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Feedback archiveFeedback 2002

Homo erectus misunderstandings?

Published: 29 April 2002 (GMT+10)

From Drs. Ronald Gravendeel, a biology researcher at a Laboratory of Aquatic Ecology at a university in Belgium, who gave permission for his full name to be used. He took issue with Dr Carl Wieland’s article Skull wars: new Homo erectus skull in Ethiopia (green). Drs. Gravendeel explained that Drs. stands for Doctorandus, i.e. still working on his Ph.D.—what some English-speaking universities would call a Ph.D. candidate. His letter is printed first in its entirety (his words in dark red). His letter is printed again below with a point-by-point response by Dr Wieland (in black):

To the editorial team of [CMI],

Before I state my comments on your article of 22 March 2002, I’d first like to bring your attention to a problem with the link to the CNN article. The link you provide in this article doesn’t exist. However, there is an article on the same subject on the following page:
http://www.cnn.com/2002/TECH/science/03/22/ancestor/index.html

Skull wars: new ‘Homo erectus’ skull in Ethiopia, by Carl Wieland, 22 March, 2002.

The recent find of a so-called Homo erectus skull in Africa was announced throughout the world as if it proved evolution, and published in Nature.

The facts are far less exciting for evolution’s would-be believers. ‘A million-year-old skull found in Ethiopia confirms the theory that modern man evolved from a single pre-human species that developed in Africa and migrated throughout the rest of the world…’

Reading that introduction to the CNN internet article about the latest alleged ape-man skull find the average reader might think that this skull is supposed to have somehow confirmed that people evolved from subhuman ancestors.

I learned about this through about this through Nature and Science (Vol 295, pp 2192–2193) and never read the text as if this one fossil was the conclusive proof you allude to in the first line.

Since cnn.com doesn’t seem to have the text you link to any more, I’ll refrain from commenting on the quote and the article it comes from.

As for the present text that can be found on cnn.com, although it is a simplification of the actual article (arguably, an oversimplification), it doesn’t bring the fossil as if it is the one fossil that undeniably proves evolution.

So I would say that your assessment [… announced throughout the world as if it proved evolution.] is something of an exaggeration. (If you can provide me with other (news) articles that support your claim, I’m willing to adapt my conclusion).

But even evolutionists reading this would have to agree that this was not the point being made, in fact.

I agree the skull wasn’t announced [… as if it proved evolution]. Try though I might, I cannot find any text that says something in the lines of ‘This skull is definitive proof’. I’d be happy if you can point out any text on the subject that does so.

The author(s) of the article, and the researchers cited, all commence their thinking, and all their interpretations of the facts, from within a framework that already believes that man evolved. After all, if they didn’t, then the only alternative would be to accept special creation, which is against The rules of the game!

I’ll refrain from commenting on this part (at the moment). Doing so would call for a lot of text, and it would fall out of the scope of the article.

The skull in question is of a type that has been given the label Homo erectus. The above mentioned evolutionary thought framework has long been locked into the view that Homo erectus is a subhuman species, i.e. an evolutionary intermediate between today’s humans and earlier, even less human, ape-like ancestors.

The term ‘subhuman’ is not really accurate. The preferred term is ‘pre-human’. ‘subhuman’ would imply that modern humans are ‘better’ than earlier humans, which is not what evolution teaches.

Creationists have generally claimed that there is nothing in erectus specimens which is outside the range of human variation. This is confirmed by evidence of their artefacts and thus behaviour. I.e. they are likely to have been just another type of human resulting from the sudden burst of genetic diversification after Babel.

I’ll admit I’m not a specialist on modern human variability. But brain sizes of some 800 cc to 1100 cc differs quite heavily from the average human brain size of 1350 cc. I know there are some examples of people with smaller brains, but they are rare for a reason.

Not so long ago, the cover of Time drew an erectus male looking just like a tall Olympic athlete. If that individual were to wear a hat, hiding his receding forehead and prominent brow ridges (features which are, in isolation, not unknown among today’s populations), he would not even warrant a second look.

Please provide the exact issue, otherwise it would be difficult to confirm your claim. I’m especially interested in knowing wether the artist’s impression you refer to is indeed one of H. erectus or of a later hominid. The way you are predisposed to throw them all together, it wouldn’t be a surprise if you mixed them up.

