The missing missing links: a challenge

| 20 Comments

We’ve talked here a few times about Utah state senator Chris Buttar’s wish to have a disclaimer about human evolution added to the state school board’s proposed position statement on teaching evolution:

Buttars believes the document should include new language: “There is not generally accepted agreement in the scientific community or (evidence) that has stood up to scientific scrutiny regarding the evolution of man from any other species.” (Deseret News, Aug 27 2005)

The reality is that there’s lots of good evidence for human evolution, including a number of habiline specimens that sit nicely midway between apes and humans. This doesn’t bother most creationists (like Buttars), because they’re blissfully unaware of them. Creationists often discuss Neandertals or Lucy at length, because it’s easy to dismiss them as humans and apes respectively, and pass over the habilines.

A few days ago Ed Brayton and I responded to a creationist over on Ed’s blog. The creationist, William Gibbons, had responded to an earlier query I had made to identify some of the best transitional hominids. His response illustrates the near impossibility of classifying hominids into two discrete groups of apes and humans. Although he seemed confident that Marvin Lubenow’s book Bones of Contention took care of the hominid fossils, his own answers sometimes contradicted Lubenow, not to mention reality. It’s not surprising that Buttars and Gibbons know nothing about these fossils, because it’s impossible to find out about them from creationist literature.

There are a number of habiline fossils that trouble creationists, but to keep it simple, let’s stick to the Dmanisi skulls, which I’ve mentioned here already. Here’s a general query to creationists: how do you classify the Dmanisi skulls, and why? Any takers?

20 Comments

Ug. Ughah. Me Chris Buttars. Me big hunter. Me no need eh-vo-loo-shun. Me created perfect. Me want bah-nah-nah.

Criminy. You ever look at that guy? He doesn’t even look hominid, let alone human.

As long as there’s a dividing line, there’s a missing link. D’oh.

What, a link has gone missing? Check under the sofa cushions. When something goes missing at my house, that’s where it usually turns up.

That’s an easy one.

Microevolution is possible; macroevolution is not. Of course there has been evolution among apes, though not to the point of speciation - the Dmanisi skulls are those of apes that evolved to the point where their skulls had some superficial similarities to those of some humans, but this does not mean that they were human or that they were human ancestors.

It is deeply significant that these animals died out, too (after all, there are no similar apes alive today): this indicates that such significant changes made them unsuited to survive. In short, the Dmanisi skulls are in themselves further evidence of the impossibility of macroevolution.

How was that? Anyone else got a better explamnation?

Sure: the earliest hominids to venture out of africa were not acheulean tool wielding h erectus as previously thought but an older hominid line with a simpler tool culture who’s skull features fit somewhere between habilis and ergaster/erectus. Like a link even. Oh, and evolution happens.

outeast Wrote:

Microevolution is possible; macroevolution is not. Of course there has been evolution among apes, though not to the point of speciation

So, what you are saying is evolution is possible and microevolution is a fact? If microevolution is possible, then macroevolution is plausible. The fact that the animals died out is indicative that they were not suited to surviving long term in the environment, which you astutely point out. That would be natural selection at work. Now, clarify which side of the debate you are on, because you are offering a compelling argument in support of evolution and natural selection while trying to claim some part of the theory does not hold true. Oh, and why would the designer create a species unsuitable to survive in the designed environment? Was it just for fun or did the designer specifically create species to fail to fool humans.

Why is Buttars limiting himself to evolution? As I understand it he’s a member in good standing of the LDS Church. Shouldn’t he also be calling for disclaimers in history and anthropology texts that claim Native Americans are descendants of northeast Asian peoples who crossed the Bering land bridge? His sacred scripture says they descended from 6th-century B.C. Israelites.

Oh, sure–the gentiles will claim that all the archaeological evidence and all the DNA evidence and all the linguistic evidence favors the Bering land bridge theory. And they will claim that there’s absolutely no evidence to support the Book of Mormon theory. But the angel Moroni said it, I believe it, and that settles it.

Come to think of it, shouldn’t Buttars also be calling for disclaimers in any textbook that refers to “God,” in the singular? After all, LDS theology is polytheistic.…

I’m not sure of Buttars’ standing in the LDS Church, but again it is worth noting that the LDS Church has no truck against evolution, and it’s taught with vigor in biology classes at all campuses of Brigham Young University. Utah’s Mormon governor, Jon Huntsman, instructed the state school board to stick to science, and last week they issued guidelines for discussing evolution in public schools: Teach evolution, teach it well, don’t bother with pseudoscience.

And, while we’re at it, the Book of Mormon says that Lehi brought religion and his family to people who already existed in the New World, not that all native Americans were descended from Israelites. I think most LDS folk would take issue with the notion of polytheism as well, since they have the same language in their creed that the Baptists use – but I would leave that up to LDS scholars.

Brigham Young University and the LDS church do not rail against Darwin, and we should be careful to not accuse them of sins they don’t commit.

Sorry, Matt and James, but KwickXML has no markup for irony…

Outeast, thanks for responding.

outeast Wrote:

That’s an easy one.

Microevolution is possible; macroevolution is not. Of course there has been evolution among apes, though not to the point of speciation - the Dmanisi skulls are those of apes that evolved to the point where their skulls had some superficial similarities to those of some humans, but this does not mean that they were human or that they were human ancestors.

