Stone Tools From India: Another Blow To Human Evolution Model?

By Gemma Tarlach | January 31, 2018 12:00 pm
Thousands of artifacts such as these stone tools have been excavated from a site in India, revealing Middle Stone Age technology arrived much earlier than once thought possible. (Credit: Sharma Centre for Heritage Education, India)

Thousands of stone tools excavated from a site in India suggest that a sophisticated tool-making technology arrived in South Asia much earlier than once thought possible, say researchers. (Credit: Sharma Centre for Heritage Education, India)

A new study on stone tools from a site in India offers the latest challenge to the model of human evolution and migration that has dominated paleoanthropology, particularly in the West, for decades. The artifacts, which the researchers say were produced with a sophisticated style of tool-making, are hundreds of thousands of years older than might be expected. What does it mean? Well, that part of the story is still up for debate.

At the archaeological site of Attirampakkam in southeastern India, near Chennai, researchers have collected more than 7,000 artifacts, many of them stone tools that appear to show a transition from an early style of tool-making to one that’s more sophisticated. The shocker: if the analysis is correct, the transition occurred more than 200,000 years earlier than expected based on previous evidence.

Tool-making styles, or technologies, are important in the study of human evolution and migration for a couple reasons. For starters, stone tools have a habit of sticking around long after human remains have disintegrated. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust and all that. But the complexity of the tool technology — how the tools were made — also can reveal a lot about the cognitive ability of the toolmaker.

The earliest tools at Attirampakkam belong to the Acheulean technology. Instantly recognizable by its teardrop shape, the Acheulean handaxe in particular was a considerable improvement on earlier Oldowan technology.

Example of an Achulean handaxe (Credit: Wikimedia Commons)

Example of an Acheulean handaxe from Egypt. (Credit: Wikimedia Commons)

Like Oldowan before it, all indications are that Acheulean technology emerged in Africa. When Homo erectus, the first known member of the genus Homo to leave Africa, up and left about 1.9 million years ago to spread across Eurasia, they were carrying Acheulean tools. (An exception would be the hominins found at Dmanisi, in the Caucasus, which are nearly 1.9 million years old and were found with more primitive Oldowan tools.)

What a Tool

Hundreds of thousands of years later, the Levallois technology appears in the archaeological record, representing another significant improvement. In this method, one side of a stone called a core is pre-shaped. That pre-shaped portion is then struck off the core, fully formed. Levallois style tool-making allows for greater precision and sharper edges. It’s found in much of Africa and Eurasia, but there is some debate over whether the technology was spread by a single tool-tastic culture as it migrated or sprung up independently in multiple places among different populations.

While it appears in the archaeological record at different times in different places — and is associated with more than one member of the genus Homo — Levallois technology is associated most closely with the Middle Paleolithic, which was, more or less, 50,000-325,000 years ago (that’s a generous “more or less,” not only because there is considerable variation between locations, but also because researchers disagree on what constitutes start and end dates).


One key thing to know about Levallois technology is that, until today’s paper, the previous strong evidence of it in South Asia was less than 100,000 years old.

Using a type of luminescence dating called post-infrared-stimulated luminescence (pIR-IRSL), the researchers analyzing the Attirampakkam artifacts created a chronology of tool technology at the site over a span of about 200,000 years. And during that period, the researchers say they identified an emergence of Levallois technology about 385,000 years ago. For some context, last year’s spectacular announcement from Morocco revealed human fossils — and Levallois tools — that were about 300,000 years old. The Levallois tools at Attirampakkam are significantly older and thousands of miles from Africa.

Tool Good To Be True?

To say this would be a game-changer for our understanding of human evolution and dispersal is somewhat of an understatement, but let’s look a little closer at the paper. The authors are suggesting that a Middle Paleolithic culture turns up in what’s now southeastern India at roughly, or even before, signs of it in Europe and Africa. That, in the researchers’ minds, means that either local populations of hominins developed the technology or that modern human migrations out of Africa occurred much earlier than any evidence found so far.

(As for the latter, remember that the timeline for Homo sapiens leaving Africa has been continually pushed back in recent years. It is generally agreed, however, that early waves of H. sapiens migration out of Africa began around 100,000-125,000 years ago, with the largest waves 40,000-80,000 years ago, again with a generous “more or less.” Fossils such as Misliya-1, however, announced last week, continue to challenge even that “more or less” timeline.)

The stunning claims made in today’s paper are not a slam-dunk, however. One unfortunate aspect of the research is that it did not turn up any hominin fossils associated with the tools, as happened with, for example, Misliya-1, which was found in Israel with Levallois tools and dated to be at least 177,000 years old. Not having a fossil associated with any of the tools from the 200,000 year span represented at Attirampakkam makes it impossible to draw any conclusions about who made them.

