Ardi is a million years older than Lucy

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This week’s Science has a special issue devoted to the fossil hominid Ardipithecus ramidus. It looks as though you may read at least some of the 11 articles free, and you may see a video featuring (mostly) Tim White. The fossil is interesting in part because it appears to show that certain expected traits may be absent from the last common ancestor of chimps and humans.

238 Comments

A disproof of this find by the eponymous Luskinesque creationist lawyer has been posted by the Discovery Institute. It seems that he can quote people as saying it was found in pieces thus showing it took 15 years to create a media campaign to brainwash all those poor school kids. You evilutionists sure are tricky.

a lurker said:

You evilutionists sure are tricky.

Fifteen years? Pah, we can accomplish anything with the mind-control beam network overnight!

John Hawks is writing a series of posts on the Ardi fooforah, starting with an FAQ:

So I’m starting out with a basic overview of the main points, organized as an FAQ. Over the next few days I’ll be exploring some of the most central issues in closer detail: in particular,

How we now interpret the earliest hominins in light of Ardipithecus.

What the skeleton means for our understanding of the human-chimpanzee common ancestor.

How Ardipithecus relates to the first australopithecine, Australopithecus anamensis.

How the crushed pelvis became a 3-d model, and whether we should believe it.

Can Ardipithecus be consistent with genetic estimates of human-chimpanzee divergence time?

What was the locomotor adaptation of Ardipithecus really like?

He also has some snark about the amazing coincidence of the publication in Science and a special on the Discovery Channel next week. Shades of Ida!

Carl Zimmer has a very lucid writeup over at The Loom. Does a good job of slicing between the Hype and the genuinely cool Science, IMHO. Dave

I can’t see how anyone can believe such sacreligious nonsense. The only reason this thing resembles man is because God made it to look that way. As for it being millions of years old…rot. The world isn’t that old. God created it and everything and everyone on it. Read you Bible.…the greatest history book every written. It was written by men inspired by God. These are His words. All I have to say about this matter. get a life.

Bonnie said: All I have to say about this matter.

We’ll hold you to that.

Answers in Genesis shows it has more sense than Luskin – though that is not saying much – by just giving saying they will so some “research” before posting an extensive response. They do want to make some hay out “It’s not a chimp. It’s not a human.” I suspect that most non-creationist readers of this blog could have told them this last week and many of the older readers could have told them this a couple decades ago. PZ has commented on that in his blog on Ardi.

NPR’s Science Friday will feature Ardi on today’s show which has just started.

One of the scientists on the team, Dr. Lovejoy, is providing ample ammunition for OECs & IDCs. I’m not sure why.

Larry Moran fisks one report that depended too much on Lovejoy.

And here is a WSJ video where Lovejoy is the only scientist interviewed.

Is Dr. Lovejoy trying to stir the pot for better publicity? Is he unaware of how creationists quote-mine?

The fact that Ardi is an amazing find and why is quickly getting lost in the mix.

a lurker said:

Answers in Genesis shows it has more sense than Luskin – though that is not saying much – by just giving saying they will so some “research” before posting an extensive response.

ICR has nothing on their site. Guess they are too busy peparing for the “Demand the Evidence” and got caught with their pants down.

Loved how AiG took a couple of swings at the “missing link” straw man.

Michael Heath said:

One of the scientists on the team, Dr. Lovejoy, is providing ample ammunition for OECs & IDCs. I’m not sure why.

Is Dr. Lovejoy trying to stir the pot for better publicity? Is he unaware of how creationists quote-mine?

The fact that Ardi is an amazing find and why is quickly getting lost in the mix.

Not sure, but Lovejoy is 1st author on 4 or 5 of the papers.

Stupidist creationist response yet: “But this report concludes that our common ancestry–still undiscovered–is thrown even further back–with apparently no direct lineage of human beings arising from apes.” Wesley J. Smith’s inanity will be hard to beat. The media news reports sure tripped him up in a way similar to AiG’s case discussed above. Creationists are warned that they really should understand a subject beyond what newspaper reports say before making pronouncements of what scientists think and what their error’s are.

