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back to article World's OLDEST human DNA found in leg bone – but that's not the only boning going on...

New tests on human bones that were hidden in a Spanish cave for 400,000 years have revealed the oldest human DNA ever sequenced - and thrown boffins’ picture of early evolution into question. The Sima de los Huesos hominins lived approximately 400,000 years ago during the Middle Pleistocene Scientists from the Max Planck …

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Anonymous Coward

Good picture.

I saw those people on the subway a few weeks ago. Surprising that they could afford to hire a painter to do a group portrait.

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JDX
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Re: Good picture.

It looks more like a picture of Rafa Nadal.

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Anonymous Coward

Another possibility

The deceased was on holiday.

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Anonymous Coward

I can't speak for you, but I know that I was created by a large plate of tomato-paste covered pasta. All hail His Noodly-Goodness.

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In science, "theory" doesn't mean what you think it means. Perhaps you're thinking of "hypothesis"?

For evolution to have made it to "theory" means that it a very solid science indeed.

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So you're saying that for all these years, everyone has been lying to me? And rather than Darwins theory of evolution, it was in fact Darwins hypothesis of evolution?

I need to go reevaluate my life

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> And rather than Darwins theory of evolution, it was in fact Darwins hypothesis of evolution?

Darwin would have started out with a hypothesis, then gathered the evidence, tested it and came to the conclusion that the hypothesis was true. It then becomes a theory.

Evolutionary theory has such a large body of independently corroborating evidence that it constitutes "fact" in the scientific sense, which again is probably not what most people would understand the meaning of the word to be.

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RAMEN!

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> Evolutionary theory ....

Evolution is an observable process. It can be seen in the fossil record, it can be observed in, say, bacteria. It can even be controlled with, say, animal husbandry to cause new variations in a short time.

The theories are explanations of the _causes_ of evolution. Darwin's theory was not that evolution happened, that was accepted, but that one cause was 'survival of the fittest'. Actually it was more non-survival of the less fit. Another theory is that of 'sexual selection'. Both are supported by evidence and have been tested by predicting outcomes. These are not exhaustive and there may be other causes alongside these two. Even Lamark's work has not been totally discounted.

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the Origin

On the Origin of Species was nothing more than a collection of hypotheses, which together form what was later accepted as the Theory of Evolution.

I love people who try to bash Darwin and his masterpiece.... It's like saying Newton was wrong simply because he didn't think of Relativity along with his basic theories. Darwin, as well as Newton, worked within the framework of existing knowledge of their time, and any evaluation of worth and/or "correctness" of their discoveries should always take that into account. And as it is, both their discoveries required some really fancy brainfarting to get things right, they simply lacked the body of elemental knowledge we have nowadays. But then again "science" as we understand the process nowadays did not exist in their days. People who have actually read the Origin will have noticed Darwin still worked within the framework of Natural Philosophy, not "Science" to write his book. His "proof" for his hypothesis at the time still existed of empyrical observation of parallel processes ( nature versus human breeding pactices, and how they align in form and result ) and how those aligned with the newfangled and highly contentious hypothesis of a guy named Mendel* (and others who've fallen in obscurity nowadays).

Evolution has become a Theory (in the modern sense) because the basic tenets have been proven through all the way down, after each new breakthrough in biology. From comparative morphology (started by Linnaeus way back when) up to the most modern understanding of molecular genetics, the principles of inheritance and selection have been proven true again and again, even though our understanding of how those two processes actually work have radically altered as our knowledge of them increases over time. In that respect it's become more than just a theory, we only need to find any evidence of extraterrestrial life that follows the same molecular basis as us, and it will become a Law of Nature.

Darwin may have started with a hypothesis, but by now it's clear that he was the first to recognise and formalise a part of universal truth. That some nutters, waving a book about the exploits of $Deity, fail to grok the beauty and simplicity of it is a shame. There's just no pleasing some people.

* Mendel , being a statistician, "fudged his numbers" by ignoring a statistically insignificant fraction of daisies that did not comply with his rules of inheritance. While mathematically correct, this remained on of the major criticisms of his work, until some smart cookies figured out this discrepancy might well mean that that weird substance called "DNA" could fit the bill for carrying our inheritable traits.

It took a couple of decades to prove it, but the rest is, as they say, History.

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bep

Bill Bailey would have your guts for garters

I believe it was actually the other bloke who coined the term 'survival of the fittest'. Darwin preferred the term 'survival of the best adapted'.

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Re: Bill Bailey would have your guts for garters

No, he clearly was saying something about "genetic algorithms and the short permanence of temporarily and locally bound acceptable solutions in the moving energy landscape of changing environmental exchange network dynamics", but his words were drowned out by the loud clanking of a large machine, akin to a mass of bronze gears, that he had, for some reason, assembled in his cellar.

