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friedrich braun
Wednesday, October 27th, 2004, 07:21 PM
By Patricia Reaney


LONDON (Reuters) - Scientists in Australia have found a new species of hobbit-sized humans who lived about 18,000 years ago on an Indonesian island in a discovery that adds another piece to the complex puzzle of human evolution. The partial skeleton of Homo floresiensis, found in a cave on the island of Flores, is of an adult female that was a meter (3 feet) tall, had a chimpanzee-sized brain and was substantially different from modern humans. It shared the isolated island to the east of Java with miniature elephants and Komodo dragons. The creature walked upright, probably evolved into its dwarf size because of environmental conditions and coexisted with modern humans in the region for thousands of years.

"It is an extraordinarily important find," Professor Chris Stringer, of the Natural History Museum in London, told a news conference on Wednesday. "It challenges the whole idea of what it is that makes us human." Peter Brown of the University of New England in Armidale, Australia, and his colleagues made the discovery of the skull and other bones, and miniature tools in September 2003 while looking for records of modern human migration to Asia. They reported the finding in the science journal Nature.

"Finding these hominins on an isolated island in Asia, and with elements of modern human behavior in tool making and hunting, is truly remarkable and could not have been predicted by previous discoveries," Brown said in a statement. Local legends tell of hobbit-like creatures existing on islands long ago but there has been no evidence of them.


DESCENDENT OF HOMO ERECTUS

The hominin family tree, which includes humans and pre-humans, diverged from the chimpanzee line about 7 million years ago. Early African hominins walked upright, were small and had tiny brains. The new species, dubbed "Flores man," is thought to be a descendent of Homo erectus, which had a large brain, was full-sized and spread out from Africa to Asia about 2 million years ago. The new species became isolated on Flores and evolved into its dwarf form to conform with conditions, such as food shortages. Flores, which was probably never connected to the mainland, was home to a variety of exotic creatures including a dwarf form of the primitive elephant Stegodon.

Modern humans had reached Australia about 45,000 years ago but they may not have passed through Flores. The scientists suspect the new species became extinct after a massive volcanic eruption on the island about 12,000 years ago. Brown and his colleagues have found the remains of seven other dwarf individuals at the same site since the first find. "The other individuals all show similar characteristics, and over a time range that now extends from as long ago as 95,000 years to as recently as 13,000 years ago -- a population of hobbits that seemed to disappear at about the same time as the pygmy elephants that they hunted," said Bert Roberts, one of the authors of the Nature study.


Source: Yahoo News (http://news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&cid=570&u=/nm/20041027/sc_nm/science_hominid_dc_1)

Loki
Saturday, November 6th, 2004, 04:28 PM
When they showed on television the cave on the island of Flores where the remains of little people had been found, I felt, I admit, a Yeatsian frisson that the world of politics cannot give. It was not delight at a new branch on the hat-stand of anthropoid evolution, but the thought that in the thick Indonesian rainforest there were (or had been, perhaps as recently as the time when dodos lived) creatures with whom we could converse, but which were not men.

The appetite for talking to other creatures is amply exemplified by our often exasperated one-sided conversations: ‘Get off the bloody table, Tigger, there’s a good cat.’ The very existence of pets as a sort of imaginary friend shows how reluctant humans are to be alone among the frightening emptinesses of Paschalian space. The exciting news was that the folk tales of green men, little people, wood-dwellers, might be based on fact.

But don’t these new creatures in Flores, so gratingly christened hobbits, prove that the Bible is rubbish, Darwin is right and everything can be explained by evolution? Well, for so-called fundamentalists, the difficulties of keeping to the sentence-by-sentence literal truth of the biblical account of the Creation should not be much greater than they already are, even if a delegation of Flores hobbits arrived in Downing Street demanding equal rights and bus passes.

For mainstream Christians, Darwin was never much of a problem anyway. He was only thought to be so by those who presumed he had somehow either: 1) proved the Bible wasn’t true, or 2) proved that men had no immortal souls. He had proved neither.

Genesis was chewed over, about 1,800 years ago, by the clever Christian thinker Origen. ‘What reasonable man would think that the first, second and third day — and the evening and the morning — existed without a sun, moon and stars?’ he asked. I do not suppose that anyone doubts that these things figuratively indicate certain mysteries.

No one, before the phrase ‘sola scriptura’ became a motto, took the Bible for a sort of cosmological mechanical maintenance manual. But it was the contention of Christians 1,500 years before Darwin that evolution does not rule out questions of design, intention, teleology or why anything exists at all.

Far more interesting this week, in an irresponsibly speculative way, is what we should make of these Floresians’ spiritual life, if they existed.

The Church used, in the Middle Ages, to be very fierce against those who declared that there were men living in the Antipodes. The problem was that the scientists taught then that the torrid zone at the equator made it quite impassable to travellers, and so any human existing down-under would be descended from another first-father rather than Adam. But Christian doctrine had always maintained that all men were descended from one man. They were all fallen through original sin, but all redeemed by the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ.

The scientists who have come up with these new Floresians do not count them among the ancestors of man, but among the collateral branches which died out, like the Neanderthals, only later. The suggestion is that the Floresians are, like us, rational animals.

Now Christians believe that man (I mean homo, of course, not vir) is a special creation of God. Would these Floresians be in the image and likeness of God too, with immortal souls to be saved or lost, capable of praying to God and going to heaven?

I cannot see that evolution would be an obstacle to their being spiritual and rational creatures. ‘The Catholic faith obliges us to hold firmly that souls are immediately created by God,’ wrote Pope Pius XII in his encyclical Humani Generis in 1950. And he wasn’t just making it up; that was the general belief of Christians over the centuries. By ‘immediately created’ is meant that the souls don’t grow like coral out of the bodies that our parents kindly bequeathed us by their passionate or careless mingling of zygotes.

The soul is, in scholastic terms, derived from Aristotle, the form of the body, making it, with its constituent matter, a unified substance. Bunny rabbits have souls too, but they are not immortal. Ours are, and, as such, cannot be confected by a collision of matter. For more details see Aquinas’s Commentary on Aristotle’s De Anima.

The assumption is that God does not deny any human an immortal soul; the bodily set-up is capable of working with an immortal soul, like a mobile with a charged battery, and God provides one. The one soul performs all the functions: spiritual, intellectual, animal and vegetative. It would be the same story for the Floresians if they were capable of rational, immaterial thought.


http://www.spectator.co.uk/article.php?id=5201&issue=2004-11-06

green nationalist
Thursday, April 28th, 2005, 01:36 PM
http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2004/10/1027_041027_homo_floresiensis.html

Scientists have found skeletons of a hobbit-like species of human that grew no larger than a three-year-old modern child . The tiny humans, who had skulls about the size of grapefruits, lived with pygmy elephants and Komodo dragons on a remote island in Indonesia 18,000 years ago.
http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2004/10/photogalleries/homo_floresiensis_1/images/primary/hobbit3.jpg http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2004/10/photogalleries/homo_floresiensis_1/images/primary/flores_scientist.jpg
http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2004/10/photogalleries/homo_floresiensis_1/images/primary/flores_sapiens.jpg