And even if we were not apes – which we are – it would not mean that humans are not exceptional. We clearly are. Our exceptionalism is not because of ancestry, but rather because we can reason and imagine in a degree that other animals simply can’t.

OH! Oh! Me first! Two gaps! Two gaps! :)

Bonnie said: I can’t see how anyone can believe such sacreligious nonsense

It’s not a belief, it’s a scientific analysis. The fact that your religious beliefs are incompatible with reality is your problem, not science’s, nor ours.

The world isn’t that old

How do you know how old it is?

Read you Bible

I don’t have one, because it’s nothing but a compilation of superstitious nonsense written by pre-scientific, bronze-age sheep herders and heavily mistranslated, edited and embellished by hundreds of different people and organizations whose motives range from good to suspicious to malicious. And before you ask me how I can dismiss it without having read it, you’d need to explain how you can dismiss all the “truths” in the Qu’ran, Avesta, Bhagavad Gita, Adi Granth, Tattvarthasutra, Tao Te Ching, Nihon Shoki, Goseigen, etc., etc., without having read them first.

I’m willing to bet the farm that believe what you believe because someone told you to and because you effectively succumbed to peer pressure at a very early age, not because you ever truly examined any objective facts and made a rational decision. People who do that think things, they don’t “believe” them. If you had been born in rural India you’d have a different set of religious beliefs and may well be trolling a different web site telling people the Vedas contained the essential truths, while holding the bible to be irrelevant or even evil.

the greatest history book every written

Then how come so many of the things it describes are wrong, or worse, internally contradictory?

get a life

I have a life. You don’t see me going around arguing with people who are smarter than me about things they know more about than I do, using as my only evidence a bunch of stuff someone told me about a silly old book (or do you have in your possession the original texts of the bible and the ability to translate them correctly? If so I take that part back). Get a clue.

I’m pretty sure Bonnie was satirizing.

It gets worse. Lovejoy’s school, Kent State U., put out a press release calling Ardi a hominid, but also quoting Lovejoy that “man did not evolve from apes”.

I sent an email to the PR person and Dr. Lovejoy noting there exists either a contradiction in their press release or asking if they are proposing that Hominids should be removed from the superfamily Hominoidae (apes).

Here’s the link to the press release with contact info: http://www.kent.edu/news/newsdetail[…]D_9299=27947

Wheels said:

I’m pretty sure Bonnie was satirizing.

I agree. I just doubt she realizes it.

Bonnie said:

I can’t see how anyone can believe such sacreligious nonsense. The only reason this thing resembles man is because God made it to look that way. As for it being millions of years old…rot. The world isn’t that old. God created it and everything and everyone on it. Read you Bible.…the greatest history book every written. It was written by men inspired by God. These are His words. All I have to say about this matter. get a life.

If you really believe that, you would not pass up a chance to say more. So here it it: Exactly how old do you think the Earth is? And do you base it on your interpretation of the words in the Bible, or other evidence that you think confirms your particular interpretation?

Wheels said:

I’m pretty sure Bonnie was satirizing.

So everyone else who thinks she’s right is welcome to elaborate and defend their position. I promise to be civil, and to scold those who aren’t.

ben said: I agree. I just doubt she realizes it.

I like to run parodies myself, but I hate to tell any lie that I think people might believe. However, it’s actually somewhat difficult to be so over-the-top that even the cranks know it’s a gag.

Ever since Raymond Dart showed that the Taung child skull of South Africa demonstrated both the African origins of humankind, and the importance of upright posture and bipedal locomotion (later confirmed), the scientific world has been waiting to push that a bit back, to shortly after the 5-7 million year ago time frame that we diverged from the ancestors of our nearest relatives, the chimps.

Now we have yet another set of fossils to document part of our evolutionary journey. Yes, there is more to be revealed and more hypotheses to be tested .… such is the nature of science.

