Skip to content

Debate between scientists over details of evolution becomes heated

By Marshall Connolly (Catholic Online)
3/7/2014 (3 years ago)
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

It's not always roses in the world of science.

A recent debate erupted in the scientific community that got a bit heated by academic standards. NPR did a feature report on the debate and it underscores the nature of science and how science is done.

The theory of human evolution by natural selection is well beyond debate in credible scientific circles, but the finer points can have scientists sparring for years.

The theory of human evolution by natural selection is well beyond debate in credible scientific circles, but the finer points can have scientists sparring for years.

Highlights

By Marshall Connolly (Catholic Online)
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)
3/7/2014 (3 years ago)

Published in Technology

Keywords: Evolution, science, consensus, debate


LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - The debate featured by NPR concerned the evolution of humans and whether they evolved on the savannahs of Africa or in the dense woodland jungles of East Africa. Hominid fossils found in Africa have strongly suggested that our human ancestors evolved to walk upright when they migrated out of the forests and onto the savannahs millions of years ago. On the broad grassy plains, there was a natural advantage to being able to walk upright and see father.

However, in recent years, the discovery of older, bipedal hominid fossils found in parts of Africa that were once dense woodland, has challenged this conclusion. In fact, the current "consensus" has changed to the idea that early humans evolved bipedalism in woods and migrated to the savannahs later.

We have a duty to feed the hungry. Oblige here and answer the plea of Pope Francis.

Since the new evidence clashes with the previous paradigm, some adjustment of the specifics of the theory of human evolution needs to be made. This is where scientists make their careers.

To be a contrarian is how to get ahead in science. Running with the heard and accepting the consensus view does little to advance one's career. It's the discovery of new information which is added to the body of knowledge that earns someone a doctorate's degree. It's revolutionary discoveries that get published, become book deals, secure tenure, and sometimes win Nobel Prizes. Scientists are always looking for opportunities to become contrarians.

However, they cannot simply buck the system because they choose to. They first need evidence that challenges the established paradigm.

This is science 101, and the NPR feature reveals that it can sometimes be pretty rough for all involved.

M. Dominguez-Rodrigo, a professor of prehistory in Madrid, Spain, published an article alluding to the growing consensus among scientists that early humans did not evolve on the savannahs, but in the African woodlands instead.

The article was published in the February 2014 issue of Current Anthropology, under the title, "Is the 'Savannah Hypothesis' a Dead Concept for Explaining the Emergence of the Earliest Hominins?"

Dominguez-Rodrigo went on to argue that humans likely evolved in a "mosaic" as NPR put it. In other words, they evolved in both, living on savannah lands that may have contained a good number of trees, a sort of in between area that wasn't entirely grassland.

He was then countered by Professor Tim White, from the University of California, Berkeley. White discovered the fossils that turned the tide against the savannah hypothesis.

In his rebuttal, White offered evidence to show that humans evolved in a wooded, and not on a savannah at all.

That's where the debate became heated.

NPR quoted White, "Without original research or new data, Dominguez-Rodrigo attempts to resurrect 'the spirit of the old savanna hypothesis' via word games and revisionist history ... This attempted resurrection of an obsolete mind-set will stand as a monument to futility."
According to NPR, Dominguez-Rodrigo countered with, "By denying [the] evidence [for the savanna hypothesis], White exemplifies perfectly Kuhn's idea that when a paradigm is assaulted, supporters of the old guard remain intentionally blind to the mounting evidence or selectively utilize data in order to resist change."

Wow.

White accuses Dominguez-Rodrigo of playing word games, and Dominguez-Rodrigo counters with accusations of ignorance.

Both men have different specific competencies, so there's naturally going to be a different interpretation of the evidence. However, in this case, the two scientists took the paper as well as the critique personally and are not making virtual ad hominem attacks at one another in their commentaries.

This illustrates that science is not always tidy, and there is not always consensus on the fine points of of a hypothesis. Although theories are generally matured to the point they are hardly subject to debate (for example, neither scientist argues that evolution did not occur, the consensus on that is quite firm) they do debate on the details.

Unfortunately, the unlearned will take these debates on details and construe them into "doubt" in an attempt to undermine the soundness of the theory, and thereby undermine what is taught as fact in schools and in society in general.

