Afarensis on afarensis

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Last week, Casey Luskin posted a fairly pathetic attempt to explain why the remains of the famous fossil Lucy are not evidence for the common descent of humans and apes. I saw the Lucy exhibit last year, and was going to write a response to Casey’s latest tripe, but I honestly couldn’t muster up the strength to deal with the nonsense. Fortunately for me - and all of us - Afarensis has done a beautiful job of dismantling Casey’s claims.

His post, over at SciencBlogs, is really worth a read.

37 Comments

Before marveling at Luskin’s real or apparent cluelessness, take a look at the bigger picture.

I just skimmed Afarensis’ article, and then scanned it and Luskin’s article for “Behe.” Both came up empty. Maybe it’s in one of those other articles, but given that Behe is the closest thing the DI has to a real biologist, and the only DI fellow to give even a “pathetic level of detail” on what he thinks is true biological history, one would think that Luskin would pass his argument by Behe. The radical disagreements that would follow would give the DI at least some credibility toward its pretense of actually doing science instead of just looking for “gaps”. But so far I see neither, just the usual “pseudoscience code of silence.”

In any case, let’s recall that Behe accepts common descent, which means that he admits that Lucy’s species is biologically related to humans and other apes, if not necessarily a direct ancestor to one or both. Let’s also recall that in “Darwin’s Black Box” Behe asserted that the fossil record “irrelevant.” So here we have Luskin asserting that it is very relevant, and using that relevance to argue against common descent.

Frank J said:

[…]Behe asserted that the fossil record “irrelevant.” So here we have Luskin asserting that it is very relevant, and using that relevance to argue against common descent.

Well, if IDers can’t even decide what what they’re talking about is, then why on earth should we trust them to decide what what we’re talking about isn’t?

Casey Luskin posted a fairly pathetic attempt to explain why the remains of the famous fossil Lucy are not evidence for the common descent of humans and apes.

It’s important that we always emphasise that the most famous fossils may have been singular data points when they were discovered, so singular that they have names, but in 2009 there are plenty of backup examples of these types.

Whenever some creationist tells me that Archeopteryx was a fake, I always ask him which of the 11 known specimens he’s talking about.

And whenever they claim that Tiktalik is the intermingling of 2 dead animals, a fish and an amphibian, I point out that there are about 6 of these things known. All of them identical.

It’s important to note that Lucy might be incomplete, but she’s only one of maybe 5 afarensis finds, all of which tell the same story.

Re “pseudoscience code of silence.”

http://www.wouldyoubelieve.com/cone.html

Oh, you said code, not cone. Sorry about that, chief.

Frank J said:

Let’s also recall that in “Darwin’s Black Box” Behe asserted that the fossil record “irrelevant.”

Ahhh … I hate to be put into a position of defending Behe, but I was surprised he said something so Luskenish, so I tracked down that citation. In all fairness, read in context he was simply saying that the fossil record (and embryology) was irrelevant to his IC argument.

Which is true – though other things like the homologies of the bacterial flagellum with other biostructures are perfectly relevant. Unfortunately for Professor Behe, the comment was phrased in such a broad way as to invite being thrown back at him.

Cheers – MrG / http://www.vectorsite.net/gblog.html

Am I the only one who read the Luskin article and thought it was pretty weird, inasmuch as he was arguing that Lucy meant nothing but was pretty much capitulating on the idea that her bones really were ancient fossils?

Am I wrong here - I seem to recall that Luskin, while not a vocal YEC, has been on the “old earth denial” bus for some time now.

mrg(iml8) Wrote:

In all fairness, read in context he was simply saying that the fossil record (and embryology) was irrelevant to his IC argument.

Yes, but he also made it clear that it was his IC argument, and not the fossil record that invalidated evolution. IOW it didn’t matter what the fossil record says, evolution was falsified, and common descent was not.

Even with his pathetic backpedaling years later when he said that other (unnamed) IDers who reject common descent are more familiar with the relevant science, he and Luskin have lots to debate about. But they won’t.

Nice work.

I am constantly surprised at the time and effort the scientific community takes to painstakingly refute Luskin and other’s rubbish. While they are being funded to produce it, no similar funding is available to refute it. Maybe it is part of the lot of being a University employed scientist to help educate the public generally, but it would be nice to see those who do a really good thorough debunking get some credit.

While I don’t live in the US, so I’m a bit cheeky asking, any chance the NCSE could set aside a small prize ($50 Amazon voucher maybe) for the best “response” article posted or linked to from PT each month?