On the other hand, this find and it’s announcement has brought out the creation kooks in a BIG way on just about every blog I’ve seen. The misunderstanding of evolution, and particularly human evolution (which is at the heart of all objections to evolutionary science), needs to be addressed by better education, and more carefully worded statements from the scientists involved.

Jeff McKee said:

On the other hand, this find and it’s announcement has brought out the creation kooks in a BIG way on just about every blog I’ve seen. The misunderstanding of evolution, and particularly human evolution (which is at the heart of all objections to evolutionary science), needs to be addressed by better education, and more carefully worded statements from the scientists involved.

I’ve been looking at a few of these ID/creationists “expert” critiques.

It seems the kooks are still behind the scenes working furiously to sabotage biology, and science in general, in the classroom. They seem to take every scientific announcement like this as an unprovoked attack aimed at them.

They’re like a bunch of marching zombies, shot full of holes, with their brains and guts falling out, but still acting like they are the experts who should be deciding what other people’s kids should or should not study.

Jeff McKee said: On the other hand, this find and it’s announcement has brought out the creation kooks in a BIG way on just about every blog I’ve seen.

I think the idea of us being another species of primate descended from creatures that most people would call “apes” (whether they technically were or not being irrelevant in the argument) is their NUMBER-ONE HOT BUTTON.

When I get the challenge: “Do you HONESTLY think you are descended from APES!?” – I reply cheerfully: “Actually, I always thought I was related to a cocker spaniel.”

That usually ends the conversation.

a lurker wrote:

“Our exceptionalism is not because of ancestry, but rather because we can reason and imagine in a degree that other animals simply can’t.”

Clearly this is in error, as Bonnie so aptly demonstrates. It should read:

… because some of us can reason and imagine …

There, all fixed. Now back to your regularly scheduled programming.

It gets worse. Lovejoy’s school, Kent State U., put out a press release calling Ardi a hominid, but also quoting Lovejoy that “man did not evolve from apes”.

wikipedia: Class: Mammalia Order: Primates Suborder: Haplorrhini Parvorder: Catarrhini Superfamily: Hominoidea Gray, 1825 Families Hylobatidae Hominidae †Proconsulidae †Dryopithecidae †Oreopithecidae †Pliopithecidae An ape is any member of the Hominoidea superfamily of primates.[1] Due to its ambiguous nature, the term ape is less suitable as a means of describing taxonomic relationships.

Under the current classification system there are two families of hominoids:

the family Hylobatidae consists of 4 genera and 14 species of gibbon, including the Lar Gibbon and the Siamang, collectively known as the lesser apes. the family Hominidae consisting of chimpanzees, gorillas, humans and orangutans[1][2] collectively known as the great apes. A few other primates, such as the Barbary Ape, have the word ape in their common names (usually to indicate lack of a tail), but they are not regarded as true apes.

Except for gorillas and humans, all true apes are agile climbers of trees. They are best described as omnivorous, their diet consisting of fruit, including grass seeds, and in most cases other animals, either hunted or scavenged, along with anything else available and easily digested. They are native to Africa and Asia, although humans have spread to all parts of the world. A group of apes is called a shrewdness.[3]

Most ape species, except humans, are rare or endangered. The chief threat to most of the endangered species is loss of tropical rainforest habitat, though some populations are further imperiled by hunting for bushmeat.

Trying to figure this one out. Apparently ape is an ambiguous word. Some use it to describe all members of the Hominoidea superfamily. That would make us apes as well as our ancestors.

Some use it to describe everything in that superfamily except us. Which strikes me as silly. Apparently esthetics and pride are more important than admitting that we are related to everything else and closely related to other similar primates.

My only question, and I have NO background of expertise so it is merely a question. Would a creature of that age really have had such correct posture? Ardi seems more upright than most humans of today.

Nah, here’s the real story: Darwin’s Dilemma Los Angeles Premiere Will Mark 150th Anniversary of Darwin’s Origin of Species with Focus on Controversy over Evolution and Intelligent Design By: American Freedom Alliance (a right-wing “think?” tank).

