresy,” [On-line], URL: http://www.apologeticspress.org/articles/2641.
“Indon Experts Refute Claim” (2004), The Star Online, [On-line], URL: http://www.thestar.com.my/news/story.asp?file=/2004/11/7/asia/9348613&sec=asia.
Lieberman, Daniel E. (2005), “Further Fossil Finds From Flores,” Nature, 437:957-958, October 13.
Morwood, M.J., P. Brown, Jatmiko, T. Sutikna, E. Wahyu Saptomo, K.E. Westaway, Rokus Awe Due, R.G. Roberts, T. Maeda, S. Wasisto, and T. Djubiantono (2005), “Further Evidence For Small-Bodied Hominins From the Late Pleistocene of Flores, Indonesia,” Nature, 437:1012-1017, October 13.
Mervis, Jeffrey (1998), “Keeper of the Keys to Fossil Kingdom,” Science, 279:1482, March 6.
“Scientist Challenges ‘Hobbit’ Man Theory” (2004), ABC Online, [On-line], URL: http://www.abc.net.au/news/newsitems/200411/s1236476.htm.