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Joke

Re: Mendel , being a statistician....

reminds me of....

a king asked 3 of his wise advisers what the answer to 2 + 2 was

the mathematician said "It is certainly 4"

the scientist said "all my experiments have shown it to be 4"

the statistician told him "you tell me what answer you want and I'll find a way to come up with it"

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actually Wallace's theory

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I particularly agree with your postulation of " non-survival of the less fit". There are vast areas of study that show that "Non-survival essential" traits causing significant species changes become not only passed down, but become "Genetically Dominant" such as bright feather colors in male birds, which leads to your next statement of Sexual Selection.

Sexual Selection in humans was postulated and eventually proven in studies at the University of New Mexico Anthropology Department in the 90's. Part of the study of sexual selection dealt with certain distribution of facial features where symmetry was the overriding factor in "Attractiveness" of a face. My son was part of the research team and I have since seen references to that study in my readings.

This by no means is the only feature that attracts humans to each other. The obvious things such as shared interests etc. are even overridden by subtle things like smell. (not artificial smells like perfumes, but the smell of sweat, hair bacteria and more).

Though old and retired, I still wish I had studied more Anthropology instead of Medicine. My medical background may have been more lucrative, but I was always more interested in Humans as a species than as Patients.

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Anonymous Coward

All lies

As any bible lover will tell you there is no such thing as evolution and the earth is only 6,000 years old.

We'll ignore the fact the bible was written by MEN, who today would be placed on very strong meds for saying what they were saying and edited by other MEN who must have really hated women (or just liked other men).

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JDX
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Re: All lies

90% of even fundamentalist Christians, never mind the majority of more moderate Christians, would not claim that.

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Re: All lies

> 90% of even fundamentalist Christians, never mind the majority of more moderate Christians, would not claim that.

Well thank "God" for science and critical thinking otherwise they most certainly would.

Seriously though, although I like a good troll as much as the next guy, there is a serious point to keeping on the pressure. If us atheists don't keep it up, the superstitious *will* fight back with their authority and their willing ignorance and our descendants will not thank us for our laxity.

The price of freedom is constant vigilance and the price of enlightenment is constant thinking.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: All lies

The surveys I have seen (in the USA, my point of reference) disagrees with your statement. I say your statement adds credence to the statement that 80% of statistics are made up (and yes, I made up that stat {}:>)) ).

If is funny that today's "God fearing Americans" would have run many of the founding fathers out of the country for their religious views.

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@JDX

"90% of even fundamentalist Christians...would not claim that."

You're right. But that's because fundamentalist Christians believe God took direct control of the Bible writers and made them write exactly the words He wanted. Or they argue that the "errors" introduced by later copyists were actually reversions.

Disclaimer: these are real views expressed to me by IRL Christians when we sat down to thrash out the issues.

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Re: All lies

"As any bible lover will tell you there is no such thing as evolution and the earth is only 6,000 years old."

As if I'd believe anything from some dude with the pages of his Bible stuck together... Ick!

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Re: @JDX

> God retconning harder than a low-quality Hollywood scriptwriter on the quest for more money.

Funamentalist people need to be given the utter contempt they deserve.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: All lies

As analysis of an ancient wine cellar in Palestine found recently many of the wine vessels from the biblical era contained additives such as resins with hallucinogenic properties, so they were probably not mad, just stoned out of their brains.

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Re: All lies (@JDX)

Well, the OP did say bible lover. I assume he means in the *ahem* biblical sense.

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Re: @JDX

"Funamentalist people need to be given the utter contempt they deserve."

Yeah! All fun loving hypnotist clairvoyant telepaths deserve nothing but contempt

(except Derren Brown who I look forward to seeing in April - tickets are rather pricey though at ~$45ea - so you'd better be good Derren, or expect some heckling - though as a Mentalist/clairvoyant you already know that)

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@ skelband

" If us atheists don't keep it up, the superstitious *will* fight back with their authority and their willing ignorance and our descendants will not thank us for our laxity. The price of freedom is constant vigilance and the price of enlightenment is constant thinking."

You seem pretty seriously infected with the smug and self-serving dogma that atheism will somehow produce a better world. That's YOUR ignorance. You could use some enlightenment yourself.

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Re: All lies

That's the same reason we ran them out of ours :-)

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@ACs (15:26 and "All Lies")

Yawn. Trolling religion on a tech/science site is so Neanderthal.

If you want to spark a conversation, try writing something interesting or clever.

If you want to spark a controversy, try logging in to a religious site with your actual personal information and re-post your comments there.

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Re: @ACs (15:26 and "All Lies")

Given the new evidence, can you be absolutely sure it's Neandertal and not Denisovan trolling?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: @ACs (15:26 and "All Lies")

Not realizing that there are a large number of people out there that want to impose their religious views on society is what is so Neanderthal. It is never a bad thing to remember they are out there.

