The Random House Webster's College Dictionary (2000) recounts these definitions of atavism:
1. a. the reappearance in an individual of characteristics of some remote ancestor that have been absent in intervening generations.b. an individual embodying such a reversion.2. reversion to an earlier type; throwback.
We need to stop Supreme Court confirmation hearings. . . . . The game (and it is one) becomes an atavistic search for an emotional gotcha moment, a test more appropriate to a hockey goalie than a Supreme Court justice.
Fineman, Howard. The Take. "Advise and Shut up Already: Let's End Confirmation hearings." Newsweek, 27 July 2009: 28.