Sean D. Pitman, M.D.
Taking isolated similarities by themselves, the theory of evolution appears to be quite reasonable... to a point. However, it seems that too much weight has been placed on similarities without questioning the differences. To the embarrassment of many a very intelligent man and woman of science, overly confident conclusions and arrogant statements have been made based on such similarities that have, on occasion, turned out to be not only wrong, but painfully wrong. It is fine to hypothesize that similarities between different creatures are the result of common ancestry, but since such similarities have been and are often conflicting when compared with other features, it might be prudent to hold back a little when making conclusions about any sort of definite taxonomic classification model or even relationship. The conclusions that are drawn from the evidence are often and have often been very much exaggerated to fit personal beliefs and biases. Yes, even scientists have biases and favorite theories. No one, not even a scientist, likes to see a theory that has cost a great deal of money and much of one's personal time and effort, go up in smoke. So, some caution might be in order before even long established theories are accepted as the "gospel truth", especially when some of the most famous scientists in the field start to question their own life's work.
In considering the theory of human evolution it is interesting to note that some very well known scientists have actually suggested that the line of human evolution is far from clear. For example, in 1990, Richard Leakey himself said that, "If pressed about man's ancestry, I would have to unequivocally say that all we have is a huge question mark. To date, there has been nothing found to truthfully purport as a transitional specie to man, including Lucy, since 1470 was as old and probably older. If further pressed, I would have to state that there is more evidence to suggest an abrupt arrival of man rather than a gradual process of evolving." 10 Mary Leakey also said pretty much the same thing just before her death at the age of 83. Although Leakey was convinced that man had evolved from ape-like ancestors, she was equally convinced that scientists will never be able to prove a particular scenario of human evolution. Three months before her death, she said in an interview, "All these trees of life with their branches of our ancestors, that's a lot of nonsense." 60
Biases are of course part of human nature. No one is immune from bias. However, bias should at least be admitted. As it is, popular sciences often refuse to admit that there are significant limitations to the evolutionary interpretations that are given out to the public as "gospel truth." Consider the evidence for yourself and judge if popular science has not and is not overstepping itself when it comes to its conclusions on "Early Man."
Eanthropus dawsoni or "dawn man." Discovered in 1912 by Charles Dawson, a
medical doctor and amateur paleontologist. Dawson found a mandible and a
small piece of a skull in a gravel pit near Piltdown England. The jawbone was
ape-like but the teeth had human characteristics. The skull piece was very
human-like. These two specimens were combined to form dawn man, which was
supposedly 500,000 years old. However, the whole thing turned out to be an
elaborate hoax. The skull was indeed human (about 500 years old) but the jaw was
that of a modern ape whose teeth had been filed to look like human wear. The
success of this hoax for almost 40 years is pretty impressive.
However, had the original bones been available for study, this hoax would
probably not have continued for as long as it did. It was not until 38 years
after the bones had been "found" that the hoax was exposed. In 1953 Kenneth
Oakley, Joseph Weiner and Wilfred Le Gros Clark exposed the fact that Piltdown
Man was a hoax.1
Of course many scientists love to predict the discussion of Piltdown Man by those who are doubtful of evolution. But why shouldn't the Piltdown Man hoax be discussed? The success of the Piltdown Man hoax gives us an interesting look into human nature. It cannot be denied as a very embarrassing hoax that tricked even the scientific community for decades. It is readily admitted that many scientists believed in Piltdown Man wholeheartedly and made some rather foolish statements concerning the meaning of this "find." It is also admitted that Piltdown Man's general acceptance as a "missing link" was due to the fact that it matched the prevailing opinion of the time as to what such as missing link would look like. Of course, the argument is that many scientists of the day did not think too much of Piltdown Man since many did not think that the cranium and the jaw were from the same creature. But still, it is interesting to note that no one suspected the hoax despite "close inspection" of the specimen for almost 40 years. Other arguments contend that the differences from other fossil hominids are said to have turned Piltdown Man into a puzzling anomaly well before the hoax was discovered and, that by the time the hoax was revealed, most scientists were rather relieved to be finally rid of Piltdown Man. Even if this is true, the success of such an apparently obvious hoax seems quite impressive indeed.
So obviously, the point of including the Piltdown Man hoax in this discussion is to show that even scientists are, or at least have been, capable and possibly even willing to overlook something if it matches their preconceived ideas. (Back to Top)
was discovered in 1922 in the Pliocene deposits of Nebraska by Mr. Cook and made
famous by Henry Osborn of the American Museum of Natural History. There was an
attempt to use this tooth at the Scopes "monkey" trial in 1925 as evidence of
the animal ancestry of man. However, it was declared inadmissible by the judge.
Even so, since William Jennings Bryan, former Secretary of State and a special
prosecutor in the case, was himself from the state of Nebraska, Osborn chided
Nebraska Man in the press: "The earth spoke to Bryan
from his own state of Nebraska.
The Hesperopithecus tooth is like the still, small voice.
Its sound is by no means easy to hear ----. This little tooth speaks
volumes of truth, in that it affords evidence of man's descent from the ape."
An illustration of Nebraska Man and his wife was published in the
Illustrated London News (see illustration, printed June 24, 1922) . . .
All from a tooth! When other parts of the
skeleton were found in 1927, it quickly became clear that it was nothing more
than the tooth of an extinct pig (peccary)! 2
In defense of the scientists of the day, many like to point out that this drawing was done for a non-scientific popular magazine. It is often claimed that few scientists, including Osborn, recognized Nebraska Man as anything more than an advanced primate of some kind. It is also claimed that Osborn specifically avoided making any extravagant claims about Hesperopithecus being an ape-man or any sort of human ancestor. To support this contention, Osborn is quoted as saying, "I have not stated that Hesperopithecus was either an Ape-man or in the direct line of human ancestry, because I consider it quite possible that we may discover anthropoid apes (Simiidae) with teeth closely imitating those of man (Hominidae),... Until we secure more of the dentition, or parts of the skull or of the skeleton, we cannot be certain whether Hesperopithecus is a member of the Simiidae or of the Hominidae." 41 The fact of the matter is, however, that Osborn did believe that the Hesperopithecus tooth was clear evidence of human evolution from apes. If he did not believe this, then why did he chide Bryan by saying, "This little tooth speaks volumes of truth, in that it affords evidence of man's descent from the ape."? Of course, in retrospect, this statement of Osborn looks rather silly, seeing as how "Hesperopithecus" turned out to be nothing more than the tooth of a pig.
However, even if Osborn made some foolish statements about Nebraska Man, the claim is that most other scientists of the day did not even think that the Nebraska Man tooth was from a primate at all. In fact, the tooth was generally dismissed and had a negligible effect on the scientific thinking of the day. This is a strange conclusion considering the fact that a published picture of Nebraska Man in a popular and "respectable" news magazine did not raise very much objection from the scientific community of the day. The reply to this argument is often an appeal to a disclaimer that was published below the picture detailing the speculative nature of the picture.
"Mr. Forestier has made a remarkable sketch to convey some idea of the possibilities suggested by this discovery. As we know nothing of the creature's form, his reconstruction is merely the expression of an artist's brilliant imaginative genius. But if, as the peculiarities of the tooth suggest, Hesperopithecus was a primitive forerunner of Pithecanthropus, he may have been a creature such as Mr. Forestier has depicted." 42
I dare say that this disclaimer comment did not disclaim enough! The comment itself is very suggestive of the prevailing notion that Nebraska Man was in fact an ancestral hominid. That is a very far cry from an ancestral pig. Osborn himself commented on Forestier's drawing by saying:
"Such a drawing or 'reconstruction' would doubtless be only a figment of the imagination, of no scientific value, and undoubtedly inaccurate." 43
Little did Osborn know exactly how inaccurate it would turn out to be.
Beyond this, few understand the racially motivated nature of Osborn's ideas. Osborn firmly believed that certain human races were evolutionarily superior to other races.
"The Negroid stock is even more ancient than the Caucasian and Mongolian, as may be proved by an examination not only of the brain, of the hair, of the bodily characters, such as the teeth, the genitalia, the sense organs, but of the instincts, the intelligence. The standard intelligence of the average adult Negro is similar to that of the eleven-year-old youth of the species Homo sapiens." 76
Consider such statements in light of the fact that Osborn's "intelligence" led him to use a single tooth as clear evidence of the evolution of humans from apes - a tooth which was later shown to be nothing more than a pig's tooth!
Many try to play down the Nebraska Man discovery and the influence that it was given by science and popular culture. However, the amazing thing is that the Nebraska Man tooth got any attention whatsoever and that such extravagant claims were ever made for it by anyone as respectable and intelligent as Osborn was. (Back to Top)
Getting it in the Right Ballpark - Sort of . . .
(Back to Top)
Because of this human-like maxillary shape and what were thought to be "human-like" teeth characteristics, this creature was long believed to be the first branch from a line of apes that eventually evolved into modern humans. Many drawings in various scientific publications, textbooks, and newspapers, show Ramapithecus walking pretty much upright based on these relatively few fragments of maxilla and a few teeth. One might think that the lesson of Nebraska Man would be remembered . . . but they weren't. Popular scientists through the late 1970s continued to actively promote Ramapithecus as one of the early human ancestors.
Noted scientist Dr. Elwyn Simons stated confidently, "The pathway can now be traced with little fear of contradiction from generalized hominids -- to the genus Homo." The importance of Ramapithecus as an early ancestor of hominids is evident in this comment by Simons in Time Magazine (Nov. 7, 1977):
"Ramapithecus is ideally structured to be an ancestor of hominids. If he isn't, we don't have anything else that is."10
Interesting statement . . . But, from
what evidence were these conclusions drawn in the first place?
Once again, a few teeth and a portion of maxilla.
From these few fragments many drawings have been made of
walking upright? Go figure?
Of course, not everyone was so confident.
That is why the almost exuberant confidence of
Simons and his peers in the human ancestry of Ramapithecus
is more than a bit surprising. For example, a study by Dr. Robert
Then, in 1976, renowned secular anthropologist Richard Leaky had this to say: "The case for Ramapithecus as a hominid is not substantial, and the fragments of fossil material leave many questions open." 9 Given what followed next, I'd say this is yet another huge understatement.
Despite this physical evidence, the apparently overwhelming desire to see the world in a certain way allowed most mainstream scientists to come up with all kinds of amazing things despite having so very little to work with. I mean really, they make CSI look like child's play! Despite the fact that only a few fragments of Ramapithecus were available, David Pilbeam, formerly at Yale and now at Harvard University, and Elwyn Simons, Duke University, both leading paleoanthropologists, strongly championed Ramapithecus as an early hominid, a creature in the direct line leading to the evolution of humans. (Simons E. L., Ann. N. Y. Acad. of Sci, 1969, 167:319; Simons E. L., Sci. Amer, 1964,. 211(1):50; Pilbeam D. R., Nature, 1968, 219:1335; Simons E. L. & Pilbeam D. R., Science, 1971, 173:23).
Then, in 1977, a little problem surfaced for Ramapithecus - a full jaw (mandible) was discovered. This jaw bone was U-shaped, not parabolically shaped.
Zilman and Lowenstein attempt to explain the reason for the earlier thinking of most of the world most prominent paleoanthropologists:
"Ramapithecus walking upright has been reconstructed from only jaws and teeth. In 1961 an ancestral human was badly wanted. The prince's ape latched onto position by his teeth and has been hanging on ever since, his legitimacy sanctified by millions of textbooks and Time-Life volumes on human evolution." 10
After the discovery
of the full jawbone in 1977, David Pilbeam admirably recanted his
earlier views commenting that, "A group of creatures once thought to be our
oldest ancestors may have been firmly bumped out of the human family tree.
Many paleontologists [including David Pilbeam] have maintained that
Ramamorphs are our oldest known ancestors. These conclusions were drawn from
little more than a few jawbones and some teeth.
Truthfully, it appears to be nothing more than an orangutan ancestor."3
Isn't it interesting that Pilbeam was so convinced before the jawbone discovery that Ramapithecus was indeed an early human ancestor, despite the very limited material, when only after the jawbone discovery does he seem to recognize the limited nature of what he really did have to work with.
Currently, the general view of science is that Ramapithecus was nothing more than an ancestor of the modern orangutan or even of a third lineage which has no modern survivor.70 Note the following conclusion published in a 1981 Science Digest article: "A reinterpretation of this jaw now suggests that Ramapithecus was an ancestor of neither modern humans or modern apes. Instead, Pilbeam himself thinks it represents a third lineage that has no living descendants."
What is interesting
though is that even in relatively recent times Ramapithecus
was widely considered an evolutionary link between apes and man.
This opinion was strongly held and taught as unquestionable fact
in public schools for many years, and is still being taught in some places based
on what is now thought to be, not so many years later, very poor evidence.
Such is the power of a prevailing paradigm to make one believe in just about
any story that "fits" regardless of the quality of the evidence presented.
Such is the power of a prevailing paradigm to make one believe in just about any story that "fits" regardless of the quality of the evidence presented.(Back to Top)
Years after the
discovery of the "Taungs child", as it is known today, Dart and Broom found
at Kromdraii, Swartkrans and Makapansgat. These
finds of similar creatures seemed to vindicate Dart and Broom, and the
scientific community again accepted their finds as they do today.
These new fossil Australopithecines
seemed to show two parallel lines of development, one being a small "gracile"
(slender) type and the other a larger "robust" type.
Much controversy has existed regarding these types and some
investigators, including Richard Leakey, have concluded that they represent
merely the male and female of the same species while others say the gracile
form, which is believed to be older, evolved into the robust form.
Today these animals are known as Australopithecus africanus
and Australopithecus robustus respectively.
The latter is clearly heavier, has more massive jaws, and a pronounced sagital
crest. All these traits are typical of sexual
dimorphism in male apes.
What is also felt to be a more human trait is that foramen magnum (the
opening in the skull above the attachment of the spinal column) in Australopithecines
seems to be placed in an intermediate forward position between that of modern
apes and man. Although not as far forward as in man,
this more forward position is felt to indicate a more upright posture for the
The australopithecines have often been found in association with other animals, such as baboons, and often show evidence of bashed-in skulls. Tools in the form of clubs, knives, and choppers have been found in association, as well as evidence of fire. It might be attractive to assume that the Australopithecines had been the hunters and butchers except that some of their skulls were broken in as well. Were they then the hunters or the hunted? An American journalist met up with Dart who convinced him that the Australopithecines were actually hunting one another. The journalist, Robert Ardrey wrote a book, African Genesis, which popularized the view of the "killer ape." This view was even used in the movie, "2001, A Space Odyssey." Although the view did reach a mild degree of popularity, it has since been widely discredited. 10 It does seem rather hard to imagine how such primitive creatures could actually make all those weapons and use fire as well. Not bad for a primitive man who is still not yet walking completely upright and has a head the size of a chimp (less than 500cc max).
Although modern scientists do generally accept
had a generally upright gait and human-like posture, this notion has not gone
uncontested. Although evolutionists predictably discount Zuckerman's work,
arguing that it is no longer accepted (further discussion of such arguments a
few paragraphs below), one must still at least consider the fact that in the
1950s the famous British anatomist, Lord Solly Zuckerman, aggressively rejected
the notion that
are closely related to humans and completely discounted the notion that they
walked upright like humans.
