In case you missed it, I wrote a magazine article!
Here’s how it happened. I was following the arguments between Tim White and Lee Berger playing out in the press, with White insisting Homo naledi was actually just H. erectus and Berger defending his work, with both trading pointed barbs. However, the words of Ian Tattersall’s latest book were ringing in my ears and it occurred to me that the fight between Berger and White was actually over something much deeper. I decided to try on my journalist hat and make a few phone calls.
Berger and White don’t just have disagreements about Homo naledi, open-access publishing, the pace and rigor of publishing new fossils, or the thresholds for naming new species. While those disagreements are real, they are minor compared to their disconnect on the biggest question in paleoanthropology: what is the nature of the human fossil record?
Is our history more or less a linear progression of one species gradually evolving into the next until we reach the pinnacle, Homo sapiens? Or did the hominin lineage experience extensive adaptive radiation, spreading out into a bushy family tree, culled to a few branches by the harshness of natural selection?
Read the full story in next month’s Skeptic Magazine or in the electronic version, eSkeptic, available now.