Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Hobbitsssesss.



Or, more accurately, Homo floresiensis. In case you haven't heard, we've found Bilbo. Yes, Bilbo. I know, the hobbit you know more about is probably Frodo. But Bilbo is "The Hobbit." Frodo didn't even exist until the sequel. Of course this has absolutely nothing to do with the Nova episode that I just watched on Homo floresiensis. I didn't catch every detail because I was trying to cook dinner and read a paper on Chara as a nutrient sink in shallow lakes. I didn't finish the paper but I'll get there.

I'm still not sure how convinced I am that H. floresiensis is a new species but even the possibility is exciting. Even more thought provoking is the possibility that somewhere, somehow, a remnant population of hobbits may be scurrying around making stone tools and slaying dragons, er, deer. Imagine the implications.

What would we do if we found a species intelligent enough to make clothing, tools, and weapons? Would we have to consider them human? Would we have debates about whether hobbits should receive full human rights or just half? Would they join our society as equals? Would interspecies marriage be allowed or would Prop 8b shut it down? Would the republicans refuse hobbits the right to vote or would they try the Bilbo for president angle?

I can only imagine that we'd have one hell of a worldwide wakeup call.

3 comments:

Dann Siems said...

Good post Shane. I watched the Nova show too. Up until then I had been quite confident in the island-miniaturized Homo erectus hypothesis but I actually found the evidence for the remnant Lucy population most compelling. Very cool in any case and an encounter with a living population is almost too tantalizing to ponder.

KBowe said...

This is really exciting! I missed the Nova episode, so I don't know all of the details of Homo floresienses. It would be very interesting to see how society would react to these folks coexisting with them...

Shane said...

I find myself far more convinced that the microcephaly hypothesis doesn't carry much weight after seeing the brain scan and dentition data. Even if they don't turn up, it would be a great thought experiment for college/high school students.