Saturday, November 19, 2011

How are the Media and Schools catching up with Scientific Progress? Pt.5


We proceed on from the last segment, wherein we looked at how nationalism and like ideology continues to plague science. No science has infamously suffered from this more than the discipline of human palaeontology. In the "west", the venture into this field started with getting to know remains of the European Neanderthal, and the sparking thereof, the belief that Europe was the hub of human origins.


For some time, European researchers were stuck on treading between Europe and the greater Asia as the likely places of human origins; Africa, which is now of course, taken for granted as the hub of human origins, was not even given a slightest thought then. The Euro-centered tunnel vision made it impossible for European scholars to think out of the box and consider Africa. Dubois' trip to southeast Asia, the island of Java in particular, marked early attempts to shift intense focus from Europe alone, and move onto more territories in Asia in search of the so-called "missing link".

However, it didn't take too long when focus shifted back to Europe, as the center, once again. This time around, there was rivalry between British and German nationalism, and academia thereof. Henceforth, the search for the "missing link" in Britain for example, was a matter of national pride first and foremost, rather than academic; in other words, the project was largely ideologically-driven in Britain. This set into motion what would become the "discovery" of the "Piltdown" specimen. Piltdown specimen's popularity back then was primarily attributable to the idea of the "find being British".

The weird combination of a "large brain case", but nearly half that of a modern humans, and an ape-like jaw, and more importantly, as noted above—the "discovery having been British", were the selling points of Piltdown. The name behind the discovery, was none other than Charles Dawson. To give his "discovery" maximum exposure as much as possible, Dawson sought the assistance of "experts"; most notable of these, was Sir Authur Smith Woodward of the British Museum.

As noted time and again in preceding passages, Africa was astonishingly ignored in the search for the little lost "missing link". However, when science, i.e. real science, was given a breather to prevail over nationalistic dogma, this place (Africa) had emerged as the objectively undisputed hub of human origin. The transition to this stage, though, was not met without resistance [note that even today, there are Eurocentric-minded fringe elements who still hold onto the Neanderthal "ancestor" mentality, and multiregionalism, i.e. in terms of evolution, in vain to resist the African hub perspective]. As a prime example of this, consider the important find of the Australian academic, Raymond Dart.

Raymond Dart's most notable human palaeontology journey began with a teaching post in South Africa. During that time, students and colleagues would send him fossilized specimens, but on 12th October, 1924, something unusual caught his attention: A fossilized "brain"; to be more specific, it was essentially sand built-up in a brain case! Included, was an upper jaw, with the remainder of the face buried in rock.

On the Christmas eve of 1924, it came to light that the juvenile specimen featured a combination of human and ape-like features, and that of a juvenile. It was so-named "Taung Child", after a limestone quarry at a site called Taung, in South Africa. As it turned out, this specimen was a member of the Australopethicus Africanus family. Taung Child specimen dates to about two and a half million years. It is estimated that Taung child was part of a hominid line that were scavengers rather than predators, as their primary mode of attaining food. A three year old Australopethicus like Taung Child would have been the equivalent of a year and 6 months old human in body size.

There is suspicion that the Taung Child may have fallen victim to prey, of a creature like the eagle. Taung's brain case was reportedly found next to egg shells, and other broken skulls, said to be typical of deposits found in eagle nests. At any rate, Dart published his paper in 1925, touting his new-found juvenile skull specimen as the "missing link" that has been until now so elusive, and thereby pitting it as a direct contrast to the Piltdown specimen.

Unsurprisingly, given the Eurocentric and nationalistic mindset of many European researchers at the time, controversy ensued shortly after Dart's publication. The main drivers of this controversy was that 1) it contradicted the preconceived idealistic notions of European researchers, in terms of what a "missing link" should look like, and 2) it stood in the way of European ethno-centric dogmatism and patriotic nationalism that pervaded academia in individual European countries. The brain capacity of the Taung specimen was purported to be "too small" for a human ancestor, as Dr. Joe Cain noted, and the find of the Taung specimen was not a "British" one; Dart was Australian. To repeat, Dart was of the "wrong nationality", the find was found in the "wrong place", namely Africa, and the find had the "wrong attributes"!

Image caption: Image on the left - Mrs. Ples's skull on the left hand side of the image and the Taung Child's skull on the right hand side. Image on the right - The reconstructed versions of the aforementioned remains of Mrs. Ples and Taung Child respectively. Courtesy of San Diego Museum of Man, The Taung Child and Mrs. Ples are called "gracile" australopithecines, as opposed to their "robust" relatives. That does not mean they were more slender or graceful, but that their skulls were not large and rugged. Gracile fossils show smaller, more modern-looking teeth and more delicate jaws. They did not have the massive chewing structures of their robust relatives, and so they probably ate softer foods.