Rather, Zuckerman suggested that they be classified as apes, not hominids (Evolution
as a Process, 1954):
"There is, indeed, no question which the Australopithecine skull
resembles when placed side by side with specimens of human and living ape
skulls. It is the ape - so much so that only detailed and close scrutiny can
reveal any differences between them".
As for the notion of
"bipedal posture", Zuckerman said:
"In short, the evidence for an erect posture, as derived from a
study of the inanimate bones, seems anything but certain."
Anatomist Dr. Charles Oxnard of the
University of Chicago, who's work modern evolutionists also reject (see below),
claimed in a paper published in a 1975 edition of Nature that:
"Multivariate studies of several
anatomical regions, shoulder, pelvis, ankle, foot, elbow, and hand are now
available for the australopithecines.
These suggest that the common view, that these
fossils are similar to modern man,
may be incorrect. Most of the fossil fragments are in fact uniquely different
from both man and man's nearest living genetic relatives, the chimpanzee and
gorilla (Nature 258:389).
Neither of these investigators, who have spent much of their professional careers studying the Australopithecines, believed that Australopithecines walked upright or that they were generally bipedal. Some have suggested that both Australopithecus africanus and robustus were simply an evolutionary dead end - not ancestral to man.
However, many evolutionists, such as those that frequent Talk.Origins, argue that, "Howell et al. (1978) criticized this conclusion [of Charles Oxnard] on a number of grounds. Oxnard's results were based on measurements of a few skeletal bones which were usually fragmentary and often poorly preserved. The measurements did not describe the complex shape of some bones, and did not distinguish between aspects which are important for understanding locomotion from those which were not. Finally, there is 'an overwhelming body of evidence', based on the work of nearly 30 scientists, which contradicts Oxnard's work. These studies used a variety of techniques, including those used by Oxnard, and were based on many different body parts and joint complexes. They overwhelmingly indicate that australopithecines resemble humans more closely than the living apes."
Perhaps the most significant problem with this argument (discussed in more detail below in the section on "Lucy") comes in the form of Fred Spoor's very interesting computed tomography scan (CT-scan) analysis (1990s) of the preserved inner ear canals of Australopithecus africanus and robustus. Inner ear canals are used to determine orientation in space. In other words, their orientation can be used determine the position of the head and posture. Spoor compared the canals of many living primates, to include humans, with many "hominid" fossils. As it turns out, the canals of Australopithecus africanus and robustus are most similar to the great apes - not modern humans. Spoor and his associates concluded that this finding was consistent with the idea that these creatures were at least partly arboreal and that they "did not walk habitually upright."
Of course, Spoor still believed them to be partly bipedal as well, but suggested that his findings proved that these "hominids" were not obligatory bipeds as humans are, but were instead part-time bipeds at best - certainly not nearly as accomplished at bipedalism as are humans. For example, they would have had a very hard time running on two legs - as is true for apes today.44,65
Consider that this labyrinth evidence goes completely counter to several long-accepted assumptions based on much weaker morphologic characteristics. In fact, this evidence speaks directly counter to the position that H. habilis is a "missing link" - intermediate in the evolution of bipedalism between australopithecines and H. erectus - actually supporting the positions of Zuckerman and Oxnard. Spoor also found extreme differences in the labyrinthine morphology between SK 847 and Stw 53. These two specimens were both classified in the H. habilis species group. However, according to Spoor, SK 847 has a "modern-human-like labyrinth" while "Stw 53 relied less upon bipedal behavior than the australopithecines." 44,65
Talk about confusion! This CT-scan evidence is far more objective than the measurements done by Howell and his colleagues, and it throws their conclusions on their head where many of the previous notions of hominid evolutionary sequence and relationship are at best contradictory. These problems are so bad that perhaps we could write the Australopithecines off entirely as ancestral to modern man if were it not for the current love affair with an Australopithecine named "Lucy." (Back to Top)
In his book "Lucy, The beginnings of Human Kind," Johanson said: "I had no problem with Lucy. She was so odd that there was no question about her not being human. She simply wasn't. She was too little. Her brain was way too small and her jaw was the wrong shape. Her teeth pointed away from the human condition and back in the direction of apes. The jaws had the same primitive features." (see jaw illustration below)
However, what set Lucy apart for Johanson was that it appeared that she had a tendency to walk in an upright position. A monkey that could do this would, for Johanson, clearly be some sort of transitional form between apes and man. The reason for this belief is because Lucy's knee region seemed to match a lone fossilized knee joint that he had found a year earlier in 1973 (locality numbered A.L. 128/129). The earlier knee was from a creature that appeared to walk in an upright fashion. Even though it was located about 2 km away and in a lower strata from that of Lucy, the match between it and the knee region of Lucy seemed to indicate that both individuals walked mostly upright. The logic for this assumption is based on the fact that humans, because of wider hips than knees, have an angle between the upper leg bone (or femur), and the lower leg bone (or tibia). This
Photo by: William Kimbel from ASU
angle of the bones causes an angle of about 9 degrees to form in the knee joint at the junctions of the bones. An ape that walks on all fours does not have this angle. Lucy and the australopithecines have an angle of about 15 degrees. Since this larger angle is somewhat similar
to the human condition,
the obvious assumption is that Lucy spent a lot of time walking upright.21
There is just one more interesting fact though.
Monkeys that climb trees (ie: orangutans and spider monkeys etc.) also
have an angled knee joint like humans. It is the
ground-dwellers that do not have the angle.
So, what happens if Lucy tended to climb trees?
Is there evidence that she did climb trees?
Dave Phillips (a paleoanthropologist) says that A. afarensis in general (Lucy's classification) has long upper limbs with an arm to leg length ratio of approximately 85%. The toe bones are also curved in an ape-like manner. This characteristic curve is not seen in human feet. This seems to indicate that A. afarensis did not habitually walk upright, but rather spent much of their time in trees. Also, studies of the other bones to include hands, skull (inner ears), and even the teeth indicate a fairly strong similarity to apes. 45
1. General anatomy of Lucy's shoulder blade was characterized as "virtually identical to that of a great ape and had a probability less than 0.001 of coming from the population represented by our modern human sample" (Susman et al, 1984, pp 120-121)
2. Lucy's shoulder blade has a shoulder joint which points upwards (Oxnard 1984, p334-i; Stern and Susman 1983, p284) This would allow "use of the upper limb in elevated positions as would be common during climbing behavior" (Stern and Susman, 1983, p284). 5
3. Afarensis wrist bones are apelike. "Thus we may conclude that A. afarensis possessed large and mechanically advantageous wrist flexors, as might be useful in an arboreal setting" (Stern and Susman, 1983, p282).
4. Afarensis metacarpals [the bones in the palm of the hand] "have large heads and bases relative to their parallel sided and somewhat curved shafts an overall pattern shared by chimpanzees". This "might be interpreted as evidence of developed grasping capabilities to be used in suspensory behavior" (Stern and Susman 1983, pp 282-3).
5. The finger bones are even more curved than in chimpanzees and are morphologically chimpanzee-like. (Stern and Susman 1983, pp 282-4; Susman et al 1984 p. 117; Marzke 1983, p 198).
6. Afarensis humerus (upper arm bone) has features that are "most likely related to some form of arboreal locomotion" (Oxnard 1984, p.334-1; see also Senut 1981, p.282).
7. One of the long bones in the forearm, the ulna, resembles that of the pygmy chimpanzee (Feldsman 1982b, p.187).
8. Vertebrae show points of attachment for shoulder and back muscles "massive relative to their size in modern humans" (Cook et al 1983, p.86) These would be very useful for arboreal activity (Oxnard 1984, p 334-i).
9. "Recently Schmid (1983) has reconstructed the A.L. 288-1 rib cage as being chimpanzee-like" Susman et al 1984, p 131).
10. Blades of hip oriented as in chimpanzee (Stern and Susman 1983, p.292.) Features of afarensis hip therefore "enable proficient climbing" (Stern and Susman 1983, p. 290).
11. In 1987, Dr. Charles Oxnard (University of Western Australia) analyzed certain australopithecines (such as Lucy is classed as). He concluded that they were not ancestral to humans, but are instead an extinct form of arboreal ape.6
Of course, this analysis was done before Lucy came on the scene and changed everything.
Emphasis added to the above statements to highlight the tree-climbing characteristics of Australopithecines.
So, it seems like Lucy really did not need or wish to do a lot of walking around on the ground. It seems more likely that she spent much of her time in trees. Since the angle of her knee joint is a key factor in turning her into a "missing link" in human evolution, what happens to this argument when one finds out that such an angled knee joint is owned by tree dwelling chimps? It it not something new. Where is the evolution here?
Of course evolutionists are well aware of these "standard creationist arguments." A common rebuttal is to argue that the authors of many of the comments I just quoted above are themselves believers in Lucy's role as a "missing link" between chimps and humans. Consider the following comments by Stern and Susman:
"In our opinion A. afarensis is very close to what can be called a "missing link". It possesses a combination of traits entirely appropriate for an animal that had traveled well down the road toward full-time bipedality ..." "That bipedality was a more fundamental part of australopithecine behavior than in any other living or extinct nonhuman primate is not in serious dispute." "... we must emphasize that in no way do we dispute the claim that terrestrial bipedality was a far more significant component of the behavior of A. afarensis than in any living nonhuman primate." (Stern, Jr. and Susman 1983)
So, how can Stern and Susman believe that A. afarensis spent so much time running around on two legs after they just detailed many physical attributes of classic tree climbing behavior? Some of the reasons are as follows:
"The most significant features for bipedalism include shortened iliac blades, lumbar curve, knees approaching midline, distal articular surface of tibia nearly perpendicular to the shaft, robust metatarsal I with expanded head, convergent hallux (big toe), and proximal foot phalanges with dorsally oriented proximal articular surfaces. (McHenry 1994)
This is an example of interpreting the same characteristics in different ways. For example, the perpendicular tibia and angled knee joints that are "approaching midline" are seen in modern tree-climbing monkeys. The "robust" first metatarsal with an expanded head is also consistent with Stern and Susman's comment that the hand bones (and reasonable the foot bones as well), "have large heads and bases relative to their parallel sided and somewhat curved shafts, an overall pattern shared by chimpanzees." and that this, "might be interpreted as evidence of developed grasping capabilities to be used in suspensory behavior." This might especially be true if the first digit was favored by Lucy to carry most of her body weight during suspension.
This is an example of picking morphological traits that agree with a favored hypothesis and forgetting about the ones that do not agree or even contradict the hypothesis of the day. For instance, fairly recent papers have been published that suggest that Lucy was in fact a "knuckle walker" like some apes living today.38 Of course knuckle walking is a distinctly quadruped specialization characteristic that is quite different from bipedalism. The authors of this paper, Richmond and Strait, identified four skeletal features of the distal radius of living knuckle-walking apes, chimps and gorillas. What is interesting is that they found similar morphologic features on Lucy as well as on another australopithecine.
"A UPGMA clustering diagram illustrates the similarity between the radii of A. anamensis and A. afarensis and those of the knuckle-walking African apes, indicating that these hominids retain the derived wrist morphology of knuckle-walkers." 38
In an interview, Richmond stated that after they analyzed the wrist characteristics of living knuckle-walkers, he and Strait walked across the hall to check plaster casts at the National Museum of Natural History: "I walked over to the cabinet, pulled out Lucy, and shazam! she had the morphology that was classic for knuckle walkers ." 39 Of course Richmond and Strait still believe that Lucy walked upright despite these knuckle-walking features. They believe that these features are simply evolutionary remnants of past ancestor knuckle walkers but that Lucy herself was bipedal. Some suggest as evidence for this assumption that Lucy lacks certain knuckle-walking features. 39 Of course, there are modern knuckle-walkers that are also known to lack one specific feature or another, but they are still knuckle walkers. 38
It seems now that Lucy was quite an amazing creature. She not only had features of tree-climbing behavior and bipedalism, but now it seems like she has features of knuckle-walkers as well. So, which of these characteristics are the result of lifestyle and which ones are evolutionary carryovers?
Lucy becomes even more problematic when one considers her classic placement in evolutionary phylogeny. Lucy is thought to be an ancestor or early form of A. africanus because of Lucy's more chimpanzee-like skull. The problem is that the foot bones and lower leg of an A. africanus specimen have been recently found. These foot and leg bones happen to be a lot more apelike than the hypothesized foot of Lucy. 40 Also, A. africanus does not have the knuckle-walking morphology that Lucy has. So, depending on what part of the body one concentrates on, one might be able to find evidence for just about any theory of locomotion that one wishes to find. Collard and Aiello, in an article for Nature, commented on this confusing phylogenic mess by saying:
"The work by Richmond and Strait further complicates the picture: it suggests that A. afarensis retained some knuckle-walking features, whereas A. africanus did not. It is no longer a case of the skull pointing to one set of phylogenetic relationships, and the postcranial skeleton (everything but the skull) to another. Rather, different parts of the postcranium may not support the same phylogenetic hypothesis." 40
The anatomy of the semicircular canals of australopithecines is also interesting. The semicircular canals are three small, loop-shaped structures in the inner ear, arranged roughly at right angles to each other. These structures are responsible for giving us our sense of balance by allowing us to orient ourselves with respect to a gravitational field. In the early 1990s, a scientist by the name of Fred Spoor decided to study these canals. He compared the canals of many living primates, to include humans, with some "hominid" fossils. He used a computerized tomography scanner (CT-scanner) to do this. His results were very interesting. The canals of Australopithecus africanus and robustus were most similar to the great apes. Spoor and his associates concluded that this finding was consistent with the idea that these creatures were at least partly arboreal and that they "did not walk habitually upright," but Spoor still believed them to be partly bipedal as well. Spoor believed that his findings proved that these "hominids" were not obligatory bipeds as humans are, but were instead part-time bipeds, and not as accomplished at bipedalism as humans are.44,65 Consider Spoors following comments published in a 1994 issue of the journal Nature:
". . . A. africanus showed a locomotor repertoire comprising facultative bipedalism as well as arboreal climbing. The labyrinthine evidence is consistent with proposals that bipedalism in australopithecines was characterized by a substantial postural component [non-bipedal], and by the absence of more complex movements such as running and jumping.
. . . the similarity with the canal proportions in large cercopithecoids suggests that Stw 53 [Homo habilis - discussed below] relied less on bipedal behaviour than the australopithecines. Interestingly, similar observations were reached from an analysis of the postcranial bones of OH 62, a specimen that has been assigned to the same species as Stw 53 on the basis of similarities of their maxillary and dental morphology. Phylogenetically, the unique labyrinth of Stw 53 represents an unlikely intermediate between the morphologies seen in the australopithecines and H. erectus. . .