So what is the new fuss all about? Shouldn’t it be just a case of, ‘Yawn, just another Homo erectus skull has been found?’ The answer is that it is all about debates among evolutionists, arguing about different ideas of how humans evolved, not whether.

The situation was this. Until the mid-1980s, most evolutionists believed that the erectus skulls found in places like Asia and Europe had all emerged from an original erectus population which had emerged in Africa. Then others started saying that the skulls in Africa were a little different, and represented a separate species, which they named Homo ergaster, that is thought to have evolved into erectus.

This recent skull discovery has been made in Africa, and the skull is ‘dated’ (using the usual evolutionary assumptions) at one million years.

Dating of the sediment in which the skull has been found has nothing to do with ‘evolutionary assumptions’. This is a process based on principles of nuclear physics.

It is a classic erectus skull, which seems to confirm the earlier view. This has caused people to reassess the whole matter of ergaster, with many now saying that ergaster never existed. I.e. they now point out that the differences between ergaster and erectus were, all along, too minor to call them a separate species. They were just a part of the range of variation in one group.

You seem to miss part of the problem. The variability within H. erectus is not only one of geography but also one of time. Fossils of this species span 1,5 My and nobody will deny that the oldest fossils are clearly different from the youngest. However, with new finds, the time-gap between different fossils becomes smaller, which logically leads to the fact that fossils will be more alike… at least compared to those that came shortly before and shortly after.

In other words, where once one could talk of three separate Homo species called ergaster, erectus and sapiens, now these are reduced to erectus and Sapiens.

Correction. There were 6 Homo species: H. habilis, H. ergaster, H. erectus, H. heidelbergensis, H. heanderthalensis and H. sapiens. It now seems that H. ergaster belongs to the early stages of H. erectus’ long history. As the authors call it: a chrono-subspecies (H. erectus ergaster).

This still leaves 5 valid known species in the genus Homo.

Also, the authors clearly state that it seems that later in its history, H. erectus speciated, resulting in two different species (as yet unnamed).

Study leader Dr Tim White, co-director of the Laboratory for Human Evolutionary Studies at the University of California, Berkeley, points out the widespread occurrence of what’s known as taxonomic splitting:

‘There’s been a recent tendency to give a different name to each of the fossils that comes out of the ground, and that has led to what we think is a very misleading portrayal of the biology of human evolution.’

This is indeed a problematic tendency. However, not one that lay at the basis of the H. erectus / H. ergaster question, and is as such, not relevant to this discussion.

Other evolutionists are not convinced, despite the evidence confirming the tight anatomical overlap of features.

Not convinced of what? If you’re referring to the discussed article, references please.

As for ‘the tight overlap of features’… can you please elaborate on which features of which specimens/species?

However, this only highlights how all such matters involving classification of fossil bones are, by their very nature, highly subjective. It is not at all unreasonable, in the light of that subjectivity, for the creationist to maintain that there should really only be one Homo species acknowledged, namely Homo Sapiens.

It depends. If you throw all bones from the last 5 million years together, you might indeed see an overlap of features, even though the extremes are clearly different. Off course, this gradual overlap becomes more clear when seen in the geological column. Two species (or chrono-subspecies) from subsequent periods look much more alike than two species (or chrono-subspecies) from periods that lay far apart. the more fossils from different periods are unearthed, the more it becomes apparent that a species has changes over time … and hey, isn’t that what phyletic gradualism predicts?

This is consistent with what certain evolutionary paleoanthropologists, most notably Milford Wolpoff of the University of Michigan, have been saying for some time now. They do believe that the individuals whose bones have been labeled erectus were the evolutionary ancestors of modern people (as were Neandertals, in their view). But they seem to believe that the similarities are such that all Homo erectus specimens, along with Homo neanderthalensis and others, should really be called Homo Sapiens—which means, in a nutshell, people.

Sounds intriguing. Can you please provide me with references to these claims? Preferably from peer-reviewed magazines.

There is evidence associated with erectus of many human cultural attributes, including burial of their dead, the use of ceremonial ochre, stone toolmaking, and even complex seafaring/navigation skills.

