Disrespecting Social Theory

Katha Pollitt (The Nation) recently wrote an article posted on the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science website (link here) about the results of the recent Gallup poll on evolution.  Although I found that the article was an enjoyable read, one comment brought to my attention a disturbing trend I’ve experienced of academics and intellectuals not appreciating (or respecting) the opinion of social scientists.  Here was the statement from the article:

“My brilliant husband, a sociologist and political theorist, refuses to get upset about the [Gallup] poll.  It’s quite annoying, actually.  He thinks questions like these primarily elicit affirmations of identity, not literal convictions; declaring your belief in creationism is another way of saying you’re a good Christian.”

She went on to add:

“That does beg the question of what a good Christian is, and why so many think it means refusing to use the brains God gave you.”

I should also point out that a commenter on the site went further than Pollitt by stating:

“Part of the problem. “affirmation of identity” my a**!  This is ignorance that borders on stupidity that is enabled by “brilliant”  people in the humanities and social sciences.”

I want to make it clear that Pollit makes a few very valid points throughout the article, and I do agree with her that the Gallup poll is disturbing (although not as disturbing as the National Science Foundation poll I wrote about a few weeks ago), it was upsetting that she did not appreciate her husband’s opinion, because he has a really insightful and nuanced interpretation of the poll.  Basically he was arguing that if you take the poll at face value (e.g., 46% of Americans are creationist) you are failing to understand that when confronted with questions about origins many people care less about what is scientifically true, and care more about their social identity (e.g., how they relate to family members, friends, institutions and their country).  That means that someone in America may be more inclined to pick the religious answer to the Gallup poll questions because it reaffirms their social identity as a Christian.  So while it may be true that 25% of Americans with graduate degrees answered the poll with an ‘agree’ when asked about the question of a biblical interpretation of human origins, 25% of Americans with graduate degrees probably don’t believe that “dinosaurs and humans romped together before Noah’s flood.”  In order to understand that you would have to design a more complex polling methodology, which is something, I suspect, a sociologist or political theorist would be able to do.

Personally, being a biological anthropologist, I walk a very poorly defined line between the life sciences and the social sciences.  I believe that it gives me an interesting perspective and a unique ability to deconstruct the nature/nurture; genetic/social dichotomy that has been erected, not just in theory, but also in practice.  Nevertheless many academics continually strengthen the divide between these scientific subfields by openly criticizing and disrespecting anybody that attempts to use well-established social theory.

Unfortunately, this criticism is not rooted in a healthy dialogue.  It usually consists of an individual in the natural sciences openly laughing at a social theory they have not taken the time to understand and/or have not really thought about what perspective the theory could add to scientific methodology and data interpretation.  This is incredibly unfortunate, because all scientists can add to the overwhelmingly powerful amount of evidence that religion is not true and God is a social construction.  And social scientists may be the most valuable when it comes to understanding why so many Americans still identify with Judeo-Christian religious traditions.


How Do Chimpanzees Mourn Their Dead?

A baby chimpanzee was killed by a male chimpanzee yesterday at the Los Angeles Zoo (link).

This is yet another case of infanticide in chimpanzees, which is a behavioural trait frequently observed both in the wild and captivity.  In almost every observed case of chimpanzee infanticide, the killer is an adult male and the victim is not their offspring.  That is why when this Los Angeles Zoo killing hit my radar I was not surprised to find out that the perpetrator was an adult male and the infant was not his.  Although this is a tragedy for the zoo, as stated above, infanticide is fairly common in chimpanzee society and likely represents an evolutionary adaptation for males to improve individual fitness.

However, what did interest me about this story was how the chimpanzee mother reacted to the death of her 3 month old infant.

Primatologists have recently become interested in thanatology – the study of death.  It is believed that by studying the way our closest relatives learn about and cope with death, we can gain insights into the development of how humans learn and cope with death.  At the Los Angeles Zoo the mother and grandmother of the murdered infant were allowed to keep the infant over night in order to mourn their loss.  The Great Ape Team in charge of the chimpanzees claimed that the mother and grandmother have been inconsolably sobbing.  Although it is impossible to fully understand their thought process, it is obvious that they understand that their infant is dead – not sleeping – and will not be waking up.

