Homo floresiensis and Answers in Genesis

| 21 Comments | 1 TrackBack

The discovery of Homo floresiensis, the dwarf human species from Flores in Indonesia, has received such massive media attention that creationists have naturally responded to it. Carl Weiland of Answers in Genesis has written an article on Homo floresiensis, and Agape Press has also written an article interviewing AIG's founder, Ken Ham.

AIG basically agrees with the researchers who found the bones (nicknamed 'the Hobbit') that they are a dwarf variety of Homo erectus. However AIG (unlike almost all modern scientists) considers that H. erectus really belongs to H. sapiens, and that the Flores bones should therefore be assigned to H. sapiens too. The human kind, says Wieland, "had a greater range of variation than exhibited today".

That's putting it mildly. If creationists can claim that Homo sapiens and Homo floresiensis belong to the same "kind", on what grounds can they say that australopithecines and H. floresiensis can't also be the same kind, since in its overall body shape floresiensis looks more like an australopithecine than a modern human? In fact, for a while Peter Brown and his team seriously considered placing floresiensis in the genus Australopithecus.

I've little doubt that if floresiensis had been discovered in Africa, without the associated archaeological evidence, then AIG would have unhesitatingly have declared it as just another ape. They've done that, after all, for many habiline fossils which have skulls considerably larger than and at least as modern as those of floresiensis.

AIG has stated elsewhere that

When complete fossils are found, they are easy to assign clearly as either 'ape' or human, there are only 'ape-men' where imagination colored by belief in evolution is applied to fragmented bits and pieces.

This claim is bluster; creationists have always had a hard time distinguishing between 'apes' and 'humans'. But Homo floresiensis, and AIG's attribution of it to H. sapiens, really blows the claim out of the water. Now we have a 'human' that is far smaller than, and about as primitive as, many fossils that AIG calls apes. Where are the "kind" boundaries now? I'd love to see a creationist line up the skulls of H. floresiensis, ER 1813, D2700, ER 1470, the Olduvai habilis fossils, OH 12, and ER 3373, and try to justify splitting them into two groups of 'apes' and 'humans' on anatomical grounds. As far as I know, no creationist has ever addressed the human fossil record at that level of detail. Lubenow's approach, generally adopted by AIG, was that any skull under 700cc could be dismissed as an ape because it was too small to be a human. "The Hobbit", with its brain size of only 380cc, leaves that strategy in tatters.

1 TrackBack

Coincidentally, I wrote about the Flores man as well as creationist ideology and today I come across this blog posting on The Panda’s Thumb about both subjects! In addition I have also found the abstracts to the Nature articles I requested (one & two... Read More

21 Comments

Hi Jim,

I enjoyed reading your talkorigins writings.

However regarding Homo floresiensis:

Here is a more recent article by AIG

http://www.answersingenesis.org/doc[…]08hobbit.asp

which cites the work of a paleoanthropology professor, Dr. Teuku Jacob:

http://english.sina.com/news/techno[…]375794.shtml

“The skeleton is not a new species as claimed by these scientists, but simply a fossil of a modern human, Homo sapiens, that lived about 1,300 to 1,800 years ago,” Jacob was quoted by The Jakarta Post newspaper as saying.

also in the AIG article:

Anatomy Professor Maciej Henneberg gives significant support to the “Flores Man was a microcephalic” view.…

but from the news paper article (above):

He [Dr. Jacob] also criticized the announcement of the discovery without the consent of the Indonesian archeologists who participated in the work, saying it was unethical.

A similar note was also expressed by Soejono, the head of the National Archeology Institute, who said the Australians should have involved them when making the announcement considering that none of the Australian scientists were present at the time of the discovery.

Soejono said Indonesian archeologists started the research workback in 1976 but were forced to halt it in the wake of the 1997 financial crisis.

“We continued the research later on by involving a team from Australia before we discovered the skeleton in September. We didn’t immediately announce it because we needed to study the fossil,” said Soejono.

The two Indonesian archeologists said that the skeleton could not be considered a fossil, but a sub-fossil.