That’s a first (except the stone toolmaking off course). Please provide me with the appropriate references to support thes strong claims.

(It’s been recently discovered that ‘Neanderthals Made High-Tech Superglue’.)

Interesting though this is, it has nothing to do with the discussion about H. erectus.

So, like the ten green bottles on the wall, now we would be back to one Homo species after all.

My count still has 5 out of the 6 we started with.

The Journal of Creation paper by creationist John Woodmorappe, titled The non-transitions in ‘human evolution’—on evolutionists’ terms concludes from the analysis of a number of characteristics that Homo ergaster, H. erectus, H. neanderthalensis as well as H. heidelbergensis were most likely ‘racial’ variants of modern man, while H. habilis and another specimen called H. rudolfensis were just types of australopithecines.

Concerning the throwing together of H. erectus, H. heidelbergensis and H. neanderthalensis with H. sapiens, see my comments earlier. As for H. habilis and H. rudolfensis being Australopithecines (and, I may assume, you mean ‘ape and nothing human-like’ with that).

There seems to be some discussion about that within creationist writers. Some will say ‘ape’ while others still go for ‘human’.

And to make it extra confusing there are even creationists that place several H. erectus fossils with ‘ape’.

And you’re accusing palaeo-anthropologists of not having a clear view on things?

For an overview of this confusion amongst creationist writers (most of them in the last decade) you can go to [atheistic/evolutionary website ref. which violates our feedback rules that forbid advertising websites]

When the entire human gene pool was broken up suddenly at Babel, different groups took different proportions of that gene pool with them, giving rise to many people groups, or so-called ‘races’. These have superficial fixed differences in the proportion and frequency of certain features. E.g. some have more skin pigment, some less. But genetic studies on the living descendants of those groups shows that they (we) are all astonishingly closely related, not surprisingly. We all have the same skin pigment, for instance, just different amounts of it. And all people groups can freely intermarry, resulting in a closer approximation to the genetic richness that would have characterized Noah’s family. In fact, there is a wider variation within a ‘race’ than between different ‘races’, which is why biologists regard ‘race’ as a biologically meaningless concept.

No discussion about the present mix of genes. Neither the minor differences between ‘races’ … all to be expected in the 100.000 years or so that Homo sapiens has been around. Please explain to me what this has to do with H. erectus.

Similarly, the range of variation in bony features among these early post-Babel humans, some groups of which have since died out (Neandertals, e.g.) is easily explained on the same genetic basis.

How come there are no racial (mind you racial, not occasional) differences in bony features now like we find them in fossil humanoids?

So next time you see certain newspaper announcements of the latest ‘skull’, remember that often the reporters concerned have only the fuzziest idea of what is being discussed.

I’ll agree with that… always best to look for professional (peer-reviewed) texts on the matter.

Also, they are viewing and interpreting those facts through the ‘lens’ of a framework which assumes human evolution, so can hardly be used to prove human evolution. In any case, neither the researchers, nor the reporters, will generally have the opportunity, will or incentive to see the same facts through the ‘lens’ of the real history given in the Bible.

Replying on this part of text would bring me to a whole different discussion. I’ll leave that for a later moment.

References

4. So-called Homo habilis has pretty well died as a taxon, the confusion seemingly caused by assigning of either erectus or, more commonly, australopithecine fossil pieces into this ‘taxonomic waste bin’. For simplicity, we are here ignoring the debates about Homo neanderthalensis and similar.

That’s the first mention I hear about this. That would be a first, retraction of a taxon that has existed for so long without any mention of a senior synonym. Once again I come with the compelling question, can you give me the relevant reference(s)?

Drs. Ronald Gravendeel
Licentiate Biology
Belgium


To the editorial team of [CMI],

Before I state my comments on your article of 22 March 2002, I’d first like to bring your attention to a problem with the link to the CNN article. The link you provide in this article doesn’t exist. However, there is an article on the same subject on the following page:
http://www.cnn.com/2002/TECH/science/03/22/ancestor/index.html

This is often a problem with news links—this is why it’s good to put a download date for any Internet citation, especially from such an ephemeral source as CNN. I should note that my article was in the context of an immediate response to something widely circulated and about which we received many questions.

