Tolkien's Hobbits are humble beings, not much for calling attention to themselves. But the scientific version of these creatures is constantly grabbing headlines. In 2004, Australian and Indonesian paleoanthropologists generated a lot of excitement when they published evidence for hobbit-sized hominids that coexisted for a time with modern humans. And since their discovery, these little ones have been at the center of a big scientific controversy.
The hobbits have also served as fodder for critics of RTB's views on human origins. Skeptics claim that our human origins model delineated in detail in Who Was Adam? cannot account for these newly discovered remains.
Many paleontologists consider the hobbits to be a new hominid species, distinct from modern humans. Accordingly, they designate this creature Homo floresiensis. Still, a minority of scientists vehemently argue that these creatures are microcephalic (abnormally small-headed) human beings. This position has become increasingly untenable over the course of the last few years due to more detailed studies of H. floresiensis fossils and the archeological record associated with these finds. (Go here and here for recent articles I wrote on some of these discoveries. I also recommend an episode of our podcast, Science News Flash, where I discuss the hobbits.)
New research on the foot structure of the hobbits further corroborates the idea that they were not modern humans, but a unique hominid species. (Go here to listen to an interview with the lead author of this study.)
This new find also supports a key predictions made by the RTB human origins model about hominids, like H. floresiensis.
Our assertion is that the hominids were animals created by God. These extraordinary creatures walked erect and possessed some level of intelligence. These abilities allowed them to cobble crude tools and even adopt some level of "culture." The RTB model maintains that the hominids were not spiritual beings made in God's image, however. RTB's model reserves this status exclusively for modern humans. Based on this view we predict that biological similarities will exist among the hominids and modern humans to varying degrees. But also major biological differences, as this new study attests.