“We really don’t have much of a fossil record to go on at all in South Asia,” says James Blinkhorn, an archaeologist at the University of Liverpool and the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History in Jena, Germany. Blinkhorn, who was not involved in the new study, focuses on both Paleolithic archaeology in general and the prehistory of South Asia in particular.

Blinkhorn expressed skepticism about a number of aspects of the paper. Even with the supplementary material published concurrently, Blinkhorn felt the authors needed to make a much stronger case for their paradigm-shifting conclusions, including how they define Levallois technology and how they prove that the artifacts fit that definition. In fact, it’s unclear whether any of the tools cited by researchers as Levallois technology are indeed that, based on the information provided in the study.

“It looks more like Late Acheulean rather than a Middle Paleolithic site,” Blinkhorn says of the Attirampakkam artifacts.

Also of note: at other sites, once Levallois technology was developed, it was embraced and quickly spread through a region. If so sophisticated a style emerged at Attirampakkam, why did it stay there for, apparently, more than 200,000 years without gaining wider popularity?

“If they were an independent innovation in Southeast India, why didn’t they spread (as occurred in other old world regions like East Africa),” Blinkhorn added via e-mail. “Of course, the dated evidence from India is sparse, but my point here is that there are alternative explanations that were either not raised or not treated with any depth.”

Carl Sagan, echoing the thought of many an earlier science enthusiast, said “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.” We’ve been here many times before in paleoanthropology, most recently last spring when a paper, also in Nature, suggested hominins were present in what’s now California more than 130,000 years ago.

Personally, I think that the thing this paper proves is not whether hominins developed Levallois technology in India 385,000 years ago — it’s that India, like many other areas of Asia, has been underinvestigated by paleoanthropologists, and that many more sites (which may ultimately prove or disprove the claims made today about Attirampakkam) are out there, just waiting to be found.

The research on the Attirampakkam artifacts appears today in Nature.

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Comments (72)

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  1. “Miscellaneous Meanderings” (February 2018) | mlatkovic | February 1, 2018
  1. OWilson

    Forget the PC Hollywood movie title, “Out of Africa” , and start all over again with the new evidence!

    Perhaps many branches of apes evolved into hominids and ranged far and wide, died out, interbred, or were wiped out by more advanced species who left their tools to be found among the poor primitive souls, they slaughtered.

    Look around at the state of humanity for clue.

    A National Geo. anthropogist drops his Rolex amongst primitives in New Guinea.

    Let’s not build a theory out of that!

    • TLongmire

      I think once we as a species are at the point where we can download our consciousness and allow others to perceive our individual “experience” we will see the disparity between individuals and it will shadder our idea

    • Michael Cleveland

      Bad science to jump to conclusions. This “new evidence” still has to be defended against alternative interpretations and its own weaknesses. If it holds up, then and only then does it become evidence.

  2. Brandon James Starcevic

    When are people going to realize that Asians came from the Americas?

    • SKVAM

      No, they were brought here by aliens.

    • Michael Cleveland

      I assume you just forgot to add a smiley face to your post, so I’ll do it for you. : )

      • Brandon James Starcevic

        Yes, my comments are always intended to be light-hearted, thank you. Though, in this case it’s also a good theory if you look the geographical habitation. Proud will follow, not by me, but it will.

        • Michael Cleveland

          I thought so, probably, but it’s not always easy to pick up tone in text. In that light, mine was also intended to be light, but in a context of way-out-there fringe elements that like these boards, ya’ don’t always know for sure….

          • Brandon James Starcevic

            Hahaha, yeah, ii had an ex that i had to add emojis in all my text or she would take it the wrong way. I think i need to rethink my sentence structure 😛

          • Michael Cleveland

            Not necessarily, but brevity is a two-sided coin.

  3. Rudra Bhairav

    When is it going to dawn on Racist Western Science Cartel that Human Origins are from India, ” Out of India” ?? Either the West and Western Science will continue to bang on with like Church like Dogma orAccept Evidence based Science, which is real Science. Funny how Africa model is still around ! – ” Oh no it is still out of Africa but maybe older” !! Darwins Ridiculous “Theory” and other Myths may yet be found out sooner or later. We have Fossil Evidence of Ape men and Humans co-existing. So Humans may not have ” Descended” from Ape men either. We need Real Honest Science.

    • Precision English

      Darwin’s “ridiculous” theory is the basis of modern biology which continues to collect mountains of evidence that support it. The basic line of hominin (genus Homo) evolution is well established in the fossil record and via discoveries like these. You’ll have to do better than throw epithets around.


