[Taxacom] hominid evidence

John Grehan jgrehan at sciencebuff.org
Tue Jun 30 08:25:48 CDT 2009

The great thing about publicity is that it can force people to respond
when they otherwise whould not have to. The MSNBC article shows that at




Some quotes and comments


"The DNA evidence <http://www.livescience.com/dna/>  is so strongly
against it," said Frans de Waal, director of the Living Links Center at
the Yerkes National Primate Research Center of Emory University in
Atlanta. "It's a leftover from the days that bones ruled, but they don't

This is the classic argument that the DNA evidence is so self-evident
that it does not even have to be justified, not even in terms of
systematics principles.

"Many experts trust the genetic data because they say the physical
similarities can be subjective. It's hard to tell whether two species
independently evolved similar features, or actually descended from a
common ancestor with those features."

This is another rhetorical claim, and yet if the hominid paper shows
anything it is that it is not all that hard at all to distinguish those
character states that are independent and those that are descended from
a common ancestor. 

"Many of these characteristics, we have no clue if they're literally the
same traits in evolutionary terms," said Todd Disotell,

This from a researcher who analyzes fossil relationships using
morphology! Seems hypocritical.

"The DNA data is more concrete, he said. The sequences of molecules
composing genes can either be the same or different."

Of course this begs the question of whether the sequences of molecules
can always accurately reconstruct evolutionary relationships.

We're truly talking [comparing] apples and apples, and oranges and
oranges," Disotell told LiveScience. "This anti-molecular stance is just

Here is the intimation that some things in science are just not to be


"Jeffrey has been claiming this for many years now in the face of
increasingly insurmountable evidence to the contrary," said David Smith,
an anthropologist at the University of California, Davis. "My own
expertise is molecular, and I can assure you that there is not a shred
of genetic evidence in support of his argument." 

Of course he conveniently missed the counterpoint - that there is almost
not a shred of morphological evidence in support of the molecular

In other words, if the DNA evidence that many biologists use as evidence
turned out not to accurately reveal evolutionary relationships, the work
of many molecular biologists would be suspect. 

Indeed - and why not. If its ok for morphological work to be suspect,
why not molecular?

"If this was true, we would lose entire departments at major
universities," Disotell said. "I would have nothing to do. I would go
become a carpenter." 

The converse could be said of morphology. In fact in some ways this is
what has happened to morphology.

John Grehan









Dr. John R. Grehan

Director of Science

Buffalo Museum of Science1020 Humboldt Parkway

Buffalo, NY 14211-1193

email: jgrehan at sciencebuff.org

Phone: (716) 896-5200 ext 372




Ghost moth research


Human evolution and the great apes




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