OVERCOMING OBSTACLES TO EVOLUTION EDUCATION

Evolution: Education and Outreach

, Volume 3, Issue 3, pp 477-480

First online:

Fossils that Change Everything We Know About Human Evolution (...Or Not)

  • W. Eric MeikleAffiliated withNational Center for Science Education
  • , Andrew J. PettoAffiliated withUniversity of Wisconsin Email author 

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Abstract

Dramatic headlines touting new fossil discoveries often proclaim that our view of human evolution has been revolutionized. While this is occasionally the case, it is more often true that new fossils enrich our understanding of our own ancestry or answer scientific questions that could not be resolved with previous data. Even spectacular new discoveries, such as the now famous “hobbit” skeleton (Homo floresiensis), can usually be included in the human family tree without any significant change in the inferences about the phylogenetic relationships or taxonomic status of the rest of its members. It is a testament to the power of evolutionary theory and the careful comparative study of human and other fossils that what we know about human evolution changes so little, even when spectacular new discoveries are announced.

Keywords

Human evolution Paleoanthropology Human origins Teaching human evolution