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Excellent SAPIENS.org Podcast On Denisovans

Republished with permission

Where Have All the Denisovans Gone?

 

New York Times writer Carl Zimmer and SAPIENS columnist Anna Goldfield help explain humanity’s ever-expanding family tree and why Homo sapiens outlasted our ancient relatives.

 

The Denisovans have long been one of the most elusive ancient human cousins, until now. In May 2019, scientists revealed the first fossil evidence of Denisovans outside of the Denisova Cave in Siberia. As the historical human family tree grows, what are we learning about why we’re the only ones left? In this episode, we pose this question to science journalist Carl Zimmer, a columnist for The New York Times and the author of 13 books. Follow him on Twitter @carlzimmer.

HOW TO LISTEN //

 

We also speak with archaeologist Anna Goldfield about Neanderthals, another close ancient cousin. Goldfield is a columnist at SAPIENS.org, co-host of The Dirt podcast, and the illustrator of The Neanderthal Child of Roc de Marsal: A Prehistoric Mystery. Follow her on Twitter @AnnaGoldfield.

 

Learn more about Denisovans and Neanderthals.

SAPIENS: A Podcast for Everything Human is part of the American Anthropological Association Podcast Library.

This work first appeared on SAPIENS under a CC BY-ND 4.0 license. Read the original here.

 

Suggested Reading:

Is Human Caused Climate Change Real?

I wanted to take a minute and mention climate change, as it is an issue that may affect us dramatically in the near future. I was a huge skeptic of human caused climate change until just a couple years ago when I decided to look much more closely at it. How could just one species alter the climate of a planet without actually trying to? In order to understand more about it I took the following two online courses.

Causes Of Climate Change - University of Bergen

Our Earth: Its Climate, History, and Processes - University of Manchester

Lots of factors go into why our planet's climate has changed over the last few billion years including variations in our orbit around the Sun and the location of the Continents, but greenhouse gases can make the quickest change. Volcanoes can abruptly change the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere but this tends to be short term and not lasting more than a year or two for the most part. The amount of carbon dioxide in out atmosphere has increased at an alarming rate over the past century, the effects are accumulating, and there is no doubt humans are the cause. 

Recent studies show levels we've never experienced the entire time humans have occupied the planet.

"Carbon dioxide levels in Earth's atmosphere rose to levels the planet hasn't seen in 800,000 years in 2018, underscoring the impact of irreversible -- and increasing -- environmental damage due to human activity, according to a new federal report.

Carbon dioxide and other major greenhouse gases, including methane, and nitrous oxide, continued their rapid increase last year, while global sea level rose to its highest on record, according to the American Meteorological Society's State of the Climate in 2018 report, released on Monday.

Global average sea level rose to a new record high in 2018, rising for the seventh consecutive year, according to the report, which was compiled by 470 scientists in 60 countries."

Please look at the issue of climate change when choosing political candidates to represent you at both the local and national level. In the US, one party tends to be progressive and embrace science while the other seems to be more concerned about how much money they can put into their pocket right now at the expense of future generations. 

A simplified animation of the greenhouse effect. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

 

Suggested reading:

       

Have You Ever Wondered What Percent Neandertal You Are?

A couple of years ago my daughter got me the National Geographic DNA Test Kit: Geno 2.0 for my birthday after she heard me talking about it a few weeks before. It was a great gift and I think I got a lot of useful information, at least for the genetic information I'm interested in which is what part of the world I came from and how much Neandertal is hiding (?) in my genes. 

My family name, Ludlow, is Welsh or English and my ancestors were part of the Protestant colonization of Ireland back in the 1600's. My great, great Grandfather left Ireland in 1846 and settled in Ontario, Canada. My great Grandfather ended up in Michigan in the 1890's. My mother always said she was from the German/Polish border but not as much is known about that side of the family history so I was curious to find out what the test said. I know a lot of people have been really surprised by the results!

