An important scientific finding was reported a couple of weeks back, that has very important implications.
Palaeontologists and molecular biologists have disagreed with each other regarding the origins of modern Homo sapiens. Since 1987, molecular biologists have believed, using DNA evidence, that Homo sapiens evolved in Africa and then spread out to other parts of the world. Paleontologists, on the other hand, said that modern humans evolved separately in different regions of the world, from the earlier Homo erectus.
In a recent study in Nature, Andrea Manica of the University of Cambridge and his colleagues show that the skull data and the genetic data actually agree with each other. They studied 4,666 male skulls and 1,579 female ones, drawn from 105 groups of people from all six inhabited continents, and showed that they varied in the same way as human genetic data do.
The Economist reports:
One of the main lines of evidence for the “Out of Africa” hypothesis, as it is usually known, is that the most genetically varied human populations are in that continent—particularly in the south and east of it. The farther you go from Africa, the less genetic variety there is, because in a rapidly dispersing population genetic variety is lost faster by random failures to breed than it is replenished by evolution.
If the “Out of Africa” hypothesis is right, that decreasing variability should be reflected in skull shape—since this is ultimately under genetic control. As far as skulls are concerned, there is one confounding variable: climate. Things such as nostril size vary with temperature and humidity in ways that suggest evolution is at work. Since Dr Manica was looking for effects other than those produced by natural selection, those things had to be eliminated. Which he did.
Using what was left, he estimated the amount of diversity in groups of skulls from different parts of the world using a statistical technique called multiple-regression analysis, and compared the resulting map with a similar map of genetic diversity. The two matched perfectly. There was no room for the influence of local populations of Homo erectus.
First, this is the beauty of science at work. We have two scientific disciplines contradicting each other. And when sufficient data from both streams is analyzed and known influencing factors accounted for, the data from the two independent streams matches almost miraculously. This is the true scientific method at work.
Second, and more important, this finding effectively kills the concept of “race”. We have all come from the same place, evolved from the same species. There are no separate origins, and hence no different races of people. Race is a product of the imagination of Homo sapiens, not a natural occurrence.
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