March 29, 2004 | David F. Coppedge

Jaw Mutation Led to Human Brain

The science news outlets like Science News seem to all jump on human evolution stories more than evolution stories about other life forms.  Maybe that’s because we’re only human.  This week’s entry concerns a story published in Nature1 by Stedman et al2 that a muscle protein mutation might be correlated with a change in brain size among human ancestors.  The idea is that this change reduced the stiffness of the jaw, shrinking the massive jaw muscles of gorilla-like primates, and therefore allowing brain size to grow.  “A change in a single muscle protein may have been a key step in the evolution of modern humans, according to a new theory,” echoes Elizabeth Pennisi in Science3

1Pete Currie, “Human genetics: Muscling in on hominoid evolution,” Nature 428, 373 – 374 (25 March 2004); doi:10.1038/428373a.
2Stedman et al., Nature 26 March 2004.
3Elizabeth Pennisi, “The Primate Bite: Brawn Versus Brain?” Science Vol 303, Issue 5666, 1957 , 26 March 2004, DOI: 10.1126/science.303.5666.1957a.

If you swallow this line, we’ve got a resort vacation to sell you on the Isle of DeBris.  The reaction of Ralph Holloway, a physical anthropologist at Columbia University, is more calm and rational: “To suggest that the brain is constrained by chewing muscles is just rubbish.”
    This tale is a pinhead balanced on a house of cards in a windstorm.  It relies on mythical dating methods and flexible estimates of mutation rates, all supported by the assumption of evolution.  We are not impressed by one putative mutation that might have made miracles possible (Stedman sidestepped in the Science article, “We’re not suggesting that this mutation alone [buys] you Homo sapiens, but it could make possible brain growth”).  We want to see the catalog of 50,000 or more lucky rolls of the die that supposedly turned a gorilla-like knuckle-walker into a philosopher.
    Pete Currie has the gall to open his report in Nature, Darwin’s mouthpiece (see 03/04/2004 commentary), with this distortion:

Ever since Bishop Wilberforce famously ridiculed the possibility that man was descended from apes, and T. H. Huxley bravely chose primate ancestry rather than ignorance , the debate over our origins has claimed a special place in evolutionary theory.  With the acceptance by most of us that we are indeed a product of natural selection , discussions surrounding the issue have cooled somewhat.  But exactly how natural selection acted to produce the modern human form has remained hotly contested.

Fact is, no one recorded the actual words spoken in the famous interchange before the British Association at Oxford in 1860, and many if not most in the crowd sided with Wilberforce.  The debate has become somewhat of an urban legend, more symbolic than substantial (see Janet Browne’s account, Charles Darwin: The Power of Place, ch. 3).
    “Most of us”?  Speak for yourself, Pete.  Only a few elitist Darwin Party members think the intricacies of human soul, spirit and body can be produced by natural selection.  But of course, they have far more faith and more vivid imaginations.  That’s why they are evolutionists.  If you think this is an unfair tirade against the X Clubbers, look what Currie himself confesses at the end of his article about not just the fossil record of human evolution, but of all evolution:

What is the significance of these findings, and do they shed any light on human origins? Although there is a rough consensus [see 12/27/2003 headline] about the individual features that define fossil species within the genus Homo, the sequence in which individual traits were acquired during hominid evolution remains controversial.  Furthermore, the definition of which character traits were essential for the appearance of the modern human form is equally contentious.  The reasons for this are familiar to anyone who tries to explain morphological transitions over large evolutionary distances based primarily on the fossil record.  Such explanations hinge on finding so-called ‘transitional forms’, where a particular fossil is so indelibly etched with the tell-tale signs of what something was, and what it was going to become , that an inescapable evolutionary theory simply tumbles out of the dirt.  Not unsurprisingly, such fossils are very rare indeed, and fossils charting the course of hominid evolution are no exception.

There you have it.  He has just admitted that transitional fossils are “rare indeed.” – so rare that a senior paleontologist at the British Museum once laid it on the line: “there is not one such fossil for which one could make a watertight argument.”  Though an evolutionist, Dr. Colin Patterson continued by criticizing a bad habit of his brethren: “It is easy enough to make up stories of how one form gave rise to another, and to find reasons why the stages should be favoured by natural selection.  But such stories are not part of science, for there is no way of putting them to the test.”a
    Deliberately and connivingly, the Darwin Party injected just-so storytelling into science (see 12/22/2003 commentary).  It’s time to vote the rascals out.

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Categories: Dumb Ideas

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