Everyone is talking about Homo naledi now

Since I mentioned the fun time I had in class getting students to wrestle with the claims of Homo naledi‘s superpowers, it was a nice coincidence that Gutsick Gibbon made a video about the very same conversation, right down to the same papers I gave my students to read.

I did have a moment of concern — am I pushing graduate level content on first year undergrads? Nah, they handled it fine and even came up with some of the same points mentioned in the video.


  1. nomdeplume says

    Can I propose the Darwin Rule – no research can be published until the researcher has thought about it for 22 years.

    So sick of media announcements of some rushed into print finding that “rewrites the discipline” or “rewrites history”.

  2. hillaryrettig1 says

    I enjoyed watching the Netflix special on this and was moved by it (probably a bad sign). But I remember watching the scientist manipulate the precious fragments of fossil bone in what looked like reckless ways – and I think he actually said something to the effect that his colleagues weren’t happy with him doing that. So that raised a warning bell.

  3. jrkrideau says

    am I pushing graduate level content on first year undergrads?
    No. They may not understand the fine points but the introduction to the real literature is good.

  4. chrislawson says

    We introduce full blown medical papers in first year undergrad. Obviously we choose the papers so that they’re (a) important and (b) comprehensible for the student level, but I think it’s important for students to handle actual papers from the earliest stages. You can still hold back really difficult papers until students have enough background knowledge or use them as extension exercises.

    (Admittedly, medicine is now a postgrad course in most universities, but we used to do this even when medicine was undergrad and most first year students were straight out of high school. It helps that scientific research skills including research appraisal are now baked into the pre-med degrees, so the students we get now are much more astute about critiquing papers than when I went through.)

  5. billmcd says

    I’d actually meant to drop a link to some of Erika’s… I’m sorry, Ph.D. Candidate Erika’s earlier videos on H. naledi and her (many) absolutely brutal dismantlings of YECs, PZ. I should’ve known you’d already be aware of her.

  6. flange says

    First, I’ve never seen Gutsick Gibbon before. I think she’s brilliant—a brilliant communicator. To have all those facts and knowledge and be able to present it extemporaneously is remarkable. Actually, she sometimes goes too fast for my brain to absorb the info.
    Some people may perceive Gibbon, a young, casually-dressed, fast-talking woman, as not having gravitas. This would be a shame. We need more science communicators like her.
    Berger’s Netflix documentary was like a polished sales presentation. It was primarily about how Homo naledi has affected him. As peers have intimated, he jumps to conclusions without due diligence. But he can sure sell.