October 1, 2009

Meet Ardi.

Our 4.4-million-year-old (possibly direct) ancestor.

30 comments:

muddimo said...

Emphasis on the "possibly".

Smilin' Jack said...

This sort of thing raises an interesting question for those who believe evolution is compatible with Christianity: Did Ardi have an immortal soul? More generally, when did our anthropoid ancestors acquire souls? Did it happen instantaneously to all of our forebears alive at a certain time, or did souled and soulless ancestors coexist for a while?

Drew W said...

Well helllooo Ardi!

Unlike certain Polish movie directors, I appreciate an older woman.

ricpic said...

Considering we've lost the ability to negotiate our way through the trees maybe we've devolved.

Alex said...

Oh Jeebus? What will the Creationists say?

Dark Eden said...

>>>Oh Jeebus? What will the Creationists say? <<<

I'd guess a sneering elitist totally unnecessary jab at those who disagree with them...

Oh no wait that's your side. NM.

Shanna said...

Interesting. I guess any monkeys that we think could walk are put in the "potential ancestor" category?

Fred4Pres said...

Ironically, Ardi probably had better morals and values than we do now.

Alex said...

Ardi had no morals - for it wasn't a sentient being. Ardi was an animal, not a human being. However that won't preclude me from using Ardi as a weapon against Fundies.

Jason (the commenter) said...

Shanna: Interesting. I guess any monkeys that we think could walk are put in the "potential ancestor" category?

No, they do a cladistic analysis of all its traits. If it lost traits that even earlier ancestors had but humans retained or has new traits humans don't, it would be taken off the list of potential ancestors.

Jason (the commenter) said...

Alex: Ardi had no morals - for it wasn't a sentient being.

"Sentience" is a poorly defined term, and beyond that, how can you make such a claim about something we only have skeletal remains of?

Alex said...

I'm just saying that it's unlikely any being before about 60K years ago possessed sentience the way we understand it. There's no way in hell an ape 4 million years ago had it.

Jason (the commenter) said...

Alex: I'm just saying that it's unlikely any being before about 60K years ago possessed sentience the way we understand it. There's no way in hell an ape 4 million years ago had it.

Why? We have it, there's no reason other primates couldn't have had what we have.

And farther back in time, there could have been sentient dinosaurs (for example) with entire civilizations. After millions of years all their artifacts would have turned to dust and we would never know they even existed.

Shanna said...

If it lost traits that even earlier ancestors had but humans retained or has new traits humans don't, it would be taken off the list of potential ancestors.

Interesting. But they are always talking about the walking. (whoops, rhyme!)

I'm just saying that it's unlikely any being before about 60K years ago possessed sentience the way we understand it. There's no way in hell an ape 4 million years ago had it.

There is no possible way to know that.

Alex said...

I can prove that there was no advanced civilization a few million years ago. If there was, they would have figured out the internal combustion engine and sucked the oil dry. But when we got to the oil reserves they were full, and we know it takes 10s of millions of years to regenerate fossil fuels. So no, there were no advanced civilizations on the earth for at least 60-100 million years. Even then, I can't buy the notion that there was an advanced civilization thriving amid the giant dinosaurs and MUCH higher temperatures then now.

Cedarford said...

Alex said...
I'm just saying that it's unlikely any being before about 60K years ago possessed sentience the way we understand it. There's no way in hell an ape 4 million years ago had it.


Define "sentience as we see it".

We see attributes of sentience, emotion, learning ability, tool-using ability right down to octupi.
We see language and teaching young to learn language in severa species. Same with social unit norms and cooperative hunting norms learned and established.
We even see evidence of spirituality, mourning, and recognition of mortality in apes and elephants revisiting the bones of long-dead former group members..

Home sapiens stands out because we have "more" of the things we happen to notice and hold important as manifestations of sentience than other species.

The challenge to religion raised by the rapid pace of scientific discovery is not really met. Religion needs to account for the new realms of discovery opened up in the 20th and 21st Century...And the rapidity with which we are understanding evolution, our past, our place in the Universe, how science has debunked much of the Bible's mysticism, and the Qu'ran's. But religion has changed little since the last period of change in religious theology which was the mid-19th Century for Christianity, and circa 1600 AD for Islam and other Eastern religions.

As for Ardi - we have that skeleton as just a part of the flood of info that relies on far more than just bones to assemble a good picture of our past. Genetic drift, DNA markers, the exact times when "out of Africa" happened, when the white and Mongloid races were evolved..

Creation of the universe, origin of life..all rewritten since the 50s.

Jason (the commenter) said...

Alex: I can prove that there was no advanced civilization a few million years ago.

Originally you said "sentience", I mentioned "civilizations", and now you are talking about "advanced civilizations". Just pointing out we have moved onto other arguments, one I never even made.

If there was, they would have figured out the internal combustion engine and sucked the oil dry.

What if they went straight to solar power from biomass, or always used biomass?

Even then, I can't buy the notion that there was an advanced civilization thriving amid the giant dinosaurs and MUCH higher temperatures then now.

Higher temperatures generally mean more plant growth which means more energy is available without having to use fossil fuels. Our history only goes back six thousand years or so, less than a blink of the eye.

Perhaps these are all new ideas to you, but there's no reason they should be shocking. There's no reason the way we do things is the only way to do them or the best way to do them. Most of the technologies we have were just lucky accidents.

traditionalguy said...

But could she cook? On NPR They did an interview with a very intelligent English guy that posits nearly every human characteristic evolved from an ancestor that mastered cooking the raw food that apes and chimps spend all day on eating and digesting. Our smaller mouth and smaller teeth together with shorter intestines and a brain fired up with proteins that only cooked foods can give is his magic bullet to go from Monkeys to little old us. All our social development is food preparation and eating related too.