      No one, at least no one with any science education, claims that humans ” Descended” from Ape men. Evolution says that humans and apes have a common ancestor.

    • Michael Cleveland

      No scientist, nor anyone versed in the sciences has EVER said that man descended from the apes. Guess that makes you the monkey’s uncle.

      • Jim Speidel

        We didn’t descend from apes, we ARE apes ! Just a different species.

        • Michael Cleveland

          It’s a matter of terminology. Hominids and apes share a common ancestry, so we are related, but no, humans are not apes.

          • Jim Speidel

            From Miriam Webster: Definition of Great Ape
            : any of several large primates (such as the orangutan, gorilla, or chimpanzee) that are either placed in the same family (Hominidae) as humans or are grouped in a separate family (Pongidae)

            We fit the official definition.

          • Michael Cleveland

            Which one? Of course I had forgotten that Meriam Webster was the final arbeiter in questions scientific. Even so, you might want to read what it actually says. For the record, orantugan, gorilla, and chimpanzee are normally considered Pongidae, not Hominidae, and Webster’s “or” does not make them equivalent.

    • Michael Cleveland

      Ou of India? Ok, bring on the evidence. But you will have a mountain of evidence that says otherwise to overturn.

    • Peter Watson

      You do realize the word ‘theory’ in science is fact, right? lol The way that scientists use the word ‘theory’ is a little different than
      how it is commonly used in the lay public. Most people use the word
      ‘theory’ to mean an idea or hunch that someone has, but in science the
      word ‘theory’ refers to the way that we interpret facts. I’m sorry pal but your comment only highlights your ignorance.

      • Michael Cleveland

        I essence I agree with what you are saying, but some of the wording is a bit shaky. Theory is not “fact.” It is, instead, the highest level of understanding that we have at a given time. Not many areas of knowledge or study are so perfectly understood that we have nothing further to learn. Theory is not fact because it is subject to modification if new information or understanding makes that necessary. That flexibility is what makes scientific learning so much superior to that of the savant who says “This is the way it is, now and forever.”

  4. OWilson

    The main contributors to anthropological theories have long been social predisposition, a remnant from the Victorian Age, the fossils themseves, use and design of tools, and now, relatively new DNA analysis.

    Tools are found and are associated with their local populations, but tools ae often spoils of war and can be looted, pillaged, carried, traded and held and passed down from generation to generation, as well as produced locally. They can be carried thousands of miles, by hunters along the edge of the polar ice as they followed the seals.

    When studying tools, it is important to locate the source of the material used. Today geologists have the ability to determine where the tools originated or were mined.

    I think that will be the next illuminating the chapter in the story, that has “scientists scratching their heads”!

    • R_ Leakey

      Good insight but it is almost funny to think that the archaic Indians brought those tools from Africa. Yes, they were hunters but one needs thousands of year to travel thousands of mile. Another hand, migrators do not behave like pilgrims, they migrate, they halt, they reproduce, they die, they again migrate, and in between they change themselves lots physically and culturally. By the way, multi-cradle idea is no more new now, many anthropologists believe that Homosapeins orginated in differenct palces, however, it is hard for me to digest. Read here: Just few months ago, I read this article on Nature:

      • Michael Cleveland

        Highly improbable that the multiple mutations that led from H. erectus to H.sapiens could have occurred identically in multiple locations or, alternatively, that gradual change in multiple locations could have brought the near-identical human DNA in all parts of the world. No, the multi-cradle idea should have been still-born, unsupportable on its face, but everyone has to have an idea.

        • R_ Leakey

          Nature goes its own way, we don’t know what is wrong or write. Most of part of our science is still not completely empirical. We have not progressed beyond Buddha era approach in certain area of science. Nowadays, I am reading Buddhist texts. In Buddhism, Buddhist monks used to give tarka (reason) in upamā (simile) form to prove heaven and gods exist. However, Buddhism don’t believe in almighty God. Monks gave simile of time dilation in Payasirajanya Sutta, DN. Today, modern physicists give proof of relativity theory with gps time dilation. Still none has travelled into the deep space and came back to prove that space and earth time are different. In our anthropological science too, none can do time travel and prove or disprove evolution. Our grand theories are proved with just similes. We collect the data and interpret in our own ways. In essence, our rationality has limitation.

          • Michael Cleveland

            I also have studied Buddhism in several of its many forms. It’s true that there is no one central god, but there are multiple spiritual “entities” which serve as symbolic aspects of a central over-arching Truth. It is also true that both Special and General Relativity have been shown experimentally to be valid many times over. The GPS example is hardly the only one. As for evolution science, we observe nature, and the evidence of more than a century of that carefully vetted observation is solidly on the side of evolution. That doesn’t mean that it is fully understood, but the observation continues, and we learn. That’s to be expected. You don’t graduate from Kindergarten with a PhD.