Mourning the death of a loved one is something most people think of as a solely a human ability.  However, chimpanzees clearly demonstrate that they understand death to some extent and mourn their dead.  In one of the most amazing chimpanzee videos available on the internet, captured by the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, you get to watch as a mother comes to the realization that her infant is dead and will not be waking up.  She sits by her infant for hours as she comes to this realization before carrying her infant on her back and joining the rest of the troop.  In the morning it was discovered that she had left the infant behind.  Her mourning period was over.  You can watch the video:

Although it is clear that chimpanzees mourn their dead in unique, and perhaps culturally influenced ways, monkeys do not seem to mourn their dead or acknowledge death in the same way.  Baboons, for example, seem to continue to treat a dead infant – or individual – in a similar way to someone who is sleeping.  A mother will carry their infant as they would a healthy infant for a period of time before realizing that the infant is non-responsive.  Eventually the dead individual will be left behind, but no monkey in the group mourns.  A colleague of mine who has done work in Ghana echoed this fact to me earlier in the year when she recalled an experience studying colobus monkeys.

So what does this mean?  Well, more research on the way our closest ancestors mourn death is obviously necessary, but from what we know it is clear that they recognize death and death severely impacts their life.  Also, individuals clearly display a prolonged mourning period if the individual that died was important to them or related to them.  What I am interested in knowing (and I’ll admit it may be impossible to know) is do chimpanzees realize they will die one day?  When a mother loses her infant, she is clearly traumatized when she understands that he/she won’t wake up again but while realizing this does she also realize that death is inevitable?  My guess is as good as anyones but if I was a betting man I’d say no.

I think what this tells us is that there are several behavioural similarities between humans and chimpanzees in terms of how we deal with death and cope with death.  However, I think it is also likely that chimpanzees do not experience the crushing reality that death is inevitable.  This is probably uniquely human.  I think once a species realizes that death is inevitable there have to be evolutionary mechanisms to deal with this mentally.  For humans, I think that evolutionary mechanism was spirituality and/or religion.  While chimpanzees show no signs of ‘spiritual behaviour’, there is definitely evidence that humans are hard wired for it.  From an evolutionary perspective it is obvious why more spiritually inclined individuals would be selected for once we began to realize that death was inevitable.  This selection process was probably a quick and powerful one, which could also be why religious belief is still exceptionally strong today, despite the overwhelming evidence that no religion is true.

I’m sure I will revisit this topic at another point, I feel like there is a lot to unpack and discuss, but for now I will leave you with one more thing to ponder.  If we are spiritual and our closest ancestors don’t seem to be, at what point in our evolutionary history did this transition occur?


Joking About Race

Throughout my blog posts I frequently discuss topics that were inspired from discussions in my life (e.g., herehere and here).  Usually these discussions are entirely academic and stay friendly, professional and engaging.

However, sometimes a conversation can sour.  Unfortunately that happened recently with a friend of mine.  Without giving away too much information an argument arose over a racial issue where the person I was arguing with wanted me to racially discriminate.  This situation made me come to that realization that people who frequently make negative racial, ethnic or cultural jokes about certain groups of people, and claim to ‘just be joking’, are probably harbouring subconscious or conscious tendencies to racially discriminate.

I want to be careful not to generalize too broadly.  I know a lot of people joke about things related to certain racial, ethnic and cultural groups and that the context of the joke is important and the type of joke being made is also important.  Despite this, if someone is making jokes with regularity that are focused on highlighting a perceived negative aspect of a socially constructed group of individuals, this person probably does subconsciously or consciously hold these beliefs.  This had been the situation with the aforementioned individual in this blog post.  Derogatory jokes directed towards “pakis” and “asians” were frequently made and although they made me uncomfortable I was sure that this was just his particular sense of humour and in reality he would never racially discriminate against any group of people based on race, ethnicity or culture.

I was really wrong.

It made me think back to other people I have met in my life that have consistently made derogatory jokes directed against racial, ethnic and cultural groups.  People who have made these types of jokes always made me kind of uncomfortable because I feel by making those jokes they are reinforcing negative stereotypes and judging people as homogenous entities that are a part of imagined collectives.  However, I never assumed that those people were actually racist.  I thought they were just… well, joking, and that it just wasn’t my type of humour.  And the harder I think about people in my life who have made racial jokes, the more diverse the list of people becomes:

a) Some of them I feel are just making the jokes for fun but there is no real viscous meaning behind it.

b) Some of them make racial jokes to point out the absurdity of racism

c) Some of them I feel may be subconsciously racist, or just racist in their private life, but in public life don’t discriminate (or don’t openly discriminate)

d) And some of them seem to be openly racist in some specific contexts, which for whatever reason provoke feelings of out-group hatred (I guess this is how I would classify my aforementioned experience)

So, because this is not a particularly strong or firm conclusion about my feelings about people who make racial jokes, I will throw the question out there to anyone who reads or follows this blog.  Do you think that people who make racist and ethnocentric jokes are racist?  Do you think it makes them more likely to discriminate in real life?  Does it depend on the type of joke?  The frequency of jokes?  Are there too many different contexts to come to a conclusion?


