Imagine that you’re standing in a bookstore or library. You want to learn about human evolution, but you don’t know where to start. You don’t want anything complicated; you just want to know the basics and to find out if it’s an interesting topic. You’re down to two books: either Bernard Wood’s Human Evolution: A Very Short Introduction (or A Brief Insight) or Silvana Condemi and François Savatier’s A Pocket History of Human Evolution: How We Became Sapiens. Which do you choose?Read more
The Piltdown Man is one of the most famous human fossils ever discovered, almost as famous as Lucy. But unlike Lucy, the Piltdown Man never lived, at least not 400,000 years ago like the world’s greatest minds in paleoanthropology used to think. These scientists believed from 1912 to 1953 that the Piltdown Man was the missing link of human evolution when in fact he was a human skull found with a modified orangutan jaw by Charles Dawson in Sussex, England.Read more
Even though Nonfiction November has been around for eight years and I have been writing nonfiction book reviews for four, I’ve never thought to participate in this nonfiction-loving event until now. It’s structured with five prompts: one per week, each hosted by a different book blogger. Because I post no more and no fewer than one post a week, and don’t want to miss out on posting my usual content in November, I decided to do them all at once! Or maybe it’s because I am simply a rebel. I think it’s a little bit of both.
Donald Johanson’s book Lucy: The Beginnings of Humankind was what first made me fall in love with paleoanthropology. While I have learned about dozens more fossils over the last two years, I still have a special place in my heart for Lucy. So you can imagine how excited I was to defend her from the lies of the young-earth creationists at Answers in Genesis! I once might not have known how to debunk their claims, but I now have the knowledge, the books, and a little bit of money needed to find so many errors in their articles.Read more
Four years ago to the day, I wrote a post called “Why I Am Not a Scientist”. I’ve since privated it, because I don’t like the way I spoke about myself and my own intelligence in that post. My main idea was that I was new to being an informed atheist, and I was not confident in my abilities to refute young-earth creationism. I called myself “scientifically challenged” and expressed that I felt that in order to really be confident in my atheist stance, I would have to become much more educated in various fields of science. I said that I was “really bad at science” even as I said that I loved and appreciated how it allows us to learn about the world around us.Read more
If a book can be “hot” in the world of paleoanthropology, then Kindred: Neanderthal Life, Love, Death and Art is that book. Published in the fall of 2020, Kindred is the latest in a long line of books about Neanderthals, but anyone who has read Kindred knows that it is not like the others.Read more
After a four-month-long break, I am happy to finally be returning to my series critiquing the claims of creationists—specifically, Answers in Genesis—about human evolution! Anyone who has created critiques to AiG’s content knows how frustrating and exasperating it can be. For those who do this for a living, I applaud you. AiG has so much content, with so many twists and turns and overlaps, that it is almost too easy to get lost on their website and in their…unique ideas. They seem to have a great fascination with Neanderthals, which in their eyes are just an archaic group of Homo sapiens. (They can’t seem to agree on whether Neanderthals were an ethnic group, a race, or a subspecies.) In the world of paleoanthropology, Neanderthals have always been a hot topic, as we know more about them than any other hominid species but our own. There is a lot of fluctuation in our understanding of Neanderthals, because scientists are discovering more about them by the day.Read more
It’s August 15th, 2008. You’re nine-year-old Matthew Berger, and you’re in Gladysvale, South Africa, looking for ancient human fossils with your paleoanthropologist dad, Lee Berger. “Okay, go find fossils!” says your dad. Only moments later, you find a hominid collarbone sticking out of a rock. Your dad curses in shock after seeing all the other hominid bones lying around it: a tooth and part of a jaw, among others. He goes on to spend years studying these fossils among his colleagues, and he names it Australopithecus sediba.
Fast forward: It’s August 15th, 2020, and you’re a 24-year-old woman with an interest in paleoanthropology. You’re writing a blog post about Australopithecus sediba for a series defending finds like the Bergers’ from the heinous claims of anti-scientists. Hours into your research, you see an article telling you that Matthew’s find was in fact made on this very day, twelve years ago. You don’t believe in coincidences or fate, but it makes you smile nonetheless.Read more
Since I first read the story of the groundbreaking 1974 discovery of possible human ancestor Lucy, I have been captivated by the study of human origins. I felt as if during my atheistic indignation at the fantastical creation stories in the bible, paleoanthropology took my hand and showed me that there is an entire field of study that strives to learn where humans really came from. I’ve been baffled that more people weren’t devouring the findings of fossil hunters. I’m afraid that that might be partly because creationist teachings have been normalized, at least in the United States. I want to help break down, clearly and understandably, why creationism holds no answers about human origins whatsoever.Read more
Interest in human origins should be more widespread regardless of which worldview it entails, because it is the study of where we came from. Especially for anyone who was once religious and entranced by the story of God creating Adam and Eve, your curiosity about our origins should increase, not decrease, significantly, when you leave the religion and discover that only science can answer your questions.Read more