          • R_ Leakey

            I agree with you but still today we are in Kindergarten. This was my point. I hope your words will be true one day!

          • Michael Cleveland

            I’d say well into high school, but point taken.

  5. Manufacture requires raw materials. Given said extraordinary tonnages to supply the statistical samplings discovered – where were the chert mines? Why aren’t their geological scars still evident?

    • OWilson

      The Bill Nye crowd has a favorite “knapper”, he is seen at anthropological sites demonstrating his technique to the students.

      Never see him sweep up, though! 🙂


    • Michael Cleveland

      Why mines, when you can pick up all you need and more from stream beds in regions where it’s found? It is very common.

  6. Monswine

    Quite a bit of pseudoscience in the comments section so far. Nothing makes headlines like a heterodox interpretation of a new human origins discovery. I don’t have any special knowledge or expertise with which to reject the researchers but I do find myself agreeing with the more cautious interpretations.

  7. OneGoodEye

    The first course of action is evaluation of dating methods. Radio carbon dating and uranium methods are suspect of inaccuracies based on naturally occurring variation of background/contaminating radioactive sources. Methods’ data placing modern artifacts to 9,000-50,000 years in the future may warrant some reluctance accepting results, which at best should be received as uncertain.

    • Michael Cleveland

      Dating methods can sensitive to human error, but work very well when done with proper care. Dating methods for very old samples have been compared, with results found to be consistent within about 1 percent. When you are looking at dates in the hundreds of millions of years, that suggests very high reliability.

      • OneGoodEye

        yes, 1% of 1million years is accurate to +- 10,000 year or a 20,000 year window of error. And, that’s ok if your application and audience’s expectation is satisfied with that error rate. A significant issue with all these methods, it there is no way to confirm the methods are correct… We have no “known” 1 million year old “standard” from the area to compare against. Additionally, there’s the contamination problem, we don’t know the sample’s origin to make a determination of “handling” effects 20,000 or more years ago. Its likely the source may be found using trace element analysis, however it’ll likely be trial and error finding the source location.

        • Michael Cleveland

          From an immediate perspective, 10,000 years is a very long time, but against a geological perspective, against a million years, a variance of 10,000 years is miniscule, insignificant. No one expects to come up with a date like Sunday, June 3, 1,237,183 BC. The standard is not in the object, but in the method. The rates of change at the atomic/molecular level in certain materials can be measured very precisely, and with that known rate, ages can be measured, with a variance of no more than 1 percent between multiple methods over very vast expanses of time. This is a very high standard of accuracy. The rest, about contamination, is gibberish, irrelevant to the actual processes, and shows that you have made no effort to look into the actual measurement methods. As I have pointed out in similar discussions, you use a computer, and probably a cell phone, and presumably you accept the science behind them (what choice, since they work?), yet you reject other very well established science because it does not fit your personal preferences, essentially because you don’t want it to be so. Fuzzy thinking, bad logic.

          • OneGoodEye

            Unfortunately, you appear to misinterpreted my comments, maybe you have me confused with someone else. I have a great respect for interpreted science, often guesses are in the ballpark resulting in great new discoveries after exercised prudence. Having used radio-active dating professionally, I do understand contamination models better than most. For example, exposure to C14 at an age of 200,000 yrs will contaminate a sample to appear 200,000 yrs old. Because of this well known effect, C14 marine dating requires corrections. Well documented “Hard water” and other “reservoir effects” from fresh water runoff significantly skews organic readings. Before the claim was made, there should have been a magnetostratigraphy study to ballpark layers. Unfortunately, there was no obsidian in the samples for a hydration study.. Fuzzy thinking believes in one type of testing as a validation, much like classical mechanics was one solution to explain all physics.

          • Michael Cleveland

            I simply answered your own statements. I agree with what you are saying in principle, but C14 has an effective limit of about 50,000 years (sometimes as high as 75,000 years with special preparation of the sample), so I don’t know where the 200,000 years is coming from. It’s not possible for the C14 method to register that kind of result, even in error. I should have been more specific, but was not considering C14 as part of this, since the ages being tested are much older than this method of measurement permits, and because we were talking about stone tools, which cannot be dated with C14, except via associated organic materials, and within the maximum limit for the test. You are correct, C14 is highly sensitive to contamination from a number of sources, and the nature of the sample does have to be taken into account. However, there are radiometric dating methods for more ancient materials (rocks and sediments, primarily) which are less or not at all subject to contamination. You are also correct that better dating comes through correlation of multiple methods, but there is no need for a known million year old sample for comparison, since the dating is absolute, not comparative, and derives from known rates of change in the isotopes being measured. There have been studies in which multiple radiometric dating methods have arrived at results with a consistency in the same sample within 1% over measurements of millions of years, so we know that the methods are accurate to that high a degree. Since no one is looking for calendar dates, that is a very acceptable degree of reliability.

