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Early human fossils from South Africa could upend long-held view of human evolution

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.


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MINNEAPOLIS—It’s a great irony of paleoanthropology that for all the insights scientists have been able to glean from the fossil record about our early ancestors, the australopithecines (Lucy and her kin), they have precious little to document the origin of our own genus, Homo. They know that Homo descended from one of those australopithecine species and that over the course of that transition our ancestors evolved from chimp-size creatures with short legs and small brains into tall humans with long legs and large brains, among other hallmark traits. But the details of this evolutionary transformation—when the distinctive Homo characteristics arose and why—have remained elusive, because fossils of early Homo are rare and the ones that have turned up are generally too fragmentary to yield much information.

To that end, last spring Lee Berger of the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa, and his colleagues announced their discovery of two partial human skeletons (pictured above) from that mysterious period that might well revolutionize researcher’s understanding of how our genus got its start. The specimens, which date to around 1.95 million years ago, were said to exhibit a mosaic of traits linking them to both Australopithecus and Homo, leading the team to propose that they represent a previously unknown species of human—Australopithecus sediba—that could be the direct ancestor of Homo. The interpretation was controversial. Some critics argued that the fossils do belong in Australopithecus, but have no special relationship to Homo; others contended that they represent a dead-end branch of Homo, rather than ancestor of later species, including H. sapiens.

On April 12 at the annual meeting of the Paleoanthropology Society and on April 16 at the annual meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists, Berger and his colleagues gave presentations on the results of their latest analyses of the A. sediba bones. The findings underscore the mosaic nature of the remains, and threaten to topple a leading model of human evolution.

Team member Kristian J. Carlson talked about the shape of A. sediba’s brain, as revealed by synchrotron scanning of the interior of the brain case. With an estimated cranial capacity of just 420 cubic centimeters, this species had about a third as much gray matter as we do. Indeed this tiny brain size—which lies in the lower end of the Australopithecus range—figured significantly in the team’s decision to place the fossils in the genus Australopithecus rather than Homo. Yet despite the diminutive size of the brain, its frontal lobe appears to have had a much more humanlike organization than that of the australopithecines. Carlson noted that this surprising finding hints that frontal lobe reorganization and the overall increase in brain size that characterizes Homo may not have occurred simultaneously, as was thought.

The mixture of primitive and advanced traits is apparent throughout the skeleton. Darryl de Ruiter of Texas A&M University reported that the skull exhibits a suite of traits in common with australopithecines, particularly A. africanus. Yet it also shares a number of skull traits in common with Homo—more, in fact, than any other australopithecine does. “The combination of primitive and derived cranial and postcranial [below the neck] characteristics in sediba highlight its intermediate nature,” de Ruiter observed, reiterating the team’s earlier claim that A. sediba could be the ancestor of Homo. Berger enumerated other mosaic traits—including the apelike ribcage and long arms combined with the humanlike hand, with its short fingers and long thumb.

But it was the pelvis of A. sediba that yielded perhaps the most startling revelation at the meetings. Many researchers have argued that increasing brain size in the Homo lineage was the driving factor in the evolution of the Homo pelvis from the australopithecine one, because in early Homo fossils a larger braincase accompanies the modified pelvis. According to a talk given by Berger on behalf of Steven Churchill of Duke University, however, A. sediba, with its tiny brain, has a pelvis that looks a lot like that of early Homo.

If ballooning brain size was not the driving factor in evolving a humanlike pelvis, then what was? “I would say it’s the shift from habitual bipedalism to more humanlike obligate bipedal locomotion,” Will Harcourt-Smith of the American Museum of Natural History in New York City, an expert not involved in the analysis, told Scientific American. He thinks bipedalism probably evolved in two stages: in the first stage, represented by Lucy’s species, early humans still spent a fair amount of time climbing in the trees in addition to walking upright on the ground. In the second, they lost their climbing ability and became fully bipedal.