The specimen SK 847 has both been associated with H. erectus and H. habilis, in particular with Stw 53. The modern-human-like labyrinth of SK 847 is consistent with the attribution to H. erectus, and the extreme differences in labyrinthine morphology between SK 847 and Stw 53 make attribution of both specimens to the same species, on this evidence alone, highly unlikely. The specimen Sts 19 is part of the conventional A. africanus hypodigm, but has also been considered as a basicranium of early Homo. As the labyrinth of Sts 19 is very similar to that in the other three A. africanus specimens, and major aspects of its overall morphology, such as petrous pyramid orientation and basicranial flexion, can easily be accommodated in normal species variation . . ." 65
Note how this labyrinth evidence goes completely counter to several long accepted assumptions based on much weaker morphologic characteristics. In fact, this evidence speaks directly counter to the position that H. habilis is a "missing link" intermediate in the evolution of bipedalism between australopithecines and H. erectus. Note also the extreme differences in the labyrinthine morphology between SK 847 and Stw 53. These two specimens were both classified in the H. habilis species group. However, according to Spoor, SK 847 has a "modern-human-like labyrinth" while "Stw 53 relied less upon bipedal behaviour than the australopithecines." Also, how can Sts 19 have been considered as a "basicranium of early Homo" with a labyrinth "very similar to the other three A. africanus specimens"? I mean really, an early Homo would most certainly have had well developed bipedalism - right? How then can a specimen classified as "early Homo" have an inner ear labyrinth that is not distinguishable from creatures that did not have well developed bipedalism at all? I ask you, how objectively accurate a "science" can these classification systems be if they can be this far off so many times?
Consider also that perfectly formed human footprints have been found in solidified volcanic ash dating at around "3.6 million years" (See discussion on Ancient Footprints below). These footprints show no evidence of the curved tree-climbing bones of Lucy or of the ape-like toes of A. africanus. The footprints have a well shaped modern heel, strong arches, and a good ball at the base of the great toe. The great toe itself is in a straight line. It does not stick out to the side like an ape toe does. These footprints are in all respects indistinguishable from the footprints of modern humans,23 and yet Johanson claims that Lucy-like creatures (A. afarensis) made these footprints since they are found in ash dated to be about as old or older than Lucy. But where is the evidence for Johanson's claims? The available evidence suggest that A. afarensis could not have made these footprints owning to the fact that they have curved toes. Despite this fact, Johanson continues to be a strong believer that A. afarensis made these footprints anyway. I ask, is this science... or wishful thinking?
It seems like the more is learned about Australopithecus, the more apelike and less like a "missing link" they appear. In fact, as recently as April of 2007, Rak et. al. found a portion of a jawbone of A. afarensis that matched the general appearance of gorillas (and Australopithecus robustus) - a feature not shared by modern humans, chimpanzees, orangutans, and other primates. Rak argues that, "The presence of the morphology in both [A. robustus] and A. afarensis and its absence in modern humans casts doubt on the role of A. afarensis as a modern human ancestor." 75
Of course, only a very few stop to consider the possibility that perhaps there is no evolutionary relationship between humans and apes at all. Perhaps certain of these unique "traits" were designed specifically for particular creatures with particular needs? Perhaps humans did not evolve from apes after all? In any case, it seems like the evidence is far from being conclusively in favor of any particular evolutionary relationship. The unknowns are too great and too much subjective interpretation is required to draw any definite evolutionary conclusions from the fragmented and pieced together bones of Lucy and her cousins. One starts to wonder what evidence it would take to cause the smallest shadow of doubt to creep across the minds of some of these paleontologists as to the veracity of their beliefs?
One other interesting statement by Johanson concerns how he feels at least some of the individuals met their end: "The rapid burial of bones at Hadar, particularly those of the 'First Family,' are related to a geological catastrophe suggesting, perhaps, a flash flood. Bones are fragmented and scattered because individuals fell into a river, or were washed into a river, rapidly transported, broken up, and scattered. These are all products of a depositional process." (The 333, or the 'First Family' locality, as it is sometimes called, at Hadar, is situated stratigraphically between the Lucy site and the 1973 knee joint site.) 21
Homo habilis -- Homo habilis was discovered in 1959 by Mary Leakey and dated at about 1.8 million years old. What she found were some badly fragmented pieces of skull. Her husband, Louis Leakey, was not impressed at first. He commented that it was nothing more than a "damned Australopithecine". However, he quickly changed his mind when what appeared to be stone tools were found near the site of Homo habilis. The bones of many of these animals revealed that they had been butchered and deliberately broken for their marrow. Leakey decided, on the basis of this evidence, that his fossil had been a toolmaker and butcher and thus called him Homo habilis or "handy man." Most other investigators, however, were not comfortable with such an extremely primitive beast being a toolmaker. Like Australopithecus robustus, Leakey's "Homo habilis" had huge and very unhuman molars, a very small brain, and a large bony sagital crest on the top of its skull. Later, Leaky thought better of the whole idea of his "Homo habilis" as a tool maker and demoted him to the classification of Zinjanthropus boisei, which means East African man.
The skull of Zinj is especially robust, sometimes called, "hyper-robust". Notice, in the reconstruction of Zinj, the very wide zygomatic arches, which project forward in front of the nasal opening to form a dish-shaped face (like many apes today). These outward flaring arches provided space for huge temporalis muscles that are used for chewing. In other words, Zinj had a very powerful bite. Zinj's teeth are also massive, sometimes more than 4-times the size of modern human teeth. (Note that the mandible portion of the jaw in the reconstruction was not originally found with Zinj, but is based on subsequent finds of similar individuals).
Although Mary Leaky
found Zinjanthropus, or "Zinj", it made Louis Leakey famous as a
result of the publicity he received from the National Geographic Society through
its magazine and educational films. The National
Geographic Society financed Leakey's work and largely, through their publicity
of Leakey and Zinj, paleoanthropology once again became both popular and
"respectable" after a long period of disrepute following the Piltdown
hoax. Today, Zinjanthropus
is considered by everyone to be just another robust
- just as Lewis Leaky originally said it was.1 0
are considered by many to be hominids because they are believed to have been
bipedal and thus walked upright. Until the 70s, the
upright and bipedal posture was based on the position of the foramen magnum in
the skull and very fragmentary finds of pelvis, limb and foot bones.
Then, Richard Leakey found several more nearly complete remains that threw
considerable doubt on the idea of an upright posture.
In Science News Leakey concluded that, "The
Australopithecines were long-armed short-legged knuckle-walkers, similar to
existing African apes." 12
These setbacks did not stop Leakey. In 1964, he found four more specimens in Olduvai Gorge. These, he claimed, had bigger brains than Australopithecus and surely deserved to be classified as Homo habilis. Measurements of the cranial capacities were difficult since the skulls were so badly crushed. Nonetheless, it was concluded that they averaged 642cc, or 200cc larger than Australopithecus and he considered that enough to make them "Homo." Several such finds are discussed blow.
OH 7 is a collection of 23 fragments of bone to include a jawbone and teeth thought to be from a male hominid who lived some 1.75 million years old. These fragments were also found at Olduvai gorge in Tanzania. The problem, like many of the rest of the other fragmentary evidence, is that there really isn't much to interpret here. And, what there is, looks much more like the ape condition than it does the human condition. Consider that the shape of the jawbone is the ape-like U-shape - not the parabolic human shape.
OH 24 is a pieced together skull of a "female" hominid thought to have lived some 1.8 million years ago. She was given the nickname "Twiggy", after the famous flat-chested British model, because of the compressed and flatted condition of the skull when it was first discovered with its fragments cemented together in limestone. When the hundreds of fragments were pieced together, the size of the brain case was quite large at just under 600cc. Since modern human brains can be this small, the finding of Twiggy, with such a large brain, was thought to be a very good missing link, and gave support to the rather weak classification of OH 7 as "Homo". Also note that more than 100 fragments of skull were not used in the final reconstruction of Twiggy.
KNM-ER 1813 is said to be an adult cranium from an individual who lived some 1.9 million years ago. Some have classified it as Homo habilis, but this classification is controversial. Donal Johanson said, ". . . we have opted to include KNM-ER 1813 in Homo habilis, following the classification of Bernard Wood. Richard Leakey . . . has recently avoided putting a taxonomic label on 1813 other than to say that it should not be called Homo habilis . . . ". 71 The skull capacity is a bit small than that purported for OH 24 (510cc for KNM-ER 1813 vs. just under 600cc for OH 24).
OH 62 has been interpreted as a partial adult skeleton from a hominid who lived about 1.8 million years ago. The initial find was a fragment of proximal right ulna (arm bone). After this, the search for additional parts of this skeleton was on - and quite successful. Over 18,000 fragments of bone and teeth were found over an area of about 40 square meters. Most were classified as non-hominid remains, but 302 fragments were "identified" as belonging to OH 62. I'd say that's quite impressive detective work!
The problem was that even with the 302 fragments available, they were too fragmented to build a cranial vault or skull with any "accuracy". However, portions of the right arm, including most of the humerous and parts of the ulna and radius, as well as portions of the left femur and most of the maxilla (32 original fragments) were reconstructed. From this reconstruction it is estimated that the adult OH 62 stood just one meter is stature - very short for a hominid ancestor. On top of this, OH 62 has very long arms compared to its legs, similar to the ape ratio today. The humerous-femur ratio of OH 62 is 95%, while in apes it is 100% and in modern humans it is 70%.
Such apelike proportions for Homo habilis were quite unanticipated - a bit of a shock actually. If H. habilis was to be considered an ancestor to H. ergaster/erectus by 1.6 million years before present, then not only would body size have to increase rather considerably, but the relationship between upper and lower limbs would also have to change quite dramatically. Would a mere 200,000 years be enough time for such changes to be realized? I mean really, from the evolutionist perspective, 200,000 years just isn't that much time. Even if such changes were possible, such differences between H. habilis and modern humans make it quite difficult to use H. habilis as any sort of convincing "missing link". In fact, the finding of OH 62 has only added to the confusion over how to interpret the very fragmented remains of these "early hominids".
So, obviously, not
everyone was as enthusiastic as Leakey was about his new "handymen."
For a time, Homo habilis was considered an empty taxon that was
The skull capacity was difficult to measure because of the condition of the assemblage, but was estimated to be around 800cc (later lowered to 750cc). This large cranial capacity was much larger than so-called ape-men skulls. Also, KNM-ER 1470 had only small eyebrow ridges, no crest, and a domed skull. These traits were thought to be more typical of the human condition. Indeed, it appeared to have at least four major human-like traits to include:
Large endocranial volume (~800cc)
A high forehead with a dome-shaped cranial vault relative to the fairly flat and low forehead of australopithecines and modern apes
Lack of prominent brow ridges
A "flat" face lacking the usual "protruding prognathous" of australopithecines
As an extra - Associated femur and leg bones very similar to that of modern humans (found a few kilometers away in the same layer)
The problem here, of course, is that the original reconstruction started to be doubted, even by evolutionists, because it did not seem to fit with prevailing beliefs about human origins. Such a modern looking skull, as the original reconstruction of KNM-ER 1470 came out, was being dated at an older age than many other much older looking australopithecines. This just ran at odds with the prevailing paradigm. So, interestingly enough, KNM-ER 1470 began to evolve! In the period between 1977 and 1995 various reconstructions started to emphasize the ape-like characteristics of KNM-ER 1470 more and more and de-emphasize the human characteristics. If you really want to see subjective manipulation at work, consider the following illustrated evolution of the profile of KNM-ER 1470 over the years.61
Notice how the reconstruction of this fossil skull evolved based on subjective interpretations of where this fossil should fit in the evolutionary tree. Also note that Richard Leakey himself revised his original reconstruction by 1995. As it turns out, the 1992 reconstruction by Tim Bromage, an expert in hominid bone development, is probably the most objective reconstruction of all. Before beginning his study of 1470, Bromage expected to find that 1470 was probably going to be similar to Dart's famous "Taung child". But to his surprise, he found that the deposition and resorption patterns of bone growth of the 1470 skull were typical of monkeys and apes. Bromage explained that when 1470 was first reconstructed that its face was fitted to the cranium almost vertically - giving it a more human-like appearance. Yet, Bromage's studies demonstrated that the face really jutted out considerably, much like australopithecines.61,63 In the 1992 issue of New Scientist, Bromage noted the following about KNM-ER 1470:
"When it [KNM-ER 1470] was first reconstructed, the face was fitted to the cranium in an almost vertical position, much like the flat faces of modern humans. But recent studies of anatomical relationships show that in life the face must have jutted out considerably, creating an ape-like aspect, rather like the faces of Australopithecus." 63
Of course, Bromage does not totally reject Skull 1470 as possibly belonging to the genus Homo, but this opinion seems to be mostly based on the larger size of the skull in comparison with other australopithecines. Yet, it is also possible that the latest estimates of 752 cm3 may still be too large for Skull 1470 - given the view of its more enhanced "ape-like" skull morphology and its long forward-jutting jaws and non-existent forehead. Considering the subjective nature of interpreting this skull and its changing reconstructions over time, it seems less than solid to hold it up as any sort of definite "missing link" between apes and humans - especially given the rather marked similarities of KNM-ER 1470 with the Turkana Boy skull, which was found in the very same region (see below)
In any case, it is interesting to see how scientists interpreted and reinterpreted this skull over the past 30 years. For example, Professor A. Cave, who first suggested that Neanderthal Man was completely human, examined 1470 in London and concluded, "As far as I can see, typically human." In addition, Leakey found two complete femurs, a part of a third femur, and parts of a tibia and fibula near the skull, which he said, "cannot be readily distinguished from Homo sapiens."10 However, as previously discussed, the problem for 1470 being interpreted as completely human, even at with its original construction, was its relatively small brain size of only 750cc - which is too small for humans and yet very large for an ape. Modern humans average about 1350cc. Some scientists suggested early on that 1470 might have been a human child. But, it was argued that although the cranium was small, that the face is relatively large and developed and therefore unlikely that of a child. Some others argued that it may have been a pygmy human since the lowest known cranial capacity for a non-pathologic human is 790cc7 and that pygmies also have other similar facial features such as jutting teeth and face and a relatively small chin. 18
The Dating Game
Then, of course, the biggest problem was the fact that 1470 did not fit the dating scheme of the day. The skull itself was found under a layer of volcanic ash. Since volcanic material can be dated using potassium-argon and other radiometric dating techniques, it was reasonably thought that the skull itself should be as old or older than this ash. Richard Leakey had assumed an age of approximately 2.9 million years (Ma) for KNM-ER 1470. If supported by radiometric analysis, this age would make him the discover of the oldest hominid fossil found up to that time. Certainly this would be quite a feather in his cap. However, in 1969 (a few years before KNM-ER 1470 was actually found in 1972) samples of ash from the overlying KBS tuff had been sent sent to Cambridge University for potassium-argon dating. Three different tests returned an age of about 220 Ma, (Fitch & Miller 1970, Nature 226:226-8)13,62 which would certainly make this hominid discovery very old indeed! Of course, this was impossible and thus obviously wrong given the presence of Australopithecine hominids and other mammalian fossils beneath the tuff. So, these errors were blamed on inappropriate sampling or extraneous argon age discrepancy. It was also noted that the dating of the tuff was complicated because the tuff was a water-transported mixture.