Do We Deserve Mars?

I was recently engaged in a conversation about Mars.  Not about whether we can go to Mars, but whether we should go to Mars.  My friend basically argued that we shouldn’t go to Mars because we don’t deserve to go; and we don’t deserve to go because we can’t even organize ourselves properly on Earth.

He is definitely right that there are a lot of things we still need to take care of on our own planet for our own species and the environment.  There is still extreme poverty and inequality, several international wars, rapid loss of biodiversity, several forms of intense environmental degradation and unsustainable fossil fuel emission levels causing global temperatures to increase dramatically.  By his logic we don’t deserve to populate two planets because the universe does not need any more of our chaos, our war, our pollution, our poor record of humane treatment of our own species and all life.  Even Carl Sagan echoed this point saying “we who cannot even put our own planetary home in order, riven with rivalries and hatreds, are we to venture out into space?”.

We are not a static species

However, we are not a static species.  We have made incredible moral, technological, cultural and economic improvements over time.  The problems that plagued our species 100 years ago, are either no longer major issues or are less significant issues than they were.  Although there is still poverty, economic inequality, warfare, etc., the global community as a whole has never been so wealthy, healthy and peaceful.  This trend towards greater wealth, health and peace has been happening throughout history and there is no reason to suggest that it won’t continue into the 21st century and beyond.  We are a species that constantly learns from our mistakes and adapts accordingly.  At the moment we are learning how to function as a truly global species, and I wouldn’t bet against us eventually putting our planetary home in order.

But what if I am wrong and we don’t?  Should we continue to spread our problems across the universe, starting with Mars?

What if we don’t improve?

Even if our species fails to improve and the problems that plague us now only become worse, I still believe the moral position of whether we should go to Mars is just not valid.  This position claims we shouldn’t go to Mars because we are destroying the Earth and that if we keep spreading we will just destroy Mars and keep making the universe a messy, chaotic place filled with the virus of humanity.

But the universe is just too big for us to damage, pollute and destroy it.

I have so many points I’d like to make here it is hard to organize my thoughts.  So maybe I will just list them:

a) What is there to destroy on Mars?  If we don’t go to Mars it will just continue circling our star for the next 5 billion years as a dead, lifeless and cold world.  Our presence would only bring life:

b) Are we even capable of destroying the Earth?  I mean even if we nuked ourselves off the face of the planet, the Earth would still recover.  Even if we kill most of the species on the planet, that has already happened five times before without our presence.  Life always returned afterwards, just as strong and diverse as before.  AND even if we could destroy our planet, what would it matter on a universal scale?  Our planet isn’t going to be habitable in a couple billion years anyway and in all likelihood there are 100’s of billions of Earth-like planets in our galaxy alone.  We could purposefully destroy a billion Earth’s and it wouldn’t matter on a universal scale.

c) This sort of connects to the idea of my last point.  We could colonize Mars and we could go onto colonize the rest of the galaxy and even if while we did this we were spreading poverty, war, pollution, etc. around with us it still wouldn’t matter on a universal scale.  There are 100’s of billions of galaxies just like our own.  Our species can’t pollute the universe.  It is too big, it is too resilient.

One more thing…

But there is one more thing to consider as well.  This wasn’t a consideration in the conversation I had with my friend, but I have talked to people who feel we shouldn’t go to space because we have too many things to worry about on our own planet.  I guess the logic is that we have a finite amount of resources and they are better allocated here on our home planet.