The reality is that we do not know with extreme precision everything that happened in the past. We weren't there with yardsticks in hand. Data can be interpreted differently. Sometimes emotion interferes, although in the realm of science there is no room for emotion. In science it is all about the data.

READ MORE On the debate between creation and evolution.

Unfortunately, it can be hard to eliminate the human element, which is often the one variable that can taint results. Fortunately, the consensus of cooler heads typically prevails over the long run, and that's what allows us to rely on science as a method for discerning truths about our physical realm.

---


'Help give every student and teacher Free resources for a world-class moral Catholic education'


Copyright 2017 - Distributed by THE CALIFORNIA NETWORK

Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for OCTOBER 2017
Workers and the Unemployed.
That all workers may receive respect and protection of their rights, and that the unemployed may receive the opportunity to contribute to the common good.


Comments


More Technology

Breakthrough: Have scientists just found a way to predict earthquakes? Watch

Image of Earthquakes are one disaster for which we still have no warning.

Scientists may have discovered a breakthrough in earthquake prediction. Researchers studying the 9.1 magnitude Tohoku quake in Japan from ... continue reading


Did the Russians really find extraterrestrial life on the International Space Station? Watch

Image of The extraterrestrial hitchhikers were discovered by Russian cosmonauts on a spacewalk aboard the International Space Station.

Russian cosmonauts claim they have found alien life hitching a ride on the International Space Station (ISS). The Russian news agency, ... continue reading


NOT KIDDING: Atheist plans to build a robot god for other atheists to worship Watch

Image of We cannot get automated checkstands to think past unexpected items in bagging areas, so we still have a long way to go before we turn computers into gods.

A former Google engineer plans to start his own religion, and he is designing the god to lead it. Anthony Levandowski, a former Google ... continue reading


Young Russian genius says Martians are real and here's where we can find the proof! Watch

Image of According to Kipriyanovich, the Great Pyramid of Giza holds a secret from Mars that can change the world. Researchers recently discovered a hidden room in the pyramid.

A young Russian man is sticking to his story that he first told as a child. Boriska Kipriyanovich, 20, claims he once lived on Mars and ... continue reading


Pope Francis' call to the International Space Station shows there is no conflict between the faith and science (Full Transcript) Watch

Image of Pope Francis listened attentively to what each astronaut had to say.

Pope Francis spoke with the crew of the International Space Station on Thursday. The Holy Father asked each of the crew how the experience ... continue reading


Never Miss any Updates!

Stay up to date with the latest news, information, and special offers.

Information
Learn about Catholic world

Catholic Online
Inform - Inspire - Ignite

Catholic Online Saints
Your saints explained

Catholic Online Prayers
Prayers for every need

Catholic Online Bible
Complete bible online

Catholic Online News
Your news Catholic eye

Daily Reading
Today's bible reading

Lent / Easter
Death & resurrection of Jesus

Advent / Christmas
Birth of Jesus

Rest of Catholic Online
All Catholic world we offer

Services
Products and services we offer

Catholic Online Shopping
Catholic medals, gifts & books

The California Network
Inspiring streaming service

Advertise on Catholic Online
Your ads on catholic.org

Catholic Online Email
Email with Catholic feel

Catholic Online Singles
Safe, secure Catholic dating

The California Studios
World-class post production service

Education
Learn the Catholic way

Catholic Online School
Free Catholic education for all

Student Classes
K-12 & Adult Education Classes

Catholic Online MasterClass
Learn from experts

School Teachers
Teacher lesson plans & resources

Catholic Media Missionaries
The New Evangelization

Support Free Education
Tax deductible support Free education

Socials
Connect with us online

Catholic Online on Facebook
Catholic social network

Catholic Online on Twitter
Catholic Tweets

Catholic Online on YouTube
Enjoy our videos

Catholic Online on Instagram
Shared Catholic moments

Catholic Online on Pinterest
Catholic ideas style inspiration

Catholic Online Logo

Copyright 2017 Catholic Online. All materials contained on this site, whether written, audible or visual are the exclusive property of Catholic Online and are protected under U.S. and International copyright laws, © Copyright 2017 Catholic Online. Any unauthorized use, without prior written consent of Catholic Online is strictly forbidden and prohibited.