  8. Janey04090

    Interesting how views change as society advances.

  9. gem39

    “Personally, I think that the thing this paper proves is not whether hominins developed Levallois technology in India 385,000 years ago — it’s that India, like many other areas of Asia, has been underinvestigated by paleoanthropologists, and that many more sites (which may ultimately prove or disprove the claims made today about Attirampakkam) are out there, just waiting to be found.”

    • Michael Cleveland

      No one is disparaging. This the way science works. If you make a claim that is open to other interpretations, you must be able to support it against alternative interpretations. The claims made in this paper are extraordinary, so no one is going to say, “Oh…OK.

  10. wholekraft

    Another “scientific fact” trashed. Dating of artifacts is dubious, so what we are told is scientific fact is really “guess work” – and as we see almost always refuted by “some other evidence”. Evolution being the finest example of incomplete information and guess work. God is still in change – not man!

    • Peter Watson

      Religion is an ever receding pocket of scientific ignorance. Science is always progressing, while religion, not so much lol.

      • wholekraft

        Who said anything about Religion? I said God is in charge. Many in the scientific community have made various branches of scientific study their “religion”. One that changes almost daily. The Big Bang has now become alternate universes, etc. The truth is Man doesn’t know how the Universe began or how it functions today. Nor does science know how man originated. You may call it progress, but in reality it is guess work based on incomplete and limited data.

        • Michael Cleveland

          Only religious zealots claim that science is a religion. If you must dissociate God from religion, then try this terminology: Numinous vs empirical. Empirical observation of the world has nothing to do with religion, and science does not address the numinous because it cannot be observed, measured, or evaluated empirically. If you said “God” you were on the religious side of the fence.

          • wholekraft

            Your comprehension is seriously lacking. I said many in the scientific community have made science their religion, i.e. they have become zealots rather than objective observers. Empirical observation when taken beyond an expressed “theory” leads to closed mindedness, i.e. My theory is right and everyone who disagrees is ignorant. A good example is your first comment, “Religion is an ever receding pocket of scientific ignorance.” Or do you just assume that no scientist has any beliefs in the existence of God? If you do, then you are woefully misinformed.

          • Michael Cleveland

            You should follow the attributions. I didn’t make the remark about “receding pocket”. And I’ve never said anything to suggest that no scientist has any beliefs in the existence of God. But no scientist would refer to his profession as a religion, because it does not resemble the definition of religion in any way. Religious zealots, on the other hand, are all too quick to claim that adherence to the Discipline of science resembles religious zealotry, and that is not true. It has to do with the way science works. A scientist presents an idea (not Theory at this point). It is the result of observation, experiment, rational thought, and careful evaluation. It may or may not be right, but even if correct, it must be defended to be accepted. The scientific community at large must accept it before it can be deemed valid. It is subject to close peer scrutiny, for error or alternate interpretations, so your “my theory is right” comment puts an unfair spin on your observation. It is the discoverer’s job to defend his idea (and presumably the work he has put into it, if carefully done, justifies that defense, but scientists, too, are human). If his critics find flaws or better interpretations that he has missed, the idea either fails, or is corrected to account for new interpretation. Religion, on the other hand, presents a Belief as fact or truth, but supports that with nothing that can be tested or verified. A good scientist adjusts to ; religious believers never do

          • wholekraft

            You mix truth, and half-truths, then make blanket statements based on that, especially about Religion, but you haven’t given a specific definition of either Science or Religion. One can’t communicate with others without both understanding the meaning behind the words being used. There are crackpots and cheats as well as geniuses in both areas. Accepted scientific theories are thrown out routinely. That is because both Science and Religion (however you may define them) are a human activity. Human’s are fallible. You treat Religion and Religious Zealotry as if they are synonymous, they are not. You treat science as sacrosanct, it is not. Both are trying to find out about life and the world that surrounds us. Not everything that exists is visible, not everything that exists can be physically measured. Science deals in measurement of what can be seen and measured, Religion deals with that and more. Putting down Religion because it deals with unknowns is short sighted. Scientist put faith in their theories all the time, that doesn’t make the theories any more right or wrong. A scientist has to do that to defend what he thinks is correct. Religious scholars do the same – just because you don’t believe (have faith) in what they believe doesn’t make you right and them wrong or vice versa.