Corbs - I like your thinking! You should come join us at the After The Bar Closes (ATBC) site (Click on the “forum” tag on Panda’s Thumb). Come for the science, stay for the fun - it’s where we can post about the fun and foibles of the ID crowd. The thread about william Dembski’s blog Uncommon Descent is in it’s second iteration - we had so much fun making fun of Dembski on the foirst one it went over 30,000 entries!

Since you use words like “cheeky” and “rubbish”, you’ll fit right in as we have regular comentators from all over the world, including London, Wales, NZ, France & Holland.

Oh, and Afarensis posts there too. Of course, and and all that like a good laugh are welcoem to stop by and contribute. :)

Frank J said:

Yes, but he also made it clear that it was his IC argument, and not the fossil record that invalidated evolution. IOW it didn’t matter what the fossil record says, evolution was falsified, and common descent was not.

From what I know of Behe he seems to waffle on how much he accepts evo science – clearly he thinks it can’t do everything, but that’s a long ways from saying it’s completely broken. However, I get the impression at times that he is saying it’s completely broken.

I am not inclined to try to read DARWIN’S BLACK BOX to clarify matters. I have no stomach for trying to unravel a tangled ball of yarn when I know perfectly well there’s nothing inside of it. There are some folks I won’t ask any questions of, since after they answered I would know less than I did before I started.

Cheers – MrG / http://www.vectorsite.net/gblog.html

In before FL

stevaroni Wrote:

Am I wrong here - I seem to recall that Luskin, while not a vocal YEC, has been on the “old earth denial” bus for some time now.

I haven’t heard any “old earth denial” arguments from the DI other than a few token ones from “YEC” Paul Nelson, who seems more like he wants to attract YECs under the big tent than an actual believer.

In the early years the DI actually used to criticize YE arguments. Not as in refuting them, but as in warning against using them. After Dover, though, they must be more desperate at recruiting people, so it wouldn’t surprise me that some DI people would try whatever will “stick” to the target audience.

So if anyone has any references to Luskin’s “old earth denial” it should provide some amusement, if only to see how he does not direct it at his own DI buddies who clearly know that it’s nonsense.

Please explain in detail the ‘evidence’ that would substantiate Australopithecus afarensis being “evidence for the common descent of humans and apes.”

“Tel Aviv University anthropologists say they have disproven the theory that “Lucy” - the world-famous 3.2-million-year-old Australopithecus afarensis skeleton found in Ethiopia 33 years ago - is the last ancestor common to humans and another branch of the great apes family known as the “Robust hominids.” … Rak and his colleagues also wrote that the structure of Lucy’s mandibular ramus closely matches that of gorillas, which was “unexpected” because chimpanzees are the closest living relatives of humans, and not gorillas.”

Judy Siegel-Itzkovich, “Israeli researchers: ‘Lucy’ is not direct ancestor of humans” The Jerusalem Post, April 16, 2007 http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satell[…]e%2FShowFull

Anyone want to give another example that we can refute? http://www.whoisyourcreator.com/fos[…]vidence.html

If you read it closely, the article talks about how Australopithecus afarensis is more closely related to A. robustus.

Plus, if you bothered to do a little research, you’d know that the genus Australopithecus is no longer regarded as the direct ancestor of the genus Homo. Rather, it’s now suspected that Ardipithecus or Kenyapithecus is the direct ancestor of Homo. But since you’re a creationist, you’ve sworn a holy vow never to do actual research.

Of course, now the onus is on you to demonstrate how “Lucy is no longer considered to be the direct ancestor of humans” is evidence supporting the idea that humans are all descended from a magical legendary ancestor, and his magically created wife who were magically poofed into existence a little less than 10,000 years ago.

who is your creator said:

Please explain in detail the ‘evidence’ that would substantiate Australopithecus afarensis being “evidence for the common descent of humans and apes.”

“Tel Aviv University anthropologists say they have disproven the theory that “Lucy” - the world-famous 3.2-million-year-old Australopithecus afarensis skeleton found in Ethiopia 33 years ago - is the last ancestor common to humans and another branch of the great apes family known as the “Robust hominids.” … Rak and his colleagues also wrote that the structure of Lucy’s mandibular ramus closely matches that of gorillas, which was “unexpected” because chimpanzees are the closest living relatives of humans, and not gorillas.”

Judy Siegel-Itzkovich, “Israeli researchers: ‘Lucy’ is not direct ancestor of humans” The Jerusalem Post, April 16, 2007 http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satell[…]e%2FShowFull

Anyone want to give another example that we can refute? http://www.whoisyourcreator.com/fos[…]vidence.html

Who-

Demonstrating that X is my cousin provides evidence for common descent; I don’t need to demonstrate X is my parent.

who is your creator said:

Please explain in detail the ‘evidence’ that would substantiate Australopithecus afarensis being “evidence for the common descent of humans and apes.”

