The Hobbit: When scientists disagree about the evidence
This activity provides an excellent example of an active debate within the scientific community regarding a relatively recent human fossil find, Homo floresiensis. The activity highlights the ways in which scientists can interpret scientific evidence in different ways, how scientists build arguments to support their claims, and how assumptions can influence interpretation. Students watch part of a NOVA program on the fossil find, and take notes on the evidence discussed. They then discuss in small groups and then as a large group which argument they consider more convincing and why.
Students will hear different scientists interpret a variety of scientific evidence that both supports and calls into question the evolutionary relationship of Homo floresiensis to modern humans. Students see that is it possible for scientists to look at the same evidence and come to different conclusions, and that prior assumptions (e.g. the Out of Africa hypothesis) can influence the ways in which scientists interpret scientific evidence.
Context for Use
Description and Teaching Materials
The Hobbit activity: Instructor's Notes (Microsoft Word 2007 (.docx) 123kB Jul7 09)
What is the Hobbit? (Acrobat (PDF) 667kB Jul7 09)
Skeptics and the hobbit (Acrobat (PDF) 205kB Jul7 09)
Teaching Notes and Tips
References and Resources
- PBS program NOVA,online at: https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/evolution/alien-earth.html
- Powledge, 2006. What is the Hobbit? PLoS Biology Vol. 4 (12): 2186-2189
- Culotta, E. 2006. Skeptics seek to "slay" the Hobbit, calling Flores skeleton a modern human. Science 313:1028-1029.