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Author Topic:   What if Homo erectus was alive today?
Blue Jay
Member (Idle past 98 days)
Posts: 2615
From: You couldn't pronounce it with your mouthparts
Joined: 02-04-2008


Message 6 of 49 (510283)
05-29-2009 2:25 PM
Reply to: Message 1 by AustinG
05-28-2009 11:34 PM


Hi, Austin.

I had to slip in with my OCD and correct something that you wrote:

AustinG writes:

I also understand that whatever selected pressures caused Homo erectus to evolve into Homo sapien would have to be absent from the environment that this isolated population lived in.

This is untrue. All that is required is isolation. You're not going to find one species that evolved independently from two different ancestors, so no amount of evolution and no amount of selection pressures are going to turn any surviving Homo erectus into new Homo sapiens. The only thing that would do this is interbreeding (along with selection pressures).

Think of it this way. I'm white. Is there a chance that my child will be born Asian? Is there any chance that my descendants will ever become Asian without interbreeding with Asians somewhere along the line?

-----

AustinG writes:

After this point has been exhausted, I would like to discuss the human rights implications of a Homo erectus discovery. Would they be afforded human rights?

I'm a science fiction writer by hobby, and I occasionally deal with this very issue: how will humans view aliens? That's essentially what a Homo erectus is: an alien.

Could the concept of a "Chosen Race" be extended to allow another species into our churches?

Would we feel the same remorse in killing a Homo erectus as we would in killing a Homo sapiens?

I think we'd generally treat them better than we treat cows and centipedes and squid, and we'd probably try to establish some kind of dialogue, even if only for the academic curiosity. But I think we'd still have a tendency to see them as "them," and us as "us": if push comes to shove, we'll favor ourselves over them for sure.

-----

Here's a thought: if you were the government of Florida, and H. erectus was found in the Everglades, would you be willing to let them carve out a chunk of your state as their homeland?

I bet most countries would complain about the loss of territory, and that would be the beginning of a political grudge that may eventually escalate to war.


-Bluejay (a.k.a. Mantis, Thylacosmilus)

Darwin loves you.


This message is a reply to:
 Message 1 by AustinG, posted 05-28-2009 11:34 PM AustinG has not yet responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 7 by Perdition, posted 05-29-2009 3:16 PM Blue Jay has responded

Blue Jay
Member (Idle past 98 days)
Posts: 2615
From: You couldn't pronounce it with your mouthparts
Joined: 02-04-2008


Message 13 of 49 (510513)
05-31-2009 11:23 PM
Reply to: Message 7 by Perdition
05-29-2009 3:16 PM


Procreation
Hi, Perdition.

I think the final test would be whether we could procreate with them.

I wonder how a fundamentalist would feel about that idea.
Would interbreeding be a sin, and all children produced, abominations?
If children are produced, what would prevent us from calling them just another ethnic group, instead of a different species?
And, wouldn't the "abominations" label then simply amount to racial bigotry?

Edited by Bluejay, : I'm pretty sure fundamentalists won't "fell" anything


-Bluejay (a.k.a. Mantis, Thylacosmilus)

Darwin loves you.


This message is a reply to:
 Message 7 by Perdition, posted 05-29-2009 3:16 PM Perdition has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 14 by AustinG, posted 05-31-2009 11:50 PM Blue Jay has responded
 Message 15 by Perdition, posted 06-01-2009 12:18 PM Blue Jay has responded

Blue Jay
Member (Idle past 98 days)
Posts: 2615
From: You couldn't pronounce it with your mouthparts
Joined: 02-04-2008


Message 20 of 49 (510683)
06-02-2009 1:42 PM
Reply to: Message 14 by AustinG
05-31-2009 11:50 PM


Re: Procreation
Hi, AustinG.

AustinG writes:

Keep in mind that race has no meaning anthropologically; its cultural creation no grounded in science.

That's completely untrue!