The problem here is that the similarities between the Dmanisi skulls and Homo erectus aren’t superficial - do you have any evidence to back up that assertion, or were you just guessing? The largest Dmanisi skull (D2280) is 780cc, then you have H. erectus skulls ER 3883 (800 cc), ER 3733 (850 cc) and WT 15000 (the Turkana Boy, 880cc). At what point in this series do you put the dividing line between ape and human? Or would you like to claim that the Turkana Boy has just “superficial similarities” to humans?

These skulls were classified as H.ergaster/erectus when they were first found (Gabunia et al., Nature 288:1019, 2000). Creationist Marvin Lubenow also classifies the largest skull as human. D2280 does not just have a “superficial” resemblance to humans. Those erectus skulls resemble it far more closely than they do those of modern humans; you can find a long list of common features in the Gabunia paper (I can send you an electronic copy of it if you wish). Do you have any evidence to support your claim of a superficial resemblance? If so, what is it? If not, why are you saying it?

outeast Wrote:

It is deeply significant that these animals died out, too (after all, there are no similar apes alive today): this indicates that such significant changes made them unsuited to survive. In short, the Dmanisi skulls are in themselves further evidence of the impossibility of macroevolution.

This really doesn’t make sense; according to this reasoning, if evolution was true every species that ever lived should still be alive. That’s never been part of the theory of evolution, for obvious reasons.

Jim, thank you in turn for responding; I feel rather awful, though, that I put you to the trouble, since I was (I thought obviously) being ironic (or rather, parodic).

That having been said, I’d certainly greatly appreciate a copy of the Gabunia paper; if you would, send it to me at [Enable javascript to see this email address.]… Thanks!

All right, I’ll admit it, I was suckered totally. In my defense, I’ll argue that it’s because your post was no more obviously parodic than those of many real creationists. That’s why it’s difficult to parody them; it’s hard to come up with an argument so ridiculous that a real creationist wouldn’t use it in all seriousness.

Re “it’s hard to come up with an argument so ridiculous that a real creationist wouldn’t use it in all seriousness.”

Like the 2nd law of thermodynamics, for example?

I wonder Jim, have you asked the question lately of creationists just what WOULD prove common decent amoung hominids? I mean damn, how much more filled in can the record be…

Might be interesting to go back and look at old creationists claims to this effect. I seem to remember Gish making some claim about a possible hominid that would pose a problem for creationist. Sure with all the new additions that fossil has been found.….

Creationist are extremely sceptical of the overwelming body of science.What would happen if they used the same amount of scepticism towards their own beliefs? I work in the Behavioral Neuroscience publishing industry.WE are very,very disturbed,yet highly fearfull of the fundamentalists.’An intelligent over educated person out of touch with reason’ account for 92% of all mass murderers,64% of convicted child molesters,86% of the white collar prison inmates in Canada,82% of histories dictorial regimes. Creationist share beds with some very dangerously sick fellows.

To quote your referenced link to the “Dmanisi skulls”:

“No-one, though, would have expected to find such fossils outside Africa. Because they are more primitive than any other hominid fossils previously found outside Africa, the Dmanisi fossils can hardly help but cause a reevaluation of current scenarios about human evolution and migration.”

This is a major credibility problem that the evolutionists have created for themselves. What the DISCOVERED fossil record tells us about the primates of the 4 Million - 400,000 years ago period is that they came in many shapes and sizes, and we are constantly finding new variations. However, we only have a minute sample from the entire population and no real idea how big the population might be. In other words, we can take wild guesses, but cannot give any real theories (in the scientific sense). Then every decade, when a new discovery is made the evolutionists have to redraw the family tree which the just finished carving in stone.

Evolution might be right, but it certianly has never been proven.

For the creationists out there, just take a good Anthrobiology class and you’ll be amazed. However, with all due respect, I doubt that many of you will ever do that. I’ve listened to both sides. Evolution wins.

“Outeast”s suggested that the Dmanisi fossils might be some kind of evolved ape, but not an intermediate species. First of all, the latter seems nothing but a product of prejudice, since it clearly shows features intermediate between modern humans and apes. In fact, these seem to fill whatever small gap there was between classic H. erectus skulls and H. habilis skulls. Second, do you know that stone _tools_ were found in the context with these fossils? Were your microevolved apes were using the tools, or are you going to switch now and say they were some kind of de-evolved humans? The problem with this shell game is that you can talk there way out of any fossils, no matter how intermediate. Either its a big brained ape, or a small degenerate human. Tell me exactly what you WOULD accept as an intermediate, which you would not dismiss as one of these?

GJK

Squad,

I forgot to ask something in my last post. Would the anti-evolutionists in the audience do me a favor? Since you seem to readily dismiss all known hominid fossils as human or ape (though your camp can’t seem to come up with a concensus on which fossils are which), could you please draw us a picture of what you _would_ consider a valid intermediate skull form between humans and apes?

Please post this to some web site so we can all view it. Can you draw anything that is not already very close to existing hominid fossils? If you can’t, the silence will speak volumes. If you can, I for one would love to see the picture. Thanks.

Glen

There ya go cocoa sam, that was a much better parody! “Oh noes, there’s a credibility problem. Evolutionists haven’t found every single puzzle piece yet, so obviosly the overall picture is not of a million year old monkey, it’s obviously a picture of God!”

Oh yeah, and to everyone: Whatever you do, if you value your life, never, ever attend one of Butters’ tap dancing concerts.

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This page contains a single entry by Jim Foley published on September 5, 2005 8:30 AM.

“Pastafarianism” gains prominence and support in intelligent-design drive was the previous entry in this blog.

Accepting Berlinski’s Challenge is the next entry in this blog.

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