          • Michael Cleveland

            If you need definitions of Science and Religion, then one wonders what you are doing here. The rest of your post is so bizarre that one hardly knows where to begin. For one thing, scientific theories are not routinely tossed. It takes a lot of vetting for an understanding to reach the level of Theory (which, again, is the highest level of current understanding, not speculation), but theories are mutable, if new observations make that necessary. However, they are rarely tossed, just modified to accept the new models. Einstein did not displace Newton, he encompassed Newton with a broader understanding. Science is trying to find out about life and the world that surrounds us. Religion is most certainly not. It is in the business of promoting a fixed, immutable idea. The process of Science involves a process of becoming; recognition of its own fallibility is part of the process. Religion offers intellectual stagnation because it can neither recognize nor adjust to its own fallibility. They are categorical opposites in terms of human intellectual progress. You say religion deals with unknowns. That’s a distortion. Religion deals with unknowables. I’m not saying that religion doesn’t have a place. My objection is to its propensity for making belief and truth synonymous. They are not. Believe as you will, but if your belief is not observable or testable, don’t offer it up as a superior counter truth to that which is. If you insist anyway, those 49 virgins are waiting….

          • wholekraft

            I have never seen or met you. How do I know you are real, and not just a automated program? How do you know I exist? Because you get a reply over the internet?? Are you a part of Steady State Universe, or the ever expanding Big Bang, or just another alternate universe? Are you from a monkey, man, or alien. Were we created or we just an accident coming out of chaos? What is unknowable? What is unknown? If it’s unknowable – then how do you know it is unknowable? If it’s unknown, then why are you trying to tell me your answer is better than mine? What is Truth? Are you Muslim; Christian; nothing or something else? Both Science and Religion address all those issues. Do you sell Religion short because you are not a part of one? If you are not a part of it then how do you know what it does and doesn’t address? Which Religions are right or if one is right are all the others wrong? If they are all wrong then what is “your religion”. You must believe in something and if you do then isn’t that your religion? What is “true” in Science and what is just “Theory”? Where is the proof of the Big Bang? Show me. If I can’t see it, measure it or feel it with my hands then according to you it doesn’t exist. The only distortions here are your arguments which sound educated and logical until they are analyzed.

          • Michael Cleveland

            Not even a good try. Every question you pose is knowable through observation, with varying degrees of effort. They are all testable, if you want to go to the trouble. The existence or non-existence of God, on the other hand, is not demonstrable through observation or any other means available to living human beings. I’m not trying to sell religion short (and, by the way, I have been a serious student of both religion and the sciences for my whole adult life). My problem is with the misuse, the abuse of religion as a vehicle of absolute truth. And you bring up the very essence of the problem. Who is right: the Christian who believes that Christ is the only truth, or the Muslim who blows himself up in the belief that by taking infidels with him, he earns 49 virgins when he gets to heaven, or the HIndu, who’s highest spiritual aspiration is to escape the wheel–we could go on and on. Each of these believes, and believes sincerely, yet the “Truths” they espouse are often contradictory, and each will insist the others are wrong. My point again, is that you may believe what you will, but you have no right, no position that can legitimately allow you to demand that anyone else accept your belief as fact. Belief and fact are not the same. You don’t believe in Christ because there is Ontological truth in Christ. You believe because that’s what you were taught to believe by people who came by that belief in the same way you did. Likewise the Muslim, the Jew, the Hindu, the Buddhist, etc., etc. But you would insist on that ontology. That insistence is founded on faulty understanding. Spirituality is good. Religion, as it is used, corrupts spirituality.

          • wholekraft

            Who demanded anything from you? Not me. You are the one who brought up “Religion” to begin with. You are the one who made judgments on religion vs. science. As far as I know they are not in competition, unless someone wants to make their part of Science their “religion”. I merely stated a fact, that now some are saying man “came from India rather than Africa and they based that on one find of stone tools and a dating system that is suspect (i.e. no way to really verify it’s accuracy).

          • Michael Cleveland

            “God is still in charge – not man!” How easily you forget your own words, followed by the odd (and completely false) disclaimer that mention of God is not related to religion. Religion and science should not be in competition, but some insist that faith-based “knowledge” is somehow superior to that acquired via methodical scientific processes–to wit: “Evolution being the finest example of incomplete information and guess work.” So enough of this passive-aggressive nonsense.

          • Michael Cleveland

            Clarification: …mention of God in the context of your statement…

          • wholekraft

            Again, you place your concepts and definitions on me. Incorrect again. God is a being conceived as perfect, omnipotent originator of the universe. I never mentioned any Religion. Just because you equate the two as the same doesn’t mean others do. Maybe you should refer to a good dictionary. Religions have various and differing concepts and not all even recognize a “supreme being”. Just because you think they are the same doesn’t make it so. One of the definitions of Religion is “any objective attended to or pursued with zeal or conscientious devotion.” That would include some areas of Science for some individuals. Is there a God in Science? The two words are not synonymous.