Turned out I was not surprised at all! With 56% NW Europe (Great Britain) and 35% Eastern European it was just as I would have expected. This particular test also shows the migration patterns my ancestors may have taken after leaving Africa, and again it really came as no surprise. Much of Europe was colonized be people coming from the East and Middle East within the last 30,000 years.

Another thing they tell you is what famous people you are related to and whether it is on your maternal or paternal side, using MtDNA and Y Chromosome analysis. Although I'm not closely related to any of these guys, I do find the group interesting based on my special interests, abilities, and political views!

Not all DNA tests are the same, that is for sure. Before you spend the money make sure you know what you are getting in return. If you want to know about potential medical conditions or if you have a lost brother or sister, this isn't the test for you. Many of the tests offer add-on options though after you send your DNA and get your initial results. There are different packages for different interests available. This particular test gave me all the info I was looking for. 

 

  

 

Purchased SSL Certificate

A few people have written and mentioned it said "Not secure" to the left of the URL address in their internet browser when visiting this website. I went ahead and purchased an SSL Certificate so no need to worry about any communication or transactions here on my site at all.

"SSL stands for Secure Sockets Layer, a global standard security technology that enables encrypted communication between a web browser and a web server. It is utilized by millions1 of online businesses and individuals to decrease the risk of sensitive information (e.g., credit card numbers, usernames, passwords, emails, etc.) from being stolen or tampered with by hackers and identity thieves. In essence, SSL allows for a private “conversation” just between the two intended parties."

New Weekly Show On Leaving Young Earth Creationism Coming Monday Nights!

 

Beginning Monday, September 2, I'll be hosting approximately an hour long live show on my Main YouTube channel at 10 pm EST where we discuss current issues in science and/or creationism with a guest who is a former YEC. I've created a website page devoted to the channel and will be creating a schedule soon. I've already been contacted by several former young earthers who would love to tell their story. 

My first show will feature Luke Douglas, Executive Director of the Humanist Society of Greater Phoenix, who is a former YEC. Luke has a lifetime pass to Ken Ham's Ark Encounter and Creation Museum given to him by a family member and he not only visited them many times, he knows people who have worked there.

The Bill Nye/Ken Ham Debate back in February, 2014 was a turning point for Luke. He began to question what he was taught all his life and check into the real science behind creationist claims, and the result was he left Christianity all together and became an atheist activist. What a great story!

I'll be using a program called StreamYard for the broadcasts and it is fully integrated with YouTube, it also has some great features not available with the now discontinued Google Hangouts. Live chat will be available as will Super Chat for those who wish to contribute. I will also be able to feature comments at the bottom of the screen during our Q & A at the end of each show. 

 

Young Earth Creationist Hoaxes Are An Everyday Thing

 

These posts above are from the facebook group Kent Hovind: the Man, the Ministry, and the Message. A YEC is called out on his use of a photoshopped image of a moth. I see things like this all the time. It is due to lack of research and a general disregard for the truth. When confronted with the deception, the creationist said "Maybe I didn't know it was" (fake). Maybe?  Really? You may have posted it on purpose?

Here are a couple more examples of of outright false claims I've recently seen creationists make lately. 

 

I remember a few years ago the doorknobs in coal was shared on a YEC facebook page called Biblical Creation and it had over 2,000 shares. It is just as wrong now as it was then. Looks like it is making the rounds again though. No one ever dated any of it using carbon dating. I guess you can fool some of the people all of the time.

"The Brunette was a 274 ton screw propeller freighter, built in 1867 by Pusey & Jones Yards, Wilmington, Delaware. On February 1, 1870, The Brunette was en route from New York to Philadelphia with a general cargo. At 10:00 PM she collided with the Santiago de Cuba." Coal from the ships boiler room was scattered throughout the wreck. The ship wreck is commonly known as the "Door Knob Wreck" because it contained many cases of door knobs as cargo when it went down."

link: The Brunette Shipwreck

The creationist version of a rock painting in Africa (corrected) was posted by the admin of a YEC facebook group called Creation VS Evolution: A Discussion In Truth.  It was an obvious photoshop with the hilarious creationist "hadrosaurs" and when he was called out on it, he didn't care. They just make excuses for their ignorance and gullibility. 