Eventually, however, the tuff was "securely dated" to around 2.6 million years by other "independent methods" to include the following:
Vertebrate faunas -- Elephant, Suid (pig), Australopithecus, and tools (Maglio, 1972; Nature 239:379-85, Leaky, 1967-69, etc.)
Potassium-Argon dating -- selected crystals (K-Ar and Ar40-Ar39) (Fitch & Miller '70, Nature 226:226-8 and see 251:214)
Paleomagnetism -- polarity data, based on 247 samples below KBS tuff (Brock & Isaac, 1974, Nature 247:344-48)
Fission Track Dating -- involving uranium, noting possible reanealing (Hurford, 1974, Nature 249:236; '76, 263:738)
Other anthropologists, notably
Johanson's team at Berkeley, couldn't accept any claim of such modern hominids
in strata dated almost 3 million years old. They tried to re-date the KBS tuff.
It was a complex problem because the tuff is a slurry of volcanic debris. But
they did find and publish a date that was suitable to them: 1.8 million years,
Hominid Fossils -- Skull 1470 and other similar skulls below KBS tuff
Potassium-Argon (K-Ar) -- on pumice from the KBS tuff and Ar-Ar -- on selected feldspar crystals (Ar40-Ar39) (Curtis et al,1975, Nature 258:395 (& see 284:229,230 & 294:123)
Then in the late 1970's, a remarkable
thing happened. One by one (with much heated controversy apparent in the papers)
the other "independent methods" re-evaluated their work in light of the new
radiometric date, and confirmed the new age:
Paleomagnetism -- pinpointing a different polarity reversal, in light of the change in the K-Ar date (Hillhouse et al, 1977, Nature 265:411)
Vertebrate Faunas -- three suid (pig) species (based on teeth) suggesting possible phylogenetic branching and its timing in relationship to the new radiometric date (Cooke, 1978; Science 201:460-63 (&198:13-21)
Fission Track Dating -- (U-238 in zircon) emphasizing re-annealing, in light of the change in the accepted K-Ar date (Gleadow, 1980, Nature 284:229-230)
By 1980 there was a new
"remarkably concordant" well-accepted radiometric date.
Many more dates than those mentioned here were obtained by radiometric methods, but the choice of which one to accept was made on the basis of the fossils, because the acceptable range of dates for each fossil form was known (by evolutionary theory). At each change, the authors may well have sincerely felt that they were separating truth from error, but how did they know whether a newly calculated date (1.8 or 2.6 or 200 million) was right or wrong? - outside of knowing, ahead of time, the general range of dates that would be at least 'reasonable'?
You see, if the deposit had Australopithecines in it, it obviously could not be 200 million years old, but 2.6 million was close enough to what was expected to be considered "correct". However, when it was found that the layer contained even more modern looking hominid skulls, even the 2.6 Ma estimate could not be correct either. That is why this date was subsequently revised to 1.8 Ma.
So, it was the fossils that gave the constraints for the dates -- or, rather, the accepted evolutionary age of the fossils was the criterion that gave the constraints for the acceptable geologic age of the strata. When the known fossil data changed (along with their corresponding acceptable ages), the acceptable age for the age of the geologic strata also changed accordingly.
This is a clear case where the assumed ages of the fossils (ages based on evolutionary assumptions) strongly influence the accepted ages of the geologic strata that contain the fossils. Doesn't this seem just a little bit circular?
Is this an isolated case? Not at all. In studies where a range of dates is obtained, the ones in the right ball park are presented, giving the limits of what is assumed to be the correct age, and the anomalous ones (if mentioned at all) are explained in terms of mixing of sediments, extra Argon retention, leaching, and other very plausible processes. The explanations for anomalously old or anomalously young ages may be quite accurate. On the other hand, these arguments may just as reasonably apply to the accepted ages as well. If no acceptable age is found, the results may not be published at all.
My point is that the accepted ("non-anomalous") age is the age within the timeframe set by evolutionary theory. So it is evolutionary theory that dictates which radiometric and other dating results will be acceptable to publish as the age for a fossil.
To go into a bit more detail, consider further the
argument that the KBS Tuff is an example of the redeposition of volcanic ash. Therefore, the old dates returned
by the Cambridge laboratory on three different occasions were thought to be the
result of analysis of old sediment that had been mixed in with the new and
deposited atop the relatively young fragments of KNM-ER 1470.
Because of this argument, it was recommended that new samples be
collected from which suitable individual crystals could be separated. These new
samples were dated at 2.61 +/- 0.26 Ma, based on the 40Ar/39Ar
("Argon-Argon") dating method (thought to be more accurate than the original
- Argon dating technique).13 However,
over the following decade, the rocks surrounding 1470 were dated
many times using various methods - to include the
40Ar/39Ar method. The
different tests gave widely varying results. For example, two
specimens from the same layer were analyzed by the same people (Fitch and
Miller) using the same technique during the same analysis. One specimen was
dated at 0.52 to 2.64 Ma. The other was dated at 8.43 to 17.5 Ma. 24, 62
This, of course, did not impress Richard Leakey. In June of 1973, in an interview with National Geographic, he said,
"Either we toss out the 1470 skull or we toss out all our theories of early man. It simply fits no previous models of human beginnings. 1470 leaves in ruin the notion that all early fossils can be arranged in an orderly sequence of evolutionary changes."
What was the problem? The problem, given the age of 2.61 Ma, made 1470 contemporaneous with Australopithecus, if not older, and yet 1470 was assembled by Leakey's wife to looked quite similar to modern man. Given such a reconstruction, this human-like appearance absolutely unseated Australopithecus as an ancestor of modern man.
In later lectures, Richard Leakey rarely made reference to 1470. However, in a PBS documentary in 1990 he stated,
"If pressed about man's ancestry, I would have to unequivocally say that all we have is a huge question mark. To date, there has been nothing found to truthfully purport as a transitional specie to man, including Lucy, since 1470 was as old and probably older. If further pressed, I would have to state that there is more evidence to suggest an abrupt arrival of man rather than a gradual process of evolving." 10
Now that is a very startling statement coming from a man who has devoted his whole life to finding the evolutionary remnants along the pathway towards modern humans.
The human-like appearance of 1470 coupled with its age of 2.6 Ma was also a very big problem for Johanson who considered his A. afarensis (Lucy) to be an important evolutionary link between apes and man. With a more human appearing 1470 around that was either a contemporary of A. afarensis, or even slightly older (an age range for Lucy of 2.5 to 3.7 Ma), his fossil was unlikely to be directly ancestral to man. So, Johanson wished to have 1470 "re-dated" - obviously! Why didn't anyone else think of it?
Lucy herself had been dated by several radiometric methods whose published results varied from 2.5 to 3.7 Ma. The age of 2.9 Ma had been chosen as the most probable age. So, Johanson asked for the help of Basil Cooke, who had assembled a detailed two million year sequence of fossil pig lineages which he says was consistent over a wide geographical area. This data was based on what was assumed to be a constant but rapid rate of evolution in length of the third molar of certain pig fossils found in southern Ethiopia. These "index pigs" were used to re-date Leakey's 1470 at less than 2 Ma (~1.8 Ma), which placed it on the desired human side of Lucy. Then, Johanson decided to date Lucy again in an effort to see if he could make her a little older. In his book â€œLucy, The Beginnings of Human Kind,â€ Johanson said, â€œThat meant turning to Basil Cooke and his pig sequences. These had already straightened out a dating puzzle at Lake Turkana and shoved Richard Leakey's 1470 H. habilis skull forward from 2.6 Ma to less than 2.0 Ma. Perhaps they could do it for Lucy too. But, in this case, they would be stretching her age not shrinking.â€ Needless to say, Cooke came through as expected and said that his pig sequence showed that, "an age of 3.0 - 3.4 Ma would give a better fit than the previous 2.9 Ma age for Lucy."10
To make matters even more confusing, Garnis Curtis, at Berkeley, has used potassium-argon dating on the KBS tuff and came up with younger dates yet. His first series of tests showed it to be 1.8 myo and his second series of tests showed it to be 1.6 Ma. Note that initial fission track studies of zircons from the KBS tuff indicated an age of 2.44 +/- 0.08 Ma (Hurford et al. 1976). Compare this with subsequent fission track studies of zircons in the same tuff returning dates of 1.87 +/- 0.04 Ma (Gleadow 1980). Another expert, Ian McDougall, was also called in to do independent dating. Knowing about the controversy and what the desired date should be ahead of time, it is not at all surprising that McDougall came up with an age of 1.89 +/- 0.01 Ma using K-Ar dating and 1.88 +/- 0.02 Ma using 40Ar/39Ar dating (McDougall et al. 1980; McDougall 1981, 1985).72 It just doesn't seem like blinded studies are very popular when it comes to geochronology. It's almost like geologists and anthropologists have never heard of blinded studies.
Dalrymple and Lanphere sum up what might be considered just a bit circular in the following statement:
"If the potassium-argon ages of a group of rocks agree with the stratigraphic sequence, determined on the basis of physical relationships of fossil evidence, then the probability is good that radiometric ages are reliable..."14
Ancient Bones with Modern Bones?
Now, we must not forget about the human-like femur that was associated with KNM-ER 1470, even though located several kilometers away from the skull fragments. Although this femur and leg bones "did not differ from those of modern humans in any feature related to movement or posture", they were associated with 1470 simply because they were found in the same layer.66,67 Obviously it is impossible to have modern humans living with H. habilis creatures since modern humans had not evolved yet - right? And yet we know now, through the discovery of more reliable indicators of general posture, that many creatures designated as H. habilis, to include KNM-ER 1470, were not even close to the modern-human bipedal posture. So, what is a modern-human-looking femur and leg bone fragments doing in the same layer as a creature that we know did not habitually walk in an upright manner?
Remember the work of Dr. Spoor on the inner ear labyrinths of H. habilis specimens and his conclusion (based on the angle of these labyrinths as compared with modern humans, H. erectus, Australopithecus, and many other hominids) that H. habilis "relied less on bipedal behavior than the australopithecines"? Other specimens, such as SK 847, have been grossly misclassified, based on weaker morphologic evidence, as somewhere between H. erectus and H. habilis when there is an "extreme difference" between the "modern-human-like labyrinth of SK 847 and the australopithecine labyrinth of Stw 53" (i.e., H. habilis).65 I wonder what the inner ear canals of KNM-ER 1470 would look like?
How bad do such morphologic interpretations have to get before we start to suspect that the storytelling of anthropologists about the supposed evolution of humans from ape-like
creatures is not worth the paper that it is written down on? Isn't it all starting to sound like a lot of fanciful storytelling?
(Back to Top)
A Subjective Mess
Obviously this whole issue of the placement of KNM-ER 1470 in the evolutionary sequence of hominids has turned out to be quite a subjective mess for anthropologists. In fact recently Bernard Wood and Mark Collard published some rather revealing if not humorous conclusions in the April, 1999 issue of Science where they actually suggest that the "Homo" genus is "not a good genus" as it currently stands and that some of the oldest and most significant fossils assigned to Homo, to include both H. habilis and H. rudolfensis, should be "transferred to the genus Australopithecus" :
"More recently, fossil species have been assigned to Homo on the basis of absolute brain size, inferences about language ability and hand function, and retrodictions about their ability to fashion stone tools. With only a few exceptions, the definition and use of the genus within human evolution, and the demarcation of Homo, have been treated as if they are unproblematic. But ... recent data, fresh interpretations of the existing evidence, and the limitations of the paleoanthropological record invalidate existing criteria for attributing taxa to Homo....in practice fossil hominin species are assigned to Homo on the basis of one or more out of four criteria. ... It is now evident, however, that none of these criteria is satisfactory. The Cerebral Rubicon is problematic because absolute cranial capacity is of questionable biological significance. Likewise, there is compelling evidence that language function cannot be reliably inferred from the gross appearance of the brain, and that the language-related parts of the brain are not as well localized as earlier studies had implied...
In other words, with the hypodigms of H. habilis and H. rudolfensis assigned to it, the genus Homo is not a good genus. Thus, H. habilis and H. rudolfensis (or Homo habilis sensu lato for those who do not subscribe to the taxonomic subdivision of "early Homo") should be removed from Homo. The obvious taxonomic alternative, which is to transfer one or both of the taxa to one of the existing early hominin genera, is not without problems, but we recommend that, for the time being, both H. habilis and H. rudolfensis should be transferred to the genus Australopithecus." 64
Even more recently, as of August 2007, the journal Nature published the latest discoveries of Meave Leakey and her team, to include Frederick Kyalo Manthi. In short, they found the complete skull of Homo erectus within walking distance of an upper jaw of Homo habilis (in 2000), with both dating from the same general time period. According to their own report, they concluded that this finding makes it "unlikely that Homo erectus evolved from Homo habilis."74
Co-author Fred Spoor, professor of evolutionary anatomy at the University College in London commented:
"The two species lived near each other, but probably didn't interact, each having its own "ecological niche," Homo habilis was likely more vegetarian while Homo erectus ate some meat, he said. Like chimps and apes, "they'd just avoid each other, they don't feel comfortable in each other's company. There remains some still-undiscovered common ancestor that probably lived 2 million to 3 million years ago, a time that has not left much fossil record. Overall what it paints for human evolution is a chaotic kind of looking evolutionary tree rather than this heroic march that you see with the cartoons of an early ancestor evolving into some intermediate and eventually unto us." 74
Bill Kimbel, science director of the Institute of Human Origins at Arizona State University, notes:
"The more we know, the more complex the story gets. Scientists used to think Homo sapiens evolved from Neanderthals, he said. But now we know that both species lived during the same time period and that we did not come from Neanderthals. Now a similar discovery applies further back in time." 74
Another co-author, Susan Anton, a New York University anthropologist, she expects anti-evolution proponents to seize on the new research, but said it would be a mistake to try to use the new work to show flaws in evolution theory.
"This is not questioning the idea at all of evolution; it is refining some of the specific points," Anton said. "This is a great example of what science does and religion doesn't do. It's a continuous self-testing process." 74
And there you have it. The Theory of Evolution is a self-testing process as long as it never crosses one's mind to question or subject the basic theory itself to testing and potential falsification. Despite their claims to the contrary, evolutionary scientists, like people in general, are quite biased, even dogmatic and religiously fundamental, in their thinking. Question and challenge anything and everything except the one holy untouchable doctrine - The Doctrine of Darwinian-style Evolution itself. If the puzzle pieces don't fit, change, warp, and twist the theory until they do. It doesn't seem to matter what kind of evidence presents itself, evolutionists have an uncanny ability to continually modify their theory to meet the new data.
The Theory of Evolution is a truly wonderful theory - a theory that is so fluid that it can explain any and all data, not matter how contrary to previous notions of reality. Oh no, creationists and intelligent design theorists have nothing on evolutionists when it comes to subjective manipulation of a pet theory to fit whatever comes along.
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But, there's just one more interesting thought to consider. Remember that another famous skull was found in this Lake Turkana region. That's right KNM-ER 1470 was found in this same region. Notice the striking similarities when the reconstruction of KNM-ER 1470 is put side-to-side with the Turkana Boy skull (see below). Now isn't that just most interesting? - or is it just me?