Fred4Pres said...

Alex, next you are going to tell us that Cavemen do not live amongst us. How do you explain those cavemen in the insurance commericals? They like parties, play tennis...oh wait they do bowl.

Okay, you may be right Alex.

Fred4Pres said...

traditionguy, I heard that NPR story too. Very interesting. Eating raw is tough on the jaw and teeth.

Bruce Hayden said...



I can prove that there was no advanced civilization a few million years ago. If there was, they would have figured out the internal combustion engine and sucked the oil dry. But when we got to the oil reserves they were full, and we know it takes 10s of millions of years to regenerate fossil fuels. So no, there were no advanced civilizations on the earth for at least 60-100 million years. Even then, I can't buy the notion that there was an advanced civilization thriving amid the giant dinosaurs and MUCH higher temperatures then now
.

There has been some recent theories that fossil fuels are not actually derived from fossils, but rather, organic compounds (esp. methane) seeping up from deeper within the earth and been converted to what become petrochemicals. Indeed, pretty much most bodies in the solar system outside the Earth with any real gravity have some methane in their atmospheres. We can be pretty sure that it doesn't come from decomposing dinosaurs (or, even the plant matter at the bottom of their food chains at the time).

Alex said...

I'm not saying that we are using fossil fuels. But I am saying that petrochemical fuels take many millions of years to generate.

Bruce Hayden said...

My problem here with Ardi and her kin is that they don't quite fit into the evolutionary scheme that has been figured out for us. Our ancestors at the time were likely spending all their time on the ground, instead of the 50/50 or so that Ardi spent.

The hypothesis to overcome that seems to be that our split from our nearest living relatives, the chimps and pigmy chimps, happened a couple of million years earlier. But that appears to conflict with other aging techiques, such as chromasonal divergence.

Which is why, in the long run, I think that we are going to find that Ardi and her kin are going to turn out to be an evolutionary dead end, like many others that were close to us in evolutionary terms. So far, there have been a number of such near relatives that we now think were not direct ancestors of ours. One of the most famous, of course, is Neanderthal Man, who survived for quite some time, but died out when they had to diectly compete with our ancestors after the last great ice age.

What we don't know about Neaderthal, or likely Ardi and her relatives, is whether they were actually killed by proto-humans, or just out-competed by our ancestors.

Cedarford said...

Hayden - There has been some recent theories that fossil fuels are not actually derived from fossils, but rather, organic compounds (esp. methane) seeping up from deeper within the earth and been converted to what become petrochemicals. Indeed, pretty much most bodies in the solar system outside the Earth with any real gravity have some methane in their atmospheres. We can be pretty sure that it doesn't come from decomposing dinosaurs (or, even the plant matter at the bottom of their food chains at the time).

The bioscience behind the creation of petrochemicals is well-understood. It is biological in origin, we know the organisms that created it, in which ocean environments. We know that nature makes many organic chemicals - and that many have a certain "handedness" when created by living organisms, and the opposite when created in absence of lifeforms sythesizing it.

The "transmuted methane" theory, frequently cited by supply siders and more-people-means-more-GNP!! people to say why "miracle high tech means we will never run out of oil"...is disproven.

And yes, coal deposits really were created in Devonian, Siluran, Carboniferous, and Jurassic swamps and sometimes some nice carbon fossils of ferns and cycads, some still living and flourishing today - are often found.

=============
Hayden - What we don't know about Neaderthal, or likely Ardi and her relatives, is whether they were actually killed by proto-humans, or just out-competed by our ancestors.

We think it likely that modern man treated Neanderthal like any other pest competitor. It was good to out-compete them, but if possible, the best approach was to kill them off if possible. So we likely killed the ones we could, and drove the ones we didn't to marginal lands where it wasn't worth the bother to kill them...until modern man's population pressure drove them to inhabit those marginal lands as well.
As for Ardi, there is a good chance she and her kind were not driven off by proto-humans or out-competed by our ancestors if her kind WERE proto-humans who became our direct ancestors.

Revenant said...

I can prove that there was no advanced civilization a few million years ago. If there was, they would have figured out the internal combustion engine and sucked the oil dry.

There are three obvious flaws in that argument. The first is that oil reserves sometimes refill, for reasons that are poorly understood. The second is that we don't have a good idea of how long it takes for new oil to be produced. But the third, and most important, is that for all we know there used to be a thousand times the current oil reserves, and the Ardians used most of it up. Maybe that's the reason the vast majority of places we think could hold oil reserves, don't.

That being said, there's no reason to think there was advanced civilization back then. :)

Alex said...

Ok, here's another point against a past advanced civilization. There are no flags or footprints on the moon. We were the first ones in space!

John Lynch said...

There could be footprints somewhere on the moon. Too small to see.

Or maybe they buried something for us to find when we are advanced enough. Maybe it will be activated when exposed to sunlight.

Maybe it will send a signal...

Gary Rosen said...

"The "transmuted methane" theory, frequently cited by supply siders and more-people-means-more-GNP!! people to say why "miracle high tech means we will never run out of oil"...is disproven."

"Supply-siders" must be C-fudd's new code word for Joooos. I'm sure the "transmuted methane" theory is in the Talmud somewhere.

AllenS said...

I think Bruce Hayden was talking about oil being abiogenic in it's creation. A theory that I believe also. Coal, without a doubt was created by plants and other matter a long time ago.

Beaverdam said...

Maybe God created Ardi and oil?