“We would call it a fossil if everything has hardened. But we were able to find soft tissue so that we could carry out a DNA test. We couldn’t do that if it was already a fossil,” said Soejono.

Salvador

Syntax Error: mismatched tag at line 11, column 2, byte 1052 at /usr/local/lib/perl5/site_perl/5.12.3/mach/XML/Parser.pm line 187

Paleoanthropologist and primate historian Dr. Sydney Nesmith said that the skeleton likely represents a colony of diseased orangutans that were shunned several thousand years ago from a larger colony, most likely to prevent further spread of the disease.

Wow, tool-using diseased orangutans. Is it just me, but that kind of a find would be even more stellar than a surviving dwarf H. erectus population?

What truly stuns me is the sorts of idiocies being punted out by AiG and the like about Flores Man. One might be forgiven for thinking that they are scared out of their wits by this discovery, and even more frightened by even the remote possibility that some of these guys might still be wandering around south Asia.

I also love how AiG removes an order of ten from the age of the bones. It’s a spectacular example of how Creationists handwave away inconvenient data. Of course, to explain a human population that lost well over two thirds of their brain capacity in just a few thousand years invokes evolution at rates completely ludicrous.

Invoking high-speed evolution to try to debunk human evolution is a juicy bit of irony.

Wow, tool-using diseased orangutans. Is it just me, but that kind of a find would be even more stellar than a surviving dwarf H. erectus population?

Perhaps the diseased orangs were kept as pets by normal humans living on the island, who gave them tools to play with.

Salvador, what do you think?

Shame for the YEC crowd that the dating methods involved all agreed with each other really well. Aren’t they supposed to be unreliable?

From an article on CMWCB re Homo floresiensis

Care to provide a link? How about it Great White Wonder?

“Sydney Nesmith” registered zero hits on Yahoo, and men usually spell their name “Sidney” with an “i”. “Sydney” with a “y” is usually a place.

“Reys-Murdonne” registered zero hits

microencephalopathy (rare term for hyperactive child syndrome) is not the same as microcephaly (means small head)

Nice try Great White Wonder.

The microcephaly claim is coming from a reputable anatomist, so certainly merits consideration. I suspect, however, that it will not pan out, for the reasons given by Chris Stringer at http://observer.guardian.co.uk/inte[…]5519,00.html. Henneberg hasn’t seen the original bones, and microcephaly is a very rare condition that doesn’t, to my mind, explain the other erectus-like features of the skull.

The Henneberg article (http://www.thinkinganglicans.org.uk[…]/000884.html) raises another interesting point. According to all the original papers and commentary, the other bones found confirmed the size estimate for LB1 of about 1 meter tall. But Henneberg says the length of the radius is consistent with a much taller individual of 1.5-1.6 meters. We’ll have to wait for the dust to settle on that. Microcephalics may be rare, but short people aren’t, so it’s quite possible that LB1 is atypically short for her population, or that males were bigger. Further finds should clarify this.

Salvador, can you prove that Dr. Nesmith doesn’t exist and that he didn’t make his statements? Until you do, I’d appreciate it if you didn’t imply that I was anything less than 100% credible.

Thanks.

Alternatively, you could admit that AIG is filled to the brim with horse crap and is an extraordinarly unreliable source for information on paleoanthropology and evolution. That would indicate that you’re credible.

The debate is clearly an interesting one and no doubt has a long course to run. The ultimate outcome, after claims and counterclaims may be different to what the original authors believe.

However this state of affairs, a fascinating example of science in action, is in marked contrast to the YEC response. They rejected the conclusions of the study immediately, before enough time for any remotely reasoned response, simply because they had to. This is YEC ‘science’ in action and the result of holding an ancient book above all else. The study was wrong because it must be wrong. How utterly feeble.

“microencephalopathy (rare term for hyperactive child syndrome)”

Hm. I’ve never seen it put that way.

