Theological implications of "hobbit" bones?


#1

I’m curious as to the Catholic perspective on the theological implications of the existence of a different species of human, concurrent with modern man.

I ask because of the fairly startling recent discovery, in Indonesia, of homo florensius, which has been nicknamed the hobbit, due to the small stature of Flores Man, about the size of a three year old child. Two things mark this discovery as particularly interesting – the relative completeness of the remains, and how recent they are, estimated to have existed as recently as 12,000 years ago.

A link: news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2004/10/1027_041027_homo_floresiensis.html

In a more anecdotal sense, it’s worth mentioning that a few scientists, including the folks at “Nature” magazine, have suggested at least the remote possibility that Flores Man might have existed much more recently – there are fairly detailed myths about small, hairy men living in the jungles from both native Indonesians and the early Dutch settlers.

Link: iol.co.za/index.php?set_id=1&click_id=31&art_id=qw1104048723735B253

Would the existence of a different species of human concurrent with our own have any particular theological implications, from a general Christian perspective or a more specifically Catholic one?


#2

Well, Neanderthal Man is believed to have been a different species of human that was concurrent with our own, so I don’t see there being too much of a problem. Given it was longer ago than this apparently minute cousin of humanity, but they lived side by side with modern humans as well. Honestly it could just be a variation on our same species, like the small Baka people of the Congo, so the jury is still out IMO.

As for the implications of Neanderthal Man, I don’t think it’s ever really been an issue since we can’t confront them now and discover if they were truly another species or just a variation. Regardless of the truth of the matter, our theology is about humans, not human-like animals, so I don’t see it really being an issue either way.


#3

Regarding the part about stories from Indonesian tribes and Dutch settlers - I was reading something recently wherein the authors were trying to explain every old folk belief or legend about fairies and trolls and giants and fabulous beasts of all sorts in very naturalistic terms -things like encounters with different species of hominids, or fossilized remains of mastadons or dinosaurs, or humans with rare genetic conditions, or whatever. Now I wouldn’t rule out such as possible inspirations for various legends, but it’s kind of dull… humans have great imaginations, and love to tell and retell good stories. Sometimes to explain this-or-that phenomenon, but sometimes just for the sheer pleasure and entertainment value of it. There doesn’t have to be actual contact with short hairy human-like creatures for people to invent and tell very detailed and consistent stories about them. Nor do people really have to “believe” these things in a literal way for the stories to be passed on. See, for example, modern belief in Santa Claus and flying reindeer.

As for theological implications, my guess is nothing new - any more so than the existence of other hominids that aren’t quite like modern man. I guess the question would be whether they are descended from Adam and Eve (however the Church understands that).


#4

[quote=Bobby Jim]Regarding the part about stories from Indonesian tribes and Dutch settlers - I was reading something recently wherein the authors were trying to explain every old folk belief or legend about fairies and trolls and giants and fabulous beasts of all sorts in very naturalistic terms -things like encounters with different species of hominids, or fossilized remains of mastadons or dinosaurs, or humans with rare genetic conditions, or whatever. Now I wouldn’t rule out such as possible inspirations for various legends, but it’s kind of dull… humans have great imaginations, and love to tell and retell good stories. Sometimes to explain this-or-that phenomenon, but sometimes just for the sheer pleasure and entertainment value of it. There doesn’t have to be actual contact with short hairy human-like creatures for people to invent and tell very detailed and consistent stories about them. Nor do people really have to “believe” these things in a literal way for the stories to be passed on. See, for example, modern belief in Santa Claus and flying reindeer.
[/quote]

Sure. And I think that’s how such stories are typically viewed. That’s how the stories about 3-foot tall hairy cave people in Indonesia have always been viewed, for that matter.

But… well, if scientists in Ireland found a cave full of tiny skeletons huddled around a pot of gold, it might make people take a closer look at the leprechaun stories, y’know?

As for theological implications, my guess is nothing new - any more so than the existence of other hominids that aren’t quite like modern man. I guess the question would be whether they are descended from Adam and Eve (however the Church understands that).

Right. A find like Flores Man brings up a lot of questions about the unique place of human beings in nature. Let’s say, purely for the sake of argument, that there still are a few extant examples of Flores Man living in the deep jungles of Flores, or of mainland Indonesia. I realize that this isn’t likely – but, as astonishing as it sounds, it does seem to be a possibility.

What is the status of these creatures’ souls? Would there be an imperative to witness to the hobbits? Did Jesus die for the sins of homo florensius too, or only homo sapiens?


#5

[quote=Ghosty]Well, Neanderthal Man is believed to have been a different species of human that was concurrent with our own, so I don’t see there being too much of a problem. Given it was longer ago than this apparently minute cousin of humanity, but they lived side by side with modern humans as well.
[/quote]

It is the recent nature of this discover that makes the primary difference here, true. But I think that is an important factor. It’s a lot harder to dismiss these findings. It’s one thing to talk in the abstract about what may or may not have occured with Neanderthal Man, but here we’re faced with a species of intelligent hominid that existed just a few thousand years ago – and just might exist today.

Honestly it could just be a variation on our same species, like the small Baka people of the Congo, so the jury is still out IMO.

There seem to be much greater anatomical differences between homo florensius and homo sapiens pygmies. Pygmies are still pretty much normal humans, anatomically. Flores Man has strong brow ridges, an apelike jaw, and much longer arms in relation to its body length. It bears a much closer resemblance to homo erectus than to homo sapiens.

As for the implications of Neanderthal Man, I don’t think it’s ever really been an issue since we can’t confront them now and discover if they were truly another species or just a variation.

Exactly. That’s what makes Flores Man so interesting – it wasn’t that long ago. And there is circumstantial evidence that maybe, just maybe, they didn’t all die in that volcanic eruption.

