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Human's Closet Relative

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Human's Closest Relative
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It is "interesting" how many non-academic people are struck by how little academic papers are read. I've had this line of questioning several times before. But textbooks aren't written from nothing--they're written by people who read the academic literature and basically report the findings of science (literary criticism, sociology, etc.) with a truncated summary of the evidence.

This is basically true, but it is important to note that many textbooks, particularly in developing or expanding fields such as physical anthropology, will often present one hypothetical explanation for the evidence as paramount over others, for the sake of the narrative but often at the expense of a proper treatment of the scope of the debate. For instance, the text that was used in a recent human evolution course of mine presented a narrative on the origins of anatomically modern Homo sapiens according to the replacement hypothesis which states that neanderthals were reproductively isolated from and outcompeted by our direct ancestors, rather than there being genetic mixing. I took issue with this because there is still legitimate debate concerning which hypothesis best fits the evidence--particularly as new genetic evidence is materialising constantly--and competing hypotheses were essentially omitted for the sake of brevity and coherence, which I suppose is sometimes a necessary evil.

That aside, this guy's full of it in my opinion. It sounds like he's basing his hypothesis completely on physical and behavioural similarities, of the type that we also see linking baboons and humans. It is also geographically unlikely that humans are more recently related to orangutans than to chimps, because the former became prevalent in eastern Asia probably by 8-9 mya, thousands of kilometres from where humans are known to have originated and millions of years earlier. Plus, all available DNA evidence shows us to be much more closely related to chimps than to orangutans. I think he's batty.

It sounds like he's basing his hypothesis completely on physical and behavioural similarities, ... - almost verbatim what I was saying to my wife while he was selling his ideas. This guy's approach is completely obsolete.

I don't keep any relatives in my closet. Does that mean I'm not human?

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Genetic evidence based merely on human data also places the human common ancestor in Africa, so this guy's reasoning would imply that the human ancestor left indonesia and migrated to Africa without leaving any kind of a trace in our DNA about that initial origin and migration.

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