Skull wars: new ‘Homo erectus’ skull in Ethiopia, by Carl Wieland, 22 March, 2002.

The recent find of a so-called Homo erectus skull in Africa was announced throughout the world as if it proved evolution, and published in Nature.

The facts are far less exciting for evolution’s would-be believers. ‘A million-year-old skull found in Ethiopia confirms the theory that modern man evolved from a single pre-human species that developed in Africa and migrated throughout the rest of the world …’

Reading that introduction to the CNN internet article about the latest alleged ape-man skull find the average reader might think that this skull is supposed to have somehow confirmed that people evolved from subhuman ancestors.

I learned about this through Nature and Science (Vol 295, pp 2192–2193) and never read the text as if this one fossil was the conclusive proof you allude to in the first line.

Since cnn.com doesn’t seem to have the text you link to any more, I’ll refrain from commenting on the quote and the article it comes from.

As for the present text that can be found on cnn.com, although it is a simplification of the actual article (arguably, an oversimplification), it doesn’t bring the fossil as if it is the one fossil that undeniably proves evolution.

So I would say that your assessment [… announced throughout the world as if it proved evolution.] is something of an exaggeration. (If you can provide me with other (news) articles that support your claim, I’m willing to adapt my conclusion).

As the author of the article in question, I would not have written what I did were it not for firstly the word-for-word introduction to the CNN article I read, which I repeat was:

‘A million-year-old skull found in Ethiopia confirms the theory that modern man evolved from a single pre-human species that developed in Africa and migrated throughout the rest of the world…’

My point was not that the article itself was saying that it proves evolution, but that the headlines make the average (non-discerning) reader think it. We got feedback about this ‘find’, as we do about most other ape-men type announcements, which made it clear that the average person got the impression that this is somehow proof of evolution. In fact, the comment I made in the article, just below this insertion, made it clear that the article was not saying that it proved evolution.

As we said, it’s very important to check the original paper rather than simply believe all the newspaper sensationalism.

But even evolutionists reading this would have to agree that this was not the point being made, in fact.

I agree the skull wasn’t announced [… as if it proved evolution]. Try though I might, I cannot find any text that says something in the lines of ‘This skull is definitive proof’. I’d be happy if you can point out any text on the subject that does so.

I’m not sure I follow your point, given my comments above. I was referring to an impression given to lay readers, and I reiterate that unhesitatingly. Your ability to find text (given the ephemeral nature of the internet and news headlines, etc.) is surely not the ultimate criterion. I would have thought that my comments were mild and self-evident.

The author(s) of the article, and the researchers cited, all commence their thinking, and all their interpretations of the facts, from within a framework that already believes that man evolved. After all, if they didn’t, then the only alternative would be to accept special creation, which is against The rules of the game!

I’ll refrain from commenting on this part (at the moment). Doing so would call for a lot of text, and it would fall out of the scope of the article.

The skull in question is of a type that has been given the label Homo erectus. The above mentioned evolutionary thought framework has long been locked into the view that Homo erectus is a subhuman species, i.e. an evolutionary intermediate between today’s humans and earlier, even less human, ape-like ancestors.

The term ‘subhuman’ is not really accurate. The preferred term is ‘pre-human’. ‘subhuman’ would imply that modern humans are ‘better’ than earlier humans, which is not what evolution teaches.

‘Evolution’ is not a unified body of thought, so it is not really valid to say ‘evolution teaches’ or ‘evolution does not teach’. Gould has spilt a lot of ink chastising other prominent evolutionists who do think of evolution in terms of a ‘ladder of progress’. Churchian evolutionists in particular are prone to this, as they try to somehow blend it in with the Bible (see Darwin’s Real Message

Creationists have generally claimed that there is nothing in erectus specimens which is outside the range of human variation. This is confirmed by evidence of their artefacts and thus behaviour. I.e. they are likely to have been just another type of human resulting from the sudden burst of genetic diversification after Babel.

I’ll admit I’m not a specialist on modern human variability. But brain sizes of some 800 cc to 1100 cc differs quite heavily from the average human brain size of 1350 cc. I know there are some examples of people with smaller brains, but they are rare for a reason.

