Speculating about fossils is fun, but does not explain human traits or human origins

Allan Krill

A dream of every paleoanthropologist is to find a fossil that "can rewrite early human evolution." A lesser goal is to find a fossil that allows a paleoanthropologist to claim a new hominin species A still lesser goal, but also rarely achieved, is to find a fossil fragment that can be related with any confidence to a hominin species that has already been proposed. 

The hominin species that have been proposed so far show no progression toward modern human features. And a recent survey among life scientists shows that there is no consensus as to what biological selection pressures led to the evolution of human traits. There has never been found a complete skeleton of a pre-human hominin. The skeletons that exist have been constructed, not found. They are collages that have been assembled from fragments that were collected, selected, and glued together by highly motivated and highly biased specialists. The proof that they are motivated is that they will work for years in making a collage. The proof that they are biased, is that they call themselves "paleoanthropologists" when in fact they are "paleoprimatologists."

But never mind these problems. It is fun for paleoanthropologists to find new fragments, and to play (they see it as work) with the fragments and speculations that have appeared so far. And it is fun for the educated public to try to follow along with their complicated speculations and disagreements about all the different pre-human fossil species.

Paleoanthropologists often do not agree with the interpretations of their colleagues. But they all agree that they will not discuss the possibility that humans could have evolved without fossils. That would spoil the fun for everyone!  We know that chimpanzees evolved without fossils, and gorillas evolved without fossils. For a paleoanthropologist, it is unthinkable that humans might have evolved without fossils.

If the rest of us admit the possibility that humans might have evolved without fossils, the fun discussions of human origins can be taken over by anthropogeny. In that science, one discusses not only the bones, but also the appearance, anatomy, physiology, and genetics of modern humans and chimpanzees. One speculates as to how they are related.

This would lead directly to the aquatic ape hypothesis. The fun with that hypothesis is that it can be shared by everyone, not just the fossil experts. One can have fun simply looking at the people one meets, and speculating as to why their features and behavior are similar to or different from a chimpanzee. If you see someone with a long nose, or with long oily head hair, or with a long beard on the face but no hair on the head, or a person with blubber that is perfectly appropriate for a marine mammal, you smile as you think to yourself: "There is a nice example of an aquatic ape!"