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Thursday, 9 February 2012

How Creationists Lie To Us

This parody of human evolution was brought to my attention by @PlasmaEngineer. It was republished from a 1972 reworking of a 1960's version with the addition only of 'Lucy' by 'Big Daddy', Chick Publications.

I'll go through it in detail below but it's worth asking at this point why the author couldn't find a diagram like this from real scientific publication but had to make one up. The answer, of course, is because there is no such thing appearing in any scientific publication or textbook on human evolution written by a palaeoanthropologist. The simple explanation is that no such scientific theory of human evolution has ever been proposed by any serious human evolutionist.

What creationists are using is an invented parody of science designed to mislead and misinform. There can only be one reason for this, and it's not an accident.

Now, the detailed claims made in this cartoon:


Lucy is the popular name given to a fossil hominid found in the Afar region of Ethiopia which has been classified as Australopithicus afarensis. (The name 'Lucy' was taken from 'Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds' by the Beatles).

The place of this specimen in human ancestry has not been settled and, apart from it's age, estimated to be about 3.2 million years, its significance is that it shows bipedalism in combination with a cranial capacity close to that of other non-human apes, so showing that bipedalism preceded an increase in cranial capacity.

In 1992 other fragments of an earlier hominid, Ardipithicus ramidus had been found in Ethiopia but these were not published until 2009. These have been dated to 4.4 million years ago. They also show feet modified for bipedalism.

Incidentally, the entirely fanciful depiction of Lucy as a somewhat deformed chimpanzee is hilarious. Lucy was of course a chimpanzee only in the sense that all hominids are, ancient or modern. Homo sapiens is undoubtedly a chimpanzee just as much so as are the other two, Pan troglodytes and Pan paniscus. However, no scientist has ever claimed that Australopithecus afarensis is a member of the Pan genus. Some taxonomists however have proposed that it would be more correct to re-classify the Pans, and maybe Gorilla, as Homo.

Homo heidelbergensis

Heidelberg Man.

Far from being 'built from a jawbone', very many fossil remains have been found of Homo heidelbergensis from Europe and Africa, including a collection of 28 skeletons from a single site in Atapuerca, Spain.

Homo heidelbergensis may be the ancestor of Homo neanderthalensis (Neanderthals) and Homo sapiens (modern man). It appears to be a descendant of Homo ergaster and is close to Homo erectus.

You may wish to speculate on why someone would describe Heidelberg man as being 'built from a jawbone' when the facts are so much at variance with that claim...

Nebraska Man.

I have previously blogged about what amounts to a creationist hoax so I'll not go into detail again here. Since Dawson, who described 'Hesperopithecus haroldcookii', withdrew that claim in 1927, some 47 years before 'Lucy' was discovered, only anyone either seriously ignorant of the facts, or who was deliberately lying about them, would include both in any sequence leading to the evolution of modern humans.

Incidentally, Dawson never claimed 'Hesperopithecus haroldcookii' as an hominid but always referred to it as an anthropoid ape. The confusion about its putative hominid status, and the term 'Nebraska Man' were coined not by any scientist but by a popular magazine 'The London Illustrated News' and the depiction of it as hominid was made by an illustrator basing her illustration on 'Java man' despite Dawson's protests and complaint that the illustration was "a figment of the imagination of no scientific value, and undoubtedly inaccurate".

Piltdown Man.

I have recently blogged about Piltdown Man and how it was far from the embarrassment for science that creationists like to pretend.

About the only thing worth commenting on here is to ask why a hoax which was famously proven to be so by palaeoanthropologists in 1953, is portrayed as forming part of a scientific account of human evolution 19 years later in 1972.

Peking Man.

'Peking man' was a subspecies of Homo erectus of which 15 partial craniums, 11 lower jaws, many teeth and some skeletal fragments were found from a site at Zhoukoudian near Beijing, China between 1929 and 1937.

Several casts of the originals remain and some teeth at Upsala University, Sweden, however, the original fossils themselves went missing in 1941 somewhere in Northern China which was then under Japanese occupation, whilst en route to the USA. A substantial reward for their recovery has been offered by the Chinese Government. In 1966 however, more fragments were found at the same site.

Quite where Homo erectus pekinensis fits into the evolution of modern humans is still uncertain. Some authorities suggest it may be ancestral, at least partially, to modern Chinese, maybe with interbreeding with early Homo sapiens, however genetic studies show that modern Chinese fall within the range of diversity of all modern humans, suggesting there was little if any interbreeding between modern humans and Home erectus.

No one has ever suggested that Homo erectus pekinensis somehow fits in between 'Piltdown Man' and Neanderthals in the scientific account of human evolution as the above drawing shows.

Neaderthal Man.

Far from being described from a single specimen which has been dismissed as a modern human with arthritis, as the above fraud claims, remains of Neanderthal are plentiful and have provided DNA for genetic analysis. Quite where Neanderthals should be placed however is uncertain. They could either be classified as a species in their own right - Homo neanderthalensis, or as a subspecies of Homo sapiens, Homo sapiens neanderthalensis. (I have previously blogged about how fitting an archaic form into a taxonomic system designed for existing species can be problematic).

There is recent evidence that Neaderthals contributed 1-4% of modern human genes by interbreeding and a skeleton from a site at Lagar Velho, Portugal show intermediate characteristics, suggesting interbreeding in a mixed population.

Few authorities doubt that Neanderthals were a European form of Homo, the only question is to what extent they were ancestral to modern humans. Placing them between 'Peking Man' and a supposed 'New Guinea Man' is perverse and not based on scientific claims, as we have now come to expect of this creationist fraud.

New Guinea Man.