“It’s very reasonable to see [A. sediba] as the ancestor of Homo,” Harcourt-Smith remarked, noting that he was much more on the fence until he saw the pelvis. “Am I 100 percent convinced? No, but it’s persuasive.”

Image: skeletons courtesy of Science/AAAS





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  1. 1. ineamer 4:56 pm 04/18/2011

    Dido … What specifically about the pelvis?

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  2. 2. the Gaul 5:45 pm 04/18/2011

    Honestly, after all the years spent studying to become a paleoanthropologist, you’d think they would know Something!

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  3. 3. lowndesw 6:27 pm 04/18/2011

    where is jtdwyer???

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  4. 4. blindboy 7:08 pm 04/18/2011

    We have a good overview of human evolution in terms of the major stages but lack detail. The fragmentary nature of the fossil evidence allows for multiple, equally valid interpretations. It is pleasing to see this acknowledged in the article.
    The evidence from brain structure in sediba is intriguing but far from conclusive. I think we are still a very long way from understanding the transition from Australopithecines to Homo and will probably not make much progress unless there are a series of substantial new fossil finds. Until then speculation remains only speculation.

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  5. 5. jtdwyer 9:03 pm 04/18/2011

    Is their any direct evidence for a causal relationship between brain size and intellectual capacity? If so, then were pygmy mammoths morons? Their brains were substantially smaller than the mammoth species they developed from, correct?

    The development of the frontal lobe may have been a result of upright walking, freeing this more modern hunmanlike hand for manipulative undertakings.

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  6. 6. JamesDavis 7:55 am 04/19/2011

    They are still wrong. That evidence would not hold up in court. Until they have a complete skeleton with a DNA test that prove it is even a little bit related to humans…it’s a monkey, not a human of any kind; that’s my speculation and I am just as 100% correct about that as they are.

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  7. 7. paleoanthro_kim 1:25 pm 04/19/2011

    @JamesDavis: Why are you on Scientific American? Seems like you need to be commenting on some Bible thumper thread. This is an ape, as are we. NOT a monkey. Read a book (other than the bible or a trash novel), it will make you smarter.

    About the pelvis, anyone trained in anthropology should be able to clearly see the differences. I do not understand why people with little or no knowledge in a particular field insist on putting in their two sense. I would not tell a surgeon how to do his or her job.

    Even from this small diagram, I can see the difference in the proportionate size and shape of the pelvis from those previously attributed to australopithecines. It is not as flayed as any of the australopithecines discovered before, it is taller, or more vertical, than A. afarensis, but less than a chimpanzee (like a human pelvis is), and appears to be oriented more toward the center (though it is difficult to tell in this diagram). It does retain the weight-bearing axis of an australopithecine if this diagram is a correct representation.

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  8. 8. paleoanthro_kim 1:26 pm 04/19/2011

    Are you for real?

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  9. 9. jtdwyer 3:52 pm 04/19/2011

    JamesDavis – I sincerely apologize for getting carried away. No offense was intended or should be perceived.

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  10. 10. Bill Crofut 7:24 pm 04/19/2011

    Re: “…fossils of early Homo are rare and the ones that have turned up are generally too fragmentary to yield much information.”

    That would seem to me an adequate description of the hard parts contained in the images.

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  11. 11. algator 7:49 pm 04/19/2011

    dido ???……..isn’t it "ditto" ?

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  12. 12. Postman1 8:26 pm 04/19/2011

    JT- This is actually one of those rare times when I have to agree with Jamesdavis. I know he was being funny, but think about it: A million years in the future an archeologist digs up a pair of Bantu and a couple of basketball players. What sort of conclusions might he draw? Like the hobbit people of Indonesia, they may just be a few midget outcasts, or a whole race. How do we tell the difference?

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  13. 13. jtdwyer 9:07 pm 04/19/2011

    Perhaps I’m wrong, but I do take JamesDavis’ comment entirely seriously.