Their success depends on rational minds ignoring they exist and giving them power by being silent.

There are already to many countries where speaking out in contrast to the accepted religious beliefs can resolute in prison or execution.

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Anonymous Coward

@ AC 23:01

"There are already to many countries where speaking out in contrast to the accepted religious beliefs can resolute in prison or execution."

So you're going to use Islamic nations to condemn Christians? That's a reach. And intellectually dishonest.

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So these guys have died out huh?

So never been to Nottingham then?

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Not New, Won't Stop

All of this has happened before, and all of this will happen again.

What is the most basic article of faith?

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What is the most basic article of faith?

dssf, it’s cogito, ergo sum.

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Re: Not New, Won't Stop

> What is the most basic article of faith?

EARTH EXISTS AND WE WILL FIND IT!

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Angel

Failed in what way, exactly?

Is it the moustache, the way-too-rosy cheeks, or that excuse for a beard?

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African or European?

So it's not the picture of evolution that's been "thrown into question" but the migratory habits of your early coconut carrying Neanderthal...

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Re: African or European?

Denisovan?

Well, I didn't vote for him.

There's some lovely filth over here!

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Re: African or European?

> So it's not the picture of evolution that's been "thrown into question" but the migratory habits of your early coconut carrying Neanderthal...

Yeah, that title did puzzle me somewhat.

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Interesting, but changes little

According to Ashley Montegue, The Theory of Evolution Through Natural Selection is "the most thoroughly authenticated fact in the whole history of science."

The 'Post Darwinian' refinements including the wonderful discoveries of genes and DNA help to explain particulars of mechanisms, but the Theory itself was entirely sound and whole when "On the Origin of Species" was first published around this time of year in 1859.

I cannot say why this simple and elegant Theory is so badly misunderstood, but it is. It seems to me that Darwin's contemporaries, without the aid of genetics, understood evolution better than most people today.

This article is about a refining discovery about a particular genetic history that interests us -- our own. This has no bearing one way or the other on the bedrock paradigm of Biology. There are more things we don't know by far than things we do know about the historical development of life on this planet. We do not have to know how a system of gases evolved in order to validate Thermodynamics. Were someone incorrect about the history of such a system it would say nothing at all about Thermodynamics. If you understand Thermodynamics, then you know that it is a logical imperative. The same is true of Evolution.

It drives me nuts that Biological discoveries are framed in such a way that laymen might think it says something about the correctness of Evolution. At its heart, Evolution is essentially a tautology. It is correct by definition.

Evolution, BTW, despite Darwin's own misgivings, says nothing at all about the existence of God either as a part of the holy trinity or as the deity in the more logically coherent Pastafarianism. Religious matters and Secular matters are orthogonal and incommensurate separate systems. Both are equally valid in their own right. Understanding the rules of the Universe as created by the Noodle in the Sky does not speak one way or the other to whether or not the FSM (or God, if you prefer) created it. The argument that the FSM does not exist from parsimony or "Occam's Razor" is a naive logical positivist point of view that shows a fundamental lack of understanding about the world. For atheists that just cannot let go, consider the sanctity of belief in the Saucy Master as a political necessity to prevent the total domination of the state. The personal relationship between a person and their deity is sacrosanct even in the event that, against all evidence to the contrary, they do not even believe in that deity.

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Re: Interesting, but changes little

> The argument that the FSM does not exist from parsimony or "Occam's Razor" is a naive logical positivist point of view that shows a fundamental lack of understanding about the world.

Well not really.

The argument that a particular deity exists, has a particular documented history and has a particular nature is unlikely because there are an infinite number of other possibilities that are just as likely, included the version where there is no God.

And yes, you could argue that it is a personal experience and nobody's business but their own, but it doesn't make it true.

So, if we were to assume that a deity did exist, which one is it? The Christian God? Allah? Vishnu? They can't all be right. As our "saviour", the "great Dawkins" said, you are atheistic about all of the other Gods but this one: I just go one God further.

> At its heart, Evolution is essentially a tautology. It is correct by definition.

I'm not sure what you mean here. Evolution is probably correct because of the enormous amount of corroborating evidence supporting it. However, the "fact" of evolution is far from being a tautology if you mean it in the mathematical or logical sense. That just doesn't make any sense.

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Re: Interesting, but changes little

> So, if we were to assume that a deity did exist, which one is it? The Christian God? Allah? Vishnu? They can't all be right.

When you ask the wrong question then the answer is irrelevant.