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An almost complete skullcap was discovered in 1929 in a filled-in limestone cave near Peking, China (now Beijing). This ape-like skullcap was similar to Java man. The cave continued to be investigated until the beginning of World War II. (All original fossil remains have since been lost in transport to America to "save them" from the Japanese invasion of WWII. However, some relatively good casts of portions of skulls remain.) Fragments of 14 skulls, 12 lower jaws and 147 teeth were found. Also, several skeletons of "Homo erectus" were found slightly higher (Not called Homo sapien only because of their assumed ages of > 1my even though very similar to modern man). Once again, bone fragments were assembled from various places to form a skull where the jawbone came from a level 85 feet higher than the skullcap and face bones. After hiring a sculptor to model a woman's face from the made-up skull, the result was named "Nellie." The very "attractive" Nellie has appeared in almost all modern textbooks concerning the evolution of man.10
most complete fossils found in the cave, all of which were braincases or
Skull III, discovered at Locus E in 1929 is an adolescent or juvenile with a brain size of
Skull II, discovered at
Locus D in 1929 but only recognized in 1930, is an adult or adolescent with a
brain size of 1030 cc.
Skulls X, XI and XII (sometimes called LI, LII and LIII) were discovered at Locus L in 1936. They are thought to belong to an adult man, an adult woman and a young adult, with brain sizes of 1225 cc, 1015 cc and 1030 cc respectively. (Weidenreich 1937)
Skull V: two cranial fragments were discovered in 1966, which fit with
(casts of) two other fragments found in 1934 and 1936 to form much of a skullcap
with a brain size of 1140 cc. These pieces were found at a higher level, and
appear to be more modern than the other skullcaps. They were given a different
name of "Upper Cave Man". (Jia and Huang 1990)
At the site where "she" was found there were also numerous stone tools and evidence of butchery and fires. Recently, Chinese scientists have found over 1,000 stone tools, the skulls of over 100 modern day animals, and 6 modern human skulls (Upper Cave Man). The skulls and many fragments showed evidence of being at least possibly shattered or broken-in at the occipital area. Perhaps humans were butchering and eating apes? Perhaps, but some argue that this area is the weakest area of the skull. Therefore, the finding of shattered occipital regions it is not proof of butchery.
In addition, a layer of ashes nearly three meters thick
Even so, little consideration seems to be given to the possible creation
of fires and tools by actual Homo sapiens.10 Once again, it is felt that since most of the skulls
seem to have been very large, and similar to Java Man and other Homo
Erectus fossils, that these must be intermediates to humans? despite the
many similarities to apes, which, according to Boule and Vallois,
include three jaw characteristics of apes and one of human and
three teeth characteristics of apes and one of human.22
Again, knowing that many modern animals have gigantic counterparts in the
fossil record, this might be like saying that a Great Dane is an intermediate
between a Chihuahua and a horse. There might be more
anatomic similarities including larger head and cranium and even shape of head?
but what does this prove?
Do the similarities in anatomy prove this theory of dog-horse evolution
and negate the differences in anatomy? Beginning
with the idea that modern apes start out with a great deal of similarities to
modern humans, establishing an evolutionary connection without living specimens
and on fragmentary fossil evidence, involves at best, more than its fair share
of guesswork and just-so story telling. In fact,
this sort of story telling sounds very similar to the stories of the "First
Frenchmen" that were invented to explain the various remains and artifacts found
in different layers at
In fact, this sort of story telling sounds very similar to the stories of the "First Frenchmen" that were invented to explain the various remains and artifacts found in different layers atFont飨evade Cave (see story below). (Back to Top)
The actual story begins shortly after Darwin published his "On
the Origin of the Species."
A Dutch physician named Eugene Dubois, who greatly desired to find the
"missing link" between apes and man, went in search of Haechel's "Pithecanthropus" in Sumatra. (Dubois had been a student of Ernst
Haeckel who is famous for his "Biogenetic Law," which stated that the human
embryo went through the sequential evolutionary stages of its ancestors.
It is now well known that this is far from true.
What else is well known is that Haeckel falsified much of his data.)
Having failed to get financial assistance from the Dutch government,
Dubois enlisted as a surgeon in the Royal Dutch Army in order to be stationed in
Sumatra. While in Sumatra, he heard about a skull
found on the nearby island of Java.
He was able to secure the skull and even found another like it at the
same location. However, these skulls were too human
looking to be of any use to someone looking for an ape-man.
In 1891, he found a molar tooth along the Solo River.
Later the same year, he found another molar and an ape-like skullcap. The
following year he found a human femur some yards from where he found the
Although at first he thought it was a chimpanzee skull, after consulting
with Haeckel, he declared the whole collection to belong to one and the same
creature, stating that it was "admirably suited to the role of missing link."
This missing link
arrived just in time to salvage Darwin's theory, as it was under fire because of
the total lack of transitional fossil evidence. By
joining an ape skull with a human femur he had truly created an ape-man. He
originally claimed that the stratum he was working in was Pliocene but after
discovering his ape-man, he decided it was really tertiary.10
Through association of a human-like femur with a very large gibbon-like
skullcap, Dubois created "Java Man."
The leg bone was almost certainly that of a modern human.
The skullcap is still hotly debated as that of an extinct gibbon-like
creature or of a human ancestor. One important fact
is that the association of the femur (found a year later and twelve meters away)
and skullcap is not scientifically justified.
It was in recognition of this fact that the restoration of Java Man, paid
for by Ernst Haeckel, was removed from the Leiden Museum to its basement and in
the mid 1980s. The exhibit of Java Man was also
removed from public display in the American Museum of Natural History.7
Dr Rudolph Virchow, Director of the Berlin Society for Anthropology and founder
of the science of pathology, examined Dubois' fossils and wrote, "The skull has
a deep suture between the low vault and the upper edge of the orbits.
Such a suture is found only in apes, not in man.
Thus the skull must belong to an ape.
In my opinion this creature was an animal, a giant gibbon in fact.
The thigh bone has not the slightest connection with the skull."
Eugene Dubois himself appears to have never given up the idea that his "giant gibbon" was an intermediate between the gibbon and man. Some today continue to hold onto Java Man as an intermediate. It is argued that Java Man had an intermediate brain size much larger than that of a modern gibbon (940cc vs. 100cc) and yet smaller than that of an average modern man (1350cc). It is also said that Java Man obviously walked upright and is therefore an intermediate. How is it so clear that Java Man walked upright (bipedal) when all there is, is a skull cap? Well, it is said that the skullcap is very similar to the skullcap of another "Homo Erectus" skeleton (WT15000) among several others. Since it is generally agreed that WT15000 walked upright, then obviously Java Man walked upright too. Despite the fact that there exists, in the fossil record, evidences of huge animals with much larger heads and brains than their modern day counterparts, it is still suggested that such a large gibbon could not possibly have been - Just a gibbon. (Back to Top)
In 1856, in the Neander Valley of Germany, a schoolteacher, Johann Fuhlrott, found a skeleton that consisted of a skullcap, thighbones, part of a pelvis, some ribs, and some arm and shoulder bones in a small cave at Feldhofer. The lower left arm had been broken in life, and as a result the bones of the left arm were smaller than those of the right. A careful examination and description by Professor Schaafhausen reported them to be human and normal. Two years later, two similar skulls were found in Belgium. Subsequently, over 60 parts of skeletons were found in eleven different countries. (They are still being found today). 10
In 1908, Professor Boule of The
Institute of Human Paleontology in Paris declared Neanderthal an ape-man because
of his low eyebrow ridges and the stooped over posture of some of the specimens.
This was to shape opinion and teaching for most of the 20th century.
However, in 1950,
things began to change.
An embarrassing fact came out. Neanderthal man's
average brain capacity was larger than modern man's by over 200 cc's.
Some also claim that
Neanderthal man, at least the stooped over ones, suffered from acute
Many Neanderthal skeletons have been found now, and
not just a few here and there.
In 1872 Dr. Rudolph Virchow, the father of pathology, claimed that these
skeletons were nothing more than modern man with rickets and arthritis.
In 1957 anatomists Straus and Cave released a comprehensive study of
Neanderthal and concluded that the toes were not prehensile, the pelvic
structure was not at all ape-like, and the bones all showed strong evidence of
severe arthritis. In 1970, medical specialist,
Ivanhoe, showed a vitamin-D deficiency in all Neanderthal samples.
This he surmised was the cause of the severe arthritis.
Dr. C. Coring Brace stated that, "West European Neanderthal Man is simply
today's West Europeans." The Chicago Field Museum has
since put in a newer exhibition of Neanderthal man looking more fully
Modern science has finally come up with a ready answer for their problems with Neanderthal man. He was an "evolutionary dead-end." 10
There are many scientists who say that Neandertal Man did not actually have rickets, and that pathology was not responsible for their most unique characteristics such as brow ridges, low vaulted craniums, and very strong stocky builds which separate them from any known ethnic group living today. Here is a list of the most distinct characteristics:
The skull is lower, broader, and elongated in contrast to the higher doming of a modern skull.
The average brain size (cranial capacity) is larger than the average modern human by almost 200 cubic centimetres.
The forehead is low, with heavy brow ridges curving over each eye.
There is a slight projection at the rear of the skull (occipital bun).
The cranial wall is thick compared to modern humans.
The facial architecture is heavy, with the mid-face and the upper jaw projecting forward (prognathism).
The nose is prominent and broad.
The frontal sinuses are expanded.
The lower jaw is large and lacks a definite chin.
The body bones are heavy and thick and the long bones somewhat curved.
Judging from the very wide varieties of ethnic groups living today, especially the more inbred ones, such characteristics are not too difficult to explain by simple ethnicity which has since been lost or bred out in modern Europeans. Many modern cultures have had extreme anatomical features. With subsequent cultural intermixing, such distinguishing features have often been lost. So, unique anatomical features do not necessitate Neanderthal Man as being separate from Homo Sapiens. In fact, Thomas Huxley himself seemed to recognize this problem. Donald Johanson wrote something very interesting about what Huxley did in setting up a sequence of modern skulls to link Neanderthals to modern humans.
"From a collection of modern human skulls Huxley was able to select a series with features leading 'by insensible gradations' from an average modern specimen to the Neandertal skull. In other words, it wasn't qualitatively different from present-day Homo Sapiens." 26
This series of skulls could easily be set up today. Obviously therefore, there is no clear or consistent morphologic difference between Neanderthals and ourselves. Any variation can be selected out and categorized according to arbitrary rules, but such categories do not necessitate evolutionary relationships any more than ethnic variations that exist today suggest such relationships.
Then there is the argument of Neanderthal DNA. On July 11, 1997, the announcement was made in the journal Cell that Neanderthal mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) had been successfully recovered and sequenced by Svante PÃ¤Ã¤bo and his team.25 Of course there were statistical differences between Neanderthal DNA and the DNA of modern humans. These differences were used to calculate the evolutionary divergence of Neanderthals from a common ancestor to around 550,000 to 690,000 years ago. It is thought that Neanderthals then became extinct without contributing mtDNA to the modern human genome. In other words, Neanderthals were just one of many offshoots or splinter groups that became extinct but who were not direct links to modern humans in our evolutionary branch.
However, there are just a few problems with this theory. One problem has come to the forefront with movies such as Jurassic Park and with the publicity of the O.J. Simpson murder trial where DNA technology played a prominent role. Some problems that were brought more clearly to light by these media events is that DNA does not last very long. It breaks down fairly rapidly depending on environmental factors. Even under the most favorable conditions, many scientists believe that DNA cannot remain identifiably intact beyond a few tens of thousands of years. 27,28 In light of this fact, it is unlikely that very many Neanderthal skeletons would contain intact DNA, even with such relatively "young" remains dating to between 30,000 and 50,000 years. The common explained solution to this problem is that in certain environments, especially very dry and cold environments, DNA can last much longer than it can in warm wet environments. However, even in these "protective" environments, DNA still breaks down at a fairly rapid rate. The rate is so rapid in fact that few scientists believe that it could last much beyond 50,000 years. Because of these decay problems, the reports of DNA being recovered from insects trapped in amber that is millions of years old are now being called into serious question.29 In any case, even for Neanderthal bones that are thought to be fairly "young", finding DNA that can still be sequenced is turning out to be quite a rare find indeed. Because of this problem, repeatability is becoming a real issue in the study of Neanderthal DNA. As it turns out, mtDNA recovery from Neanderthals has only been done three times. Others have found it very difficult to repeat PÃ¤Ã¤bo's results. Since the scientific method is based on repeatability, the whole issue of Neanderthal mtDNA and its implications comes into question. Consider the following comment from PÃ¤Ã¤bo himself:
"Preserved Neandertal DNA is likely to be rare, and the DNA in the type specimen [the 1856 Neander Valley Neandertal fossil] may result from its unique preservation conditions. Most Neandertal specimens are therefore unlikely to contain amplifiable DNA." 30
Despite these problems, PÃ¤Ã¤bo et al. seemed to have finally overcome them in 1997 when they sequenced the very first mtDNA isolated from a Neanderthal skeleton (Note: The fact that a given cell has many more copies of mitochondrial DNA than the single copy of nuclear DNA (nucDNA) is suggested as a reason why mtDNA might be a bit easier to isolate than nucDNA). PÃ¤Ã¤bo and his team presented their findings as follows:
"The Neandertal sequence was compared to 994 contemporary human mitochondrial lineages, i.e., distinct sequences occurring in one or more individuals, found in 478 Africans, 510 Europeans, 494 Asians, 167 Native Americans and 20 individuals from Australia and Oceania. Whereas these modern human sequences differ among themselves by an average of 8.0 (range 1-24) substitutions, the difference between the humans and the Neandertal sequence is 27.2 (range 22-36) substitutions. Thus, the largest difference observed between any two human sequences was two substitutions larger than the smallest difference between a human and the Neandertal." 25
The conclusions drawn were as follows:
"When the comparison was extended to 16 common chimpanzee lineages, the number of positions in common among the human and chimpanzee sequences was reduced to 333. This reduced the number of human lineages to 986. The average number of differences among humans is 8.0 (range 1-24), that between humans and the Neandertal, 25.6 (range 20-34), and that between humans and chimpanzees, 55.0 (range 46-67). Thus, the average number of mtDNA sequence differences between modern humans and the Neandertal is about three times that among humans, but about half of that between modern humans and modern chimpanzees.
To estimate the time when the most recent ancestral sequence common to the Neandertal and modern human mtDNA sequences existed, we used an estimated divergence date between humans and chimpanzees of 4-5 million years ago and corrected the observed sequence differences for multiple substitutions at the same nucleotide site. This yielded a date of 550,000 to 690,000 years before present for the divergence of the Neandertal mtDNA and contemporary human mtDNAs. When the age of the modern human mtDNA ancestor is estimated using the same procedure, a date of 120,000 to 150,000 years is obtained, in agreement with previous estimates. Although these dates rely on the calibration point of the chimpanzee-human divergence and have errors of unknown magnitude associated with them, they indicate that the age of the common ancestor of the Neandertal sequence and modern human sequences is about four times greater than that of the common ancestor of modern human mtDNAs.
