Darwin Week and Neanderthals

February 14, 2010

What a wonderful topic for this blog’s  inaugural post. I’ve had the distinct pleasure this week of attending the latter half of Darwin Week 2010 in Charleston, SC, a celebration of both the man and his world changing, paradigm shifting, and mind bogglingly simple theory that (here in the Bible Belt) seems to be either loathed or lauded with vigor.  It’s a pleasant experience to finally be in the company of like minded individuals who aren’t afraid to discuss evolutionary theory in public. Back at home, there probably isn’t a more effective way of inducing uncomfortable awkward silences and early exits from the dinner table. And for that, this week has been a breath of fresh air.

One particular fresh breath was Thursday’s talk: “Who Says The Neandertals Are So Different?” by anthropologist Dr. David Frayer from the University of Kansas.  The Neandertals are basically our old cousins who went extinct relatively recently about 30,000 years ago, a blink of an eye by geological standards of time.  They were a different species altogether separate from our species Homo sapiens and they lived among modern humans. They may have bred with our species, but it’s not known for sure as far as I can tell. The Neandertals were also alike modern humans in that in addition to other human-like behaviours, they hunted for food in complex ways, cooked with fires, buried their dead, and painted on cave walls. One of the interesting subjects Dr. Frayer talked about was whether they talked with each other or at least possessed ability to communicate vocally. Dr. Frayer thinks it’s plausible, and he also talked about the plausibility of other cool hypotheses explaining phenomena such as why some Neanderthal bones exhibit calculated, intentional scratch marks on the skull. It’s all very interesting and I recorded it with my new voice recorder, which I still haven’t learned how to use optimally.

You can download the lecture and Q & A here.  It’s not the best quality, but its discernible and easy to listen to. It’s also in WMA format, so you’ll need to run the file through a converter before putting it on your Ipod.

Another event of Darwin Week 2010 that I attended was yesterday’s public viewing of Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed, a Creationist documentary starring Ben Stein (of Bueller? Bueller? fame).  The screening was organized by biology students from College of Charleston. I’d already seen the movie before and wanted to watch it again because this particular viewing included a special subtitle track provided by http://www.bogosity.tv/ that refutes many of the dishonest claims made all throughout the film.  The transgressions are much too numerous to mention here, but you can get a nice overview at the website Expelled Exposed. Ben Stein is a particularly dishonest person, but what else would you expect from a former Nixon speechwriter and shameless hawker of freescore.com, a website that preys on gullible internet users in precarious financial situations.

Sadly, documentaries like that are only thing anti-evolutionists have going for them. That is, except for when they preach to the choir. But when Creationists and anti-evolutionists try to win over the non-religious, they must resort to dishonesty and trickery because any honest documentary that presents the facts in their true light simply won’t arrive at the same conclusions.

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