JUNE 10, 2009
‘Hobbits’—A New Human Species?
Why Does a Surprise Skeletal Discovery
Add Exciting News to Human Evolution and Upset Religionists?
Amid much controversy and charges of “heresy,” the tiny skeleton of an extinct little person from the island
of Flores in Indonesia was revealed to New York in April by Dr. William L. Jungers, Chairman of the
Anatomical Sciences Department in the Medical School of Stony Brook University.
Nicknamed “Hobbits,” the little people, who averaged a little over three feet tall, disappeared about 17,000
years ago but left behind nearly intact skeletons and artifacts. Evolutionary scientists believe the Hobbits to
be a newly discovered species, the hominid Homo floresiensis, an up-to-now unknown branch on the human
The Hobbit Heresy
Dr. Jungers, who will be at the NYC Atheists' Brunch this Sunday, June 14, to talk about what he calls “The
Hobbit Heresy,” is also Distinguished Teaching Professor at Stony Brook and is known internationally as an
expert in his specialty, functional anatomy.
“This new find has challenged the way we think about human evolution in many important ways,” says Dr.
Jungers. “And it has complicated creationists’ attempts to deny evolution."
He points out that the author Desmond Morris (The Naked Ape) said these Hobbits were going to be the
death knell of religion, the professor notes. “Morris said, ‘here we have another human-like beast on the
earth and in whose image was it created?’ It really has the creationists up in arms; they are in denial.”
A Branch of Human Evolution
The Hobbits have been identified as a species distantly related to humans that has been isolated on the island
of Flores for at least a million years and went their own evolutionary way. Tiny in body size, the hobbit
adults had brains the size of chimpanzees—about a third of the size of a human brain. They had primitive
hands, yet they made rather sophisticated tools from stones.
Dr. Jungers became involved in the Hobbit controversy when he was contacted by the original discoverers of
the Hobbits, who were apparently aware of his expertise in functional anatomy. Dr. Jungers flew to Southeast
Asia to examine the remains and wrote a paper on his detailed analysis of the Hobbit skeleton. His scientific
conclusions made the cover of Nature magazine recently and were extensively reported by the New York
Challenges Common Beliefs
What does the discovery of Hobbits mean in terms of evolution? “It means we’re not nearly as special as we
think we are,” says the professor. “It means that human evolution is like the evolution of other mammalian
groups that have had many experiments, most of which have ended up in extinction. I’ve seen 20 or so
extinct species that are related to humans, but this one is the most surprising because it existed at the same
time that modern people are in Southeast Asia but was isolated in a remote place. It should make us feel less
smug about what makes us so special. We are just the last twig on a very bushy tree of life.”
Moreover, adds Dr. Jungers, the implications of this Hobbit fossil are heretical in the sense of being a
challenge to prevailing dogma. “Many people believe that there’s been only one species ever of our genus
homo sapiens. This Hobbit discovery challenges the idea that once humans emerged, that’s the end of human
evolution except for minor modifications.”
Why Religion Opposes Hobbits
“For creationists, the [known] forms are immutable,” he adds. “They can’t change because, to creationists,
they are designed and perfected by a deity.”
The professors sighs and adds, “Science education in this country is pathetic.”
Come hear this topnotch educator, acclaimed for his teaching ability as well as his forthrightness in
addressing one of the newest, most significant religion/evolution controversies hitting the media today.
Come, support this world-class scientist in his classic campaign to keep science scientific and to rise above
religious dogma when it conflicts with science.
WHAT: “The Hobbit Heresy,” a talk by Dr. William L. Jungers,
Distinguished Teaching Professor and Chair of the
Department of Anatomical Sciences at Stony Brook
University School of Medicine.
WHEN: Sunday, June 14, at 12 Noon
WHERE: The Press Box Restaurant & Pub
932 Second Ave. (49th/50th St.) – 2nd Floor
COST: The Brunch is $20 and includes a selection of
Buffet entrees, salad, soft drink, tax and tip.
The Eggs Benedict are superb and going back
for seconds is de rigueur. Wine and hard liquor available.