I think that may be a poor translation of “minimal brain damage” or “minimal brain dysfunction”, which was the name given in the 20s to attention-deficit/hyperactivity; it was noticed that certain kids had attention and behavioral problems that mimicked those of people who had suffered a head trauma. Only the kids hadn’t had any known head injuries.

The term was used as late as the 1970s.

The only google hit relating microencephalopathy to hyperactivity is in reference to what appears to be a Japanese patent filing, increasing the likelihood of some kind of translation issue.

- Jon , a guy with ADD who was a little perturbed at the implication that it involves a small brain. ;^)

I love this: “Alternatively, you could admit that AIG is filled to the brim with horse crap…” A modified version of that would make a great toast for a party.

I like the Jakarta Post as a source: back a few years, it was one of the major feeds for the Weekly World News with stories of 50-foot snakes and such. And it’s a little odd that Soejono would complain about the announcement of the find, as he was a coauthor on both of the papers in Nature. Perhaps he was talking about a press conference?

“Paleoanthropologist and primate historian Dr. Sydney Nesmith said that the skeleton likely represents a colony of diseased orangutans that were shunned several thousand years ago from a larger colony, most likely to prevent further spread of the disease.”

..since when do orangutans live in colonies? I woulnd’t call their social system “colonial” at all.

“Reys-Murdonne”

Does this syndrome affect the facial bones as well? Because wouldn’t the proportions of the brow, relative prognathousness, etc, between Pongo and Flo be a discernable difference if it only affects the brain?

Wasn’t Nesmith the name of the lead singer of the Monkees? Is it possible that the Orangatang theory is actually someone’s joke? Just guessing here - I’ve no expertise, but the fact that I can’t find they guy through a google search either did make me wonder.

If it is a joke I quite like it - although I’m not sure of the significance of the first name.

That was Michael Neswmith, and it’s orangutan.

Damn it, tried to cancel - that’s Nesmith.

Actually, Davy Jones was the lead singer, wasn’t he?

To The Great White Wonder,

I always like joke science articles as a way to get students to think critically about what they read. Can you please post the link or a more detailed citation?

P.S. Would you give diseased orangutans sharp stones to play with? That’s the Paleolithic equivalent to giving a chimp a gun.

Obeza, that’s the sum total of the “information” available to me. Distribute freely, modify as you see fit.

I think this thread should be called Flores Man vs. Villiage Idiot - Round 1, as opposed to Flores Man Vs. Creationists - Round 1.

It seems the scientific community has resorted to name calling and accusations of “scientific terrorism” on ths issue. They are diametrically opposed to one another, with an Astrailian team claiming the find as that of a new species, and a recognized expert (Teuka Jacob) saying it is just a small, stupid human.

Note this article excerpt from the Guardian dated Jan. 18, 2005 by John Vidal:

And he (Alan Thorne of the Australian National University at Canberra) supports Jacob’s broader points. “Paleoanthropology has lost its way and people are desperate for new species. People are more aggressive. If, as Jacob thinks, it’s a case of microcephaly, there are a lot of people in my field who cannot recognize a village idiot when they see one.”

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Jacob loves a good row. “This is like ecstasy without the drug. It relieves you. The blood speeds up. It excites you. You think more. But it has stirred up a nest of hornets. It’s like opening a can of worms and you cannot put them back in again. The creationists are using it for the wrong reason [to deny evolution]. I am not a creationist at all.

“I don’t want to seem like a killjoy but we are looking for truth, not for fame. You have to look for the truth, but fame will come to you whether you look for it or not,” he says. “I think it’s quite possible that there are other species. But in the past 15,000 years there is only one. It’s not an entirely unimportant find because it is a pygmy skeleton found in a controlled excavation. But it’s certainly not the most important in the last 150 years.”

I am keeping this article in my collection of articles I call “Piltdown Man”

Best,

Poco

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Jim Foley published on November 10, 2004 6:00 AM.

Rhabdomeric and ciliary eyes was the previous entry in this blog.

Information on Cobb County (GA) Suit is the next entry in this blog.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.

Categories

Archives

Author Archives

Powered by Movable Type 4.361

Site Meter