    Essentially James is making impossible demands for evidence: a two million year old complete fossil replete with bone marrow. Otherwise, James insists this cannot possibly be a relative of his (at least none it seems he’d invite into his home, anyway). Methinks he protests too much…

    That as much fossil evidence has been found is likely a fortunate product of the ancient geologic activity of Eastern Africa.

    I do agree that fossil evidence is so sparse that it cannot represent a statistically viable sample of any ancient population, but these two samples are even less likely to represent some ancient minority group.

    It’s not entirely clear to me why this should be such an emotionally charged issue for some, if not most, people.

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  14. 14. hoamingin 9:11 pm 04/19/2011

    jtdwyer,

    You are right about the change in the shape of the brain being driven by a different way in which bipedal apes used their brains.

    If you think about why brains evolved in the first place, it looks like brains evolved to enable an increase in the range of behaviours of increasingly complex organisms. Brains were an essential prerequisite for evolution of limbs, which expanded the range of behaviours possible, but could not happen without some mechanism to develop and memorise those behaviours. The brain became that mechanism, and limbs and brains pretty much go together in nature.

    A small brain relative to body size, such as the pigmy mammoth you mention, or present day rhino, is a sign of behaviours that are largely instinctive (ants) and/or limited in range (rhino).

    PT Schoenemann compared brain sizes and found that the human brain averages four times the size of other great apes relative to body weight. The largest increase has been in the prefrontal cortex, where there has been a proportionate increase in grey matter and a disproportionately large increase in white matter. This indicates a need to connect neurons to learn and remember a greater range of behaviours in the lifestyles of hunter gatherers. The use of stones, bones or pieces of wood further expanded the range of behaviours, which were no longer limited by the capabilities of personal physical attributes. But perhaps the biggest factor that explains the unusually large increase in the size of the humans brain was the greater flexibility of behaviours made possible by the use of external objects – how they were used could be modified to suit the circumstances.

    What the observations in this report show is that, even before the big increase in brain size, the brains of human ancestors were already being shaped by the change in lifestyle that had been forced on groups of apes as their forests gradually thinned out millions of years earlier. Some of those apes avoided extinction by changing the types of food they ate and how they got that food, leading to the hunter gatherer lifestyle.

    I am puzzled by the comment that climbing trees might still have been a significant activity for Lucy. I would have thought that the Laetoli footprints that showed that hominids 3.7mya had lost the gripping foot was pretty conclusive evidence that climbing trees had long been an insignificant behaviour compared to standing upright and walking.

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  15. 15. zstansfi 1:26 am 04/20/2011

    I had thought that increased pelvis size was believed to allow for increases in brain size. It seems bizarrely convoluted to propose that increased brain size could indirectly produce a selection pressure for larger pelvises. I’m not an paleontologist, so I don’t claim to understand how these hypotheses are produced… but this "long held view" seems a little implausible.

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  16. 16. blindboy 4:54 am 04/20/2011

    The skeletal evidence for tree climbing in Australopithecines is, as far as I know, undisputed and is based on the structure of the shoulders and the length of the arms. I seem to remember that some of the adaptations for climbing are even retained in Homo habilis.

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  17. 17. blindboy 5:02 am 04/20/2011

    In terms of James Davis’ point about evidence. It may well be that this skeleton, considered in isolation, signifies little if anything about human evolution. If his point is that sediba could be off the direct line of our ancestry, that is a valid suggestion. If, on the other hand, he is suggesting that our descent from the Miocene apes via the Australopithecines is in doubt, then he needs to present some very significant evidence or be lumped in with the creationist/intelligent design nutters.

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  18. 18. hoamingin 8:27 am 04/20/2011

    blindboy,

    Long arms and narrow shoulders are not evidence that hominids continued climbing, they are evidence of descent from apes who climbed. Pre-existing features will be retained unless they create some disadvantage that leads to the demise of individuals who lack other, more suitable features.