This argument is unappealing to me for two reasons:

a) We allocate our resources horribly already:

As the graphic above illustrates, the world wastes 2.1 trillion dollars on military related expenditures every year.  This is money spent for no other reason than to kill and exploit one another.  Putting more money into space would not all of a sudden make solving our other problems impossible.  Solving our problems are currently impossible because we waste money on the military.  If we could get along as a truly harmonized global species and we could stop investing money in the military that money could go towards far more useful things on our own planet (like reducing income inequality and reducing hunger and poverty).

b) Money spent towards space doesn’t disappear in space

People seem to jump to the conclusion that space programs are a waste of money because it is money we are just losing to pointless exploration.  But this is really a misguided belief.  Money dedicated to space programs is invested in jobs and technology that helps our planet and species.  I think this is key.  Money dedicated towards space programs isn’t a burden on society.  It creates jobs and improves technologies that will benefit society for decades.  Also, the intangible effects of investing in space are infinitely valuable.  As Neil Degrasse Tyson has pointed out before, when you invest in space it gets the public more interested in science, technology, school and learning. It stimulates the next generation to literally reach for the stars (sorry to be corny!).  Although this doesn’t mean all those kids will become astronauts, it will get more people interested in school and learning and will likely lead to a more educated society with more useful skills that can be applied in a variety of different professions.  Space isn’t a waste of money.

I hope this wasn’t an article that floats around too many big ideas without focusing coherently on the main message.  I just think that claiming we shouldn’t go to Mars because we can’t put our planet in order as a species is an argument that is wrong for many reasons.  It is wrong because we are not static, we keep changing and improving.  It is wrong because even if we do spread our problems throughout the universe, it wouldn’t effect the universe in the slightest.  And finally it is wrong because putting money into space can only improve our species.

Let’s go to Mars!


Prometheus Fails

I have seen some really poor science fiction movies in the past.  This can be for aspects like poor character development, weak plot, lame screenplay, etc., which could easily be a problem for any film.  However, most often, a science fiction movie annoys me if it tries to be scientifically accurate and believable yet fundamentally makes no sense.  Unfortunately, I have to now include the recent film Prometheus in this category.

Let’s start with the character’s emotional and intellectual response to what was happening.  For anyone who hasn’t seen this film, I will try and sum up what was happening.  The crew on Prometheus is heading towards a new star system in the year 2093.  Two archaeologists believe this star system is home to humanity’s creators (or engineers) based on evidence of star maps in the cave paintings of several unconnected ancient human populations.  Although this sounds a little far fetched and based on insufficient evidence, the mission was funded privately by an extremely wealthy CEO who happens to buy their theory.  Upon arriving at the star system, they find it populated with three planets, one of which is habitable and able to support life.  Furthermore, within minutes of landing on the planet they identify evidence of intelligent life in the form of large cave-like structures built in the middle of a canyon.

Emotional and intellectual response

In any universe, this would be a remarkable series of events.  First off, I get overwhelmed whenever I think about the possibility of humans attempting to go to Mars.  This movie is set 81 years in the future.  Something like this happening 81 years from now would be absolutely remarkable!  For many people (including me), visiting an Earth-like planet in a distant star system inhabited by intelligent life would be the most significant event in human history.

Yet, the crew (to varying degrees) seems underwhelmed and unimpressed with what is happening around them.  The fact that they travelled to a distant star system in 2 years — underwhelmed and unimpressed.  The fact that they find this star system to have a habitable Earth-like planet — underwhelmed and unimpressed.  The fact that in minutes of searching this planet they find evidence of an intelligent civilization — underwhelmed and unimpressed.  AND, on top of that, when they enter the large cave-like structure, they find dead bodies of an alien race, and their reaction is comical.  Most of the crew start treating the archaeologists who predicted this with derision.  Why?  Because it appears as though the alien race is extinct (I’ll come back to this later).  And the male archaeologist in the film IS actually disappointed that the alien race appears to be extinct.  Yes, you were able to travel to a distant star system to find an alien race based off of evidence that you found in an ancient cave, you were right, AND you are still upset and disappointed.  WHAT?!  That is the most unbelievably ridiculous emotional and intellectual response to what was happening.  It makes no sense.

Wait, I’m not done.

DNA Match

So then the female archaeologist grabs a decapitated alien head and bring it back to the ship for DNA testing.  She finds out that this alien has an identical DNA match to humans.  Wow.  Wait.  They have an identical DNA match to us?

Then why do they look like this:

OK, they are humanoid anatomically, just like most aliens in science fiction films (which I don’t have a big problem with).  But they are clearly NOT humans.  Sure, I could buy that we are related in an evolutionary context, but how are we genetically identical?  Are all humans 7 foot, 300 lbs, hair-less albino giants with a ten-pack?


