Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Homo Futurus

Today on Far Future Horizons we present a somewhat controversial documentary concerning the future course of human evolution.

Homo Futurus is controversial because it presents a theory regarding the mechanism driving the evolution of humans from primates to modern man that is distinctly non-Darwinian. The theory being proposed challenges the presently accepted evolutionary premise that genetic mutations and environmental pressures are the prime influencers for natural selection. It also speculates on humanity's long term future evolutionary path. So prepare to take a glimpse at the faces of our descendants.


I recently learned that Anne Dambricourt Malassé, the French palaeoanthropologist featured in the documentary “Homo Futurus” was associated with an organisation called UIP, a French institute dedicated to promoting Intelligent Design, What struck me about this documentary was the appearance of South African paleoanthropologist Phillip Tobias, well known for his research at Sterkfontein on Australopithecus and Homo Habilis at Olduvai Gorge. The documentary gave the impression that Tobias appears to support this research. Whether the result of clever editing on the part of the producers or Tobias’ actual opinion is something I would really like to look into. But, it should be noted that in recent years Phillip Tobias (along with such luminaries as David Attenborough and Daniel Dennett) has also lent his support to another controversial hypothesis concerning human evolution namely the Aquatic Ape Hypothesis.

When I was in college I took several elective courses in Anthropology and Biological Anthropology and Tobias is a well-respected researcher in this field. So his appearance in the documentary did lend it some legitimacy.

I must admit though, that the research concerning the shifting of the sphenoid, bone situated at the base of the skull in front of the temporal bones and basilar part of the occipital bone, and its role in the evolution of the primate/hominid face and cranial vault did intrigue me. It may prove to be a very important tool in the classification of hominid skulls.

The idea that evolution is following a trajectory leading to greater and greater complexity is not unique to Intelligent Design. In fact you find it hinted at in such fields as diverse as Artificial Life and SETI.

Even Simon Conway Morris seems to believe that complexity is an evolutionary certainty. In fact many leading biologist, foremost being Ernst Mayr, have been critical of SETI because of this idea.

Homo Futurus 
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