As rampant as dogma was in European academia and research, some of which continues today, it couldn't be sustainable in the face of real/tangible science. By the late 1940s, additional finds in southern Africa, and subsequently elsewhere in Africa, piled up to vindicate Dart's theory; "a dozen fossils similar to Taung Child", were eventually uncovered. Piltdown specimen on the other hand, which the British academics ideologically favored over the Taung specimen, as eventually outed as a fraud.

The drilling of the Piltdown specimen jaw bone revealed smell of burnt burnt flesh, pointing to an organic bone rather than a fossilized one. Scratch marks on the teeth also suggested that they were purposely filed down to make them appear more human-like. Real science over the years has forced European academics to begrudgingly come to terms with the reality that Africa is home to modern human origins, and that of its immediate ancestors. So, Eurocentric ideologues are obviously misguided, when they try to pass of Out of Africa scientific theory as a politically correct ruse by Eurocentered academia to appease "blacks" and serve as an underhanded "apologia" of past wrongs done to "blacks" by "whites". The Out of Africa theory was/is an understanding that European and U.S. academia have been forced to acknowledge, because tangible evidence overwhelmingly made it so.

The scientific emergence of Africa to prominence as the center of human origin was followed in the late 1950s by the discovery of tools, which suggested that the use of hand-made tools was likely an important driving force in the brain development of humans. In other words, what must have defined the beginning of humanity was not brain growth, but rather, using tools.

In The Link (2009), another History channel release, even research personalities like Dr. Richard Leakey, of the Stony Brook University, have been quite open about ideological prejudice creeping into science; he notes:

"We didn't descend or ascend from apes. we are apes! We did the classifications ourselves (meaning humans) and have a vested interest in widening the distance [between apes and modern humans]; we haven't separated from the apes at all. We are perfectly a good legitimate species of apes."

The reenactments of modern humans in the History channel release, Ape to Man (2005), starts with footage of "black" actors, bu then once the scene gets to the Cro-Magnon, inevitably--since the whole topic of the documentary is really about searching for where "Europeans" [more so than anybody] ultimately came from, there is a sudden switch from "black" actors to "white" actors. Mind you, these are full-blown "whites", as they exist today. The documentary was obviously not concerned with achieving accuracy that mirrors scientific realities of when "whites" actually came into being in Europe.

Similar themes can be found in other History channel documentaries; Clash of the Cave men (2008) is filled with reenactments of interaction between the Neanderthals and the so-called Cro-Magnons throughout the entire length of the documentary presentation. Herein, Neanderthals feature hair locks, while the Cro-Magnons are shown with more free-flowing loosened hair strands. While the Neanderthals are played by "white" actors, their faces had considerably been altered by facial add-ons, to provide more "robust" feel to the faces; the Cro-Magnons were again presented as though they looked no different from contemporary northern Europeans, except of course, that were clothed in animal skin garment.

In Journey to 10,000 B.C., "white" actors are used to even portray early "native Americans", also nicknamed as the "Clovis" people. In the aforementioned The Link (2009), a documentary that surrounds another "missing link", but this time at the evolutionary point right before the junction where the human line separates from the ape primates, image showcasing human evolution from ape-like anthropoids to modern humans does not show "black" or heavily pigmented modern human as the default, i.e. the definitive or quintessential modern human state; rather, evolutionary trajectory skips over the heavily pigmented modern human and goes straight from ancestral hominids to what appears to be a modern human from northwest Europe. Even the "Homo Erectus" appears as a "white" person rather than a pigmented humanoid. Take a look at a similar representation below [click on the image for higher res]:

In the History of the World in 2 hours (2011), briefly mentioned in the opening segment of this topic (i.e. Pt.1), once again evolutionary history of humankind was discussed, and herein, like the Clash of the Cavemen (2008), there was no qualms about early appearances of modern humans in Africa being reenacted by "black" actors; however, dogma begins to show at the point where the documentary discusses the emergence of earl complex societies, or "civilizations" as they call it.

