Sunday, 11 January 2015


To understand just one of the many scientific criticisms of the Bering Strait Theory, we go halfway around the world to the continental mass known as the Sahul, which includes Australia, New Guinea and surrounding islands. Like the Americas, it had long been assumed by archaeologists that the Indigenous Peoples who lived in that region had migrated there from Asia just a few thousand years ago. It then came as a massive shock to those same archaeologists when in 1968, near Lake Mungo in Southeastern Australia, the geologist Jim Bowler discovered the remains of a cremated woman who was subsequently radiocarbon-dated to be between 25,000 and 32,000 years old. Lake Mungo Woman, as she came to be known, was repatriated to the Aboriginal community in 1992.
Yet this discovery had already been anticipated by other scientists, for example, the linguists. The Sahul is one of the most linguistically diverse areas in the world, home to more than 1,000 languages, about one-fifth of the world’s total. The linguists had already predicted that the “time depth” required to achieve this type of linguistic diversity was clearly not in the thousands of years, but in the tens of thousands of years. Subsequent archaeological finds have now pushed back the date of human occupation of Australia to a minimum of 45,000 years ago and possibly 60,000 years ago.
The only area in the world that has a comparable level of linguistic diversity as the Sahul is the Americas, and in certain very important respects, the Americas were even more diverse.
Today it is generally accepted that there are 150 different language stocks in the Americas. To give some perspective to this diversity, there are more language stocks in the Americas than in the rest of the world combined !

Linguists were not the only ones who recognized the importance of the linguistic evidence. The great British paleo-anthropologist Louis Leakey firmly believed that the linguistic evidence showed that Amerindians (which is just the abbreviation of the two words 
'American Indian') were likely to be many tens of thousands of years old and possibly much older, and shortly before his death in 1972 he began to sponsor fieldwork in the Americas in the hopes of proving this. But most American archaeologists and physical anthropologists, where the dogmatism of the Bering Strait Theory is most pronounced, dismissed or ignored the linguistic evidence, leading people and the mainstream press to assume that linguists were silent on this subject, even though the reverse was true.
Nichols’ paper used six independent linguistic methods for calculating American Indian antiquity and she determined that it would have taken a minimum of 50,000 years for all of the American Indian languages to have evolved from one language, or 35,000 years if migrants had come in multiple waves. She concluded that, “The unmistakable testimony of the linguistic evidence is that the New World has been inhabited nearly as long as Australia or New Guinea.”
The advocates of the Bering Strait Theory have countered that the linguistic evidence, strong as it may be, is not “proof” that Indians have inhabited the Americas for more than 15,000 years, and granted, it is not proof, it is evidence. The demand by the proponents of the Bering Strait Theory for “indisputable proof” is actually a curious but important aspect of that theory. Science is only rarely able to prove things with absolute certainty, and it normally confines itself to mathematical probability. As one scientist put it, “proof is not a currency of science,” and virtually all widely accepted scientific theories are based upon the preponderance of the evidence, not proof. This strident demand for “proof” while ignoring the evidence is abnormal in science and reflects the fact that originally the Bering Strait Theory was not a scientific theory at all, but a dogma. And this dogmatic stance, along with the vicious nature of the debate surrounding it, has long been a sore point for many scientists, not just for Amerindians.

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