Regardless of the truth of the matter, our theology is about humans, not human-like animals, so I don’t see it really being an issue either way.

But given that Flores Man evidently used both fire and sophisticated tool-manufacture, can we simply write them off as human-like animals? Chimpanzees are one thing – for all the evidence of chimpanzee intelligence, there are still many ways in which they are starkly different from mankind. But by the evidence, Flores Man engaged in the sort of complex reasoning that today is found only in us.


#6

Again, the Vatican had said that the Bible doesn’t tell how man physically changed after he was created. Homo Habilis, Homo Erectus, Australo Zinjanthopus, Peking Man, Java Man, etc. etc… all belong to the theory of evolution, which the Vatican tolerates.And again, it is DARWINISM which the Vatican understandably frowns upon.


#7

I’m not really concerned with the question of evolution – that’s been discussed to death.

I’m more curious about how the Church would address the questions raised by a second species of man that could still, just possibly, exist today.


#8

how do they know they aren’t skeletons from people suffering from a disease like that guy beetle-juice had on howard stern? mini-me from austin powers is about the same size.


#9

As noted above, the bones discovered aren’t just small – they also display various anatomical differences, such as a sloping jawbone, protruding brow, and longer arms. (Or, well, shorter arms, but longer as compared to their own bodies than ours are to our bodies.)

And they’ve found seven of them with the same characteristics.


#10

[quote=oat soda]how do they know they aren’t skeletons from people suffering from a disease like that guy beetle-juice had on howard stern? mini-me from austin powers is about the same size.
[/quote]

Good point this could just be a mutation or deformity of (pardon the pun) a small group of people here.
It doesn’t necessarily lead to the hobbit fellas having a link to homo sapiens.
These scientist should have contact JRR Tolkien about this possibility he would know if hobbits cross bread,


#11

[quote=SamCA]I’m curious as to the Catholic perspective on the theological implications of the existence of a different species of human, concurrent with modern man.

[/quote]

The implications would be that The Shire was not in England, as originally thought, but in Indonesia! Since Indonesia is now mostly islands, the sea level must have risen since Middle Earth, which would imply a melting of the polar ice caps, which would imply the end of an Ice Age. Thus, Middle Earth was in what is now Indonesia, during the last ice age, anywhere from 100,000 to 10,000 years ago, probably. Therefore, when Gandalf, Frodo, Bilbo, and the Elves ship to the west to the Happy Lands, they were headed towards what is now Sri Lanka, which, in Muslim tradition, was the site of the Garden of Eden and where Adam’s footprint may be found. Thus, Mordor was in what is now the Phillipines, and the riders of Rohan, the Rohirrim, used to feed their horses in what is now Thailand and Borneo.

Long Live Frodo.
Aum Iluvatar Akbar!


#12

I thought the shire was in New Zealand.


#13

[quote=Ahimsa]The implications would be that The Shire was not in England, as originally thought, but in Indonesia! Since Indonesia is now mostly islands, the sea level must have risen since Middle Earth, which would imply a melting of the polar ice caps, which would imply the end of an Ice Age. Thus, Middle Earth was in what is now Indonesia, during the last ice age, anywhere from 100,000 to 10,000 years ago, probably. Therefore, when Gandalf, Frodo, Bilbo, and the Elves ship to the west to the Happy Lands, they were headed towards what is now Sri Lanka, which, in Muslim tradition, was the site of the Garden of Eden and where Adam’s footprint may be found. Thus, Mordor was in what is now the Phillipines, and the riders of Rohan, the Rohirrim, used to feed their horses in what is now Thailand and Borneo.
[/quote]

Egads!


#14

SamCA: The Neanderthal Man lived alongside humans for over 10,000 years, and made tools, shelter, fires, art, and even buried their dead with a very high degree of ritual. Neanderthal graves have been found with the dead carefully surrounded by flowers, jewelry, and hunting implements. All things considered, the Neanderthal have much greater theological implications than what we know so far about the “hobbits”, but they haven’t caused much of a stir theologically. Keep in mind that while we only know that these “hobbits” built tools, we know that the Neanderthals had art and spiritual practices.

Again this isn’t to say that this isn’t an incredible scientific find, as it absolutely is! It’s just that I don’t think it will make any theological waves to worry about, since we already knew about an apparently (so far) more advanced cousin of humanity existing side by side with us for some time.


#15

Good explanation here:

Hobbling the Hobbit?answersingenesis.org/docs2004/1108hobbit.asp


#16

[quote=SamCA]I’m not really concerned with the question of evolution – that’s been discussed to death.

I’m more curious about how the Church would address the questions raised by a second species of man that could still, just possibly, exist today.
[/quote]

I believe I already answered this question in post # 6.


#17

[quote=Ahimsa]The implications would be that The Shire was not in England, as originally thought, but in Indonesia! Since Indonesia is now mostly islands, the sea level must have risen since Middle Earth, which would imply a melting of the polar ice caps, which would imply the end of an Ice Age. Thus, Middle Earth was in what is now Indonesia, during the last ice age, anywhere from 100,000 to 10,000 years ago, probably. Therefore, when Gandalf, Frodo, Bilbo, and the Elves ship to the west to the Happy Lands, they were headed towards what is now Sri Lanka, which, in Muslim tradition, was the site of the Garden of Eden and where Adam’s footprint may be found. Thus, Mordor was in what is now the Phillipines, and the riders of Rohan, the Rohirrim, used to feed their horses in what is now Thailand and Borneo.

Long Live Frodo.
Aum Iluvatar Akbar!
[/quote]

Yes, of course!

The elves and orcs as well as the unicorns did not make it to the Ark and didn’t survive the flood - But they were Darwinists and evolved in the wrong direction anyways.


#18

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