    What is more compelling evidence that hominids were not doing much climbing was the loss of the gripping foot that was suited to climbing, and evolution of the modern foot, solid to make it a more stable base when standing upright and with an arch to give more spring when running.

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  19. 19. hoamingin 8:39 am 04/20/2011

    Zstansfi,

    There is no mystery. As the heads of human babies grew in size, the size of the birth canal and the pelvic opening had to grow correspondingly. That happened by the simple and brutal process of death in childbirth of women with openings that were too small.

    Even after millions of years of evolution, humans have one of the highest rates of death in childbirth of any species.

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  20. 20. jtdwyer 6:32 am 04/21/2011

    I agree with all your excellent points – thanks!

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  21. 21. Bill Crofut 3:00 pm 04/21/2011

    "…[H]uman beings evolved from apelike ancestors whether they did so by Darwin’s proposed mechanism or by some other, yet to be discovered….Unbeatable systems are dogma, not science."
    [Stephen Jay Gould. 1981. Evolution as Fact and Theory. DISCOVER, May, p. 35]

    Did Prof. Gould level a charge that looked back?

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  22. 22. hoamingin 9:03 am 04/22/2011

    Hi Bill,

    We meet again. As you know from comments on other articles, I share with Gould scepticism about Darwin’s explanation of the evolutionary mechanism. Unlike you, neither Gould, nor I share your disbelief about the phenomenon of evolution.

    As you know, I argue that the assumptions of biology are wrong because they are based on Darwin’s decision that external effects had no direct effect. Most present day biologists believe that external conditions have major effect. Reversing Darwin’s decision means they need to reverse the assumptions that flowed from that decision.

    It is time that biologists did what scientists are supposed to do and test their hypothesis, but as I have explained elsewhere, they are in a Catch-22 because the rules they would have to apply to test the hypothesis are based on the hypothesis.

    Gould came close to the true driver of evolution, but he ducked the obvious at the last jump. At a Dahlem Conference on Evolution and Development in 1981, when describing developments that resulted in a major change in an organism, Gould said:

    "while selection must fix it [the major change] by eliminating other variants in the population, its discontinuous origin relegates selection to a negative role (eliminating the unfit) and assigns the major creative aspect of evolution to variation itself. This subject, therefore, poses the greatest challenge (among the themes of our conference) to a strict Darwinism that views all evolutionary change as a product of natural selection working upon small, random variants".

    Gould demonstrated a quirk of the human brain that is repeated in many biology texts. He described a negative deselective process, then dodged the obvious conclusion. His words reveal that his brain could not consider that a negative, eliminatory process could be responsible for the creative aspect of evolution. Gould’s thinking slid off the correct target and attributed creativity to variation. Variation is an essential precondition that makes evolution possible, but does not make it happen. What makes evolution happen are external pressures that come to bear on variations that already exist in the species. The accumulation of variations expands the evolutionary possibilities, but a separate mechanism is needed to shape the design.

    Bill, most of what I have written above is from my book, Connecting the Dots. If you want to understand where humans and human society came from, you should set aside your bible and read my book.

    David Bainbridge
    http://www.ideasintuitionandthinking.com

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  23. 23. Bill Crofut 10:21 am 04/23/2011

    Hi David,

    We do indeed meet again, and nothing has changed (i.e., your book seems to be your bible).

    Re: "What makes evolution happen are external pressures that come to bear on variations that already exist in the species."

    Please provide a specific example.

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  24. 24. AnimalCO 11:37 am 04/23/2011

    No, they aren’t still wrong. You are still an idiot.

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  25. 25. AnimalCO 11:45 am 04/23/2011

    "@JamesDavis: Why are you on Scientific American?"

    He is here because, like a lot of science-illiterate nutjobs, his religious faith is so weak, so uncertain, that he finds actual science – the findings of people who actually know what they are doing – to be threatening. He’s afraid his God might not be in charge, after all, and it’s pants-wetting frightening to him.

