I always struggle with trying to correct creationist information when I see it on various websites. It’s not that I find the information compelling (it never is); it’s that I know the proponents are not interested in serious examination of the evidence for evolution. Until they can at least show an honest understanding of what evolution is all about, I find myself not even desiring to correct them. Why bother? I really don’t care if they agree with evolutionary theory, but at least be able to tell the truth about what the theory says and what the evidence is or isn’t. You really can’t effectively debate creationists because you spend so much time correct the inaccuracies, lies and deceptions they present.
However, as my graduate advisor used to say…it’s not about changing the proponent’s mind; it’s about showing everyone else in the audience who is sitting on the fence why and how the proponent is incorrect. That’s what I find, time and again, in my anthropology course. The reaction I hear at the end of the class every semester and most often is, “Great class…I never knew all that information about evolution”. Most students either are never exposed to it correctly in high school biology, or have been lied to by their parents and ministers.
So, with that in mind, I came across Gregg and Part XVII of his series on Darwinian Evolutionary Frauds. Once again, I had to roll my eyes and shake my head at the inaccuracies, misinformation and outright lying that Gregg does about Darwin, evolution and the fossil record and wonder “why bother?” When I came to his “assessment” of Lucy’s anatomical characteristics and what they mean, I couldn’t hold back. Gregg has absolutely no interest in understanding science, evidence or anything about the fossil record and is clearly only interested in protecting his god from the evil evolutionists (why god would choose someone like Gregg as a spokesperson just verifies that I’m on the right track with my atheistic tendencies). Gregg identifies eleven “facts” (I assume he considers them factual) about Lucy’s anatomy that should make anyone reading his column suspicious of evolutionist claims. Below the fold I underline each of his “facts” and then comment on the actual data as we currently know it….
No similarity in appearance to humans
Gregg is being very vague here. What, exactly, does he mean by “appearance”? The fact is, it completely depends upon what part of Lucy’s anatomy you happen to be looking at as to whether it “looks” human-like or “looks” ape-like. Actually, when I show side-by-side comparison photos of chimp, human and afarensis pelves, the students have no problem identifying afarensis as more human-like; they say the opposite when shown side-by-side photos of the cranium; they are generally mixed when looking at the jaws). I have no doubt Gregg sees no human characteristics at all, which is to be expected since I don’t think he has the ability to push his god apologetics aside and think critically. Fortunately, scientists have things like quantifiable measurements, computers and statistics to demonstrate that in fact Lucy’s anatomy contains both human-like and ape-like characteristics….as well as some that don’t fit well into either category.
Long arms identical to chimpanzees (not humans)
I’m not sure which hat Gregg pulled this rabbit out of, but it’s not true. Yes, afarensis arms are longer than humans, but they are not identical to chimpanzees! In fact, although Lucy’s arms are long relative to humans, they’re actually short relative to modern apes (including chimps and gorillas). There is also nothing in afarensis forelimb anatomy to suggest that it engaged in knuckle-walking or any other type of quadrupedal locomotion like modern apes.
Jaws are very similar to chimpanzees (not humans)
Not hardly. Lucy (and other afarensis dental remains) show mixtures of both (tooth rows similar in shape to chimp’s, but lacking a diastema (like humans) and large canine (larger than humans but not the size of chimp or gorilla canines). Enamel thickness is greater than in either the great apes or humans (with which group does that align Lucy?).
Upper leg bone very similar to chimpanzees (not humans)
Again, no. The proximal end of the femur shows distinctions between early humans, apes and humans, with more overlap with humans. The distal femur is far more human-like than chimpanzee. It angles toward the knee like humans (and unlike chimps and gorillas) and contains thicker bone along the ventral portion of the femur neck (to support a bipedal gait) almost exactly like that seen in humans.
Lucy’s legs were very ape-like
Well, that’s the same point as above; however, the lower hind limb (the tibia) also exhibits characteristics that are human-like and unlike those seen in chimpanzees.