          • Michael Cleveland

            I can’t imagine a more disingenuous comment. I understand that you want to separate God from religion, but that only works one way. God is God, not religion, but humankind’s perspective, man’s thinking about and relationship with God, is religious. The discussion topic was scientific. Science is not connected to God or gods because God is not observable or measurable, and therefore falls outside the purview of science. Religion may not be central to God, but God (or gods) are central to most religions. To a discussion in science, you comment that God is in charge. How is it then, that you can claim with a straight face that you didn’t bring religion into the subject?

          • wholekraft

            Because God and religion are not synonymous. If they were then there would only be one God and one religion. There is only one God, but there are numerous religions, some worshiping one god or another, some not recognizing any God, some recognizing many Gods. When I say God is in control, that has one meaning – man is not in control – something much more knowing and powerful rules the universe. Man and science only make stabs in the dark and more often than not those stabs (theories) are proven false or mistaken. If you base your beliefs on science only then you are more often wrong than right.

          • Michael Cleveland

            Yet science gives real answers, while any understanding about God is conjecture. Belief is not synonymous with truth. If it were, then merely by believing, we could all anticipate those 49 virgins waiting for us in heaven if we will only kill infidels here. You believe in God, but you know nothing of God except what someone has told you, and you clearly know nothing of the science you argue against, because you could not be more wrong about it– which takes me back to the theme I have argued repeatedly on these boards: Don’t argue against something you don’t understand. You have no business arguing against science if you don’t understand science on its own terms. And I submit that you don’t understand the relationship between God and religion well enough to be arguing that either.

          • wholekraft

            When you speak of someone else’ knowledge, especially someone you have never met , you speak from ignorance. You say I argue against science or know nothing about it and you are wrong. As I said before science is the search for knowledge by man and there is nothing wrong with that pursuit. However, one should not put their total faith in the supposed answers science is giving us, because they are only educated suppositions (theory). Many that cannot be proven and that is the truth. The Big Bang is still theory. Science can’t explain why it happened or even if it happened. There are a number of other theories on the beginning of the Universe. You speak of science as the end all, with the answers to everything and even the best scientists will tell you that is not the case. When it comes to rocks, stone tools, their ages, and what they tell us about man and his origins it is all theory based on very limited information. One discovery in India of stone tools supposedly older than science expected throws the origin of man (from Africa) into question? Then maybe you shouldn’t take the answers so seriously. They are not answers but conjecture. You question faith based on the unknown. Well guess what, that is exactly what you do when you accept much of science as fact when they are not fact, but theory. Maybe you should go to Websters and read the definition of Theory.

          • wholekraft

            Michael, If “science gives the real answers”, then why are we looking at stone tools in India? Isn’t it an established fact that man originated and “came out of Africa” or are we still trying to find the actual answer to that question? Not only where man originated, but when and why? Is the “Big Bang” an established fact or is it man’s best guess today with the limited knowledge we have currently? Is Macro Evolution an established fact or a best guess based on what we see today? If it is true then why haven’t we seen any actual examples of one in the last 3000 years where we have actual recorded history or eye witness proof? Science gives us “possible answers”, not “real answers”. One can pick which answer they wish to believe – isn’t that faith in action. As I said before you talk like Science is your religion. That is fine for you, but your assumption that someone who believes in a God, any God, is less intelligent that you is your weakness, not theirs. There are thousands of Scientists (scientists by your definition) that believe in God. Why is that? Maybe they see something you have missed? Or maybe not? Rather than assume that religion is baseless, maybe you should take a little time to research that question. Maybe there is more proof than you know – like eyewitnesses to God’s work here on the earth. Just because you don’t believe it doesn’t necessarily make it false.

          • Michael Cleveland

            I don’t need to know you. Your own words betray your ignorance. What does “out of Africa” have to do with stone tools found anywhere else? Human beings have been making stone tools the hundreds of thousands of years, in many place outside of Africa. It’s the age of the tools that is important here, and the significance of the find needs to defended and verified. You toss the words “established fact” around as though they meant something. The best available evidence (which mounts daily, monthly, yearly) is solidly on the side of evolution, so we accept it with growing confidence. If better information were to negate the idea, the Theory would have to be modified, but that’s unlikely. What is more changeable now is our understanding of how it works. The big bang is not guesswork; the evidence in favor of that origin for the Universe is overwhelming, but also subject to change if our understanding changes. Current understanding for both is well-vetted, but it is axiomatic in Science that there is no absolute final answer. Everything we learn leads to new questions, and sometimes those answers require an expan

          • wholekraft

            Again you speak from total ignorance and a lack of comprehension. A shift from a steady state to an expanding universe was not “an expansion of Theory, it was a 180 degree change. You speak of evolution as established and proven. There is a significant difference between micro and macro evolution. If you can’t delineate the difference then you aren’t much of a scientist.