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  26. 26. hoamingin 11:32 pm 04/23/2011

    Bill,

    It amuses me that a Creationist such as you keeps demanding that, to prove evolution, someone must pull out of a hat an example of a sudden, magical variance that created a new species or a new, complex organ such as an eye. The lack of evidence of such a sudden, major change is evidence that species are not miraculously put together by a Great Creator. It is evidence that evolution is a long process.

    It is also evidence that Darwin’s explanation of the evolutionary process was wrong. Darwin argued that when a beneficial variation emerged it would immediately begin to favour individuals in competitive struggle. That struggle was most intense among individuals within the species because they competed for the same resources. For change to occur, the actions of improved individuals had to result in the extermination of unimproved individuals.

    The assumptions of Natural Selection required Darwin to decide that external conditions had no direct effect. Evolution was the result of what happened internally within the species. That required him to argue that species do not adapt to specific conditions because of the effect of those conditions, but because the species is favoured in those conditions. ie. the conditions do not determine which attributes are favourable in those conditions. Some personal qualities are innately superior. That was a common belief in the culture in which he grew up – read Malthus and Spencer.

    In effect, Darwin attributed to some qualities an innate, metaphysical quality of favouredness in specific conditions, without reference to those conditions.

    Darwin’s assumptions were nonsense, but the woolly and inconclusive arguments that he presented in Origin were sufficiently plausible that generations of biologists have accepted them.

    If biologists did what scientists are supposed to do and read Origin with the aim of rigorously questioning its arguments and assumptions, they would reveal the gaps in Darwin’s logic. Biologists would long ago have recognised that evolution is the result of species adapting to changes in the external conditions in which a species has to survive, requiring them to reverse Darwin’s assumptions.

    So Bill, if you are looking for evidence, read this article. The most important observation is the shape of the frontal lobe, evidence that the demands of a hunter gatherer lifestyle required hominids to use brain differently and eliminated individuals lacking capabilities, creating conditions for changes in both shape and size of the brain.

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  27. 27. Bill Crofut 12:59 pm 04/25/2011

    hoamingin,

    You seem to have forgotten that it is evolutionists who have promoted the illusion of transformism. No creationist, in my experience, has made the non-observable claim that birds evolved from dinosaurs (or, more generically, reptiles). The eye is only a detail; a most crucial detail to be sure, but a detail nonetheless. The evolutionist who makes any attempt at proposing the "evolution" of the eye must first address the "evolution" of the biological organism possessing the eye.

    As for an "…example of a sudden, magical variance that created a new species…" one does not need a hat or any other parlor-trick prop. One has only to provide a reasonable explanation of the Ediacaran and Cambrian fossils. No one, in my research experience, has done so.

    Regarding the rejoinder that those in the biological community should have read/be reading Darwin with more rigor, my suggestion would be for you to advise Prof.s Richard Dawkins and Kenneth Miller of such neglect. Each is a militant Darwin supporter.

    Re: "What makes evolution happen are external pressures that come to bear on variations that already exist in the species" (comment 23).

    Please provide a specific example.

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  28. 28. lamorpa 9:47 am 04/26/2011

    JamesDavis: I was going to help you with the reading of the article, and remind you the authors, "announced their discovery of… that _might_ well revolutionize researcher’s understanding of… exhibit a mosaic of traits… leading the team to propose that…" This is the text of the article. Nothing is decided. Nothing would go to court.

    But in any case, I think it would be better, when you plan to add one of your inflammatory, ignorant, baseless comments, you think strongly in your mind the words, "shut" "up" (and take the advice).

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  29. 29. lamorpa 10:31 am 04/26/2011

    Would it be possible for you to prepend the phrase "Pseudo-Scientific Blibber-Blabber:" to your comments. It would save readers’ time. As far as examples of variations within species, you may want to include in your observations all lifeforms anywhere, if you can find something that seemingly rare in your world.

