Planet Earth

"Out of Africa" vs. "Multi-regionalism" revisited

Gene ExpressionBy Razib KhanApr 30, 2011 5:48 PM

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A few months ago I exchanged some emails with Milford H. Wolpoff and Chris Stringer. These are the two figures who have loomed large in paleoanthropology and the origins of modernity human for a generation, and they were keen in making sure that their perspectives were represented accurately in the media. To further that they sent me some documents which would lay out their perspective, in their own words, and away from the public glare (as in, they're academic publications). Here is Wolpoff's 1984 manifesto of sorts of 'Multi-regionalism.' Much of the morphological material is totally opaque to me, but the basic evolutionary logic is rather clear. Stringer sent me two documents, a scientific paper and a more personal chapter of a book. These works predate recent developments, so they are of interest from a history of thought perspective. I'm not one of the personalities at the heart of this debate obviously. There are hard feelings here. Wolpoff indicated to me that he still has issues with Stringer, despite reports that there was some sort of reconciliation. But one of the things that is really evident to me to reading through this material is that there are real scientific issues, and a great deal of methodological overlap. As a kid I read a lot of popularizations, and though the science was outlined it seems to me that the models were framed more starkly to align with the inter-personal conflict and division. The "primary documents" are less readable, but ultimately so much more fruitful.

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