Evolution in the News - December 2016
by Do-While Jones

Another Unknown Human

Genetic clues "prove" another hominid race not revealed by fossils.

In the good old days, one had to (at least) find a fossil in order to believe an extinct creature once existed. In the case of the Denisovans 1, they found a few teeth and part of a finger to justify their DNA analysis that the Denisovans existed. Now, computer analysis concludes that there must have been another species of human beings for which no fossils have ever been found!

Traces of long-lost human cousins may be hiding in modern people’s DNA, a new computer analysis suggests.

People from Melanesia, a region in the South Pacific encompassing Papua New Guinea and surrounding islands, may carry genetic evidence of a previously unknown extinct hominid species, Ryan Bohlender reported October 20 at the annual meeting of the American Society of Human Genetics. 2

It was reported at the annual meeting of the American Society of Human Genetics, so it must be true!

This mysterious relative was probably from a third branch of the hominid family tree that produced Neandertals and Denisovans, an extinct distant cousin of Neandertals. While many Neandertal fossils have been found in Europe and Asia, Denisovans are known only from DNA from a finger bone and a couple of teeth found in a Siberian cave (SN: 12/12/15, p. 14 3). 4

And that’s not all!

Bohlender isn’t the first to suggest that remnants of archaic human relatives may have been preserved in human DNA even though no fossil remains have been found. In 2012, another group of researchers suggested that some people in Africa carry DNA heirlooms from an extinct hominid species (SN: 9/8/12, p. 9 5). 6

This computer-aided speculation is characterized in the Science News headline as, “evidence.” That’s not what we call, “evidence.”

Simple definition of EVIDENCE

: something which shows that something else exists or is true

: a visible sign of something

: material that is presented to a court of law to help find the truth about something 7

Bohlender just used a computer program to compare DNA from Europeans and Asians to compute what the DNA of a common ancestor would be. That program could be modified to compare the DNA from reindeer and fireflies to determine what a red-nosed reindeer’s DNA would be. That’s not evidence. It proves nothing!

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Footnotes:

1 Disclosure, July 2013, “Denisovans”, http://www.scienceagainstevolution.info/v17i10n.htm
2 Tina Hesman Saey, Science News, 12 November 2016, “DNA data offer evidence of unknown extinct human relative”, p. 13, https://www.sciencenews.org/article/dna-data-offer-evidence-unknown-extinct-human-relative?mode=magazine&context=192525
3 Bruce Bower, Science News, 16 November 2015,” DNA puts Neandertal relatives in Siberia for 60,000 years”, https://www.sciencenews.org/article/dna-puts-neandertal-relatives-siberia-60000-years
4 Tina Hesman Saey, Science News, 12 November 2016, “DNA data offer evidence of unknown extinct human relative”, p. 13, https://www.sciencenews.org/article/dna-data-offer-evidence-unknown-extinct-human-relative?mode=magazine&context=192525
5 Tina Hesman Saey, Science News, 31 July 2012, “DNA hints at African cousin to humans”, https://www.sciencenews.org/article/dna-hints-african-cousin-humans
6 Tina Hesman Saey, Science News, 12 November 2016, “DNA data offer evidence of unknown extinct human relative”, p. 13, https://www.sciencenews.org/article/dna-data-offer-evidence-unknown-extinct-human-relative?mode=magazine&context=192525
7 http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/evidence