“Tel Aviv University anthropologists say they have disproven the theory that “Lucy” - the world-famous 3.2-million-year-old Australopithecus afarensis skeleton found in Ethiopia 33 years ago - is the last ancestor common to humans and another branch of the great apes family known as the “Robust hominids.” … Rak and his colleagues also wrote that the structure of Lucy’s mandibular ramus closely matches that of gorillas, which was “unexpected” because chimpanzees are the closest living relatives of humans, and not gorillas.”

Judy Siegel-Itzkovich, “Israeli researchers: ‘Lucy’ is not direct ancestor of humans” The Jerusalem Post, April 16, 2007 http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satell[…]e%2FShowFull

Anyone want to give another example that we can refute? http://www.whoisyourcreator.com/fos[…]vidence.html

I looked at the Rak et al study here and, to make a long story short, Rak’s results do not mean what he thinks they mean.

Who,

Please explain in detail why none of the intermediates between chimpanzees and humans are considered to be evidence for common descent. Then explain in detail why creationists use the argument: “There are no intermediate forms”.

After that you can explain in detail all of the genetic evidence for common ancestry of chimps and humans.

Who:

In addition to answering the questions above, please tell us whether you actually think that current humans, Lucy and current chimps share common ancestors. Please note that you do not need to accept Darwinian evolution as the mechanism for species change, only a “biological continuum” that anti-evolutionists such as Michael Behe, have conceded is the best explanation regardless of any problems they have with “Darwinism.” If you disagree that there is a “biological continuum” between those species, please provide evidence of independent origins without relying on “weaknesses” of “Darwinism” or misinterpretation of real scientific publications as denying common ancestry.

Yeah, good luck with that, Frank J. Whatisyourproblem is just another BTI.

Please submit your evidence and then we’ll begin an actual discussion.

Since this board is about Darwinism/Naturalism, the burden of proof is yours.

who is your creator said:

Please submit your evidence and then we’ll begin an actual discussion.

Since this board is about Darwinism/Naturalism, the burden of proof is yours.

You seem to have missed “the actual discussion.” Did you not read the link to Afarensis FCD’s post? He’s provided refutations for most of Caseys points, and includes references. Why don’t you read it and come back and let us know where he (Afarensis) got it wrong.

OTOH if you aren’t going to bother reading what’s posted, there’s no point in us writing more, is there?

who is your creator said:

Please submit your evidence and then we’ll begin an actual discussion.

Since this board is about Darwinism/Naturalism, the burden of proof is yours.

I don’t know, start here maybe http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/homs/species.html

who is your creator said:

Please submit your evidence and then we’ll begin an actual discussion.

Since this board is about Darwinism/Naturalism, the burden of proof is yours.

The burden of proof would be mine only if my goal were to change your mind. But it’s not. Rather it is to show how anti-evolutionists evade simple questions. Any reader can follow the links to see mainstream science’s testable hypotheses, and the evidence that supports them - whether or not they think that evidence is sufficient. Can they do the same with yours?

In regard to the comment: “You seem to have missed “the actual discussion.” Did you not read the link to Afarensis FCD’s post? He’s provided refutations for most of Caseys points, and includes references. Why don’t you read it and come back and let us know where he (Afarensis) got it wrong.”

The “refutations” are nothing but arguments without precise empirical evidence behind them. Second, genetic similarity does NOT qualify as evidence due to the phenomenon of convergent evolution contradicting the very premise. Lastly, lining up fossils without any other proof of descent is nothing but unscientific presupposition: “To take a line of fossils and claim that they represent a lineage is not a scientific hypothesis that can be tested, but an assertion that carries the same validity as a bedtime story - amusing, perhaps even instructive,but not scientific.” —Henry Gee Ardent Evolutionist, Dr. Henry Gee, Senior Editor, Biological Sciences for the journal Nature as written in his book, In Search of Deep Time: Beyond the Fossil Record to a New History of Life, New York, The Free Press, 1999, page 126-127.

Also, refer to: http://whoisyourcreator.com/fossil_evidence.html

And yet, you think Raks article was an effective refutation of Lucy’s transitional status. Seems like it’s only valid when it supports your contention, yet when the same techniques are used and yield results you don’t like then they are invalid. Perhaps you could explain your double standard. Appeals to authority mean nothing, so, really, good for Henry Gee. Now all you have to do is prove that he is correct…

who is your creator said:

Second, genetic similarity does NOT qualify as evidence due to the phenomenon of convergent evolution contradicting the very premise

Wow, you don’t know jack about genetics, do you?

