The discovery of the fossilized remains of an unknown hominid species in Indonesia sent shockwaves throughout the scientific community in 2004. While the discovery of a new human species is certainly an exciting event, what made this discovery so extraordinary was the extremely small stature of the specimen. Standing only three feet tall, the new species, dubbed Homo florensis, had a brain the size of a chimpanzee and could have hunted Komodo Dragon! Homo florensis coexisted with Homo sapiens only 18,000 years ago, thousands of years after the last Neanderthal: this means it was our last living hominid relative!
However, backlash was immediate, with many pondering if “Homo florensis” fossils are merely deformed Homo sapiens. There is evidence to support both claims, and the debate raging for ten years is nowhere near conclusive. Those in favor of classifying the fossils as a distinct, separate species claim that many other animals diminish in size when relocating to an island environment due to a lack of food and calories. Furthermore, proponents cite that it is very unlikely that so many deformed Homo sapiens would be fossilized together. Critics, on the other hand, justify their claims by referencing that the body proportions of the fossils fall under the anatomical spectrum of pathogenic Homo sapiens.
I chose this article because I find this the most fascinating scientific discovery of all time! I remember first being introduced to this discovery in IB Biology, and thinking it was a hoax! Remember: the controversy with the Homo florensis fossils is not whether or not natural selection could have produced such a small organism, but whether the anatomical traits of the fossils suggest evidence for a new species or a deformed Homo sapien. If true, it means that we lived with “Hobbits,” and could explain some of the native folklore which describes small, human-like creatures that lived in the wilderness. From this article, I wanted to stage a discussion on the beauty of the scientific method, recognizing how it is an adaptive and flexible process, not a stagnant and conservative system. One maxim of science is that it can be proved wrong through experimentation and new evidence. How does the debate over the status of Homo florensis illuminate this tenant of science? Why can Creationism not be considered a science under this definition? Finally, do you support the classification of Homo florensis as its own species? Which side do you think has the most compelling evidence? I know previously this summer, there was more evidence to support the Down syndrome hypothesis (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/08/06/hobbit-human-down-syndrome_n_5651429.html). Feel free to reference more articles providing further research or clarification about the status of these fossils!