Yes they could all have existed. The term 'God' has been applied to people in our time: Hirohito was a God until the allies made him stop. Haile Selassie was, and still is, the God of the Rastafarians. Caesars became Gods when they died, Pharaohs were Gods. I have heard people say (on documentary films) that (the name not to be mentioned) and Obama were Gods, or at least god-like.

There is no reason that Jehovah. the God of the Jews, was not a real person: king, chief, warlord or whatever (or possibly a dynasty of several successive 'lords'); that was elevated to the status of a God. The same would be true of many of the other 'Gods'. Many of those ancient Gods fell into disuse as deities as they were replaced. With the Jews, though, they had a covenant, a contract, between the people and Jehovah that granted them their promised land. If he 'died' or fell into disuse then the contract was voided. Consequently they kept him as their deity so that they could claim a home.

It is difficult to decide what is meant by "The Christian God". This was supposed to be finally determined by the First Council of Nicaea, but wasn't and still isn't.

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Re: Interesting, but changes little

"It seems to me that Darwin's contemporaries, without the aid of genetics, understood evolution better than most people today."

The people who misunderstand it today are those whose forebears were too busy polishing the silver in the butler's pantry to misunderstand what Darwin's theory proposed.

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@Richard Plinston

Wow Richard, I really don't know where to start with this response.

> When you ask the wrong question then the answer is irrelevant.

The Gods that are revered in religions as deities may well have been inspired by real people and the cargo cults document this phenomenon quite well. But if they were real people, I see no problem in admiring those people for what they are and what they do. But worship them as all powerful deities? I'm not sure what logic there is in that. If you are questioning the probable non-existence of deist or theist Gods, substituting them for real people that are no Gods doesn't seem to answer anything. For instance, many believe that Jesus Christ was probably a real historical figure. It is certainly possible. He might have been the son of God, or he might have been a time traveller bluffing his way with technology. Or he might have been a powerful leader revered and elevated to deity status and people often do. Or he might be just a story. For such a supposedly revolutionary figure, apart from the Bible, there is almost no other mention in recorded history of him. (And yes there is a lot of recorded history from the time from various sources)

I ask no question. I suggest that people should believe what they see and hear all around them. They should think logically and believe what makes sense for them. That involves listening and thinking deeply.

Unfortunately most deist and theist religions involve trust in a single historical source of dubious record along with the suspension of any comparison with what they experience and perceive in the present day. Not only that, people in different religious cultures have an entirely different view of what that truth is, the only apparent difference being their cultural up-bringing. Since those world views are entirely at odds with each other only one can actually be right. Therefore, why would we expect that any one is right with such a flimsy basis for any of them?

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Re: @Richard Plinston

> substituting them for real people that are no Gods doesn't seem to answer anything.

Yes it does. You appear to think that the term 'God' means, and must irretrievably mean: 'an actual supernatural omnipotent extraterrestrial being'. And thus Hirohito, when he was called a Shinto God, was being said to be an actual supernatural ... being, that returned to being only a human when the allies told him to.

Some refer to the Christian God (whatever they mean by that as 'Lord'. In London there is a House full of Lords - are they 'actual supernatural ...' too?

If, however, we were to use the term God as 'a leader or hero elevated to that of a deity with [non-existing] supernatural powers', then that substitution does answer [almost] everything.

> But worship them as all powerful deities? I'm not sure what logic there is in that.

I see no logic in that either, but apparently that doesn't deter others. Rastafarians hold that Haile Selassie (who was born Ras Tafari*) is their God, Shintos worshiped Hirohito, I am sure there are many other examples that are current.

> He might have been the son of God,

He might have been claiming that he was descended from the pre-Roman line of Kings, especially David. However, the term 'father' is also used for a priest or a teacher. Saying 'the Lord is my father' does not necessarily mean paternity, it may mean 'he was my teacher'.

* Did I mention that my Grandfather was presented a Lion skin cape by Ras Tafari in Aden in 1922?

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Anonymous Coward

These published reports, fantastic though they are, invariably follow a set pattern. Reveal unexpected information, therefore justifying expense and time etc. Then leave new, unanswered questions, creating the need for more research (more time, money, lager for the researchers etc.). I've no problem with this approach, I'm sure it's worked for years; science blended with job preservation. We all do it, in our own way.

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Job preservation vs curiosity

You know when a young child finds out some new, interesting fact and asks "Why, Daddy?" And so you find a way to answer that question in a satisfying way but in doing so, of course, you are introducing yet another new fact to the child and, once again, "Why, Daddy?" comes round again. The child isn't trying to justify the right to be allowed to ask more questions but simply that the new facts need explaining also.

That's natural curiosity which is at the absolute heart of science. The field of Anthropology, being All About Us, adds a narcissistic boost to that curiosity so we're even more likely to ask that one last "Why?"

I don't think they're deliberately not investigating fully in order to come back and do it again on another field research grant.

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