Category Archives: human evolution

Nature paper suggests humans inhabited North America 130,000 years ago

by Greg Mayer As Jerry noted yesterday, in a new paper in Nature, Steven R. Holen and colleagues report finding the remains of a butchered 130,000 year old mastodon in San Diego. (If you haven’t already done so, do go take a look at Jerry’s post, which includes a video press release, and illustrations from […]

Breaking science news: humans in North America 130,000 years ago?

I’ll just put this up here without analysis, as I haven’t yet read the paper. But it’s big news if true. A new a new report Nature by Holen et al. (reference below; free access) claims to have found human tools associated with crushed and cracked mastodon bones at a site in southern California, with […]

CNN science completely botches natural selection in the headline, and is confusing in the text

I have little time to post this morning, but I call your attention to a really dreadful piece of science journalism at CNN. It refers to a new paper in PLoS Genetics by Arslan Zaidi et al. (reference below, free access) describing how natural selection based on climate (temperature and humidity) may have molded the nose shape […]

Are male and female brains absolutely identical?

The Guardian has a review out of Cordelia Fine’s new book, Testosterone Rex: Myths of Sex, Science, and Society, which continues her critique of innate differences between male and female brains and behaviors. The Amazon summary includes this: In Testosterone Rex, psychologist Cordelia Fine wittily explains why past and present sex roles are only serving suggestions […]

The evolution of sexual dimorphism in humans: Part 2

In a post one week ago, “The ideological opposition to biological truth,” I argued that sexual dimorphism for body size (difference between men and women) in humans is most likely explained by sexual selection, and that it also reflects behavioral differences between males and females: males compete for females, and greater size and strength give males an advantage. […]

I get pushback on the sexual-selection theory for sexual dimorphism

Last week I published a post intended to show that the profound sexual dimorphism for human size (and musculature) reflected sexual selection in our ancestors, a form of selection that can be explained only by an evolved difference in behavior: in humans, as in many other species in which females invest more in reproduction than do males, […]

The ideological opposition to biological truth

One distressing characteristic of the Left, at least as far as science is concerned, is to let our ideology trump scientific data; that is, some of us ignore biological data when it’s inimical to our political preferences. This plays out in several ways: the insistence that race doesn’t exist (and before you accuse me of saying that races […]

A MOOC on Homo floresiensis, the “hobbit” hominin

I just want to let you know about a new Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) on Homo floresiensis that reader Dermot C. called to my attention. As you may recall, new dating methods have shown that this 3.5-foot diminutive hominin died out about 50,000 years ago rather than the 12,000 originally posited, and arrived in Flores (Indonesia) […]

Natural selection in our species during the last two millennia

A question I’m always asked in popular lectures on evolution is this: “Are humans still evolving?” The answer I give is “Yes, but we have good evidence for such evolution in only a handful of traits: evolution of earlier reproductive maturity in females, later menopause, and selection for reduced blood pressure and a few other […]

Race as a “social construct”: trouble in Brazil

As I’ve written somewhere (but can’t remember where), it always amused me that when I wrote an NIH grant application, I had to specify my “race” (black, Pacific Islander, white, Hispanic, etc.), but then, in the instructions, it said something like “These categories are taken to be social constructs only, and are not biological.” That statement […]