 

What Did Neandertals Eat?

It wasn't all mammoth legs or bronto burgers, that's for sure.  New studies into the diet of our ancient cousins suggest a varied diet depending on where they lived, just like we have seen with our species. In many regions and at different times, meat would have been plentiful like in Ice Age Europe, so of course they would have exploited large game. There is even evidence that Neandertal ancestors may have followed migrating herds of the ancestor of the Woolly Mammoth out of Africa and co-evolved many of their adaptions to colder weather alongside that food source. What we now know is many populations of these early humans took advantage of whatever local food source was available and that sometimes they rarely ate meat at all.

Studies done at the El Sidron site in northern Spain show that Neandertals also understood medicinal properties of plants. 

"Researchers from Spain, the UK and Australia combined pyrolysis gas-chromatography-mass spectrometry with morphological analysis of plant microfossils to identify material trapped in dental calculus (calcified dental plaque) from five Neanderthals from the north Spanish site of El Sidrón.  

Their results, published in Naturwissenschaften – The Science of Nature, provide another twist to the story - the first molecular evidence for medicinal plants being used by a Neanderthal individual.

The researchers say the starch granules and carbohydrate markers in the samples, plus evidence for plant compounds such as azulenes and coumarins, as well as possible evidence for nuts, grasses and even green vegetables, argue for a broader use of ingested plants than is often suggested by stable isotope analysis."

One of the more interesting things about the El Sidron site is not only the lack of evidence for eating meat at all, but they found evidence that plant foods were cooked before being eaten.

"The researchers say evidence for cooked carbohydrates is confirmed by both the cracked/roasted starch granules observed microscopically and the molecular evidence for cooking and exposure to wood smoke or smoked food in the form of a range of chemical markers including methyl esters, phenols, and polynuclear aromatic hydrocarbons found in dental calculus."


Research also shows that while many populations of Neandertals did rely mostly on consuming meat, it was not more than some much more recent populations of Native Americans in the Great Basin area. Just like our species, they relied on what was provided by their environment, and if it worked there was little reason to change.  

Studies of Neandertal coprolites (poop) also confirm a varied diet in certain areas. Samples dated 50,000 years ago show they were likely eating a mixed diet that included berries, nuts, and tubers. This complicates and perhaps helps dismiss the idea that a decline in megafauna due to over hunting or climate change led to their extinction as it appears some groups were eating an extremely varied diet while large numbers of giant beasts were still around. With every new discovery we lean more about our extinct evolutionary cousins. 

 

 

Just Bones In The Dirt?

National Geographic: Where you grew up, what you ate - your bones record your life

"Archaeologists use isotopic analysis to determine population movements and diets from chemical signatures in ancient human remains."

A recent article in National Geographic explains how we can learn an awful lot from what Mister Kent Hovind shrugs off as just "bones in the dirt." It is one of his most popular rehearsed lines and he brings it up almost any time someone mentions a fossil, especially a hominid fossil. Here are some of the things we may be able to learn from a single early human fossil:

Where they lived

How long ago they lived

What the environment was like then

How old they were when they died

Cause of death

What their diet consisted of

Whether they lived in the same region all their life or migrated

Whether they were a hunter/gatherer or relied on agriculture

If they suffered from disease

"Strontium isotopes are absorbed into teeth during their creation, creating a snapshot of sorts of where an individual lived during their childhood. But bone cells turn over constantly, gathering strontium signatures that reflect where individuals lived later.

Comparing the two can reveal movement over an individual’s lifespan or show that an individual wasn’t born at the site at which they were recovered. And nitrogen isotopes can reveal how old a child was when he or she started eating solid foods."