Note that here you are comparing a range with an average. The average erectus size is different from the average sapiens size, but in fact the average erectus is still within the range of sapiens variation. NB we are talking about skull capacity, which is related to, but not the same as, brain size.

Not so long ago, the cover of Time drew an erectus male looking just like a tall Olympic athlete. If that individual were to wear a hat, hiding his receding forehead and prominent brow ridges (features which are, in isolation, not unknown among today’s populations), he would not even warrant a second look.

Please provide the exact issue, otherwise it would be difficult to confirm your claim. I’m especially interested in knowing wether the artist’s impression you refer to is indeed one of H. erectus or of a later hominid. The way you are predisposed to throw them all together, it wouldn’t be a surprise if you mixed them up.

It’s a basic rule that a document is innocent until proven guilty, so I suggest the onus is on you to prove that we got it wrong. And I have to say, with such an approach as you display, we’re certainly going to insist that you should be the one to contact Time and go to all that trouble. But I read the article personally, and have used this cover drawing many times, and I assure you that I don’t get H. erectus mixed up with other hominids.

So what is the new fuss all about? Shouldn’t it be just a case of, ‘Yawn, just another Homo erectus skull has been found?’ The answer is that it is all about debates among evolutionists, arguing about different ideas of how humans evolved, not whether.

The situation was this. Until the mid-1980s, most evolutionists believed that the erectus skulls found in places like Asia and Europe had all emerged from an original erectus population which had emerged in Africa. Then others started saying that the skulls in Africa were a little different, and represented a separate species, which they named Homo ergaster, that is thought to have evolved into erectus.

This recent skull discovery has been made in Africa, and the skull is ‘dated’ (using the usual evolutionary assumptions) at one million years.

Dating of the sediment in which the skull has been found has nothing to do with ‘evolutionary assumptions’. This is a process based on principles of nuclear physics.

FYI, one of the Ph.D. scientists working at CMI is qualified in nuclear physics, and another is qualified in geology and has first-hand experience of radiometric dating. So we are well aware of the principles of nuclear physics and the methods of radiometric dating. I would urge you to familiarize yourself with our articles on dating procedures, and with some of the realities of radiometric dating in practice. We have no problems with ‘the principles of nuclear physics’, but (in short) radiometric dating goes beyond the principles of nuclear physics and has to make demonstrably questionable assumptions about the unobservable past. See Lubenow’s book Bones of Contention (above right), or Woodmorappe’s The Mythology of Modern Dating Methods (right).

It is a classic erectus skull, which seems to confirm the earlier view. This has caused people to reassess the whole matter of ergaster, with many now saying that ergaster never existed. I.e. they now point out that the differences between ergaster and erectus were, all along, too minor to call them a separate species. They were just a part of the range of variation in one group.

You seem to miss part of the problem. The variability within H. erectus is not only one of geography but also one of time. Fossils of this species span 1,5 My and nobody will deny that the oldest fossils are clearly different from the youngest. However, with new finds, the time-gap between different fossils becomes smaller, which logically leads to the fact that fossils will be more alike… at least compared to those that came shortly before and shortly after.

This is indeed the most commonly believed view of human evolution by those not in the field, i.e. that there is this nice correlation of an evolutionary progression with the dating of the specimens, i.e. with ‘time’. But Lubenow in his book shows clearly that even granting the validity of the dating procedures, this alleged correlation is a myth.

In other words, where once one could talk of three separate Homo species called ergaster, erectus and sapiens, now these are reduced to erectus and Sapiens.

Correction. There were 6 Homo species: H. habilis, H. ergaster, H. erectus, H. heidelbergensis, H. heanderthalensis and H. sapiens. It now seems that H. ergaster belongs to the early stages of H. erectus’ long history. As the authors call it: a chrono-subspecies (H. erectus ergaster).

Actually, I didn’t say there were only three separate Homo species, but was saying in the context of the species at issue, (i.e. in that limited range) there were three species, now there are two. Respectfully, to ‘correct’ me on this issue seems odd, when later on in the same article I said something about these very ‘species’ you imply I’m unaware of! You even later comment on this paragraph.

Let me comment further after your next comment:

This still leaves 5 valid known species in the genus Homo.