My point is that it makes NO sense that they are genetically identical.  If they found out that it appeared as though we shared some homologous traits that indicated common ancestry, it would make this film all the more realistic and believable.

My biggest alien-movie pet peeve

Finally, the most ridiculous aspect of this film.  They arrive on the planet, and like I have mentioned previously, they find a cave system built by an intelligent civilization within minutes.  When they enter the cave they find all the aliens are dead (you find out later that one of them is alive — but this is irrelevant to the point I want to make).  Their reaction to finding that all the aliens in this cave system are dead is that — the alien race is extinct.

HOW does that conclusion make ANY sense?

Think about it.  Imagine an alien race came to our planet and randomly landed in a large canyon or an open plain or desert, and they happen to find that everyone is dead.  Would a logical conclusion be: “well it looks like humans are extinct and everything we need to know about humans is right here in the middle of nowhere”.

The rest of the planet could be populated with billions of other aliens.  The chances that everything you need to know about the aliens and why they created humans on Earth is in that one location you happened to land in are so remote.  You travelled several light years to a distant star system… explore the rest of the planet!  You know nothing about the rest of the planet!

Ok, hopefully my point is clear.  Prometheus is a massive intellectual failure.

Don’t waste your money unless you like amazing visuals and don’t care that it is intellectually bankrupt.  Oh, and I should also mention that the character development, plot and screenplay all suck as well.


Uncomfortable Relationship Between Factual Knowledge and the Human Population

I suppose I should not have been surprised when the last Gallup Poll was released indicating that 85% of the American population did not believe in evolution.  However, when I took a look and analyzed a National Science Foundation poll asking people throughout the world (e.g., United States, Japan, EU, India, China, etc.) about whether they accept factual knowledge from the physical and biological sciences, the results were truly startling.  Actually, with some of the statistics I had to do a double take and I’m still experiencing the aftershock of the results.

Take a look below:

Or if you don’t want to analyze all of those numbers let me pick out six of the results I found most shocking:

1. Only 57% of Indians and 49% of Chinese think the center of the Earth is very hot

The center of the Earth has a similar temperature to the surface of the sun (5700 K vs. 5778 K).  Although the Indian and Chinese populations scored poorly on this question, most countries seem to have a firm grasp on this natural fact.  Compared to all the other facts, this one is quite well known and accepted.  I suppose the shocking part about that is that even the best scores were very poor.

2. Only 44% of Malaysians, 32% of Indians, 44% of Chinese and 40% of Russians believe that the continents have been moving for millions of years and will continue to move in the future.

This fact was largely rejected by a majority of people.  This could be that the theory of plate tectonics was an astonishingly late discovery in the history of science and was not generally accepted by the scientific community until the 1950’s and 1960’s.  I’m not sure if that is the principle reason why most people don’t know or are unwilling to accept the fact that the continental arrangements are not static.  It could also be sheer incredulity, an inability to comprehend that land can move and/or that land that size can move.  It could also be that an acceptance that continents move is simultaneously conceding that the land your country controls will not always exist.

3. Except for South Korea, all countries polled have 20% or more of their population that believe we live in a geocentric solar system.

This one is really the one that I’m having a tough time understanding.  Even though more than 50% of the population in every country polled knew the Earth travels around the sun, this should be one of those questions that has >95% correct accuracy.  The fact that 34% of Europeans, 30% of Indians and 27% of Americans think the Earth goes around the sun is just bizarre.  Part of me thinks that the polling organization needs to re-ask this question because those numbers are just so high.  Or maybe I am naive to think that the notion of a heliocentric solar system is so convincing?  Maybe people without any scientific education just conclude that what they see everyday (the sun rising and setting around them) is proof enough that we are at the center of the solar system?

4. Only 38% of Americans, 34% of Indians, 22% of Chinese and 35% of Russians believe in the big bang.

Undoubtedly this question’s poor results stem from religious cosmology.  And for that reason it was sort of paradoxical that Americans and Russians did not score higher.  The pollsters stated to people “The universe began with a huge explosion” and excepted a ‘true’ or ‘false’ response.  For many Americans and Russians at least this could easily be interpreted and reconciled with the Christian cosmology.  For Indians, or more specifically people influenced by religions of Indian origin (e.g., Hinduism, Buddhism) this statement would definitely be answered as false because of a belief that the universe has always existed, and although it is in perpetual flux, it will always exist.

