In the last ten days or so I’ve featured posts by two creationists trying to promulgate their misguided biology on my site. This is the last one, who goes by the name “Synapticcohesion.” As always, I’m proffering this for educational and sociological reasons: to display the mindset and tactics of those who reject modern biology in favor of a two-thousand-year-old manual for goatherds.
In response to my post ”Evolution has a victory in South Korea,” this third commenter (whom I’ll call “Synaptic”) engaged in an exchange with me on the thread. My comments are flush left, and Synaptic’s are indented. Italicized and indented words represent Synpaptic quoting from someone else—either me or another commenter:
Synaptic: “If you don’t have evidence, well then, stfu.”
YOU have no proof that, as mentioned on the comic, that we descended from apes. Only faulty conjecture. So take your own advice.
JAC: Okay, synaptic, before you can post again, explain why the mountains of evidence that we descended from a common ancestor with that of modern chimps, gorillas, etc. is WRONG. We’re waiting. .
Synaptic: I knew it would come to censorship. I wouldn’t be surprised if you don’t post my response so that the creationist appears to be at a “loss for words.”
You know very well that even if there were ancient remains of chimps/hominids (that were not a mix-and-match set of scant bones and bone fragments that they are) that appeared to have physical features that are not exactly like chimps today and aren’t like humans today–that is proof of NOTHING in terms of human evolution, that is simply proof that there are extinct primates (with varying physical features) that do not exist today. That does not prove “human ancestry” whatsoever. Nor do the extremely old, arthritic remains of Neanderthals–with their jutting, arthritic facial features–prove that they are our less evolved, more “apelike” ancestors.
This is the evolutionist’s ultimate failure–to be able to prove that their claims of “intermediaries” are anything more than wild conjecture.
JAC: Man, you either know nothing about the human fossil record or are blinkered by faith. Do you care to tell us why australopithecines, which have a humanlike postcranial skeleton but a skull with a 400-500 cc brain (the size of a chimp) are “arthritic”?
Did all Neanderthals have arthritis? And what about H. erectus, A. afarensis, and the like, which show temporal changes from early apelike forms about 4 mya to more “modern” ones 1.5 myr ago, and so on? How do you explain those temporal changes?
You have a very strange idea of what constitutes “evidence.” The hypothesis is that early hominins would have mixtures of humanlike and early apelike features. This is exactly what we find. It’s all supported with radiometric dating, too.
Do you think that all paleoanthropologists who support human evolution have been cruelly deluded?
Or do you consider Genesis to be “evidence”?
Synaptic:[JAC: This comment is appearing for the first time here since I did not let it go through but preferred to put it above the fold]. “Do you care to tell us why australopithecines, which have a humanlike postcranial skeleton but a skull with a 400-500 cc brain (the size of a chimp) are “arthritic”?”
I never suggested that these chimps were arthritic. As I had mentioned, “humanlike” features do not prove ancestry. There are various animals today that have “humanlike” this or that (including fish that have teeth that are very “humanlike”). But even some claims of the “humanlike” features supposedly attributed to australopithecines is questionable at best. “Lucy,” for example, is nothing more than a mix-and-matching of bone fragments admittedly found in DIFFERENT LOCATIONS. And Lucy’s femur, which is crucial to being able to even make the conjecture of an apelike human ancestor was not even discovered in one piece! The tell-tale evidence of angulation (the supposed “bicondylar angle”) of the femur was conveniently absent as the femur was missing it’s knee joint! Another piece (supposedly belonging to Lucy) was added to complete Lucy’s incomplete femur. How this small piece was able to be preserved separately (yet just as perfectly) in order to complete Lucy’s femur in order to prove a bicondular angle is amazing and the chances of this happening is astronomical.
Did all Neanderthals have arthritis? Yes, the vast majority discovered were arthritic. Why? Because unlike today where people succumb to diseases well before “old age” and even some infants die of various diseases including SIDS, there is evidence that our ancient ancestors lived a lot longer than we did. Thus, most of the remains would be expected to be very old and arthritic as our ancient ancestors lived a lot longer in an old environment that is hypothesized to be much richer in oxygen (based on the evidence found in the analysis of fossilized amber).