For some years now, most evolutionist specialists nowadays agree that H. habilis was probably always a phantom taxon, with a bag of fossils belonging to either H. erectus/ergaster or to australopithecines thrown into this ‘taxonomic wastebin’ (we have a video, The Image of God, for sale on our Web site (left) which makes this plain, through an interview with Dr Fred Spoor, a Dutch-born paleoanthropologist in the UK, and joint editor of the Journal of Human Evolution. But it is ‘common knowledge’.) And as you probably know, H. heidelbergensis has been called ‘Archaic Homo sapiens’ by some, and Neandertals have often been called ‘Homo sapiens neanderthalensis’ —so to talk of 5 remaining species is not what it seems.

Also, the authors clearly state that it seems that later in its history, H. erectus speciated, resulting in two different species (as yet unnamed).

Study leader Dr Tim White, co-director of the Laboratory for Human Evolutionary Studies at the University of California, Berkeley, points out the widespread occurrence of what’s known as taxonomic splitting:

‘There’s been a recent tendency to give a different name to each of the fossils that comes out of the ground, and that has led to what we think is a very misleading portrayal of the biology of human evolution.’

This is indeed a problematic tendency. However, not one that lay at the basis of the H. erectus / H. ergaster question, and is as such, not relevant to this discussion.

That did not seem to be what the many articles on this subject I read (all in one day, admittedly) seemed to indicate. I don’t think you have adequately made your point, but behind all the points so far is your assumption that there really was this sequence of events over long time periods, which is built upon further assumptions again. The actual facts lend themselves to a creationist interpretation without much difficulty.

Other evolutionists are not convinced, despite the evidence confirming the tight anatomical overlap of features.

Not convinced of what? If you’re referring to the discussed article, references please.

I thought it was self-evident from the wording of my article—other evolutionists are not convinced of the fact that ergaster/erectus are separate. I don’t have a problem with not having provided the references from the various internet and other articles I read on the topic that day. Mine was not a peer-reviewed science paper, but a layman’s brief response to a topical news item, but it needs to be accurate, of course. And I believe it is an accurate representation of the situation. And I don’t think your request is a genuine one, particularly in light of the below paragraph, since it is also clear that I was talking about the opinion of the evolutionists in the paper concerned, which caused them to claim that erectus and ergaster were in fact much of a muchness. But all of the details in my brief article were gleaned from the writings of other evolutionists assessing this find, as well as cross-checking with the original paper—which was our first endnote—as we always advise people to do.

As for ‘the tight overlap of features’… can you please elaborate on which features of which specimens/species?

This is perfectly clear in the paper hyperlinked in my article and mentioned further below: The non-transitions in ‘human evolution’—on evolutionists’ terms.

However, this only highlights how all such matters involving classification of fossil bones are, by their very nature, highly subjective. It is not at all unreasonable, in the light of that subjectivity, for the creationist to maintain that there should really only be one Homo species acknowledged, namely Homo Sapiens.

It depends. If you throw all bones from the last 5 million years together, you might indeed see an overlap of features, even though the extremes are clearly different. Off course, this gradual overlap becomes more clear when seen in the geological column. Two species (or chrono-subspecies) from subsequent periods look much more alike than two species (or chrono-subspecies) from periods that lay far apart. The more fossils from different periods are unearthed, the more it becomes apparent that a species has changes over time … and hey, isn’t that what phyletic gradualism predicts?

Again, you’re assuming that there really was such a progression through time. I strongly urge you to read the thoroughly documented Lubenow book. This should also make it clear where we’re coming from, so we don’t continue to talk at cross purposes. We always try to be careful to state accurately what evolutionists claim in the original papers.

This is consistent with what certain evolutionary paleoanthropologists, most notably Milford Wolpoff of the University of Michigan, have been saying for some time now. They do believe that the individuals whose bones have been labeled erectus were the evolutionary ancestors of modern people (as were Neandertals, in their view). But they seem to believe that the similarities are such that all Homo erectus specimens, along with Homo neanderthalensis and others, should really be called Homo Sapiens-which means, in a nutshell, people.

Sounds intriguing. Can you please provide me with references to these claims? Preferably from peer-reviewed magazines.

