More on Luskin, afarensis

We have already pointed you to afarensis’s deconstruction of Casey Luskin’s post on Lucy at the Discovery Institute Media/Museum Complaints Division. Luskin attempted to argue, based on his detailed study of a museum exhibit and some quote-mining, that the entire world community of paleoanthropologists has no idea what they are talking about when it comes to Lucy. Afarensis was calm and polite, which was fine and admirable, but the one danger of being completely polite when commenting on something like Luskin’s piece is that the degree of outrageousness, incompetence, and silliness in the creationists’ work is not fully exposed. For example, it’s not just wrong to say, as Luskin does, that Lucy is the most complete hominid skeleton available, it’s wildly, flabbergastingly, bang-your-head-against-the-wall obvious that this is wrong, and anyone even vaguely familiar with the field knows it. Anyone who didn’t know it could look it up in 10 seconds on google and find for example the Homo erectus specimen Turkana Boy.

(Here’s the quote from Luskin, he hasn’t issued a correction although the mistake has been pointed out for days now.)

The first thing my friends and I noticed when seeing Lucy’s bones was the incompleteness of her skeleton. Only 40% was found, and a significant percentage of the known bones are rib fragments. Very little useful material from Lucy’s skull was recovered. (This seems to be common: many of the replica skulls of early hominids at the exhibit were clearly based upon extremely fragmentary pieces.) And yet, Lucy still represents the most complete known hominid skeleton to date. (bold original)

Anyway, Zinjanthropus, without losing it, gives some more sense of the outrageousness of Luskin’s claims:

Next, he says:

If the next rainstorm could wash Lucy away completely, what happened during the prior rainstorms to mix-up “Lucy” with who-knows-what? How do we know that “Lucy” doesn’t represent bones from multiple individuals or even multiple species?

Well, you see, a person doesn’t get to be a paleontologist unless she knows her anatomy. She has to know where every single little muscle attaches onto every single little bone. It’s her job. All of this anatomical knowledge makes it really easy when someone comes into a forensic anthropologist and says, “I think I’ve found a human skeleton behind my house, and I suspect murder!” A forensic anthropologist can go to that site, look at a single bone fragment from the tibia or a medial phalanx and tell the person, “No, don’t worry, this is just a dog.” She can do this because she is intimately familiar with anatomy, and knows how, in the dog, the tibial plateau will be shaped quite differently than in the human because of the different mechanical requirements.

Paleoanthropologists can do the same thing with Lucy’s pelvis or femur. The pelvis and femur don’t look like anything we see in any quadrupedal animal at all. And wow- that COMPLETE sacrum is just screaming “BIPEDAL ANIMAL HERE!!!” We can look at muscle attachment sites and say, “Gee, whoever this was, she had a really huge gluteus minimus!” We can then compare the size of different gluteus minimus muscles across the animal kingdom and see that only animals who walk upright have such a large gluteus minimus. So, it’s not merely that we’ve counted up our bones and we don’t have any duplicates. We can look at the functional anatomy of these bones and determine that we don’t have a quadruped. [formatting original]

Read the rest for more!