Sometimes through DNA analysis we can tell if the individual had traits that were passed on to future generations. There is so much we can learn by what some just dismiss as "bones in the dirt." Don't be fooled by rehearsed nonsense, he seems to believe if he repeats it often enough it will be true. 

The Science Of Religion

I sometimes mention an online course I took a couple years ago through the University of British Columbia on edX called The Science Of Religion. I wanted to retake the course to refresh my memory and found it isn't being offered again, but the course videos are still available to watch on YouTube. They are arranged in order by week on playlists. If you click on just the video tab for the channel you won't see them, you need to click on "playlists."

The Science Of Religion - Religion X Channel

This course changed my mind about religion in a few ways:

1.  It helped me realize religion is a product of evolution and some people are born more susceptible to becoming religious than others. 

2.  It made me understand that religion probably isn't going away anytime soon. While we may be able to educate most people out of believing the Earth is 6,000 years old and people rode dinosaurs, current religious beliefs will likely be replaced by new ones in the future.

3.  Religion wasn't always a bad thing for humanity and it may have been necessary at times to get us where we are now. That is not to say it has always been a good thing either. Watch the videos and you will understand.

Here are the main topics discussed in the videos:

  • Evolutionary and cognitive scientific approaches to the study of religion
  • The origins of religion, and its role in human life
  • How religion relates to morality, spirituality and atheism
  • The role of religion in current events and conflict hotspots around the world
  • The role religion may have played in the origin of civilization

"Drawing on new scientific advances, this religion course examines foundational questions about the nature of religious belief and practice.

The course is based on the idea that religion is a naturalistic phenomenon — meaning it can be studied and better understood using the tools of science. Religious belief and practice emerge naturally from the structure of human psychology, and have an important impact on the structure of societies, the way groups relate to each other, and the ability of human beings to cooperate effectively.

Topics to be covered will include traditional and contemporary theories of religion, with a special emphasis on cultural evolutionary models."

I highly recommend these videos to ANYONE interested in the Science Of Religion whether you are an atheist or theist. I learned a lot of new things and I'm sure you will too. The instructors, Edward Slingerhand and Azim Shariff, are excellent. You won't have access to written course materials but a whole lot of great information is included in over 30 videos. 

I suggest downloading the videos for reference as they may not always be available online in the future. I was a bit surprised to see they are still there and are public. If you learned anything new from watching them or want to give me feedback, please message me through my contact page on this website or write me at bill@creationsciencefiction.com. I may collect the comments and messages and do a future video about this.

UPDATE 8/6/2019: After receiving so much positive response to this blog post, I've decided to do a 10 to 12 video series on this topic over the next year. Look for the first video on my channel next month!

Have I Created Another Monster?

What is it about some Kent Hovind fans that drives them to attack people personally and even go after their income? I just finished a 2 year ordeal with Kent Hovind's #1 Fan in Minnesota who came after the business I've owned and operated for over 12 years by attacking me online, trying to register my business trade name at the Federal level in order to get me to stop using it, and uploading hundreds of creepy videos about me while spending thousands of dollars.

Now this guy who appears to be from Australia says he's coming after my YouTube channel for inciting hatred of Mr. Hovind. There have been some angry or hateful comments coming from non-young earth creationists (normal people) on my videos, but not nearly as many as I see from people who follow Kent. Videos featuring Mr. Hovind make up about 15% of the total videos I have uploaded, but I also write articles, blog, and post frequently on facebook. I would guess that no more than 5% of the content I post has anything to do with Kent or his little adventureland in the woods and I've certainly never asked anyone to do anything to hurt him.

If he thinks I am completely focused on Mr. Hovind, he sure picked an appropriate name!

I deleted several nasty comments that he made on my YouTube channel the last 24 hours and he has become one of the few I have actually banned from commenting. Now I know why so many use screen names or pseudonyms to remain anonymous. Unfortunately those doing the attacking do the same in order to hide themselves. I know, I know.... welcome to the internet!  

 

 

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