          • Michael Cleveland

            Once again, by your own words….You have read not one word I’ve said. First, I’ve never spoken of evolution as established and proven, nor would anyone who knows anything about it. If you had read what I’ve written, you might understand that there is no such thing as proof of theory. All theory is malleable, subject to new understanding. What I said was that the evidence is overwhelmingly in favor of evolution. That does not mean that it is without detractors, though what we don’t know has more to do with processes than with the idea itself. I understand the difference between micro and macro evolution, but can’t imagine why you keep bringing it up, as that difference is largely irrelevant to the very general tenor of this discussion.
            The Steady State theory was proposed about 1950 as an alternative to the Big Bang by scientists, led mainly by the astronomer Fred Hoyle, who did not like the idea that the Universe had a beginning. If you are referring to ideas that preceded the discovery of Universal expansion, your terminology is incorrect. The Big Bang theory grew out of a major discovery in 1929 that upset some previous assumptions about the nature of the Universe. I’ve never said that doesn’t happen; I said it’s rare, but that’s the point of the whole thing, the power of science. If we make a discovery that upsets the apple cart, Theory is adjustable and our understanding grows. A better example is the move from Newton to Einstein. Newton’s revelations are still useful. We use Newtonian mechanics every day, but over time it was found that Newton did not work in all circumstances. Einstein did not replace Newton, he encompassed Newton, expanding rather than replacing older understanding. Scientific method is far better than starting with an immutable idea and requiring the evidence be selected or molded to support that idea (i.e., Creation Science). Once again, your lack of understanding shows.

          • Michael Cleveland

            Here’s what it comes down to. You use a computer to make these posts, and I’m sure you use a cell phone, but you claim the science that makes those things possible is guess work, unreliable. That’s not rational.

          • Michael Cleveland

            Science is a discipline, a process for honing knowledge. It is not in a constant state of replacement, but of fine-tuning. As for my own spiritual understanding, I’ve intentionally stayed away from that in this discussion, but I can tell you I am educated in Physics, Chemistry, Biology, Geology, Anthropology, and Comparative Religion. I agree that belief and disbelief share the same truth: As belief does not make a thing true, neither does disbelief make it false, but where science requires verifiable support, religion has only belief, only faith in an idea that is unverifiable. Every answer you find in religion begs the same question, like the infinity of images in opposing mirrors: “How do you know?”

          • Michael Cleveland

            One more comment: To quote: “Michael, If “science gives the real answers”, then why are we looking at stone tools in India?” (by the way, it’s a misquote: I said “science gives real answers,” not “the” real answers. Huge difference.) This is one source of your misunderstanding. You have taken this article at face value as finished science, and in spite of the title, it’s not: it’s early in the process. A group of researchers has made a discovery, which by their interpretation may shake things up in the human bush. But journalistic excess not withstanding, at this point it is just hypothesis. If the measurements hold up (and dating processes are very reliable when done carefully and correctly, but are subject to human error, so repetition of results is what will give it credibility), discussion of the implications begins. Once that credibility is established and achieves wide acceptance, and alternative interpretations are found to be less credible, then, and only then, does this offer any new view of the human timeline. Journalists in this field are sometimes as incompetent as journalists in any other field, so don’t count on headlines and stories written by non-specialists to present an accurate or unbiased spin. For the sake of sensation, this one jumps the gun by a whole lap or two.

          • wholekraft

            Others are not limited by your small mindedness.

  11. nik

    Hominids, would have had to migrate north, and south, and north, repeatedly, as the climates changed with each 100,000 year Malenkovitch ice age, and the advance and retreat of the permanent snow lines. So, their technologies would have travelled with them.
    Stone tools are damned heavy, and would have been a serious handicap to have to lug them any distance, they may well have been cached, to be retrieved later, by them, or maybe others. Its quite possible that there were groups that had developed more advanced tools, who would meet others during their migrations, and technologically more advanced tools swopped for food, or other goods.
    If the Australian Aborigines, are taken as an example, they travelled hundreds or maybe eventually thousands of miles, to meet other groups for exchanges of goods, and for partners, to avoid interbreeding. If some stayed with a group and then later moved on to meet other groups, this would extend their migrations to thousands of miles, over time.
    The same could easily have occurred in Asia, or elsewhere.


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