There are hundreds of physical and physiological traits that distinguish different ethnic groups from one another. For instance, Africans and Caucasians have four-cusped molars, and Asians have five-cusped molars; African skulls are prognathic, while Caucasians and Asians have flatter facial bones; body hair patterns and fat-storage patterns are also different; races that live in bright places (deserts and snowfields) often have epicanthal folds to protect their eyes; and, of course, races have different distributions of skin, eye and hair pigments.

The distinctness of the differen races in terms of appearance is evidence of genetic divergence. It's just that there's no real reproductive isolation, as yet (although most people generally marry within their own race). If Europeans, Africans, Asians and Amerindians were to stay isolated from one another, there's no reason why they wouldn't have each evolved into a different species.

Taboo is the only reason someone would say that race is a purely cultural construct. Perhaps this very taboo would be the only hope for Homo erectus in our modern world. But, if we are reproductively isolated from H. erectus, I don't think the taboo would protect them in the slightest.


-Bluejay (a.k.a. Mantis, Thylacosmilus)

Darwin loves you.


This message is a reply to:
 Message 14 by AustinG, posted 05-31-2009 11:50 PM AustinG has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 23 by AustinG, posted 06-02-2009 5:29 PM Blue Jay has not yet responded

Blue Jay
Member (Idle past 98 days)
Posts: 2615
From: You couldn't pronounce it with your mouthparts
Joined: 02-04-2008


Message 21 of 49 (510684)
06-02-2009 1:57 PM
Reply to: Message 15 by Perdition
06-01-2009 12:18 PM


Re: Procreation
Hi, Perdition.

Perdition writes:

I don't think we could interbreed with them, otherwise, they'd be the same species as us, definitionally.

I don't know of a reason to think that they're not the same species as us, other than that archaeology defines them as such.

There would be a number of factors involved: some erectus obviously were in Asia a long time before sapiens evolved in Africa, so these would probably be sufficiently divergent from us to prevent interbreeding. However, those in Africa, which are sometimes called Homo ergaster, a different species, are thought to be our direct ancestors, which means their population would only have diverged from ours about a quarter million years ago. I have no idea whether a quarter million years is enough time to become reproductively isolated.

-----

Perdition writes:

Though, I suppose, we could have infertile children, like horses and donkeys do...

Mules are infertile because horses and donkeys have different numbers of chromosomes. So, a mule has one horse chromosome that doesn't pair up with a donkey chromosome.

Similarly, chimpanzees and gorillas have one more pair of chromosomes than we do. Whether the change occurred before or after H. erectus (I suspect it was before) might play into whether or not hybrid children would be fertile.

I think the big cats all have the same number of chromosomes, though, and they have reduced hybrid fertility, so it's still possible.


-Bluejay (a.k.a. Mantis, Thylacosmilus)

Darwin loves you.


This message is a reply to:
 Message 15 by Perdition, posted 06-01-2009 12:18 PM Perdition has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 22 by Perdition, posted 06-02-2009 2:16 PM Blue Jay has not yet responded
 Message 28 by bluegenes, posted 06-03-2009 11:03 AM Blue Jay has not yet responded

Blue Jay
Member (Idle past 98 days)
Posts: 2615
From: You couldn't pronounce it with your mouthparts
Joined: 02-04-2008


Message 29 of 49 (510773)
06-03-2009 12:30 PM
Reply to: Message 24 by TheWhale
06-03-2009 1:34 AM


Re: Most anthropologists recognize that race is a social concept,
Hi, TheWhale.

TheWhale writes:

The rest of the rational world isn't deferring to anthropologists for a decision on whether the concept of race is null and void.

1. race is not a cultural creation or merely a social concept
2. there are very real genetic differences between races, that is fact, so it is fair to say that it IS grounded in science
3. the genetic differences between races manifests in physical differences that a 3 year old child can recognize

No, I was wrong: the genetic differences are not consistent enough within "races" to show that "races" are distinct, cohesive groups, at least genetically.