5. Only 25% of Japanese, 38% of Indians, and 22% of Russians know that the fathers gametes determine sex.

Poor knowledge of sex-determination is definitely a problem.  Throughout history women have commonly been blamed by men for not ‘giving them a son’.  This still occurs throughout much of the world, particularly in Asia, and of course this destructive phenomenon of blaming the woman has no basis in factual reality.  To be fair, neither the man or the woman should be blamed for the sex of the child since sex determination happens uncontrollably at the microscopic level.  However, it is the male gamete which determines sex so women should certainly get no blame.

6. Only 47% of Americans, 56% of Indians and 44% of Russians believe that we evolved from other animals.

Alright, humans evolved from other animals.  Although the results were low, they were not as low as I’d thought they’d be.  Especially considering the recent American Gallup Poll I discussed above.  However, the numbers actually support one another.  In this poll 47% of Americans believe that humans evolved from animals and this is in accordance with the Gallup Poll because in that poll 15% of Americans believed in human evolution and 32% of Americans believed in evolution with God’s help (i.e., Intelligent Design).  That makes a total of 47% of Americans who believe that humans evolved from other animals.  Obviously with the knowledge that the question itself can be interpreted to mean that some supernatural force helped humans come into existence from other animals explains the high accuracy in correctness.  I don’t have data from other countries breaking down whether the percentage of people who answered correctly did so because they believe in human evolution or because they believe in Intelligent Design, but from the American data alone we can conclude that knowledge of evolutionary processes and the human species is still unacceptably low.


Evolution and the Public

Recently a close friend of mine sent me an article in the New York Daily News about the discovery of “Ida” or as it is known scientifically, Darwinius masillae, which is an early Eocene primate with many superficially lemur-like characteristics.  Ida was revealed to the public in 2009 (which is also when the article was written) and was presented as the long sought after “missing link” between prosimians and anthropoids.  I was aware at the time that this find was likely over-hyped for more press coverage, as many primate fossils are, so it didn’t surprise me that this article claimed that Ida was the missing link.  What struck me about the 2009 New York Daily News article was the sheer lack of anthropological and evolutionary knowledge by the people writing the article itself.  The scale of unnecessarily inaccurate information was startling for someone who studies primates and evolution.

Two major inaccuracies struck me:

1. “A team of researchers Tuesday unveiled an almost perfectly intact fossil of a 47 million-year-old primate they say represents the long-sought missing link between humans and apes.”

2. “Scientists say the cat-sized animal’s hind legs offer evidence of evolutionary changes that led to primates standing upright – a breakthrough that could finally confirm Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution.”

Did you catch the unnecessary and misleading inaccuracies?

For the first statement the authors claim that this 47 million year old fossil is the missing link between humans and apes.  Humans diverged from our last common ancestors, chimpanzees and bonobos, approximately 5-7mya.  In what universe does a 47 million year old Adapiform have to do with that divergence?

Answer: nothing.

The reason this was stated was pure and simple:  when talking about primate evolution most of the public wants to hear about human ancestry and the missing link between us and our closest ancestors.  A 47 million year old primate fossil can tell us a lot about early primate evolution and potentially the speciation of anthropoids, however it can tell us exactly nothing about our ancestor with apes.

As much as that statement annoyed me, I think the second statement is worse.  The authors claim that this find “confirms Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution”.  This is incredibly misleading and dangerous, especially when published in a reputable American newspaper.  It insinuates that evolution was in need of more evidence to prove its accuracy as a theory that can explain the history of all life on Earth.  However, evolution did not (and does not) need Ida anymore than the theory of gravity needs scientists to drop an apple from a tree to see whether it hits the ground.

Evolution as a phenomenon is a proven fact.

All life on Earth evolved over the past 3.5-4 billion years from a single common ancestor.  All that is left to do is refine the theory and learn more about how that happened, not whether it happened.  There is an important distinction.  And the reason it is dangerous that the authors of this article did not make it is because there are several powerful and influential people in America attempting to subvert the teaching of evolution in public education and they can use articles like this to say “look it is just a theory, you haven’t proven anything yet.”

I hope the point of this blog post makes it clear that there needs to be more anthropologists writing about findings in anthropology.  The public’s understanding of our origins as a species and an order depend on it.  I’d like to emphasize that point by directing you to a recent Gallup Poll that Science World recently reported on (here), indicating that the American public is in sore need of a better evolutionary education.

Here is a link to the New York Daily News article as well (here).