Link: http://www.discovery.org/a/12701

But this AFA also has a film: We Are Born of Stars - Premiere! This extraordinary IMAX film (3D re-mastered) provides a view of the true structure of DNA never before witnessed in a wide screen format. Once one views DNA in motion, with the full scope, intricacy and supercoiling magnificence of this essential building block of life, the issue of our origins takes on an even deeper mystery and wonder.

This makes me wonder if they’re using that doctored Harvard flagellum film Dembski stole.

@DavidK:

Probably not. This from BigMovieZone.com:

“Written and co-produced by Roman Kroitor of IMAX Corporation. Computer animation by Dr. Nelson Max of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Dr. Koichi Omura of Osaka University, Japan, and Colin Low of the National Film Board of Canada for the Fujitsu Pavilion at the International Exposition at Tsukuba, Japan, 1985. Distributed by IMAX Corporation.”

p.s. 11 minutes long, first released in 1985.

RobLL said: Would a creature of that age really have had such correct posture? Ardi seems more upright than most humans of today.

Other distant cousins can stand nicely upright - see http://www.hadeseh.com/english/photos/apewalk.jpg or http://www.mongabay.com/images/ugan[…]ug3-3935.JPG -

I don’t know about their shibboleth, but saying what something else can’t do says nothing about what their concept can do.

Plus there’s no logical contradiction between having some deliberate engineering of life and some naturally evolved life in the same universe. (If there were, genetic engineering wouldn’t work.)

Henry

Novparl said: Are you seriously suggesting Lakshmi Tatma was evolution?

Here and then here you imply that (you think) evolution cannot be responsible for mirror image arms.

But maybe I have you wrong. So why don’t you stop implying and actually state your opinion: can the process make duplicate limbs or not?

Also, you commit the usual error of thinking science is done by comparison with another theory. In fact, both theories cd be wrong. The world is not a string of either/or’s.

There is only one theory on the table; ID has neither the explanatory power nor clarity of even a mere hypothesis.

And while there can be many theories for any set of observations, and all the ones we know of could currently be wrong, science is indeed very often a matter of attempting to determine which among the theories we have best explains our observations and provides us with a useful path forward for discovery. In that respect, it is very much a process of comparison. Any replacement for the TOE must be comparatively better and more useful. Design is woefully inadequate in both domains.

Evolution is untrue and cannot make any arms. Even if it WERE true, there is no reason to believe there wd be mirror-images or pairs.

DS - so, as I keep asking, in what way are humans (7 billion) evolving? How does the absence of evidence prove a thesis? But thanks for the outfield link - I’ll study it with interest.

fnxtr - Shiva? More like Durga the Inaccessible or Kali the Black (not very p.c., eh?)

To whoever : the theories are evolution (Darwinian) and ANY design theory.

Martés 10:00

the theories are evolution (Darwinian) and ANY design theory

Name one.

novparl wrote:

“DS - so, as I keep asking, in what way are humans (7 billion) evolving? How does the absence of evidence prove a thesis? But thanks for the outfield link - I’ll study it with interest.”

Which of the following statements would you agree with:

1) Genetic variation in humans continues to arise through random mutations and recombination

2) The environment continues to change

3) Selection and drift continue to operate in human populations

If you agree with all three, then humans (and everything else), by definition, continue to evolve. If you disagree wtth any of these statements, please give reasons, hopefully complete with references from the scientific literature. (Well, I can hope can’t I)?

Novparl said: Evolution is untrue and cannot make any arms.

Then imperfect and horribly disfigured arms are a result of either (a) design, or (b) some non-design, non-evolutionary process. But (b) means that all of your past posts questioning evolution’s capabilities (including this one about arms) are absolutely, completely, and utterly worthless as support for the concept of design.

You can’t use the false dichotomy when it suits you and abandon it when it doesn’t. At least, you can’t if you want to stay credible.

eric said: At least, you can’t if you want to stay credible.

Errrr … “STAY credible”?

novparl wrote:

“Evolution is untrue and cannot make any arms.”