Wolpoff’s position is common knowledge among anthropologists. It is shared by Dr Alan Thorne of the Australian National University. The onus of proof is on you is to produce evidence to show otherwise. But I’ll provide the references anyway, which I hope will be useful. Alan Thorne & Milford Wolpoff, Conflict Over Human Origins, Search, 22(5):175, July–August 1991; same authors, The Case Against Eve, New Scientist, June 22, 1991, pp. 33–37. And as recently as 12 Jan 2001, Wolpoff et al., showed that the features of various human skulls indicated that there must have been interbreeding among modern-looking Homo Sapiens and Neanderthals and even Homo erectus (Modern human ancestry at the peripheries: A test of the replacement theory, Science 291(5502):293–297; comment by E. Pennisi, p. 231, Skull study targets Africa-only origins). Both these papers are already cited on our site, and could have been found with our Search Button.

There is evidence associated with erectus of many human cultural attributes, including burial of their dead, the use of ceremonial ochre, stone toolmaking, and even complex seafaring/navigation skills.

That’s a first (except the stone toolmaking off course). Please provide me with the appropriate references to support these strong claims.

Lubenow’s book mentions a number of these. The evidence of seafaring skills was butchered elephant bones on a small Indonesian island, too small and resource-poor to sustain a settlement, with tools and dating that identify ‘H. erectus’ as the only candidate (in evolutionists’ minds) for the butcher, but the island had to be reached by boat over quite a stretch of deep water. A small summary featured in our Creation magazine 21(1):9, December 1998; citing New Scientist 157(2125):6, 14 March 1998, based on Morwood et al., Fission-track ages of stone tools and fossils on the east Indonesian island of Flores, Nature 392(6672):173–176, 12 March 1998. Morwood et al. conclude on p. 176 so clearly that we cannot be accused of misrepresenting them:

‘Furthermore, they [our findings] indicate that, somewhere between 800,000 and 900,00 years ago, Homo erectus in this region had acquired the capacity to make water crossings.’

QED. This was also highlighted by evolutionists Wolpoff and Thorne as support for their ‘multi-regional’ hypothesis. Interestingly the ardent ‘out of Africa’ advocate Chris Stringer said that these seafaring skills would be evidence that H. erectus ‘was more human, just like us’. (See our most recent explanation of these competing theories, Was Adam from Australia? The mystery of ‘Mungo Man’)

(It’s been recently discovered that ‘Neanderthals Made High-Tech Superglue‘.)

Interesting though this is, it has nothing to do with the discussion about H. erectus.

Only if you start by excluding the Biblical paradigm. Otherwise it becomes most relevant, especially when you realise what certain opponents of ours are forced to claim about Neandertals as a result of their uncritical acceptance of the long-age sequence of events.

So, like the ten green bottles on the wall, now we would be back to one Homo species after all.

My count still has 5 out of the 6 we started with.

First, I have shown that your five shrink dramatically anyway, second, the context was between the three I singled out for discussion, as stated above.

The Journal of Creation paper by creationist John Woodmorappe, titled The non-transitions in ‘human evolution’—on evolutionists’ terms concludes from the analysis of a number of characteristics that Homo ergaster, H. erectus, H. neanderthalensis as well as H. heidelbergensis were most likely ‘racial’ variants of modern man, while H. habilis and another specimen called H. rudolfensis were just types of australopithecines.

Concerning the throwing together of H. erectus, H. heidelbergensis and H. neanderthalensis with H. sapiens, see my comments earlier. As for H. habilis and H. rudolfensis being Australopithecines (and, I may assume, you mean ‘ape and nothing human-like’ with that).

We would prefer if you did not assume that. We have made it clear that australopithecines are more distinct from both modern apes and humans than they are from each other, following Oxnard’s multivariate analysis.

There seems to be some discussion about that within creationist writers. Some will say ‘ape’ while others still go for ‘human’.

First, I can hardly be expected to take into account hearsay evidence from other creationist writers—you’re arguing with me, not them. Second, with the fragmentary remains and problems in classification, it’s not surprising that some identification is ambiguous. When there is adequate data, the morphology is either clear-cut australopith or clear-cut Homo sapiens, not transitional or even mosaic, as the URL demonstrates.

And to make it extra confusing there are even creationists that place several H. erectus fossils with ‘ape’.