The documentary begins to focus attention on the so-called "Mesopotamia", and essentially giving it the mythical credit of being "cradle of civilization". The documentary mentions Egypt, but very briefly, little more than to just point out that it must have emerged out of the convenience of being near a major river system valley and part of a major trade network route of antiquity. While "Mesopotamia" was treated with the same fundamental premise, it was nevertheless given credit for a number of specific innovations. The documentary alludes to the fact that the domestication of the wild ass into the donkey was very crucial to the emergence of trade, as the beast of burden used in transporting goods in long distances, and hence, very instrumental in the development of highly complex urban "civilizations", but never actually gave due credit to the cradle of this domestication, in the African continent.

This omission of fact had the effect of even confusing the unsuspecting mind that the donkey's domestication too should be credited to "Mesopotamia". The myth of Mesopotamia as "THE" cradle of civilization ignores the fact that centralized organized nation state, bringing smaller polities together under a single government, and all else that comes with that, first emerges in the Nile Valley, with no precedence in "Mesopotamia". It ignores the fact that while trade was crucial for the development of the Nile Valley complex, it owes this to no socio-cultural lineage from "Mesopotamia". Its writing systems owe nothing to "Mesopotamia"; in fact, it is has been estimated that the reverse is likely true [See Gunter Dreyer for details, below in the reference section].

It owes nothing about its calendar systems—which Greco-Roman calendars systems and modern counterparts are based on, for example—to "Mesopotamia". It's religious systems and associated burial customs are all original to the Nile Valley. Notably, the myth ignores the fact that ancient American complexes owe absolutely nothing to "Mesopotamia" either; they managed to grow impressively in absence of contact with "Mesopotamia"

The Nile Valley is not the only casualty of History of the World in 2 Hours' dogmatic presentation. Even more absurdly, the documentary implied that "civilization" in western Africa starts with Arab trade activity in the region. The documentary is not to be bothered with meticulous tangible details of a long line of ancient complexes in the region preceding Arab involvement in the region, and hence, turning that insinuation on its head. At this point in the documentary, Europe, but especially northwestern Europe, is hardly a prominent subject or even mentioned, and so, care has to be taken, so it seems, that western Africa's history not be reported in a way that puts additional spotlight on this observation. Moreover, it plays nicely into the myth of Africa, as nothing more than a charity case, that is ideologically propagated in 'western' media.

"western" imperialism-driven bias in science has spilled over onto the fields of genetics too. A good example of this, is the storm of protests that Arnaiz-Villena et al.'s 2001 study on HLA genes in Macedonians and Greeks was greeted with. Like Raymond Dart, Arnaiz-Villena et al.'s finding hinged on a "sub-Saharan" African origin scenario, that did not sit well with certain elements in 'western' academia, and again like Mr. Dart, their finding only paved way for more of what would virtually become a well established theme about Greek populations; i.e. the genetic exchanges between them and/or their parental populations and Africans (yes, including "sub-Saharan" Africans) via coastal northern Africa. The internet has over the years become filled with dissidents who continue to take Arnaiz-Villena et al.'s decade old work to task, but elements of these, while on occasion raise some valid concerns here and there, rarely reflect adequate understanding of said work; something to be explored further in a different topic.

On another note, as far as sampling practices go, much of the time eastern Africa rarely has a "sub-Saharan" counterpart, no matter how similarly aligned or even below "west Africa" along the latitudes. "Northeast" Africa can go as deep as Uganda, while "Northwest" Africa abruptly stops at the boundaries of coastal north Maghrebi countries. The Sahara, which is part of continuous land from coastal north to "south of the Sahara", is often treated as some impenetrable barrier, even in the face of historic facts to the contrary, while the Mediterranean sea is treated as a convenient and more passable bridge to land on the other side of the sea.

Speaking of Maghreb, the populations therein are often falsely portrayed as merely extensions of Europeans, essentially with no relationship with "sub-Saharan" Africans who are their most immediate neighbors. This is notwithstanding contradicting genetic reports from Y-DNA studies and some mtDNA studies, along with other analysis demonstrating that Maghrebi populations generally occupy intermediary positions between European populations and more southerly-located Africans.

DNA samples comparing "sub-Saharan" specimens to other populations are generally limited to a single or a very few highly-selective and idealized samples from certain "west African" localities. This site has already discussed examples of this, including the autosomal analysis dealing with coastal north African samples and the singular Ivory Coast sample used, as the sole representative of "sub-Saharan" gene pool. On the other hand, European or "Eurasian" samples are generally inclusive of a vast swath of continuous territory east to west and/or north to south in many of these comparative DNA analysis.