The Neandertal mtDNA sequence thus supports a scenario in which modern humans arose recently in Africa as a distinct species and replaced Neandertals with little or no interbreeding." 25
If mtDNA was in fact isolated from the Neanderthal bones, these conclusions might seem reasonable until one considers a few more facts. The Cell article itself noted that the range of sequence differences for modern human mtDNA goes from 1 to 24 with an average of 8 substitutions. The mtDNA sequence differences between modern humans and the single Neanderthal fossil range from 22 to 36 substitutions, with the average being 27. In other words, the two most different humans analyzed in this study, as far as mtDNA substitutions are concerned, are different by 24 substitutions. The closest that any human in this study was to the single specimen of Neanderthal mtDNA was 22 substitutions. This means that there are some people living today that are closer to Neanderthals in their mtDNA sequencing than they are to some other modern human beings. Someone might be found to be only 22 substitutions away from our Neanderthal, but 24 substitutions away from his own next-door neighbor. Interesting isn't it? If Neanderthals are classed as separate species because of these differences, which one of our modern human volunteers should be classify as a separate species? Perhaps the one who was only 22 substitutions different from the Neanderthal? Or, maybe his next-door neighbor who is 24 substitutions away from his neighbor as well as 22 substitutions away from our Neanderthal friend? I mean, some of us might have neighbors that look like Neanderthals (or maybe we might look like Neanderthals compared to our neighbors), but can a different species really be assumed based on a difference of 20-some substitutions in a particular hypervariable region of DNA?
"The computation of pairwise distances between the 171 randomly selected sequences and the Neandertals rendered 1.6% of human-human comparisons larger than the smallest difference between Neandertals and humans. Likewise, 27% of the comparisons are lower than the largest human-human difference. This result suggests that Neandertals sequences are not so different from those of extant humans, in contrast to the NSG claims." 50
For additional information regarding this issue, see a debate between myself and John Harshman from Talk.Origins.com ( Link ).
There have been attempts by popular scientists to describe exactly how this mtDNA evidence turns Neanderthals into separate species. Some describe it as a group of early Homo sapiens huddled around a fire. Some are shoulder to shoulder while others, on the other side of the fire might be several feet away... maybe even 24 feet away. However, the average distance that any one person is from any other person is just 8 feet. Now we notice a dark Neanderthal figure in the shadows far from the fire. He averages 27 feet away from any given Homo sapien huddled around the fire. Obviously therefore, he is an outsider, a different species all together.
However closer inspection reveals that some of those huddled around the fire are closer to the Neanderthal than they are to certain others that are also huddled around the fire. Does that make them more closely related to Neanderthals, who belong to a completely different species, than to certain members of their own species? This sounds rather silly does it not? And yet, this is what must be the obvious conclusion. For example, what if we started with the Neanderthal specimen and then picked a person at random out of a crowd. We might get someone who is different by 24 substitutions from our Neanderthal specimen. Now, we pick someone else out of the crowd who just so happens to also be different by 24 substitutions from our Neanderthal specimen and by 24 substitutions from our first human volunteer. Which one is the new species? They are all practically equidistant from each other. In order to visualize the problem, draw three dots on a piece of paper, one for each of our two volunteers and the third dot for our Neanderthal "volunteer." Make sure to draw each one on the paper separated by 24 units of measure from each of the other two dots. Now, pick the one that is the new species and the two that belong to the same species. Maybe there are three separate species represented here? However, all one would have to do to disprove this notion is get two of the volunteers to "produce offspring" so to speak. If that happened, the entire notion that a separation of 20 or so substitutions makes for a new species, would have to be... well... revised somewhat.
Some argue that new and more recent information published by PÃ¤Ã¤bo and his team in May of 1999, show that my objections to his conclusions are misguided. As it turns out, the range (1-81) for chimp/bonobo substitutions are even wider than previously thought. In other words, if one chose a chimp at random, this chimp might be as many as 81 substitutions different from the chimp swinging on the branches right next to him. This is interesting because this same chimp might be only 78 substitutions different from a given human living at the edge of the forest. This more recent paper also points out that the range between humans (1-35) is also wider than was reported in the first paper. The range between humans and the Neanderthal sequence was also altered in the updated paper to (29-43).49 Some see this as clear evidence that my arguments are flawed, but personally, I fail to see how. This second paper seems to make it even more clear that substitution differences in a given variable region cannot be used to absolutely measure the boundary between different species. In fact, using this method of reason, it seems like some chimps might be more closely related to certain humans than to certain chimps within their own species. Since this clearly is not the case, this logic seems flawed. Evolutionary conclusions therefore cannot be effectively supported using this these methods.
Why this problem has not been more publicly recognized seems rather strange. I am sure that I am not the first one to wonder about this. And yet, popular scientist seem not even to be aware that there is this problem. It seems that the statistical average of 8 and 27 are so different that this squelches any suggestion that there might be a problem. Using this average difference as a basis for their conclusions, Kahn and Gibbons wrote in the journal Science that these averages put Neanderthal out of the statistical range of modern human variation.31
This statement is clearly misguided because not only are there humans living today with wider separations between them than our Neanderthal friend, but it is a statistical error or pitfall to compare many different entities with just one entity. In other words, we do not know what the Neanderthal mtDNA average is if there is just one specimen. How then can we know if this one Neanderthal was not a statistical outlier? How do we know that if we but had more Neanderthal samples that the average would not be closer to that of modern humans?
As it turns out, since the first sequence was obtained by PÃ¤Ã¤bo and his team, there have been two more Neanderthals found who's mtDNA was intact enough to sequence. The second sequence was done in 1999 on a baby discovered in Mesmaiskaya Cave in south-western Russia. This Neanderthal baby is thought to have died 29,000 years ago. The sequence of this baby differed from the first sequence by 12 substitutions. The average number of substitutions between the second Neanderthal mtDNA ("Baby M" for short) and a given human is 22 as compared to 27 from the first Neanderthal sequence.46,47 In other words, Baby M was "closer to the Homo sapien fire" than the first shadowy Neanderthal. This means that some living humans might be even closer to this second Neanderthal than they are to other living humans by quite a fair margin. Unfortunately however, no figures for the minimum, average, and maximum distances between the second Neanderthal and modern humans was provided.
The third Neanderthal who's mtDNA was successfully sequenced was found in a cave at Vindija, Croatia. In 2000, scientists announced the mtDNA sequencing of this third Neanderthal specimen. This new sequence fell within a 3.75% cluster of the first two sequences.48 Modern humans cluster at around 3.5%. This is a rather narrow level of diversity when one compares these clusters to chimps (15%) and gorillas (19%). Various human ethnic groups also have rather narrow ranges of diversity in their mtDNA sequencing. Of course, the problem still remains that some humans from certain of these ethic groups are more closely "related" to Neanderthals than they are to certain other living humans from other groups. The question remains as to who should be classed as a separate species?
Maryellen Ruvolo (Harvard University) points out that the genetic variation between the modern human and Neanderthal sequences is within the range of other single species of primates. She goes on to say: " there isn't a yardstick for genetic difference upon which you can define a species." 31
Further confusion comes from the comments in the Cell article that seem to indicate that Neanderthals are more closely related to the ancestral "chimpanzee" than modern humans are. This might not have been the actual intention of the authors, but one could easily get confused by the wording of the article. The fact of the matter is that the single specimen of Neanderthal mtDNA was actually farther away from chimp mtDNA than humans are from chimp mtDNA substitutions. Clearly then, Neanderthal DNA is no closer "related" to chimp DNA than human DNA is. 32
Also, the idea that mtDNA mutations can be used as a molecular clock have been recently called into question by the journal Science. As it turns out, former ideas about the timing of this clock might be in error by as much as "20-fold." The famous "Mitochondrial Eve" once thought to be around 100,000 to 200,000 years old, might now have to be revised to as young as "6,000" years old. 33,34
D. Melnick and G. Hoelzer (Columbia University) tested the assumptions of mtDNA based phylogenic relationships and concluded:
"Our results suggest serious problems with use of mtDNA to estimate 'true' population genetic structure, to date cladogenic events, and in some cases, to construct phylogenies." 35
Jonathan Marks (Yale University) declared mtDNA determined relationships to be highly biased:
"Most analysis of mitochondrial DNA are so equivocal as to render a clear solution impossible, the preferred phylogeny relying critically on the choice of outgroup and clustering technique." 36
In August of 2002, Gabriel Guitierrez et al., from the Universidad de Sevilla, Spain, published a paper in the well known journal, Molecular Biology and Evolution entitled, "A Reanalysis of the Ancient Mitochondrial DNA Sequences Recovered from Neandertal Bones." 50 Consider their conclusions from the following abstract:
"Recent reports analyzing mitochondrial DNA sequences from Neandertal bones have claimed that Neadnertals and modern humans are different species. The phylogenetic analyses carried out in these articles did not take into account the high substitution rate variation among sites observed in the human mitochondrial D-loop region and also lack an estimation of the parameters of the nucleotide substitution model. The separate phylogenic position of Neandertal-Human and Human-Human pairwise distance distributions overlap more than what previous studies suggested. We also show that the most ancient Neandertal HVI region is the most divergent when compared with modern human sequences. However, the opposite would be expected if the sequence had not been modified since the death of the specimen. Such incongruence is discussed in the light of diagenetic modifications in ancient DNA sequences."
In the body of this paper, there were several other statements of interest:
"The NSG [The conclusions of Krings et al., based on their "Neandertal sequencing groups"] reported that the pairwise comparisons between the Neandertal and human sequences demonstrate that Neandertals are outside of modern human D-loop variability. In particular, Krings et al., (1997) stated that 'a total of 0.002% of the pairwise comparisons between human mtDNA sequences were larger than the smallest difference between the Neandertal and the humans.' We think that this point merits further analysis. The current database is biased because of the overrepresentation of some populations and the underrepresentation of others. For instance, the MOUSE database contains 6,012 entries for the HVI region, but 31% of the entries belong to only 20 populations out of 206 populations represented (10% of the total populations). The extreme cases are 306 Koreans, 126 Yaps, 120 Cayapa Amerindians, 119 Mandeka, 115 Palau, and 100 white British. There are also 1,417 entries of undetermined population (40% of them are from North America and 23% European, but only 9% are from Africa). Thus, African populations containing the most ancient lineages and the highest variation are underrepresented in the database.
Because of the database overrepresentation of some human populations, the distribution of pairwise distances is biased. A large part of pairwise comparisons are made between individuals belonging to the same population. Likewise, it is expected that most individuals from a single population will show similar distances to a given outgroup (Neandertal, in this case). To overcome this problem, we considered another sample of the human variation. We first sorted the HVI sequences in our data set according to it uncorrected distance to the reference sequence (Anderson et al. 1981). Then we grouped them into 171 classes, containing equidistant sequences (considering four decimals), and chose one sequence at random from each class. The computation of pairwise distances between 171 randomly selected sequences and the Neandertals rendered 1.6% of human-human comparisons larger than the smallest difference between Neandertals and humans. Likewise, 27% of the comparisons are lower than the largest human-human difference. This result suggests that Neandertals sequences are not so different from those of extant humans, in contrast to the NSG claims."
Guitierrez et al., went on to note that:
"The main conclusion can be extracted from our analyses: the phylogenetic position of the ancient DNA sequences recovered from Neandertal bones is sensitive to the phylogenetic methods employed. It depends on the model of nucleotide substitution, the branch support method, and the set of data used. Adcock et al. (2001) recovered HVI sequences of archaic human bones from Australia, and their phylogenic analysis showed that two of the specimens were outgroups even for the most ancient African lineages. They concluded that this is evidence supporting the multiregional hypothesis. However, a second analysis carried out by Cooper et al. (2001) that took into account the heterogeneity of rates between sites and a large sample of modern humans, showed that both HVI sequences are located among extant humans. This case illustrates the influence of the nucleotide substitution model on the phylogenetic reconstruction of the human D-loop region.
The NSG studies used poor parameter models of nucleotide substitution for their analysis, whereas we opted for complex (parameter rich) models following the likelihood ratio test... We believe that the likelihood mapping values supporting Neandertals as a different species might be artifactually increased."
Then problems with DNA sequence analysis are getting so bad that some scientists are suggesting that variable control regions in DNA not be used at all for reconstructing human genetic history. It simply has too many problems associated with it.51 One problem is that mtDNA functions as a single genetic locus, as a single gene does in nuclear DNA. Studies that work off a single genetic locus are more likely to be affected by random genetic changes than are studies that include more than one locus (the more the better). Therefore, single locus studies are less accurate in characterizing a population. Another problem with mtDNA is that it is strictly limited to maternal inheritance. Because of this, genetic patterns that are drawn from mtDNA studies can differ from those that come from nuclear DNA studies. These differences could be quite misleading.52
Another potential problem is the use of control regions as a "molecular clock". Some nucleotide regions mutate slowly, while others can mutate relatively rapidly.53 These mutational "hotspots" can mutate fairly rapidly even with a single lifetime and are intuitively rather common in the aged.54 Of course such "somatic" mutations arise in mitochondria of various bodily tissues and, unless they involve gametes, they are not passed on to the next generation. However, they would still affect phylogenetic interpretations. Scientists have tried to compensate for these problems, but the various methods have produced divergent results.55 Also, direct comparisons of modern sequences with historical sequences often yield very difference results from those estimated by indirect methods that are based on present day sequence differences. For example, direct comparisons of modern penguins with historically sequenced penguins have shown that their mtDNA mutation rates are 2 to 7 times faster than had previously been assumed through indirect methods.56 Direct studies with human mtDNA mutation rates are even worse, showing a discrepancy with previously estimated rates by as much as 20 fold. The "mitochondrial Eve", or the common ancestor of modern humans, was once thought to be about 150,000 years old. Based on the new rates of mitochondrial mutation, this figure might have to be reduced to as low as 6,500 years.57 Consider the following comments published by Thomas Parsons in the journal Nature Genetics:
"The rate and pattern of sequence substitutions in the mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) control region (CR) is of central importance to studies of human evolution and to forensic identity testing. Here, we report a direct measurement of the intergenerational substitution rate in the human CR. We compared DNA sequences of two CR hypervariable segments from close maternal relatives, from 134 independent mtDNA lineages spanning 327 generational events. Ten subsitutions were observed, resulting in an empirical rate of 1/33 generations, or 2.5/site/Myr. This is roughly twenty-fold higher than estimates derived from phylogenetic analyses. This disparity cannot be accounted for simply by substitutions at mutational hot spots, suggesting additional factors that produce the discrepancy between very near-term and long-term apparent rates of sequence divergence. The data also indicate that extremely rapid segregation of CR sequence variants between generations is common in humans, with a very small mtDNA bottleneck. These results have implications for forensic applications and studies of human evolution.