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  30. 30. Bill Crofut 1:14 pm 04/26/2011

    lampora,

    It is well within the realm of possibility `…to prepend the phrase "Pseudo-Scientific Blibber-Blabber:" to [my] comments.’

    How would that change the fact that no evolutionist can provide a single observable example of evolution?

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  31. 31. lamorpa 1:27 pm 04/26/2011

    You didn’t finish typing your sentence.

    "How would that change the fact that no evolutionist can provide a single observable example of evolution to my absurd instantaneous criteria which, by definition, is simultaneously impossible and irrelevant."

    You self-appointed demigod status as judge of evolutionary evidence only applies within the confines of your personal view. No one need share an answer even if they could provide one (translation: there’s no answer to this question for you).

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  32. 32. Julian alien 7:47 pm 04/26/2011

    There are so many tales of genetic manipulation by the indigenous tribes of Africa(the mother country),and other tribes around the world,I have a hard time ignoring what they say,but what they say used to be science fiction.It is not science fiction now.

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  33. 33. Bill Crofut 10:51 am 04/27/2011

    lampora,

    Thank you for finishing my sentence for me.

    Please finish any sentence(s) you consider relevant in the following paragraph written by no less a militant evolutionist than Prof. Theodosius Dobzhansky:

    …[I]t is manifestly impossible to reproduce in the laboratory the evolution of man from the australopithecine, or of the modern horse from an Eohippus, or of a land vertebrate from a fish-like ancestor. These evolutionary happenings are unique,
    unrepeatable, and irreversible. It is as impossible to turn a land vertebrate into a fish as it is to effect the reverse transformation. The applicability of the
    experimental method to the study of such unique historical processes is severely restricted before all else by the time intervals involved, which far exceed the lifetime of any human experimenter. And yet, it is just such impossibility that is demanded by antievolutionists when they ask for "proofs" of evolution which they would magnanimously accept as satisfactory. This is about as reasonable a demand as it would be to ask an astronomer to recreate the planetary system, or to ask an historian to reenact the history of the world from Caesar to Eisenhower.
    [1957. ON METHODS OF EVOLUTIONARY BIOLOGY AND ANTHROPOLOGY. Part I. Biology. AMERICAN SCIENTIST, December, p. 388]

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  34. 34. lamorpa 11:12 am 04/27/2011

    I believe the professor did say that. I believe that was his belief.

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  35. 35. Bill Crofut 10:18 am 04/28/2011

    lampora,

    Do you disagree with Prof. Dobzhansky?

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  36. 36. lamorpa 10:40 am 04/28/2011

    Yes. He is saying that asking for some sort of million year lab study as the only acceptable ‘proof’ of the existence of evolution is ridiculous and just a way for ‘antievolutionists’ to be able to say, ‘there is no proof.’ It’s a creationists’ dodge, as though I could claim to invalidate theists’ beliefs in deities because they can not be shown to me.

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  37. 37. Bill Crofut 10:22 am 04/29/2011

    lampora,

    Are you, then, admitting that evolution is no more observable than Special Creation and, therefore, just as religious?

    Please remove the creationist dodge by providing an observable example of evolution.

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  38. 38. lamorpa 10:35 am 04/29/2011

    Bill Crofut,

    Not at all. With experimental results it is a sliding scale. More studies, longer observation, logical extrapolation, etc., move ideas from proposals to validated theories. It’s not as though evolution has not been observed via changes appropriate to the time length of the studies.

    With creationism there is only faith, which is strictly personal.

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  39. 39. Bill Crofut 9:32 am 04/30/2011

    lampora,

    Please provide a specific example of an observed evolutionary change.

