Whopper Virgins and Oldest Human Tools

John Hawks added a number of new posts to his blog recently, some of which spur me to typing. 

First, Whopper Virgins. This newest Burger King ad campaign has people from remote areas of the world (sans burger joints) decide which burger is best: Whopper or Big Macs. Hawks links to Althouse’s blog, where she describes numerous problems with these commercials. One she misses though, is how this is also a problem for the Burger King. Since the folks in these regions HAVEN’T EATEN BURGERS before, they might not judge them on the same taste preferences that burger epicures (like most of BK’s clientele). So if they choose the Whopper over the Big Mac, that might not be something the BK Lounge (anybody?) should be advertising! I also agree with most of the other problems listed in Althouse’s blog post, and overall think this is a poorly thought out idea on BK’s part.

Second, “Humans 80,000 Years Older Than Previously Thought?” Nat Geo article: The evidence? “sophisticated stone tools found in Ethiopia” date them to 276,000 years old; while the oldest Homo sapien is 195,000 years old (referring to Omo skulls). OK, I don’t know much about the Omo skulls, or how they dated the stone tools, but even given that evidence, this seems like the wrong conclusion. BECAUSE THEY ASSUME ONLY MODERN HUMANS COULD HAVE MADE THESE TOOLS!!! Seriously? The only evidence they’re giving for super old humans is some tools they don’t think another hominid could have made?? 

One thought on “Whopper Virgins and Oldest Human Tools

  1. A big problem in paleoanthro is what exactly constitutes “modern,” both anatomically and behaviorally. Moreover, whatever arbitrary definitions people come up with for anatomical and behavioral modernity don’t exactly line up. This problem arises several places: how to define the genus Homo; how to distinguish Neandertals from other Upper Paleolithic “modern” human populations… The whole Upper Paleolithic is a mess, really, because people have made the argument that ~50 ka some new wave of modern humans swept through the entire Old World and replaced everything in their paths. But this has consistently been refuted on morphological and archaeological grounds (cf. McBrearty and Brooks 2000–a monolithic monographic article about the archaeological evidence against this human ‘revolution’). And the Omo H. sapiens remains, which were recently dated close to 200 kya, don’t look like modern Americans, Africans, Finns, etc. They have ‘intermediate’ morphology, and White and colleagues recognize that.Perhaps arguments about behavior and morphology should be decoupled. That is, people might not be able to talk about “anatomically modern” and “behaviorally modern” H. sapiens and be talking about the same thing. This isn’t too outlandish. Just think about how morphology vs. behavior are transmitted. Morphology is largely genetic (though certainly not entirely), and therefore can only be transmitted generation to generation. Behavior (such as tools) can have a more horizontal mode of transmission; for example, a tool technology can be taught to people (i.e. can come from outside a population) and doesn’t have to wait 15 years or so to be passed on. So if a ‘more complex’ tool technology appears over 200 ka, it shouldn’t be too surprising that morphological differences aren’t seen until much later.So, it all depends on how one defines “modern.” Which is why I prefer the australopithecines.

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