The observed substitution rate reported here is very high compared to rates inferred from evolutionary studies. A wide range of CR substitution rates have been derived from phylogenetic studies, spanning roughly 0.025-0.26/site/Myr, including confidence intervals. A study yielding one of the faster estimates gave the substitution rate of the CR hypervariable regions as 0.118 +- 0.031/site/Myr. Assuming a generation time of 20 years, this corresponds to ~1/600 generations and an age for the mtDNA MRCA of 133,000 y.a. Thus, our observation of the substitution rate, 2.5/site/Myr, is roughly 20-fold higher than would be predicted from phylogenetic analyses. Using our empirical rate to calibrate the mtDNA molecular clock would result in an age of the mtDNA MRCA of only ~6,500 y.a., clearly incompatible with the known age of modern humans. Even acknowledging that the MRCA of mtDNA may be younger than the MRCA of modern humans, it remains implausible to explain the known geographic distribution of mtDNA sequence variation by human migration that occurred only in the last ~6,500 years." 57
On top of this molecular clock problem, scientists are seem to have more problems agreeing that the mtDNA control regions are in fact "immune" from the pressures of natural selection. If it turns out that these control regions are not immune from such selection pressures, some scientists feel that this would allow Neandertals to be directly or even indirectly ancestor to modern humans.58 In fact, recently published papers are suggesting that the Mezmaiskaya infant (one of the three Neandertal specimens that have yielded mtDNA) was actually not a Neandertal at all, but an "early modern human". 59 If this is true, this suggests that modern humans are just a different from Neandertals as we are from early modern humans. This supports the view that Neandertals, as well as early modern humans, were ancestral to us modern humans. According to this view, the differences between Neandertal mtDNA and our own mtDNA simply reflect the changes that have occurred in the mitochondrial genome since Neandertal times less than 50,000 years ago (based on radiometric dating). Of course, this is a far cry from the ~600,000 year date suggested by those such as Krings et al.
Given all of these findings, what seems most reasonable? Are Neanderthals anything but human? It seems like they fall well within human ethnic variation. How then can we say that, based on such variations that Neanderthals belong to a different group or species than Homo sapiens? (Back to Top)
Wishful Thinking at Fontechevade
In 1937, Germaine Henri-Martin, a very well respected archeologist, began excavations in a cave in southwestern France called Fontechevade and continued her work here until 1954, removing over 900 cubic meters of sediment. When she first started excavating, the cave was pretty much filled with sediment with only a small crawlspace left to get into the cave. As she and her crew dug downward they found several layers. The topmost layers were "Aurignacian" and were thought to be laid down during the time of anatomically modern humans. Underneath the Aurignacian layers were the "Mousterian" layers, laid down during the time of the Neandertals. A bit more digging reveals the "Tayacian" layers within which she found several human skull fragments that, to her and many others like Henri Vallois (new director of the Institute of Human Paleontology), looked relatively modern with its lightly built structure and lack of browridges.
Of course, a modern looking human skull found in layers older than Neandertals would be quite something indeed. It certainly would and did disturb the paradigm of the day, but seemed to fit the predictions made by Marcellin Boule who removed Neandertals from the human family in 1908 and predicted that the true lineage leading to modern man would reach much farther back in time, bypassing Neandertals altogether. Many, with Boule, could not tolerate the idea of Neandertals being "human" because this would lessen human "specialness". In any case, Germaine's initial finds seem to confirm this hypothesis and so she was strongly encouraged by Vallois to keep digging to discover more about the life of the "earliest Frenchman."
Germaine did indeed discover plenty of evidence to very nicely flesh out a very good story of how the first French people lived. For example, the site is full of flint, which was interpreted as being worked into tools. Various "hearths" were also found throughout the site where the first families cooked, prepared their food, and ate. Evidence of these meals, in the form of animal bones, were everywhere. And, she found the hominids themselves, or at least their bones. So, the evidence for a rather complete an intricate life for the earliest French people seemed rather obvious and fairly easily interpreted.
After the1950s, the years rolled by without any similar finds of modern human remains below those of Neandertals. In the early 1970s, a young graduate student, Erik Trinkaus, started asking some questions. He found that the reason the skull fragments lacked browridges was because that area was completely broken off. Given this evidence, the interpretation of modern human features seemed to be based on little more than wishful thinking.
Now, everything was called into question - even the interpretation of the Fontechevade site itself. Shannon McPherron and Harold Dibble decided to do some reinvestigation with the aide of some higher technology - a very precise digital laser "theodolite" mapping system. With this system they were able to record the exact position and location of every object found during their dig. Over the next five years McPherron and Dibble collected and recorded data on thousands of stone objects and animal bones. After careful analysis of all the data sets, their conclusions were actually quite shocking.
Germaine had interpreted the flint stones as very "primitive" tools, even more primitive than those used by Neandertals. Little did she know how primitive these tools really were. As part of their research McPherron and Dibble noted that known manmade tools all have certain features, like a sharpened regular modification of a flint edge. None of the "tools" found out Fontechevade had such features. They were in fact indistinguishable from naturally broken rocks! The animal bones were problematic as well. They showed no signs of deliberate butchering and they were generally oriented in a parallel or perpendicular fashion with respect to the cave walls and to each other. Such orientation is not consistent with people randomly dropping these bones on the ground of the cave-home surface. They would have to be extraordinarily neat and unusual people indeed to place the remains of dinner in such neat alignment. Of course, such orientation is much more consistent with a watery deposition, and that is exactly what McPherron and Dibble concluded. When an object is being moved along by a stream, it either turns sideways and rolls with the flow or it turns perpendicular to the flow to let the water slip past with little resistance. After discovering this artifact orientation phenomenon, a source for the flowing water was searched for and found. The source was a narrow passage at the back end of the cave that worked to drain water from above, washing debris through the roof into the cave from the outside.
Obviously then, Germaine, and many of her colleagues, fell victim to wishful thinking, interpreting artifacts found in rather obvious fluvial deposition layers as evidence of the family life of early humans. The narrator of the 2002 PBS documentary, "Neanderthals on Trial" concluded:
"What made it look real to the archaeologists was an overwhelming desire to see the past in a certain way.
The urge to distance ourselves from Neanderthals or to pull them closer to us is a surprisingly powerful force./font>
Archaeologists Jean Philippe Rigaud and Jan Simek are well aware of the problem." [Jan Simek added], "I think that we're as guilty of it today, of that kind of preconceived approach to our data, as anybody has been in the history of archaeology or anthropology. It's almost inevitable that our own views of the world will be brought to bear." 68
It is also interesting to consider comments made by the journalist, Mark Davis, who investigated this story on Neanderthals for NOVA.
"Yes, it's fascinating to see how scientists unravel the story of human evolution. But if you venture into this world as a journalist, you must be prepared for the fact that there's a lot more raveling going on than unraveling.
There are many, many arguments in this famously contentious field, not about whether humans evolved, but how. . . I spoke with many Neanderthal experts in the course of making this film, and I found them all to be intelligent, friendly, well-educated people, dedicated to the highest principles of scientific inquiry. I also got the impression that each one thought the last one I talked to was an idiot, if not an actual Neanderthal.
Because people sometimes believe what they see on TV, especially public TV, the NOVA producer has an obligation to try to get things right. So which one of the experts should I have believed? The more people I spoke with, the more confusing it got. . . Listening to the archeologists and anthropologists talk about their work (and their colleagues' work), I heard the same frustrations voiced again and again: People are driven by their preconceptions. They see what they want to see. They find what they're looking for. . .
I learned that what people see in Neanderthals often has as much to do with philosophy as it does with science. What does it mean to be human? Some definitions are broad and inclusive, others are narrow and exclusive. Scholars have been known to attack one another's views on Neanderthals as "racist" or "politically correct." . . . What I found most interesting in all this is that every scientist I talked to encouraged me to explore the issue of self-delusion, and no one claimed to be immune. They are all aware that the history of the field is littered with brilliant scholars who completely missed the boat because of the power of their preconceptions." 69
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An excellent example of a dating problem in the news appears in an article from National Geographic magazine. It describes some footprints made in volcanic ash that are said to be 3.6 million years old.
As I kneel beside the large print and lightly touch its sole, I am filled with quiet awe. It looks perfectly modern. "I thought that at three and a half million years ago their prints might be somehow different from ours," says Latimer. "But they aren't. The bipedal adaptation of those hominids was full-blown." 23
Mary Leakey discovered this 73-foot long trail of fossilized footprints consisting of 20 prints of an individual the size and shape of a modern 10-year-old human and 27 prints of a smaller person. The paleoanthropologist Timothy White, who was working with Leakey at the time, said:
"Make no mistake about it, they are like modern human footprints. If one were left in the sand of a California beach today, and a four-year old were asked what it was, he would instantly say that somebody had walked there. He wouldn't be able to tell it from a hundred other prints on the beach, nor would you. The external morphology is the same. There is a well shaped modern heel with a strong arch and a good ball of the foot in front of it. The big toe is straight in line. It doesn't stick out to the side like an ape toe" (Lucy p. 250, Johanson & Edey).
Louis Robins of the University of North Carolina who analyzed the footprints said:
"The arch is raised, the smaller individual had a higher arch than I do -- the toes grip the ground like human toes. You do not see this in other animal forms" (Science News 115:196-197, 1979).
In a recent lecture in St. Louis, Mary Leakey pointed out one additional feature of her footprints that one does not often see mentioned in the literature; all of the larger footprints of the trail have a smaller footprint superimposed on them! Mary Leakey herself conceded that it appears that a child was intentionally lengthening its stride to step in an elder's footprints! In addition there were thousands of tracks of a wide variety of animals that are similar or identical to animals living in the area today including antelopes, hares, giraffes, rhinoceroses, hyenas, horses, pigs and two kinds of elephants. Even several birds' eggs were found and many of these could be easily correlated with eggs of living species.
Mary Leakey assumes that the footprints were made by some hominid but not by Homo sapiens because the stratum in which the prints are found is estimated to be 3.5 Ma. That happens to be the current presumed age of A. afarensis and thus it is that Johanson insists that they simply would have to have been made by his A. afarensis:
"The foot prints would have to be from A. afarensis. They substantiate our idea that bipedalism occurred very early, and our contention that the brain was too small to master tools."
Mary Leakey disagrees with Johanson and his claims for A. afarensis as the maker of her footprints. Mary Leakey is not the only one who questions Johanson's claims for Lucy. In a recent article, in Science News 122:116 titled, "Was Lucy a Climber", two groups of scientists, working independently, challenged the claim that Lucy had completely abandoned the trees and walked fully upright on the ground. Anthropologist Russel Tuttle from the University of Chicago said that the Laetoli footprints that Leakey discovered in Tanzania were made by another more human species of ape-man that coexisted with A. afarensis about 3.7 million years ago and that it was this unknown hominid that is the direct ancestor to man. After a careful examination of the Laetoli prints and foot bones of the Hadar A. afarensis, he concluded that, "The Hadar foot is ape-like with curved toes" whereas the footprints left in Laetoli are "virtually human."
Susman and Stern of the State university of New York at Stony Brook have concluded that A. afarensis, while capable of walking upright, spent considerable time in the trees. They base this conclusion on an examination of Lucy's scapula, foot and hand bones, which they say show, "unmistakable hallmarks of climbing." They also believe that Lucy's limb proportions did not allow an efficient upright gait.
Dr. David Pilbeam, an anthropologist from Harvard, make some very interesting comments in a 1978 review of Richard Leakey's book, Origins. Pilbeam said that it was, "A clear statement of our current consensus view of human evolution, and remarkably up to date." But, he concluded with the following sobering thoughts: "My reservations concern not so much this book but the whole subject and methodology of paleoanthropology. But introductory books - or book reviews - are hardly the place to argue that perhaps generations of students of human evolution, including myself, have been flailing about in the dark: that our data base is too sparse, too slippery, for it to be able to mold our theories. Rather the theories are more statements about us and ideology than about the past. Paleoanthropology reveals more about how humans view themselves than it does about how humans came about. But that is heresy." 19
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APES UP FROM?, DONALD JOHANSON, "At any rate, modem gorillas, orangs and chimpanzees spring out of nowhere, as it were. They are here today; they have no yesterday...., LUCY, p.363
SUDDEN APPEARANCE: 'Biologists would dearly like to know how modern apes, modern humans and the various ancestral hominids have evolved from a common ancestor. Unfortunately, the fossil record is somewhat incomplete as far as the hominids are concerned, and it is all but blank for the apes. The best we can hope for is that more fossils will be found over the next few years which will fill the present gaps in the evidence.' The author goes on to say: 'David Pilbeam [a well-known expert in human evolution] comments wryly, "If you brought in a smart scientist from another discipline and showed him the meagre evidence we've got he'd surely say, 'forget it: there isn't enough to go on'."
(Richard E. Leakey, The Making of Mankind, Michael Joseph Limited, London, 1981, p. 43)
HAZARDOUS SURMISING: "The fossil record pertaining to man is still so sparsely known that those who insist on positive declarations can do nothing more than jump from one hazardous surmise to another and hope that the next dramatic discovery does not make them utter fools ... Clearly some refuse to learn from this. As we have seen, there are numerous scientists and popularizers today who have the temerity to tell us that there is 'no doubt' how man originated: if only they had the evidence..."