Convergent evolution results in very different genes that produce similar morphology (or biochemistry, or whatever trait it is that you happen to be comparing). Common descent is the only known mechanism for creating genetic similarity on the scale we’re talking about here.

Unless you have an alternate explanation why two sets of DNA from different species would have so many of exactly the same random mutations. Given the number of identical random mutations we’re talking about, that would be waaaaaaaaaaaay more improbable than, say, random mutations creating novel functions.

Funny how you don’t seem to think that‘s impossible, too.…

who is your creator said: The “refutations” are nothing but arguments without precise empirical evidence behind them.

He provided references to peer-reviewed, scientific papers. You could’ve looked them up. You don’t honestly expect that “proof” requires scientists to re-explain 100 years of discovery every time some new person asks the same question, do you?

Second, genetic similarity does NOT qualify as evidence due to the phenomenon of convergent evolution contradicting the very premise.

Utterly false. If you were right, convergent evolution would result in, say, flounders and skates having similar genotypes (because both have evolved into flat fish). But they don’t. Genetic similarity is evidence for common descent because it correlates strongly with evolutionary predictions of everything from bone structure to geographical distribution. And it is strong evidence AGAINST special creation because, as an example, not all flat fish are closely related just because they are flat and breathe water.

Heck, even 150 years ago Darwin could answer your question. Cave species on different continents are always related to nearby neighboring non-cave species. They are not related to cave species a continent away - as YOU would predict if convergence of adaptions to caves led to genetic similarity.

Lastly, lining up fossils without any other proof of descent is nothing but unscientific presupposition:

There is lots of other proof. Shared DNA. Multiple dating techniques that collectively agree on fossil ages. The fact that fossils appear in the exact strata expected by evolution but not at all predicted by special creation (i.e. the “no cambrian rabbits” argument).

I’ve referred to it. I would suggest you cite serious journal articles more, and popular books far less, if you want to be taken seriously.

who is your creator said:

Also, refer to: http://whoisyourcreator.com/fossil_evidence.html

Also quit referring to the same, oft-refuted creationist canards. A few of the statements on your page are very similar to arguments that the most prominent creationists have disowned. For your education http://www.answersingenesis.org/get[…]-we-dont-use

And quit using misleading quotes, especially from the Berkeley site.

Who wrote:

“Second, genetic similarity does NOT qualify as evidence due to the phenomenon of convergent evolution contradicting the very premise.”

Genetic similarity between two organisms is not the only type of evidence, It is in fact the nested hierarchy of genetic similarities between different organisms that is strong evidence of common descent. That is not caused by convergence.

It addition, there are several genetic data sets that show almost no convergences, such as the SINE insertions shared between chimps and humans. Once again, taken together with the nested hierarchy found when other promates are compared, this is strong evidence for common descent that is definately not the product of convergence.

One more pile-on comment.

who is your creator said: Second, genetic similarity does NOT qualify as evidence due to the phenomenon of convergent evolution contradicting the very premise.

You can’t accept convergent evolution happens without accepting evolution happens.

Your argument seems to be that because descent with modification results in different species that look similar, there is no evidence for species being related. This is just irrational.

At BEST your argument amounts to saying that convergence can, in some cases, make it difficult to tell the cousins from the uncles from the sons and daughters. But the argument that convergent evolution is a confounding factor only makes sense if you first accept that descent with modification leads to different species.

1. You guys don’t like the journals that our references come from, but offer no competing ones.

2. You guys claim that convergent evolution proves evolution to be true, but you offer no evidence that would even touch that one.

Again, philosophical rhetoric continues to be the foundation of your arguments. Empirical evidence works much better …

Oh, and Happy Darwin Day. I will pray that God opens your eyes and that will find your joy in worshiping Him one day, instead of Charles Darwin.

“For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools … who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator -Romans 1:20-25 “It is appointed unto men once to die, but after this, the Judgment.” -Hebrews 9:27

who is your creator said:

2. You guys claim that convergent evolution proves evolution to be true, but you offer no evidence that would even touch that one.

Any yet, somehow, you neglected to provide empirical evidence to back up your claim that:

Second, genetic similarity does NOT qualify as evidence due to the phenomenon of convergent evolution contradicting the very premise.

I’m sure it was just an overesight, right? You wouldn’t be demanding empirical evidence from others without being willing to provide any for your own claims, would you? Of course not. That would be completely dishonest and hypocritical.

And you wouldn’t lie about something like this, now would you?