There is a disparity between focus on eastern Africa and western Africa; genetic analysis are lopsidedly fixated on the former than the latter. No doubt this has something to do with Euro-centric fixation on things deemed to have direct implications about the peopling of Europe. Tropical east Africa is often reputed to be the birth place of modern humans, even though in recent times, tropical southern Africa is seen as a possible alternative hub. Some rare fairly old hominid specimens elsewhere in Africa (Chad for example), even older than those found in the African Horn, eastern Africa, have come to light. Such discoveries have not cautioned 'western' researchers to extend their search elsewhere in Africa, and not stay fixated on just eastern Africa. Important pieces of the human evolutionary puzzle could just as well be overlooked due to this sort of tunnel vision approach.


Considerable strides have been made in scientific research, notwithstanding the hurdles of bias, chauvinism and nationalism throughout history, particularly in the past. However, ideological bias continues to plague science in academia, but even more so in the dissemination of scientific knowledge. It should be pointed out that there are honest hard-working individuals within academia who put tangible integrity ahead of ideology; so the ongoing criticism doesn't blanketly apply to all. However, there is a visible component of ideology in academia, and the actions of the responsible parties can overshadow the work of hard-working and honest players in their midst.

Getting to that issue of dissemination, it may be handled by either third party concerns or by the primary researcher. More often than not, third party outfits handle the distribution aspects of published journals. As such, progress made in science is rarely concurrently reflected in dissemination through corporate controlled big media outfits and schools in the 'west'. Ideology leads to the suppression of general awareness of new inroads made into scientific discovery, and hence, the obvious lag time between scientific discovery and dissemination of information thereof in "western"-based "mainstream" media outfits. 

These media concerns even continue to churn out old flawed and prejudiced ideas now rejected by the greater scientific community, passed off as "research", dating back to the 19th century and early 20th century, while the internet serves as the last bastion of any hope of getting up-to-date scientific knowledge. To add insult to injury, even internet-based distribution outlets of scientific journals have increasingly become vehicles of restricting the flow of up-to-date scientific discovery, by turning what used to be freely available scientific journals to the general public into artifacts of profit-seeking pay-for-service enterprises. In other words, such developments only effect to further restrict the dissemination power of the latest scientific finds to a wider audience.

More needs to be done to bring "western" corporate-controlled media and schools, especially those in the U.S., up to speed with the very latest science has to offer. This would require relinquishing patriotism and nationalistic dogma of any stripe, when discussing matters of science, including history. However, given that big media concerns, and to some extent schools, essentially serve as propaganda arms of 'western' imperialism, such undertaking is easier said than done!

Note: Last updated on Jan 1st, 2011; with fairly minor additions.

Planet Egypt: Birth of an Empire, 2011.

Planet Egypt: Pharaohs at war, 2011.

Planet Egypt: Temples of Power, 2011.

Planet Egypt: Quest for Eternity, 2011.

Egypt: Engineering an Empire, 2006.

Robot Chicken, "Easter Basket" episode, 2005.

Futurama, "A Pharaoh to Remember", 2002.

Futurama, "That Darn Katz!", 2010.

The Prince of Egypt, 1998.

Princess of the Sun, 2005.

Achilles Tatius: Leucippe and Clitophon, by  Helen Morales (Introduction), Tim Whitmarsh (Translator), Oxford University Press, May, 2002.

Ape to Man, 2005.

Clash of the Cavemen, 2008.

The Link, 2009.

—Gonzalez-Perez et al., Population Relationships in the Mediterranean Revealed by Autosomal Genetic Data (Alu and Alu/STR Compound Systems), 2010.

Arnaiz-Villena et al. (2001), HLA genes in Macedonians and the K. Dimitroski A. Pacho sub-Saharan origin of the Greeks

 —M.A. Babiker et al., Genetic variation and population structure of Sudanese populations as indicated by 15 Identifiler sequence-tagged repeat loci, 2011.

Re: Gunter Dreyer: He concluded his presentation by noting similarities between specific Egyptian and Mesopotamian objects and suggesting that perhaps there is an initial influence of Egyptian writing on Mesopotamia because there are signs on Mesopotamian objects that are only "readable" from the standpoint of the Egyptian language, but not the Mesopotamian language. - Courtesy of "Too Much Stuff": Recent Finds in Predynastic Egypt, By Mario Beatty, Ph.D.

*Personal notes, 2004 & 2011.

Appreciation to the San Diego Museum of Man.


dww081000 said...

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dww081000 said...

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dww081000 said...

Excellent article. Time to speak up on this.

khufu said...

Excellent article .This is one of the few remaining places on the internet where the lies of the different fields of academia are being stripped naked