Actually, we know quite a bit about how vertebrate limbs evolved from fins. The evidence comes from palentology and from developmental genetics. If anyone is interested, here is a good reference:

Hinchliffe, J. R. 2002 Developmental Basis of Limb Evolution. Int J. Dev. Bio. 46:835-845

Or you can just google “limb evolution” and hunt through the thousands of references. The one above comes upo in the first ten.

It must be nice to be able to dismiss all of this research with just a wave of an ignorant hand. Sure must save a lot of time reading.

Perhaps our resident troll will eventually have something on-topic and interesting to say about Ardi. Perhaps not.

Novparl strives to make a point where there is none…

DS - so, as I keep asking, in what way are humans (7 billion) evolving?

By and large, nov, not by much.

As a species, we face no particular selection pressures, and even if there were localized pressures, we’re so mobile that our gene pool isn’t so much mixed as it is churned like a milkshake.

The net effect is that adaptive mutations are diffused to places where they are useless (for instance, in malarial Africa, sickle cell red blood cells are actually a good mutation, in New York, not so much) and maladaptive mutations are inadvertently propagated (without the support of society, someone who was born with genetic deafness - which is highly inheritable - would simply die before reproducing)

If you don’t push something, it doesn’t move.

If we’re “evolving” at all, it’s at relatively slow rate of bulk genetic drift.

So that, Nov, is your answer. We’re evolving at the slow rate of genetic drift. It is in fact, the same answer we keep giving you, over and over, every time you whine that we’re not answering the question.

wile coyote said:

Errrr … “STAY credible”?

Momma says you catch more flies with honey than you do with vinegar!

Momma says you catch more flies with honey than you do with vinegar!

Sadly, you catch the most flies with bulls**t.

eric said:

Momma says you catch more flies with honey than you do with vinegar!

Ah! A magnanimous benefit of the doubt.

Bill Murray once responded to this adage with, “Who. Wants. Flies?

Ben - I seem to have lost a post. I replied to yours immediately…

ID. 2 - Genesis. 3 - my own vague theory. (Vaguely OEC). That’s my answer. I don’t say you’ll like it.

Where are humans going? R Dawkins says it’s the question he is asked the most often. (Not obvious from his appearances on Brit-tv). “A question avoided by every prudent evolutionist.” So that makes most of you prudent evolutionnists.

Must go now. Catch ya later.

stevaroni said: Sadly, you catch the most flies with bulls**t.

And BS it mostly is. The downside of demonstrating the fallacy of reductio ad absurdem is you must temporarily accept your opponent’s premises so that you can then argue from them to their logical conclusions. No formal argument was probably necessary in this case to convince the peanut gallery - limb development is fairly well understood - but then again the peanut gallery wasn’t my target audience.

It seems that faced with the Scylla of an wicked designer or the Charybdis of having his arguments shown to be irrelevant, Nov chooses retreat.

eric said:

The downside of demonstrating the fallacy of reductio ad absurdem is you must temporarily accept your opponent’s premises so that you can then argue from them to their logical conclusions.

There’s the option of taking the absurdity to an entirely new depth. I find it effective, but it is troublesome in an environment frequented by the lunatic fringe to be absurd enough so that people actually realize one is joking.

The thing about lunatic fringers is that they’re so close to parodies themselves that any shot they take in response ends up going into their own foot.

novparl said:

Ben - I seem to have lost a post. I replied to yours immediately…

ID. 2 - Genesis. 3 - my own vague theory. (Vaguely OEC). That’s my answer. I don’t say you’ll like it.

So what makes you think your own vague “theory,” which you’ve never experimentally verified, is somehow better at explaining the diversity and mechanics of life now and before?

I mean, besides the fact that you’re too lazy to bother with attempting to understand Evolutionary Biology.

wile coyote said: There’s the option of taking the absurdity to an entirely new depth. I find it effective, but it is troublesome in an environment frequented by the lunatic fringe to be absurd enough so that people actually realize one is joking.