“The hypothesis is that early hominins would have mixtures of humanlike and early apelike features.”
Yes, and that does not make it true. Just because some suggest that that’s what something HAS to mean, HAS to be interpreted–does not make it so. There are many ways to interpret the same evidence and science is not immune with conflicts in interpretation. Even the remains of the T. rex has been interpreted in various ways–the evidence was there, but that did not mean that scientists agreed on how the T Rex stood and walked. (The improbable posture was introduced to the public as “scientific fact,” only to be altered in the 1990′s.)
“Or do you consider Genesis to be “evidence”?”
No, I look at the scientific evidence independently. That doesn’t mean I fail to see that much of the evidence uncovered ends up supporting the Bible in many ways.
Indeed, a truly an objective assessment of the evidence that just happens to coincide with Genesis! It really made me LOL that Synaptic thinks that Neanderthals all had arthritis (even the young ones!), and that their contemporaries, “modern’ Homo sapiens, did not! It can’t be a matter of two distinct morphs of humans in one species, one with arthritis and one not, since we also know that Neanderthals were a group that was genetically distinct from modern H. sapiens.
And of course the remains of early hominins are not “mix and match” fragments of fossils: in many cases we have large pieces and nearly entire skulls. These, of course, shows a branching bush of evolution, with some hominins being robust, small-brained, and with big teeth, but others gradually approaching a human-like appearance with a larger skull, smaller teeth, and erect posture.
As for the Lucy story, I was pretty sure they found her as a single skeleton in one small, circumscribed area, and that the evidence for bipedality was convincing. But just to be sure I wrote to anthropologist John Hawks (who has his own website) about Lucy. He was kind enough to respond:
The bicondylar or valgus angle is easy to judge on a distal femur. You do not need a complete bone, only around 10% of the bone’s length at the distal [far] end is really necessary. Chimpanzees and gorillas have femora where the distal articular surface is perpendicular to the shaft. Humans support our weight alternately on one leg at a time, so that our leg must angle from the hip joint to put a foot under the body’s center of gravity. We accomplish this entirely in the femur, which results in our distal articular surface being angled obliquely relative to the shaft.In the Lucy skeleton itself, the distal femur is not as well preserved as in many other australopithecine specimens but is nevertheless sufficient to show the humanlike pattern. This is one of the clearest traits reflecting a bipedal locomotor pattern, present in many specimens of A. afarensis, A. robustus and A. africanus, and of course all members of the genus Homo.
Thanks–I appreciate this.I presume the following statement is wrong, too?
“‘Lucy,’ for example, is nothing more than a mix-and-matching of bone fragments admittedly found in DIFFERENT LOCATIONS.”
And he responded:
Yes, Lucy’s skeleton was all found at one locality, and has no duplicated bones. It is highly unlikely that the skeleton includes any elements from other individuals.
So there you have it: Synaptic, like our other two creationists, was being misleading—probably deliberately so. I believe that he knows better, and is spouting creationist drivel. The thing is, though, that he sounds convincing to those who don’t know anything about Lucy. The lesson (not needed by anyone here) is that if you hear “scientific” evidence adduced by a creationist, be sure to check it out.
Synaptic never did respond to my question of whether he saw all paleoanthropologists as engaged in a monstrous and pervasive conspiracy: trying to deceive people into thinking that scattered bone fragments, and skeletons of modern humans that were unhappily arthritic, represent real fossil evidence of our descent from a common ancestor with modern apes. I guess the creationists have found us out!
Below is the skeleton of Lucy (A. afarensis, dated 3.2 mya), from Wikipedia. She had a “primitive” skull of low volume, a semi-parabolic jaw intermediate in shape between that of modern apes (rectangular) and modern humans (fully parabolic), and the skeleton below the neck is very “modern” and bipedal. Contrary to Synaptic, all these fragments come, to our best knowledge, from a single individual (there were no duplicated pieces in the same area, and it was found in a small area).
Do read the “Lucy” entry; it’s short. Here she is (the femur is the long leg bone):