Sure, there is some biological component to race, but it's more in the distribution of haplotypes within a race, rather than in the distinct genetic identity of a race. Bluegenes provided a link to a Wiki page on haplogroups. Haplogroups are where you see the actual genetic diversity of humans, and, as you can see in the following image, each haplogroup is distributed across many races:


Click to enlarge

For instance, we could say that the Amerindian race is defined by a broad distribution of Y-DNA Haplogroup Q. But, Q also occurs in many Asian populations, so many Amerindian people are more similar to some Asian people genetically than they are to other people within their own tribe.

-----

Now, you could argue that "culture" is equivalent to "ecology," and make the case that ecological distinction is sufficient to define subspecies, but we have yet to find strong reasons to suggest that human ecology is anything more than a learned behavior.


-Bluejay (a.k.a. Mantis, Thylacosmilus)

Darwin loves you.


This message is a reply to:
 Message 24 by TheWhale, posted 06-03-2009 1:34 AM TheWhale has not yet responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 41 by caffeine, posted 06-04-2009 9:12 AM Blue Jay has responded

Blue Jay
Member (Idle past 98 days)
Posts: 2615
From: You couldn't pronounce it with your mouthparts
Joined: 02-04-2008


Message 34 of 49 (510810)
06-03-2009 5:28 PM
Reply to: Message 32 by TheWhale
06-03-2009 2:20 PM


Re: Most anthropologists recognize that race is a social concept,
Hi, TheWhale.

Here is the link to the American Anthropological Association's statement on race, which AustinG provided upthread (by the way, Austin, your hyperlinks didn't work: you've got the web addresses written as "http:///" with nothing following it).

Here's the relevant part:

quote:
Evidence from the analysis of genetics (e.g., DNA) indicates that most physical variation, about 94%, lies within so-called racial groups. Conventional geographic "racial" groupings differ from one another only in about 6% of their genes. This means that there is greater variation within "racial" groups than between them.

Here are some recent citations on the subject:

Witherspoon et al 2007 (should be free access)
Long et al 2009 (abstract: full text is not free)

Both of these support the notion that races are not genetically distinct from one another.

-----

The following is a recent paper that suggests that race is an appropriate categorization system:

Edwards 2003 (abstract: full text is not free)

Basically, Edwards says that the variation between races is mostly in the form of varying allele frequencies, whereas the numbers the American Anthropological Association quote above uses only talk about presence/absence.

It's a valid argument, except that, like Coyote said, allele frequencies are not distinct categories, but gradients, so it's hard to draw a line between two races.

For your information, the other two papers I referenced are, in part, rebuttals to Edwards' paper.

Edited by Bluejay, : I prefer capital letters at the beginning of sentences, but that's just me.


-Bluejay (a.k.a. Mantis, Thylacosmilus)

Darwin loves you.


This message is a reply to:
 Message 32 by TheWhale, posted 06-03-2009 2:20 PM TheWhale has not yet responded

Blue Jay
Member (Idle past 98 days)
Posts: 2615
From: You couldn't pronounce it with your mouthparts
Joined: 02-04-2008


Message 42 of 49 (510874)
06-04-2009 9:41 AM
Reply to: Message 41 by caffeine
06-04-2009 9:12 AM


Re: Most anthropologists recognize that race is a social concept,
Hi, Caffeine.

caffeine writes:

Not really. Your Y-chromosone haplogroup only records your direct male line ancestry, so sharing the haplogroup with someone on another continent may just record just one isolated common ancestor...

Well, of course: it's an oversimplification, but the principle is still the same.

-----

caffeine writes:

If we extend to them greater rights and legal protection than we offer for animals, some people are going to ask whether chimpanzees and dolphins shouldn't have greater rights and protection than salamanders and beetles (for example).

And, naturally, you may have people use this "slippery slope" argument as a reason to not give Homo erectus civil rights.

-----

New random question:

Would you vote for a Homo erectus for president?


-Bluejay (a.k.a. Mantis, Thylacosmilus)

Darwin loves you.


This message is a reply to:
 Message 41 by caffeine, posted 06-04-2009 9:12 AM caffeine has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 43 by bluescat48, posted 06-04-2009 11:22 AM Blue Jay has not yet responded
 Message 48 by caffeine, posted 06-05-2009 6:02 AM Blue Jay has not yet responded

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