Completely OT but there’s an amusing comparison in memory research. Psychologists looking at the difference between real and false memories have a constant problem - no matter how ridiculous the false memony studied (alien abduction ahem), someone will argue that the research cannot be considered valid because its theoretically possible that the memory was of a true, real event. So…the researchers took to planting false childhood memories of people who met bugs bunny in Disneyworld, and studying those. Evidently even the lunatics who believe in alien abduction aren’t crazy enough to think that Disney would allow a Warner Bros. mascot on their property. :)

novparl,

I see you completely avoided answering any of my questions and that after I answer yours. Well, when you do answer my question, you will have the answer to yours.

I would also recommend that you read the reference I provided. It might increase your knowledge. Until you do, stop flapping your gums and going out on a limb.

novparl said:

Ben - I seem to have lost a post. I replied to yours immediately…

ID. 2 - Genesis. 3 - my own vague theory. (Vaguely OEC). That’s my answer.

Please point me to anywhere that a valid scientific theory of any of these three things is laid out. By valid scientific theory I mean a testable, falsifiable mechanism that explains the diversity of life on earth, which explains the available evidence and predicts evidence that might yet be found, and which does not rely on logical fallacies like false dichotomies and arguments from ignorance to do its work.

I do not believe I have seen any of your three “theories” spelled out anywhere in anything approaching these terms, which are typical for any legitimate scientific theory. But do surprise me.

Please point me to anywhere that a valid scientific theory of any of these three things is laid out.

It’s over that a way.

Ben - you challenged me to name a theory of design. As I predicted, you didn’t like it.

DS etc. You have consistently failed to answer my questions. Waffle & abuse counts as answers for evolutionists, but not for scientists (i.e. physicists & chemists). Where is your numerical answer to my question at what rate p.a. evolved the 100 trillion connexions in the brain? Nu-me-ri-cal.

I see you avoided the Dawkins quote. If only I were surprised. (Begin any riposte with that, OK?)

Novparl,

You have consistently failed to answer my questions. Trying to deflect attentyion away from that fact will not get you anywhwere. Where is your answer to my questions about mutation, environment, selection and drift. As I pointed out, you will have your answer when you answer my questions.

Oh what the hell, I’ll be generous. There is very good evidence to suggest that humans are evolving into two species, the eloi and the morlocks. In a few million years years the split will be complete.

By the way, have you read that paper on the evolution of limbs yet? Care to revise your undeducated opinion?

I have no idea about your brain question, however my guess is 7 million. There, is that numerical enough for you?

Novparl said: Where is your numerical answer to my question at what rate p.a. evolved the 100 trillion connexions in the brain? Nu-me-ri-cal.

We don’t know the answer. What does that have to do with design?

Stop making oblique implications and come out with it man! What does your question about brain evolution have to do with design? Complete this sentence: “Because evolution cannot yet fully explain neural development, I, Novparl, conclude that…”

Are you saying that because we (or at least I) don’t know the answer, design is somehow made more credible? I also don’t know how a magician does his tricks, but my ignorance does not make the explanation “its a miracle!” any more credible.

We don’t know the answer. What does that have to do with design?

Answer?

I read Novparl’s comment and couldn’t even parse out a coherent question.

novparl said:

Where are humans going?

You still don’t get it, do you? The link provided to you shows some possible scenarios. IT DEPENDS on how present and future selection pressure affects the diverse, constantly shuffling gene pool of humanity.

“We don’t know yet,” is a perfectly acceptable answer in science.

Your turn. Where does your theory say we’re going?

Oh, that’s right, you don’t have the balls to actually come out and say what your theory is except “It’s not evolution.”

Weasel.

Waffle & abuse counts [sic] as answers for evolutionists, but not for scientists (i.e. physicists & chemists).

As a physicist, I could probably heap abuse on the Novparl troll as well as anyone. Instead, I will just close the comments and invite it to play with someone else, something I should have done long ago. In the future, I will be quicker to send its comments to the bathroom wall; it never learns and never asks interesting questions. Replying to it is a waste of time.

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This page contains a single entry by Matt Young published on October 2, 2009 11:26 AM.

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