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  40. 40. lamorpa 12:02 pm 05/2/2011

    Bill Crofut,

    Examples in scientific literature and the natural world abound. You’d be hard pressed to pass a day without running into one. You only has to open any newspaper to see an article about antibiotic-resistant bacteria to know biological evolution occurs.

    But, alas, I’ll have to leave it to you to keep repeating and repeating the question to anyone and everyone, allowing you the personal belief that if you again ask (after being answered countless times) and are not answered again, you somehow have shown that you are right.

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  41. 41. Bill Crofut 10:11 am 05/3/2011

    lamorpa,

    Either my perceptive abilities are non-existent (certainly, a possibility) or, no one in my posting experience has as yet provided a single example of observable evolution in any meaningful sense of the term. Remember, it is not on my authority (which IS non-existent) that the challenge has been made but, rather, on the authority of Prof. Dobzhansky. He admitted the very fact of the non-observability of evolution (albeit, in the context of a rebuke of creationists); a fact which you deny.

    One of the typical examples in the scientific literature, in my research experience, is indeed bacterial resistance to antibiotics. However, in each case, the researchers begin an experiment with a colony of bacteria, allegedly induce evolution and end the experiment with bacteria. Where is the evolution?

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  42. 42. lamorpa 10:33 am 05/3/2011

    Ah, yes. The old semantic dodge. You state, "Start with bacteria and end with [different] bacteria [which now has characteristics better suited to its survival]." That is evolution (with my factual additions). If I gave you an example of an aquatic species that is tracked, through fossil records, through its evolution to a land-based species, I guess you would say, "researchers begin an experiment with an animal, allegedly induce evolution and end the experiment with an animal. Where is the evolution?" That would be no more of an attempt at this same semantic trick.

    You seem to be stuck on misinterpreting Dobzhansky. He is saying that asking for some sort of million year lab study as the only acceptable ‘proof’ of the existence of evolution is ridiculous and just a way for ‘antievolutionists’ to be able to say, ‘there is no proof.’ Please keep bringing him up. Dobzhansky is saying your premise is invalid and your denials of evolution are incorrect.

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  43. 43. Bill Crofut 10:09 am 05/4/2011

    lamorpa,

    How does my quote of Dobzhansky constitute a misinterpretation? You’re well aware of my description of him as a militant evolutionist.

    As regards your “..example of an aquatic species that is tracked, through fossil records, through its evolution to a land-based species…,” you have not as yet provided any such evidence. Go for it!

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  44. 44. lamorpa 12:13 pm 05/4/2011

    Are you expecting someone to drop off thousands of skeletal samples on your doorstep for your personal analysis? I, of course, refer to the thousands of peer reviewed studies by biologists over the last 100 years, unless you feel you have greater accumulated knowledge and experience than them?

    In reality, it’s my guess you know better than to walk in front of a moving car, because you have been told (but not directly experienced) that you will be crushed when it hits you. You may want to apply the same type of personalization to your hubristic view on this subject.

    Go to your local library and check out DDC 576.8, 591.38, or LCC QH359-425 (there are whole sections dedicated to this subject!). You could spend the rest of your life just writing the reference bibliography for your refutation paper on biological evolution.

    And good luck crossing the street.

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  45. 45. Bill Crofut 9:35 am 05/5/2011

    lamorpa,

    In spite of my inability to know enough to get out of the path of an oncoming automobile, the rhetorical assertions you have offered are no substitute for evidence. Just as a reminder, it was you (comment 43) who implied you have the ability to provide an evolutionary fossil sequence from fish to amphibian. Please feel free to do so. The following is offered as a word of warning to you as you compile your fossil evidence:

    "Darwin’s argument still persists as the favored escape of most paleontologists from the embarrassment of a record that seems to show so little of evolution. In exposing its cultural and methodological roots, I wish in no way to impugn the potential validity of gradualism (for all general views have similar roots). I wish only to point out that it was never "seen" in the rocks.
    Paleontologists have paid an exorbitant price for Darwin’s argument. We fancy ourselves as the only true students of life’s history, yet to preserve our favored account of evolution by natural selection we view our data as so bad that we never see the very process we profess to study."
    [Prof. Stephen Jay Gould. 1977. Evolution's Erratic Pace. NATURAL HISTORY, May, p. 14]

    Incidentally, my refutation paper on biological evolution was published in the Creation Research Society Quarterly, March 1992.

