Saturday, September 8, 2007

Lucy, You got some 'splaining to do!

*Sigh*, They just can't leave us alone about the transitional fossils, can they? Dr. David Menton has done a video series down at Answers in Genesis, called "Lucy- She's No Lady!" In this video he leaves his specialty of cell biology and dives right in to paleontology. It attempts vigorously to destroy the famous fossil as a human ancestor, and does so mainly by deceit. I'm not going to address every fallacy this man makes, but I will address the most important ones. First of all, we should know that this man is dishonest because in one segment of the film he claims that "Human evolution is imagination rich and data poor"; while in discussing Lucy he admits that all the Australopithicus specimens found do give us a good idea of what she looked like. He then proceeds to give us his opinion that all "Ape-Men" are either exaggerated Apes or 'down-played' humans. This statement is made in spite of the fact that Lucy is 40% complete; and in spite of the fact that other fairly complete homind fossils exist. Now, the first substantial charge he makes against Lucy is that her pelvis was 'doctored' to make it appear more human-like. Talk Origins wrote a refutation to this claim (though they addressed another creationist):

"This is based on the first episode of the NOVA series In Search of Human Origins, where Johanson does make statements that could, for those of a conspiratorial turn of mind, be interpreted as an admission of having doctored the bones. Reading the transcript carefully, however, it is clear that the bones had been originally been broken and the pieces fused together during fossilization. As scientist Owen Lovejoy explained on the show, the bones were originally in an 'anatomically impossible position', so he broke a cast of the fossil (not the original!) in an attempt to reverse the damage which occurred during fossilization."

So the bones were broken and fused together during fossilization, making them impossible to fit together. Those pieces were removed, and Lucy was reconstructed the way she would have been. No deception there, eh?

Moving on, Menton quotes Dr. David Pilbeam from his review of Leakey's Origins (In the May-June 1978 issue of American Scientist) as saying:

"My reservations concern not so much this book but the whole subject and methodology of paleoanthropology…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."

It appears as if Dr. Pilbeam is admitting a horrible truth about evolution: It's all based on your "world view" and there isn't enough evidence to say for sure. But did he really say that? A trip to American Scientist shows that no review for Leakey's book was written in the May-June 1978 issue. Not only that, but there is no article by Dr. Pilbeam in that issue. A google search for the quote only turned up creationist sites, so I am inclined to be suspicious, especially knowing creationists' long track record of misquoting.

All in all, he hasn't presented any objections which are both correct and verifiable; and it is safe to say he poses no threat to Lucy.

5 comments:

Chris Parfoot said...

Just a question, if "the bones were damaged during fossilisation" then how is it possible to interpret them with any real accuracy? How many "nearly complete" hominid skeletons do we have? I remember reading an article about the re-examination of Lucy's wrist bones that suggested she was in fact a knuckle walker?
I have seen how they tease a fossil bone out of the matrix, and have always wondered whether or not there was any subconscious artistic licence happening, after all the technician has a) a specific world view b) a clear mental image of what the bone should look like. My suggestion is that deliberate tampering is not the issue, but it is possible to argue that interpretation can and is often a little more flexible than it should be.
Having done some paleoanthropology as an undergrad, admittedly many years ago now, I had deep concerns with the claims being made based on hominid skull morphology. (Not to mention the serious elasticity of dates!) My questions were always pushed aside. Years later I am still asking the same questions of the evidence. It seems other people are too.

Unknown said...

Actually, the Pilbeam response DOES indeed exist in American Scientist Magazine, from 1978, of May/June.
And... the EXACT quote that Menton quoted DOES exist. I suggest that you create a membership at: www.jstor.org. Then, search for the article entitled, "Origins: What New Discoveries Reveal about the Emergence of Our Species and Its Possible Future," by Richard E. Leakey; Roger Lewin
David Pilbeam
American Scientist
Vol. 66, No. 3 (May-June 1978), pp. 378-379
The quote that you are seeking is the last few paragraphs of the review... just as Menton stated! In addition, ALL of the other critiques stated are sadly lacking in logic. Pls. see my email. I would thoroughly enjoy a friendly discussion of the matter. Lastly, pls. avoid accusing professionals as "dishonest" before you thoroughly research the sources in question. Just as there are dishonest creationists, there are also dishonest evolutionists. Will you post this response?

Unknown said...

Actually, the Pilbeam response DOES indeed exist in American Scientist Magazine, from 1978, of May/June.
And... the EXACT quote that Menton quoted DOES exist. I suggest that you create a membership at: www.jstor.org. Then, search for the article entitled, "Origins: What New Discoveries Reveal about the Emergence of Our Species and Its Possible Future," by Richard E. Leakey; Roger Lewin
David Pilbeam
American Scientist
Vol. 66, No. 3 (May-June 1978), pp. 378-379
The quote that you are seeking is the last few paragraphs of the review... just as Menton stated! In addition, ALL of the other critiques stated are sadly lacking in logic. Pls. see my email. I would thoroughly enjoy a friendly discussion of the matter. Lastly, pls. avoid accusing professionals as "dishonest" before you thoroughly research the sources in question. Just as there are dishonest creationists, there are also dishonest evolutionists. Will you post this response?

AIGBusted said...

@ Unknown,

I didn't say that Menton's use of this was dishonest, only that it wasn't *verifiable.* In other words, I had no way of making sure this quote existed and was in context, and moreover that given the chronic tendency of creationists to quote people out of context, it was not safe to just take Menton's word for it.

By the way, if you have an electronic copy of the review in question I would love for to send it to me, my email address is ncovington89 and it's at yahoo.

En Leary said...

http://www.jstor.org/discover/10.2307/27848718?uid=393316541&uid=2134&uid=3739832&uid=2&uid=70&uid=3&uid=393316531&uid=3739256&uid=60&sid=21106458779171