The Early Man Gets the Warmed-Over Darwinism
Governor Chris Buttars of Utah was disappointed that the state senate voting down a bill that would have toned down the dogmatism of Darwinism in the schools; he felt it was “time to rein in teachers who were teaching that man had descended from apes, and rattling the faith of students” (see AP story). The media and journals, however, rattle on about human evolution as they have for a century, with no reins on their speculations. Here are some recent examples (emphasis added in all quotes):
- The Naked Prey: At the AAAS annual meeting, evolutionary anthropologists pondered visions of our ancestors not just as hunters and spear-throwers, but as cat chow. A picture in Science1 showed a notch in a hominid skull that perfectly fit a leopard tooth. Groups of Australopithecus afarensis (including Lucy) may have gathered for mutual protection, and thus society was born. “Living in such defensive groups ultimately led early hominids to cooperate and socialize more fully,” claimed Robert Sussman (Washington U in St. Louis). Others are unconvinced; “You can’t go from the observation a species is preyed upon to anything specific about their social relationships,” said another. A third defended Sussman: “we are also a species marked by high levels of cooperation [and] conflict resolution, … and it is time science started paying more attention.” Sounds like early man is getting a makeover: less brutal, more sensitive and caring.
- Neander Meander: Two scientists from Max Planck Institute taught a primer on Neandertal Man in Current Biology.2 Their last Q&A was about what happened to them. “We will probably never know in detail,” they confessed, while listing the usual view that modern humans were more socially and intellectually successful (though Neandertals had similar technology and cared for their injured). “In the end, the nature of our speculations about what happened to the Neandertals may say more about us and how we see the current world than about what really happened 30,000 years ago.” They ended on a debate whether the modern humans committed genocide against the Neandertal brethren, or rather got on just fine with them for up to 50,000 years – “an encouraging example of long-term coexistence between two different forms of humans.” Genocidal maniacs or multiculturalists? Have it your way.
- Scratch That: Never mind the previous entry. News@Nature claims that better radiocarbon dating puts the overlap between Neandertals and modern humans at only 5,000 years. “Neanderthals are not expected to have lasted long in the face of such an influx” of superior technology, explains the press release (see also MSNBC). How 5,000 years of overlap differs substantially from recorded human history was left unexplained.
- Did Chimps Pay Their Syntax? Klaus Zuberbühler (U of St. Andrews, UK) wrote about the origin of language in primates. In Current Biology,3 he said, “Research on alarm calls has yielded rare glimpses into the minds of our closest relatives. A new study suggests that primates monitor the effect alarm calls have on others.” Noticing that most animals have alarm calls for predators, he speculated, “In primates, the ontogenetic process leading to the production of acoustically different call types is probably under strong genetic control.” But how to get from there to real meaning? He quoted a proverb: “The meaning of a term, it has been argued, is nothing more than its use.” It’s the sheer variety of possible human vocalizations that led to semantics: “This concatenation ability is at the core of all languages, raw material for vocal imitation and responsible for the generation of an infinite number of novel sequences.” Yet there are some monkeys with quite a repertoire of calls. Finding some evidence that other monkeys responded to different calls differently, he felt this is a hint that they were beginning to understand one another.
- To Grammar’s House We Go: The Max Planck Society issued a press release about the origin of grammar. The researchers decided it resides in brain evolution. “They found that simple language structures are processed in an area that is phylogenetically older, and which apes also possess,” they said. “Complicated structures, by contrast, activate processes in a comparatively younger area which only exists in a more highly evolved [sic] species: humans.” They left unstated how these brain areas were determined to be phylogenetically older or younger. Presumably, a part is younger if the human has it and the less “highly evolved” primate does not.
- Little Knock-Kneed Lucy: Our ancestors walked with an unsteady gate and were a bit knock-kneed, reports a press release from Arizona State on EurekAlert. How was this determined? By looking at how the shin bone connected to the ankle bone, they decided that robust australopithecines took awhile to get used to bipedalism. They admitted walking upright must have been rare. “The skeletal modifications associated with bipedalism represent a phenomenal reorganization of one’s anatomy,” said Gary Schwartz. “It is unlikely that it could have evolved independently in multiple hominin lineages.” There must have been “variations on a theme” as evolution was “tinkering” with the parts. Schwartz added with a little jest, “Scientists have long been fascinated with robust australopithecines because they were so distinctive from the neck up,” he said. “Now we have evidence [sic] that they were interesting from the knee down as well.” Knock, knock.
- Religion by Natural Selection: Jesse M. Bering suggested where belief in the supernatural came from: good old Darwinian natural selection. Writing in American Scientist, he asked, “Could a belief in a deity or an afterlife be evolutionarily advantageous?” His team did some experiments on children to determine at what age they began to believe that spirits were sending them messages, or that deceased relatives experienced physical appetites. It’s a question for science, the abstract states: “the rigorous study of supernatural beliefs by psychological science can be important for a complete understanding of human cognitive development.”
1Dan Ferber, “AAAS ANNUAL MEETING: Preyed Upon, Hominids Began to Cooperate,” Science, 24 February 2006: Vol. 311. no. 5764, p. 1095, DOI: 10.1126/science.311.5764.1095b.
2Jean-Jacques Hublin and Svante Pääbo, “Quick Guide: Neandertals,” Current Biology, Volume 16, Issue 4, 21 February 2006, Pages R113-R114.
3Klaus Zuberbühler, “Language Evolution: The Origin of Meaning in Primates,” Current Biology, Volume 16, Issue 4, 21 February 2006, Pages R123-R125.
Do you understand why Governor Buttars was concerned? Search the evolutionary literature, and you will find many more examples like this. No matter what the data are, evolutionists contort it into an evolutionary picture and then speculate wildly on things they cannot possibly know. Never is there any opportunity in these publications for critics of the whole show to explain why it is utter foolishness. That’s why the Darwin Party is so paranoid about letting honest criticism make its way into the public sphere. The Darwin Society of Storytellers would not be able to handle the embarrassment.