Who or What is Homo Floresiensis (the Hobbit)?

Homo floresiensis (the Hobbit) is one of the more fascinating discoveries of ancient humans that have been studied. It has been referred to as “Flores man” and nicknamed “The Hobbit”- a reference to J.R Tolkien’s book by the same name- due to their small size (3’4”). The Hobbit’s remains were discovered in 2003 on the Indonesian island of Flores, and it’s thought that the bones could be anywhere from 13,000 to 38,000 years old.

One of the debates surrounding Homo floresiensis, according to an article by SciencDaily, is whether it represents a distinct Homo species, if it could be part of a Homo erectus population caused by island dwarfism, or if it’s a modern human with a pathological disorder resulting in an abnormally small brain and skull.

Indonesian scientists, such as Dr. Teuku Jacob, a paleoanthropology professor from Gadjah Mada Univerisity, has said, “The skeleton is not a new species as claimed by these scientists, but simply a fossil of a modern human, Homo sapiens, that lived about 1,300 to 1,800 years ago.”

However, studies based on the analysis of 3-D data from skull surfaces suggest that Homo floresiensis was a distinct Homo species, according to scientists from Stony Brook University New York, the Senckenberg Center for Human Evolution and Palaeoenvironment, Eberhard-Karls Universität Tübingen, and the University of Minnesota. The cranium was compared to fossil humans and a large sample of modern humans who suffered from microcephaly and other conditions, and the results found that the Homo floresiensis cranium was more similar to the fossil human sample than to pathological modern humans. Cranial features, such as shape and other anatomical landmarks, suggest that its small size isn’t a result of a pathological condition.

From a Biblical perspective I don’t disagree with the findings of the studies or the results. What I would disagree with is the conclusion that Homo floresiensis is a distinct new species. It’s certainly true that humans have changed since God created man, but we’ve been fully human from the very beginning, and we’re still fully human today. The Bible tells us that God created man in his image (Genesis 1:26-27), and that would mean that fossil humans, such as Homo erectus, Neanderthal, Homo floresiensis and modern man are all one blood and belong to the human species.

I’m also sure we’re very different from the first humans- from Adam and Eve, all the way to Noah and his sons. They had a very different genome than we do, and that gene pool was abruptly cut off during Noah’s flood. That means those who stepped off the ark would only be able to intermarry and reproduce with a much more limited gene-pool, and that resulted in the differences we see in our fossil ancestors. But that doesn’t mean they’re any less human than we are. In fact the opposite would be the better conclusion- our genes are filled with far more copying errors and mutations than theirs would have been, so we’re far less fit than they would have been; this conclusion has been supported by other scientific research showing that people are getting dumber, for example.

It’s great to see the kind of diversity built into the human genome and how the various differences make us unique in many ways. But we’re still all human, made in the image of God.

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