Brain size (400-500 cc) overlaps chimpanzees (not humans)
Yep, that’s correct…and it makes it all the more interesting when you look collectively at all the human-like traits that Lucy shares with us. Very much like a….transitional fossil?
Large back muscles for tree dwelling
Yeah, that may be true…but so what? If the implication is that Lucy only lived in the trees, then that’s simply irrationally dismisses all the evidence available to the contrary. No scientist has proposed that Lucy and other australopithecines did not walk bipedally. All accept that view. The question is whether Lucy’s bipedal gait war more like ours, or something different. Additionally, her spinal column suggests a human-like curvature related to bipedalism and not structured for quadrupedal locomotion as seen in apes. Her shoulder blade was originally argued to have been more adapted to tree dwelling, like those seen in modern apes, however, newer, more complete fossils suggest that may not be the case.
Hands similar to pygmy chimpanzee (not human hands)
Well, the fingers are curved as in chimps and probably more flexible than in humans, but other characteristics of the hand are distinctly more human-like than chimp-like. The fingers are not elongated like in apes and the opposability of the thumb and other fingers is distinctly more like humans. Again, as with other anatomical features of Lucy, if you can say “ape” only if you ignore all the suite of traits that, taken in isolation, would say “human”. The fact is, Lucy is a mixture.
Feet were long and curved (not human like at all)
Yes, but “long and curved” are not the only characteristics of the feet. In fact, the afarensis foot is arched more like modern humans than chimps, and articulations of the metatarsals and toes are much more like ours. The heel is also structured like the human foot so that it can take the weight of a biped – it is not chimp-like at all. Time and again, Lucy’s skeleton (and those of other afarensis individuals) show mixtures of human and ape characteristics.
Rib cage conical like modern chimpanzee not barrel shaped like human
Actually, new afarensis discoveries suggest the chest is not as barrel shaped as originally reconstructed. So, like the shoulder blade, this is still a question in need of an answer – Gregg’s definitive statement is incorrect.
Hip bone geometry inconsistent with upright walking
Not even close, Gregg. No one disputes that afarensis was a habitual biped – and the pelvis clearly shows human-like adaptations to upright walking. The debate is over the efficiency of the biped locomotion. It is not clear if Lucy and her kind walked exactly like humans – but it is clear they moved more like humans than chimps. Gregg is just lying about the data here.
Of course, Darwinists have known about every single one of these points for decades, in fact not long after the 1974 discovery of Lucy.
Since none of Gregg’s points are factually correct, what “Darwinists” knew about Lucy is exactly the opposite of what Gregg has depicted. And while controversy still remains about Lucy’s place in the hominid family tree (watch that line get taken out of context as another creationist example of scientists waffling on Lucy’s status), none of it is about her mixture of human-like and ape-like features. As I tell my students, the very fact that there is controversy over where Lucy fits in relation to humans and apes just shows how many features she shares with both groups. Gregg and other creationists can say she’s not human, but he has to close his eyes and squint really, really hard when he looks at the skeleton.
In fact, Gregg’s entire series on “Darwinian Evolutionary Frauds” is in fact…fraudulent. It reproduces the same old creationist lies and deceptions common to all creationist websites. There is nothing educational about any of it unless you need to deceive yourself about the truth. It amazes me to know the level of falsehoods, inaccuracies, misinformation and general lack of intellectual integrity presented by creationists. It shouldn’t…creationists cannot make an argument about evolution without lying about it or simply refusing to understand the science behind it. Gregg illustrates this point beautifully. Ultimately, he is not interested in understanding the science behind evolution – the best he can do, like any creationist, is to quote mine, take facts out of context, and just do everything in his power to protect the god he believes in (apparently his god just can’t operate very effectively here in the real world and needs people like Gregg to defend him). This is not a problem with intellect – it’s psychological. It’s not that people like Gregg can’t learn…they don’t want to. The answer may conflict with their personal knowledge (and vision) of the invisible sky fairy.
I will give credit to Gregg for one thing. He just gave me some good talking points to go over in my Anthropology course with the students, just so they can understand when they see or hear statements from creationists like Gregg how bogus that information is.