sci.anthropology.paleo CharterLast changed 24th January 1995.
Subjectsci.anthropology.paleo is for the discussion of the evolution of the genus Homo, and more generally of the primates. Some of the topics appropriate to the group include:
- primatology (primate social interactions, comparative morphology, ape languages, etc.)
- paleoanthropology "proper" (discussion of new fossil finds, etc.)
- the origins of human language and cognition
- the origins of distinctive human morphological features (bipedalism, brain size, hairlessness, etc.)
- biological and genetic variation in Homo sapiens relevant to our evolution (e.g. mitochondrial DNA studies)
- sociobiological arguments that rely on evolutionary considerations
Some popular subjects that would find a place in sci.anthropology.paleo:
- The "African Eve" vs multi-regionalism debate
- The Aquatic Ape Hypothesis
BoundariesOften it is easier to define something by explaining what it isn't, or by looking at its boundaries with similar entities. An example of this from biology is the Biological Species Concept, where species are defined in terms of the mechanisms separating them from other species (Ernst Mayr, 1969b); in anthropology the nature of the boundaries between different groups is often critical to their self-identification (Frederik Barth, Ethnic Groups and Boundaries, 1969). So in order to explain what belongs in sci.anthropology.paleo a discussion of its boundaries with "neighbouring" newsgroups may help.
- sci.bio.evolution, sci.bio.paleontology, bionet.molbio.evolution
Discussions specific to human or primate evolution belong in sci.anthropology.paleo; those on general evolutionary principles and on the specific evolutionary histories of other taxa in sci.bio.evolution or sci.bio.paleontology as appropriate. Some material should obviously be cross-posted; some sample questions would be:
- Is there evidence for punctuated equilibrium in human evolution? (sci.bio.evolution, sci.bio.paleontology)
- How does the latest work on molecular clocks tie in with the dating of the Pan/Homo split? (bionet.molbio.evolution)
- sci.bio, sci.bio.ecology, sci.bio.ethology, bionet.population-bio
In general anything specific to primate or human biology, population genetics, ecology or ethology should be posted to sci.anthropology.paleo. If the material is of general interest it should also be cross-posted to the appropriate groups. Some examples:
- What physiological features of aquatic mammals are shared by man? (sci.bio)
- Application of new ideas in foraging theory to early hominid evolution. (sci.bio.ecology)
- Methodologies in primate ethology. (sci.bio.ethology)
In general anything which refers directly to human evolution should be posted to sci.anthropology.paleo. Some examples of questions which should be crossposted are:
- What material constraints (water, temperature, energy, protein, ...) limit traditional human cultures which exploit savannahs? Should we expect the same to be true of australopithecines?
- Where can I find the best contemporary data which might speak to multi-regional origins of our species? Has anyone updated [Smith 1991] on continuities in jaw anatomy between neanderthals and modern Europeans?
- The sizes of viable cultural communities recorded in HRAF seem to bottom out around several hundred. Paleo-anthropologists most often talk about bands of at most two dozen hominids. When did our ancestors start identifying with larger groups?
Discussion of religious issues belongs in other newsgroups; in particular discussion of "scientific" creationism belongs in talk.orgins. It is envisaged that there will be very few crossposts with talk.origins, and those that do occur will narrow followups to one of the groups. Appropriate material for a crosspost might be a request for information on a scientific aspect of human evolution that happens to be important in the context of a debate in talk.origins.
- sci.lang, alt.memetics
Discussion of non-biological (linguistic or cultural) evolution is not within the sci.anthropology.paleo charter. Discussion of the relevance of ape language experiments to understanding of the origins of human language could appropriately be cross-posted to sci.lang and sci.anthropology.paleo.
Discussion of the origins of human cognitive abilities might be appropriately crossposted to sci.cognitive and sci.anthropology.paleo. An example would be the invocation of evolutionary arguments in Consciousness Explained (Dennett 1991).
- alt.alien.visitors, sci.skeptic
Claims of extraterrestrial involvement in human origins (a la Von Daniken) belong in these groups, and are not appropriate for sci.anthropology.paleo.