|Skull features of Homo naledi and other early human species. Chris Stringer/WikiMedia Commons|
A new fossil human ancestor has made its way into the media spotlight, and it’s causing quite a ruckus.
... But now, four months after the announcement, questions about H. naledi have crept up. Articles about the fossils were published too quickly, naysayers claim. They were published without “proper” peer review. Moreover, the fossils—and the entire Rising Star Expedition that found them—are simply a means of fueling the project’s media agenda. The researchers, sniff paleoanthropology’s intelligentsia, are simply not serious.
If the history of paleoanthropology shows us anything, it’s that controversy over a new fossil hominin species is nothing new. In fact, most newly discovered hominin species have undergone periods of serious scrutiny, particularly because discoveries force scientists to rethink evolutionary relationships. For the past hundred years, paleoanthropologists have bandied about insults, in addition to hypotheses, as they discussed fossil hominins in academic and public circles. [...] JSTOR Daily