Mexico discovery fuels debate about man’s origins

Wouldn’t it be funny if eventually paleontologists learn what faithful Latter-day Saints have known all along, that the first Americans came from the Garden of Eden in Missouri? I found this curious news story about a discovery in Mexico that might be a piece from the skull of Homo Erectus, long thought to be one of the earliest “men” to emerge from continental Africa. Of course, paleontologists are just scratching their heads over this one. It can’t possibly be accepted as a genuine “find” until it is corroborated by massive, additional evidence. And who knows if that will ever be forthcoming?

I only post this here to point out how little we know about the origins of man either here in the Americas or anywhere. What we know is that we don’t know. The current scientific theories are based on a few scraps of bone and stone that could mean just about anything.

I have been studying the topic of “first Americans” online for a while, reading books from the library, and discussing what I find with a personal friend, Tim Heaton, a world reknowned paleontologist who is a BYU grad, Provo native who served a mission to Norway, got a PhD from Harvard and was a teaching assistant to Stephan Jay Gould, and is Professor of Geology at the University of South Dakota. I have had my eyes opened by how little scientists know for sure about American prehistory. And most of the scientists themselves will tell you as much. It is we lay people who tend to put their discoveries and theories into concrete and claim to “know” more about the past than the real paleontologists do.

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7 Responses to Mexico discovery fuels debate about man’s origins

  1. I don’t know how Darwinism fits into the picture of the past. It is clear to me that some kind of evolution has occurred even if only within species. For now I accept the scriptural thinking that there was no death in the world before the Fall of Adam, whatever that means. How that can be reconciled with the fossil record, I don’t know. According to my understanding of the Book of Mormon and the Doctrine and Covenants, all these questions will be answered at the Second Coming, probably when the sealed portions of the Book of Mormon are published. Until then, no one knows, not even the most celebrated paleontologists and admirers of Bruce R. McConkie. I definitely do not think that Homo Erectus is a human ancestor. But I do think it is interesting how uncertain science really is about supposed human evolution, including when man first lived in the Americas. It leaves a lot of room for the prophets to be eventually proven right about all of this, not that they need the approval of science, but it would be nice if both science and revealed religion were on the same page. It would make me a lot more confident in the claims of science. As it is, learning the uncertainty of science has caused me to admire science a great deal more than I did before beginning this study. It is unfortunate that so many students of science are more dogmatic about “science” than the scientists themselves are. I guess it is to be expected given how lacking in humility most people are.

  2. It is kind of sad how little we know about American pre and post history. Of course this shouldn’t be confused with any supposed lack of knowledge concerning human pre-history. Out of curiosity, are you acknowledging the relation of modern humans to Homo erectus? I would also be careful with the use of the word “earliest” since such a word implies some sort of starting point where our evolutionary past actually started. One could, hyposthetically speaking, speaking of the earliest invertibates as being the “earliest” forms of human evolution.

  3. Jared says:

    I was talking about the skull too. My understanding is that H. erectus spread throughout Asia. There is debate as to whether H. erectus was replaced by H. sapiens, or became H. sapiens. I don’t know whether plausible route existed at the time, but maybe one possible senario is that H. erectus spread through Asia and over into America but died out and left little trace of existence. Later H. sapiens came over ~20 kya.

  4. Jared, I was not referring to the Mexican footprints when speaking of the Garden of Eden. Rather I was referring to the alleged piece of a skull found in Mexico that looks like it was from Homo Erectus. Homo Erectus died out between 100,000 and 200,000 years ago in Africa according to the story.

    Of course nothing that old has ever been verified scientifically and accepted by the paleontological community here in the New World. But it is an interesting story, nevertheless. If the Garden of Eden story told by Joseph Smith is true, then the earliest evidence of man anywhere on the earth ought to be found here in the New World. So far, that hasn’t been the case. Dates from the Old World are much, much older than dates from the New World.

  5. There is another Tim Heaton who is a sociologist at BYU. The Tim Heaton I am referring to is the Professor of Geology at the University of South Dakota. I think that the Tim Heaton you met at the symposium was the sociologist. I don’t think the two Tims are closely related.

    I have not talked to the geologist and paleontologist, Tim Heaton, about the footprints found in Mexico. I’m sure he would tell you that until the work is published in a peer reviewed journal and verified by other reputable paleontologists it should not be given any weight. And I don’t give it any weight either. I only mention it because qualified scientists are finding all kinds of interesting stuff about pre-Clovis people now that the old paradigm has been overturned at Monte Verde.

    Linquistic studies show that the first American’s could not have come into the New World any later than 30,000 years ago, but DNA studies say that they couldn’t have come any earlier than 18,000 years ago. So go figure. The point is, there are a lot of questions and very few answers in which we can have any confidence.

    As it is, there has been nothing widely accepted that is more than about 11,000 to 12,000 years ago. But that is before the Clovis people ever got here. And until about five years ago, the reigning scientific dogma was that the Clove people were the first. Now the American paleontologists know that is not true, and who knows what the next find will turn up?

    There are a few digs in the eastern USA that seem to show there were people in the eastern USA over 18,000 years ago, but they have not been thoroughly investigated by other professional paleontologists. So they are not yet accepted by the profession as a whole.

    I found this and this about Silvia Gonzalez. She seems to be a real scientist, not a pseudoscientific crackpot. But until her work has been accepted by the whole field, no one has to accept her findings.

  6. Lisa says:

    I met Dr. Heaton once at a symposium I attended. What a neat man.

    I have not been able to come up with much more than the link you provided.

    Very interesting story though. A lot to ponder.

    Thank you for this site! I just stumbled on it tonight.

  7. Jared says:

    Have you talked with Dr. Heaton about the Mexico find specifically? Doing some google searching mostly comes up with the same story you link to, along with other stuff including a bigfoot forum. I haven’t found much in the way of expert comment yet.

    Of course, even if it were accepted as genuine, it would still be a long haul to make a Missouri connection.

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