So surely you can provide empirical evidence that convergent evolution creates genetic similarity, since that’s what you’re implying, right? And you can also offer a reasonable explanation for why some species with similar traits share almost identical genes that express that trait, while others that share similar traits (like, say the panda’s “thumb”) have completely different gene that express the trait in question, right?

And of course you can resolve the logical contradiction in your own argument; you know, the one where you essentially claim that “evolution didn’t happen” while simultaneously claiming that “convergent evolution disproves evolution,” right?

Surely the answers to those questions aren’t “no,” “no,” and “ye…well, no,” right?

Right?

Because if not, then your brand of stupid might just be so weak, it can’t even burn. And surely you don’t want that.

Right?

who is your creator said:

Oh, and Happy Darwin Day. I will pray that God opens your eyes and that will find your joy in worshiping Him one day, instead of Charles Darwin.

Not even God is powerful enough to open your eyes to make you realize that no “Darwinist” (sic) worships Darwin.

1) What is this “journals” and “our references” nonsense? You quoted a mass-circulation newspaper story, for Pete’s sake! Afarensis FCD went back to the original research paper, and expressed doubt on its conclusions, after studying the cited evidence. You really don’t understand what the words “journal”, “reference” and “research” mean, do you?

2) You wrote: “genetic similarity does NOT qualify as evidence (for evolution) due to the phenomenon of convergent evolution contradicting the very premise.” It’s not merely that this is ignorant, although it is; it’s that it’s shambolic. Can’t you see that this statement, as you wrote it, is self-contradictory? Not only doesn’t it follow, it loops back around itself and disappears up its own premise, which it then uses to disprove itself. In the face of confusion on this scale, talk of reasoned discourse is simply pointless. It’s obvious that you haven’t the least idea of what it is or how to do it.

To underline that, you then go off the deep end, babbling of Darwin worship and the Last Judgement! It reminds me of the scene in “The Caine Mutiny” where Bogart shows us Queeg’s unravelling mind, a performance as horrid and as pathetic as anything in all cinema. You poor soul, to be that frightened. I really am sorry for you.

who is your creator said:

1. You guys don’t like the journals that our references come from, but offer no competing ones.

Below are the articles Afarensis mentions, or has primary or secondary links to. You simply never bothered to look at them. And I doubt you will now.

“Johanson et al 1982 provide a complete inventory of A. L. 288-1.”

Clarke R.J. and Tobias P.V. (1995): Sterkfontein member 2 foot bones of the oldest South African hominid. Science, 269:521-4.

Clarke R.J. (1998): First ever discovery of a well-preserved skull and associated skeleton of Australopithecus. South African Journal of Science, 94:460-4.

Clarke R.J. (1999): Discovery of the complete arm and hand of the 3.3 million-year-old Australopithecus skeleton from Sterkfontein. South African Journal of Science, 95:477-80.

Morris J.D. (1995): What distinguishes man from ape? Acts & Facts, 24.11:d (a creationist commentary)

Partridge T.C., Granger D.E., Caffee M.W., and Clarke R.J. (2003): Lower Pliocene hominid remains from Sterkfontein. Science, 300:607-12.

Oliwenstein L. (1995): New foot steps into walking debate. Science, 269:476-7. (Commentary on Clarke and Tobias 1995)

Leakey M., et al. (2002): New four-million-year-old hominid species from Kanapoi and Allia Bay, Kenya. Nature 376, 565-571.

[Afarensis also links to three articles about rhino, monkey, and horse remains that are relevant to Casey’s mixing argument, but which I won’t transcribe]

***

Your turn. Scientific journals, please - not your own web page or AIG or its ilk. Citations like that only make your lack of research obvious.

who is your creator said:

-Romans 1:20-25

-Hebrews 9:27

Q.E.D.

who is your creator said: 2. You guys claim that convergent evolution proves evolution to be true, but you offer no evidence that would even touch that one.

No one claimed that. We were responding to YOUR claim that “genetic similarity does NOT qualify as evidence due to the phenomenon of convergent evolution contradicting the very premise.”

Your claim is false, because convergent evolution does not lead to genetic similarity. You’re just wrong about that. A blind cave mole is not more genetically similar to a blind cave rat than a sighted mole. Skates and flounders are not more genetically similar (than other fish) because they are flat.

Actually, I find convergent evolution to be strong evidence against any rationally intelligent creator. Two flat fish, one with a far more sensible structure than the other, argues strongly against the notion that the less sensible structure was intelligently designed. Don’t you think? And yet, the flounder is clearly its own species. So if it wasn’t designed, speciation must have occurred. And if it can occur once…

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This page contains a single entry by Mike Dunford published on February 9, 2009 10:40 AM.

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