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  46. 46. lamorpa 10:09 am 05/5/2011

    Bill,

    I encourage you to go on in a personal world of denial and disbelief of biological evolution based on your three self-held premises: 1) I will deny the prodigious research record of the last 100 years and rely on a minority of generally discredited, sectarian-agenda-based crackpots, whom I will quote freely and often. 2) I will quote reputable biologists out of context to distort their meaning and intent. 3) I will act as though people’s suggestion to review the large, generally available scientific records as, instead, their failure to personally deliver me physical evidence, which I fully well know they can not (you never provide your delivery address), and are not going to do (the museums and research facilities with the samples are unlikely to just let you borrow it), yet make believe this constitutes an actual lack of evidence.

    These two premises will, in your (and only your) mind, guarantee non-evidence for you. I, scientists in general, and the scientific-aware community are in a much more evidentiary, philosophically consistent, and open minded world. I’m sorry you’re missing it.

    P.S. For the next three times you repeat your, ‘I want evidence’ mantra:
    - Check your local library.
    - Check reputable, non-sectarian sources online.
    - Check your local bookstore’s science section.

    Link to this
  47. 47. lamorpa 12:28 pm 05/5/2011

    Bill Crofut

    I have to admit, I assumed you were kidding when you stated you published your ‘refutation paper on biological evolution’ in Creation Research Society Quarterly. Now I look, and it’s a real publication (www.creationresearch.org). I’ll bet you find a sympathetic (albeit purely sectarian) audience over there.

    I think I’ll wait until they publish the scientific and physical evidence of the existence a creator-deity before I scientifically vet their content. But I do like ‘The Universal Deluge: Alternative Hypotheses for Hardground Origins, by John Woodmorappe, Summer 2009, CRSQ Vol 46 No 1 (the Noah’s Ark story from the King James Bible). Quite entertaining sectoscience.

    I wish you had mentioned all along that your personal faith-based theistic beliefs are the guiding force behind your version of ‘science.’ There’s no need for further discussion. You’re not talking about science as science is defined by society.

    As an agnostic I make no assertion that anyone’s personal theistic beliefs or non-beliefs are correct or incorrect. It’s a personal matter. One’s faith-based beliefs can only be true for oneself, and, not matter how strongly felt, cannot be made any more or less true for someone else. One can even debate a little about science, but on faith-based beliefs I am unequivocally correct (though people even fight wars of such things).

    Link to this
  48. 48. Bill Crofut 9:28 am 05/6/2011

    lamorpa,

    As you wish, our discussion is concluded.

    P.S. Did you happen to notice the number of Biblical references in my research paper?

    Link to this
  49. 49. lamorpa 9:32 am 05/6/2011

    Bill Crofut,

    Thanks for your persistence and patience. I’m glad for the debate. I couldn’t find your paper at CRSQ. Can you post the link or at least its name. I’m sure I owe you a full read of it (with no further comments).

    Link to this
  50. 50. Bill Crofut 11:01 am 05/16/2011

    lamorpa,

    Please excuse my delay in responding. You are most welcome for my persistence and patience. Please also accept my gratitude for the debate opportunity.

    My research paper, THE FAMILY BLATTIDAE: AN EXAMPLE OF "EVOLUTIONARY STASIS," is not available online. A number of years ago, the editor of CRSQ gave me permission to post it on my now-defunct website. A copy is on my hard drive and the original is in the
    CRSQ, VOLUME 28, MARCH 1992, pp. 149-155.

    Link to this

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