This appears to be a figment of Jack Chick's imagination. There is no record in the scientific literature of anything resembling a 'New Guinea Man' other than modern New Guineans. No one has ever proposed a 'New Guinea Man' as a different species or as being intermediate between Neanderthals and early modern Europeans. Indeed, no one with even a modicum of knowledge of geography would be that stupid. One wonders if this creationist fraud is aimed at those who lack a knowledge of even basic geography.

The first Cro-Magnon

Cro-Magnon Man.

Hillariously, our fraudster has posed the question, "One of the earliest and best established fossils is at least equal in physique and brain capacity to modern man... so what's the difference?".

Well... er... there IS no major difference because Cro-Magnon was modern man. No palaeoanthropologist has ever suggested anything other than that Cro-Magnon was an early Homo sapiens. The term describes a culture, not a species. The name comes from the Abri de Cro-Magnon (French: rock shelter of Cro-Magnon, the big cave in Occitan) near Les Eyzies-de-Tayac-Sireuil in southwestern France, where the first specimen was found. Cro-Magnon are associated with the Aurignacian culture and with the cave paintings at Lascaux in France.

In fact, though the term Cro-Magnon is often, and incorrectly, applied to any early Homo sapiens the earliest known fully modern Homo remains have been found in Romania at Peștera cu Oase near the Danube, which may be the route taken by early modern humans into Europe.

Lascaux cave painting
The last fallacy shown in Jack Chick's parody is a little more subtle. Note that the 'Modern Man' is a European. The clear implication here is that science claims that Europeans are the endpoint of human evolution (so pandering to social 'Darwinism' which inspired Fascism and which was used to justify segregation and racial discrimination in the USA and elsewhere).

There has never been any doubt in serious evolutionary science that all living humans are Homo sapiens. In fact, even if this were not so, the idea that one living species is somehow more evolved than another living species is biologically nonsensical since they have all been evolving for precisely the same length of time.

How the various hominids are related, and where they fit on the Homo branch of the 'tree of life' is still being worked out as more and more information is added to the sum total of scientific knowedge. One example of a possible structure is shown here. Note the Australopithecus afarensis is placed at the origin of this particular branch. This may be revised in due course because, like all science, conclusions are alway provisional and subject to revision. It may well be that Lucy was not our distant grandmother but maybe only a grand aunt.

Note the absence of 'Nebraska Man', 'Piltdown Man', 'Peking Man', 'New Guinea Man' and 'Cro-Magnon Man' and how the only hominids who may have been ancestral to modern man mentioned by Chick are 'Lucy' and 'Heidelberg Man'. The simple reason for this is that Chick was lying.

So, now a few questions for creationists.

Were you fooled by the ludicrous Jack Chick parody of human evolution and his deliberate misrepresentation of the science, or are you one of those determined to fool others with it?

Why do you think creationism can only be supported by lies, parody and misinformation? If it was a description of reality wouldn't you expect reality to provide supporting evidence?

Do you think there may be a clue to Jack Chick's motive for trying to mislead people about the science behind human evolution by the name at the end of the wording at the bottom of the top panel - that of 'Dr' Kent Hovind, the Young Earth Creationist currently serving a ten-year prison sentence for fraud?

And why do creationists lie to us? Because they've taken an oath to do so. No! Honestly!

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  1. Lying for Jesus, it's all they have. You can't expect anything else form them because they have no evidence.

    I do wonder though: if you lie for Jesus out of plain ignorance is that still considered lying?

    I think it's not, which is why so many Christians refuse to learn the basics. If they don't know they're lying, Jesus won't burn them in hell forever for breaking one of the ten rules they love so much.

    They're only playing ignorant to save their eternal souls...

  2. No, they know they are lying. In Dave gorman's googlewhack adventure he runs across a creationist trained in science. He quotes part of the 2nd law of thermodynamics and leaves out the last part. He has to have known he was doing that. Creationists who quote mine Darwin when he talks about the complexity of the eye never quote the lines which follow. They know they are there but undermine their case.
    The conclusion is that they are deliberately lying, they do not believe what they say they believe and they are either
    a) attempting to wield political power to back up their arcane prejudices or
    b) lobbying the universe for a change of the fundamental nature of reality or
    c) both.

    1. Phil.

      Now you're just being charitable. I would add a fourth reason - money. They are con-artists and fraudsters who have discovered a lucrative market amongst the barely literate superstitious fundamentalists who exist in large numbers in parts of the world, and these people will stump up good money to have their ignorance justified by 'science' so they can pretend to know better than educated people without needing to bother with all that learning.

      It's an unholy alliance between the willing dupes and those eager to dupe them for money.

  3. You are of course quite right and I'm ashamed to be so overly nice just like that polite Mr Dawkins! Point is though they know they are lying, they know their sky fairy is just a sock puppet. Not just money though, power & control mean a lot more.

  4. It should be pointed out that "bearing false witness" against the scientific facts is in fact breaking the Ninth Commandment.

    1. Indeed. Creationists seem to think that the ninth commandment either doesn't apply to them or doesn't apply when they are bearing false witness for their favourite god.

  5. I feel sorry for you and your soul. Not only have you rejected your creator, but you actively rally against Him. It's gonna be hot where you're going. I hope you find what we have.

    1. How brave of you to remain anonymous.

      In future please confine yourself to the subject of the blog, meanwhile, thank you for illustrating the phobic nature of religious superstition and the mentality of the protection racketeer which underpins it.

      Do you remember who caused your theophobia or were you too young to remember when it started? It's normally due to childhood psychological abuse, often by the parents of the unfortunate victim.

  6. Great post as usual.
    Love reading your blog.


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