(William R Fix, The Bone Pedlars, New York: Macmillan Publishing Company, 1984, p.150)
PROVEN ANCESTRY: RICHARD C. LEWONTIN, Prof. of Zoology, Harvard, "Look, I'm a person who says in this book [Human Diversity, 1982 that we don't know anything about the ancestors of the human species. All the fossils which have been dug up and are claimed to be ancestors we haven't the faintest idea whether they are ancestors. ....All you've got is Homo sapiens there, you've got that fossil there, you've got another fossil there...and it's up to you to draw the lines. Because there are no lines.", Harpers, 2/84
RECONSTRUCTIONS: EARNST A. HOOTEN, Harvard, "To attempt to restore the soft parts is an even more hazardous undertaking. The lips, the eyes, the ears, and the nasal tip, leave no clues on the underlying bony parts. You can with equal facility model on a Neanderthaloid skull the features of a chimpanzee or the lineaments of a philosopher. These alleged restorations of ancient types of man have very little if any scientific value and are likely only to mislead the public.... So put not your trust in reconstructions.", UP FROM THE APE, p.332
RECONSTRUCTIONS: W. HOWELLS, Harvard, "A great legend has grown up to plague both paleontologists and anthropologists. It is that one of; men can take a tooth or a small and broken piece of bone, gaze at it, and pass his hand over his forehead once or twice, and then take a sheet of paper and draw a picture of what the whole animal looked like as it tramped the Terriary terrain. If this were quite true, the anthropologists would make the F.B.I. look like a troop of Boy Scouts.", MANKIND SO FAR, p. l38
THEORY DOMINATED DATA, DAVID PILBEAM, YALE, "I am also aware of the fact that, at least in my own subject of paleoanthropology, "theory" - heavily influenced by implicit ideas almost always dominates "data". ....Ideas that are totally unrelated to actual fossils have dominated theory building, which in turn strongly influence the way fossils are interpreted." Quoted in BONES OF CONTENTION p.127
PARANORMAL ANTHROPOLOGY, LORD SOLLY ZUCKERMAN, "We then move right of the register objective truth into those fields of presumed biological science, like extrasensory perception or the interpretation of man's fossil history, where to the faithful anything is possible and where the ardent believer is sometimes able believe several contradictory things at the same time." BEYOND THE IVORY TOWER, p.19
BASIS OF "FAMILY TREE". ROGER LEWIN, Editor, Research News, Science, "The key issue is the ability correctly to infer a genetic relationship between two species on the basis of a similarity in appearance, at gross and detailed levels of anatomy. Sometimes this approach....can be deceptive, partly because similarity does not necessarily imply an identical genetic heritage: a shark (which is a fish) and a porpoise (which is a mammal) look similar?, BONES OF CONTENTION, 1987, p. 123
"APE MAN" OUT, ROGER LEWIN, Ed., Research News, Science, "The dethroning of Ramapithecus from putative first human in 1961 to extinct relative of the orangutan in 1982 is one of the most fascinating, and bitter, sagas in the search for human origins." BONES OF CONTENTION, 1987, p.86
"APES", Robert B. Eckhardt, Penn. State Univ., "...there would appear to be little evidence to suggest that several different hominoid species are represented among the Old World dryopithecine fossils... (Ramapithecus, Oreopithecus, Limnopithecus, Kenyapithecus). They themselves nevertheless seem to have been apes morphologically, ecologically, and behaviorally.", Scientific American, Vol.226, p.101
SECOND "APE MAN" OUT, ROGER LEWIN, Ed., Research News, Science, Richard and his parents, Louis and Mary, have held to a view of human origins for nearly half a century now that the line of true man, the line of Homo large brain, tool making and so on has a separate ancestry that goes back millions and millions of years. And the apeman, Australopithecus, has nothing to do with human ancestry." BONES OF CONTENTION, 1987, p.18
LEAKEY DEFECTION, "Dr. Leakey bases his repudiation of Darwin on the results of his long search in East Africa for the remains of the original man. The generally accepted post Darwin view is that man developed from the baboon 3 to 5 million years ago. But Leakey has found no evidence of a spurt in development at that time.", Chicago American, 1/25, 1967
DISMISSED APE, LORD SOLLY ZUCKERMAN, "His Lordship's scorn for the level of competence he sees displayed by paleoanthropologists is legendary, exceeded only by the force of his dismissal of the australopithecines as having anything at all to do with human evolution. 'They are just bloody apes', he is reputed to have observed on examining the australopithecine remains in South Africa.. Zuckerman had become extremely powerful in British science, being an adviser to the government up to the highest level...,while at Oxford and then Birmingham universities, he had vigorously pursued a metrical and statistical approach to studying the anatomy of fossil hominids....it was on this basis that he underpinned his lifelong rejection of the australopithecines as human ancestors.", Roger Lewin, BONES OF CONTENTION, 1987, p.164, 165
DEFINITELY AN APE, LORD SOLLY ZUCKERMAN, "The australopithecine skull is in fact so overwhelmingly simian as opposed to human (figure 5) that the contrary proposition could be equated to an assertion that black is white.", BEYOND THE IVORY TOWER, p.78
UNHUMAN, LIKE THE ORANGUTAN, CHARLES E. OXNARD, Dean of Graduate School, Prof. of Biology & Anatomy, USC, "....conventional wisdom is that the australopithecine fragments are generally rather similar to humans....the new studies point to different conclusions. The new investigations suggest that the fossil fragments are usually uniquely different from any living form: when they do have similarities with living species, they are as often as not reminiscent of the orangutan, ...these results imply that the various australopithecines are really not all that much like humans. ....may well have been bipeds, .... but if so, it was not in the human manner. They may also have been quite capable climbers as much at home in the trees as on the ground..", The American Biology Teacher, Vol.41, May 1979, pp.273-4
LIKE PYGMY CHIMP, ADRIENNE L ZIHLMAN, U. C. Santa Cruz, "Zihlman compares the pygmy chimpanzee to "Lucy," one of the oldest hominid fossils known and finds the similarities striking. They are almost identical in body size, in stature; and in brain size.... These commonalties, Zihlman argues indicate that pygmy chimps use their limbs in much the same way Lucy did....", Science News, Vol.123, Feb.5. 1983, p.89
AUSTRALOPITHECINES, William Howells, Harvard, "...the pelvis was by no means modern, nor were the feet: the toes were more curved than ours; the heel bones lacked our stabilizing tubercles; and a couple of small ligaments that, in us, tighten the arch from underneath, were apparently not present. The finger bones were curved as they are in tree climbing apes." GETTING HERE, 1993, p.79
SHRIVELED STATUS, MATT CARTMILL, Duke; DAVID PILBEAM Harvard; GLYNN ISAAC Harvard; "The australopithecines are rapidly shrinking back to the status of peculiarly specialized apes...", American Scientist, (JulyAugust 1986) p.419
BELIEVE IT, SEE IT, ROGER LEWIN, Editor of Research News, Science, "How is it that trained men, the greatest experts of their day, could look at a set of modern human bones the cranial fragments and "see" a clear simian signature in them; and see in an apes jaw the unmistakable signs of humanity. The answers, inevitably, have to do with the scientist's' expectations and their effects on the interpretation of the data. It is, in fact, a common fantasy, promulgated mostly by the scientific profession itself, that in the search for objective truth, data dictate conclusions. If this were the case, then each scientist faced with the same data would necessarily reach the same conclusion. But as we've seen earlier and will see again and again, frequently this does not happen. Data are just as often molded to fit preferred conclusions.", BONES OF CONTENTION, pp.61, 68
EVOLUTION OR VARIATION? "....a Neanderthaler is a model of evolutionary refinement. Put him in a Brooks Brothers suit and send him down to the supermarket for some groceries and he might pass completely unnoticed. He might run a little shorter than the clerk serving him but he would not necessarily be the shortest man in the place. He might be heavier-Featured, squattier and more muscular than most, but again he might be no more so than the porter handling the beer cases back in the stock room." EVOLUTION, TimeLife Nature Library.
LARGER BRAIN, WILLIAM HOWELLS, Harvard, "The Neanderthal brain was most positively and definitely not smaller than our own; indeed, and this is a rather bitter pill, it appears to have been perhaps a little larger.", MANKIND SO FAR, p.165
MODERN CAME FIRST, O. BARYOSEF, Peabody Museum, Harvard, B. VANDERMEERCH, Univ. Bordeaux, "Modern Homo sapiens preceded Neanderthals at Mt. Carmel. ...modern looking H. sapiens had lived in one of the caves some 50,000 to 100,000 years ago, much earlier than such people had been thought to exist anywhere. ...The results have shaken the traditional evolutionary scenario, producing more questions than answers." Scientific American, p.94, April 1993
RUINED FAMILY TREE, "Either we toss out this skull  or we toss out our theories of early man," asserts anthropologist Richard Leakey of this 2.8 million year old fossil, witch he has tentatively identified as belonging to our own genus. "It simply fits no previous models of human beginnings." The author, son of famed anthropologist Louis S. B. Leakey, believes that the skull's surprisingly large braincase "leaves in ruins the notion that all early fossils can be arranged in an orderly sequence of evolutionary change.", National Geographic, June 1973, p.819
HUMAN BRAIN, "Leakey further describes the whole shape of the brain case  as remarkably reminiscent of modern man, lacking the heavy and protruding eyebrow ridges and thick bone characteristics of Homo erectus." Science News, 102 (4/3/72) p.324
HUMAN BRAIN, Dean Falk, St. U. of N.Y. at Albany, "...KNMER 1805 Homo habilis should not be attributed to Homo... the shape of the endocast from KNMER (basal view) is similar to that from an African pongid, where as the endocast of KNMER 1470 is shaped like that of a modern human." Science, 221, (9/9/83) p.1073
HUMAN BRAIN "The foremost American experts on human brain evolution Dean Falk of the State University of New York at Albany and Ralph Holloway of Columbia University usually disagree, but even they agree that Broca's area is present in a skull from East Turkana known as 1470. Philip Tobias...renowned brain expert from South Africa concurs." Anthro Quest: The Leakey's Foundation News. No.43 (Spring 91) p.13
NOT ERECTUS, "According to paleoanthropologist Ian Tattersall of the American Museum of Natural History in New York the African skulls...assigned to erectus often lack many of the specialized traits that were originally used to define that species in Asia, including the long low cranial structure thick skull bones, and robustly built faces. In his view, the African group deserves to be placed in a separate species..." Discover, 9/94, p.88
"OLD" MODERN MEN, Louis Leakey, 'In 1933 I published on a small fragment of jaw we call Homo kanamensis, and I said categorically this is not a nearman or ape, this is a true member of the genus Homo. There were stone tools with it too. The age was somewhere around 2.5 to 3 million years. It was promptly put on the shelf by my colleagues, except for two of them. The rest said it must be placed in a 'suspense account.' Now, 36 years later, we have proved I was right." Quoted in BONES OF CONTENTION, p.156
'THE OLDEST MAN', "[African Footprints] ....they belonged to the genus Homo (or true man), rather than to manapes (like Australopithecus, who was once a thought to be the forerunner of man but is now regarded as a possible evolutionary dead end). ....they were 3.35 million to 3.75 million years old. ....they would, in Mary Leakeys words, be people 'not unlike ourselves,'...." Time, Nov. 10, 1975, p.93
TOO HUMAN TOO OLD, Russel H. Tuttle, Professor of Anthropology, University of Chicago, Affiliate Scientist, Primate Research Center, Emory University, "In sum, the 3.5millionyearold footprint trails at Laetoli sight G resemble those of habitually unshod modem humans. If the G footprints were not known to be so old, we would readily conclude that they were made by a member of our genus...in any case we should shelve the loose assumption that the Laetoli footprints were made by Lucy's kind..." Natural History, 3/90, p.64.
MODERN & TALL, RICHARD LEAKEY, ....the boy from Turkana was surprisingly large compared with modern boys his age; he could well have grown to six feet. ....he would probably go unnoticed in a crowd today. This find combines with previous discoveries of Homo erectus to contradict a long held idea that humans have grown larger over the millennia.", National Geographic, p.629, Nov., 1985
CHARLES E. OXNARD Dean, Grad. School, Prof. Bio. and Anat., USC, "...earlier finds, for instance, at Kanapoi...existed at least at the same time as, and probably even earlier than, the original gracile australopithecines... almost indistinguishable in shape from that of modern humans at four and a half million years..." American Biology Teacher, Vol.41, 5/1979, p.274.
HENRY M. MCHENRY, U. of C., Davis, "The results show that the Kanapoi specimen, which is 4 to 4.5 million years old, is indistinguishable from modern Homo sapiens..." Science Vol.190, p.~28.
WILLIAM HOWELLS, Harvard, "...with a date of about 4.4 million, [KP 271] could not be distinguished from Homo sapiens morphologically or by multivariate analysis by Patterson and myself in 1967 (or by much more searching analysis by others since then). We suggested that it might represent Australopithecus because at that time allocation to Homo seemed preposterous, although it would be the correct one without the time element.", HOMO ERECTUS, 1981, p.79-80.
EVE KICKED OUT, STEPHEN J. GOULD, "...'mitochondral Eve' hypothesis of modern human origins in Africa, suffered a blow in 1993, when the discovery of an important technical fallacy in the computer program used to generate and assess evolutionary trees debunked the supposed evidence for an African source...disproving the original claim.", Natural History, 2/94, p.21
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Concerning Variations in Human Stature, Facial Features and Skull Capacity
"Differences due to age are especially significant with reference to the structure of the skull in apes. Very pronounced changes occur during the transition from juvenile to adult in apes, but not in Man. The skull of a juvenile ape is somewhat less different in shape from that of Man. We may remember that the first specimen of Australopithecus that was discovered by Raymond Dart, the "Tuang child", was that of a juvenile [ape]. This juvenile skull should never have been compared to those of adult apes and humans.?16
A few miles to the east of Olduvai Gorge, in the forests of Zaire, are the Mbuti people who are on average only four feet to four feet six inches tall. These people are, in stature, brain capacity, and even way of life, are comparable to Homo habilis. Yet the Mbuti people are modern men in every sense.? 7
Small stature in humans is known to produce abnormal anatomical characteristics, which resemble ape-like characteristics, such as the jaw and dentition (because the individuals have the same number of teeth as us in a much more confined space) and the length of the arms. That is why many pygmy faces look different to ours (often showing prognathous teeth and jaws). Here is Francis Huxley: "In both types [of pygmy] the eyes tend to bulge, the upper jaw juts out, and the arms are longer than the legs."17 Here is anthropologist David Davies: "There are two types [of prognathism] alveolar prognathism, which is restricted to the tooth region, and facial prognathism, which affects a much larger area of the face causing it to jut out, so increasing the facial area. A small chin is characteristic of both conditions. Prognathism is considered a primitive feature, particularly as it is most commonly found in apes and ancient primitive men. The Andamanese [pygmies] have pronounced prognathism."18 These descriptions are like the Australopithecine characteristic described above. This thinking lead Huxley and Darwin to mistakenly consider the Australian Aborigine as "primitive" because they have some of these features? although they are actually modern humans.7
One of the most distinguished living palaeoanthropologists, Philip Tobias (1970), quotes the discoverer of Australopithecus, Raymond Dart, as saying that, "apparently normal human beings have existed with brain-sizes in the 700s and 800s" and that the smallest cranial capacity ever documented for a non-pathologic human is 790cc.7
There is scientifically no basis in evidence for suggesting that intellectual capacity is correlated with brain size as is sometimes suggested and there is evidence which indicates such a view is mistaken (the systematic differential between human male and female brain capacity which is not reflected in the
IQ of the sexes).7
Different medical anomalies, such as proportionate dwarfism, can result in very small adult humans with normal intelligence even though, with a proportionate head, cranial capacities can be less than 500 - 600cc. The shortest mature human male, of whom there is independent evidence, is Gul Mohammed (born 15 Feb 1957) of New Delhi, India. On 19 Jul 1990 he was examined at Ram Manohar Hospital, New Delhi, and found to measure 22 1/2in (57 cm) in height (weight 17kg 371/2lb). The other members of his immediate family are of normal height. For a time, the shortest ever female was Pauline Musters ('Princess Pauline'), a Dutch dwarf. She was born at Ossendrecht on 26 Feb 1876 and measured 12in 30cm at birth. At nine years of age she was 55 cm (21.65in) tall and weighed only 1.5kg (3lb 5oz). She died of pneumonia with meningitis on 1 Mar. 1895 in New York City, USA at the age of 19. A post mortem examination showed her to be exactly 24in (61 cm) (there was some elongation after death). Her mature weight varied from 7 1/2 - 9lb (3.4 - 4kg) and her 'vital statistics' were 18 1/2 - 19 - 17in (47 - 48 - 43cm), which suggests she was overweight (Guinness Book of World Records, Page 56). At the age of 17, "Princess Lucy" stood 21 inches high and weighted 14lbs, and was proportional in every way. Likewise, at the age of 20, Henrietta Moritz stood 22in. tall and weighed 36lbs. At the age of 32, the proportional CPT Jack Barnett stood 27in. tall and weighed in at a chubby 28 lbs. All were of at least average intelligence (Pictures can be seen at www.turtlethought.com -1999).
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Note: Since these are my rough thoughts in draft from, I have not personally reviewed all of the above original references for accuracy of content. If errors are found, notification of such errors would be appreciated at: Seanpit@gmail.com
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