Maybe not as confusing as Piltdown Man being promoted as a missing link, and the obvious forgery being unexposed for 40 years.

And you’re accusing palaeo-anthropologists of not having a clear view on things?

Accusing is a strong word. But note how you use the term ‘paleoanthropologists’ to mean evolutionists, by definition. Check out the video mentioned earlier, you will see a creationist of that profession, who works at a major European university. I agree that there is confusion in the field. As one person put it, ‘Fossils are fickle. Bones will sing any song you want to hear’ (J. Shreeve, Argument over a woman, Discover 11(8):58, 1990). That applies to workers and thinkers in either paradigm.

For an overview of this confusion amongst creationist writers (most of them in the last decade) you can go to [atheistic/evolutionary website ref. which violates our feedback rules that forbid advertising websites]

I’m quite familiar with this, and have to say that Talk.Origins is well known for its unreliable bluff-mongering. It would be nice if our detractors were as familiar with what we write.

When the entire human gene pool was broken up suddenly at Babel, different groups took different proportions of that gene pool with them, giving rise to many people groups, or so-called ‘races’. These have superficial fixed differences in the proportion and frequency of certain features. E.g. some have more skin pigment, some less. But genetic studies on the living descendants of those groups shows that they (we) are all astonishingly closely related, not surprisingly. We all have the same skin pigment, for instance, just different amounts of it. And all people groups can freely intermarry, resulting in a closer approximation to the genetic richness that would have characterized Noah’s family. In fact, there is a wider variation within a ‘race’ than between different ‘races’, which is why biologists regard ‘race’ as a biologically meaningless concept.

No discussion about the present mix of genes. Neither the minor differences between ‘races’ … all to be expected in the 100.000 years or so that Homo sapiens has been around. Please explain to me what this has to do with H. erectus.

I’m not sure this is a genuine question, since you seem intelligent enough to be able to follow from the article itself. But if it is, it will certainly become clear once you have read the Lubenow book. This doesn’t mean you will agree with it, of course, but you will know what the connection is for the creationist.

Similarly, the range of variation in bony features among these early post-Babel humans, some groups of which have since died out (Neandertals, e.g.) is easily explained on the same genetic basis.

How come there are no racial (mind you racial, not occasional) differences in bony features now like we find them in fossil humanoids?

I’m surprised—you, a biologist, are seriously trying to tell me that you believe that a forensic scientist is unable to tell anything about ethnic origins from bony anatomy?

So next time you see certain newspaper announcements of the latest ‘skull’, remember that often the reporters concerned have only the fuzziest idea of what is being discussed.

I’ll agree with that… always best to look for professional (peer-reviewed) texts on the matter.

You’re right—good that we can agree on that, and that’s precisely what this article did. Incidentally, we have a peer-reviewed journal, Journal of Creation, which is different from the news-style item I wrote for our ‘web news’.

Also, they are viewing and interpreting those facts through the ‘lens’ of a framework which assumes human evolution, so can hardly be used to prove human evolution. In any case, neither the researchers, nor the reporters, will generally have the opportunity, will or incentive to see the same facts through the ‘lens’ of the real history given in the Bible.

Replying on this part of text would bring me to a whole different discussion. I’ll leave that for a later moment.

That would be interesting, but we hope that you’d not be like many evolutionists, who chide creationists for supposedly speaking outside their fields, but at the same time have no qualms about attacking the Bible, in spite of having no qualifications in theology or the Biblical languages, and display an amazing lack of logic (see Countering the Critics: alleged Bible errors and contradictions). I hope you are not one of those.

References

….

4. So-called Homo habilis has pretty well died as a taxon, the confusion seemingly caused by assigning of either erectus or, more commonly, australopithecine fossil pieces into this ‘taxonomic waste bin’. For simplicity, we are here ignoring the debates about Homo neanderthalensis and similar.

That’s the first mention I hear about this. That would be a first, retraction of a taxon that has existed for so long without any mention of a senior synonym. Once again I come with the compelling question, can you give me the relevant reference(s)?

As above, we thought this was common knowledge, but evidently not, so we hope the above is helpful.

Drs. Ronald Gravendeel
Licentiate Biology
Belgium

Dr Carl Wieland
Managing director, Creation Ministries International Australia


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