September 1, 2007 | David F. Coppedge

Messy Evidence Proves Humans Evolved

An article from Live Science seems to suggest that the way to do science these days is to believe things in spite of the evidence – at least when it comes to human evolution.  In a juxtaposition of imponderables that might make a schizophrenic feel at home, Meredith Small asserted that evolution is a fact despite the evidence.
    Small spent the first half of her article lamenting the messy fossil record of human evolution.  In the good old days, “It was a straight shot that one could learn in a few minutes late at night while cramming for an exam,” she said.  Since the 1970s the picture has become hopelessly tangled.  Though recent decades have been a golden age in terms of fossil discoveries, “it has repeatedly punched holes in the naive idea that our evolution would be that clear, clean, and straight.”  Now we have Hobbit Man (10/25/2005).  Now we just found out that Homo habilis is not an ancestor of Homo erectus, but was a contemporary on a separate branch (08/09/2007).  The straight branch to man has become a tangled bush.  Have we been hoodwinked by our own desires of how evolution should work?

We want the first bipedal humans to stay out of the trees, but their curved hand bones suggest they spent time swinging in the canopy like apes; we want brain size to increase in lock step with tool use, but tools appear before big brains; we want an orderly diaspora out of Africa and across the globe by culturally armed early humans, but it looks like people kept leaving all the time in fits and starts that don’t correlate with anything; and we want the last 200,000 years of human evolution, the time when modern Homo sapiens appeared, to make some kind of sense, but it doesn’t.

At this point, Small sounded ready to concede defeat for Darwin and join the creationists.  After all, a “tangled messy bush” isn’t quite the textbook evolutionary tree Darwin said we would find.  Here, Meredith Small displayed her rhetorical skill at snapping victory from the jaws of disaster.  This, after all, is just the kind of picture we should expect, she said.  “Of course it doesn’t” (make sense, that is).  Why?  because evolution is an unquestionable fact, even without evidence:

We are, after all, animals that have experienced the quixotic touch of evolution by natural selection, and that’s anything but an orderly process.  Our past is just as messy as any animal that’s been around for millions of years, and we should be prepared to expect the unexpected when the next fossil is announced.

Incidentally, an article a couple of days later on Science Daily asserted that natural selection has favored human evolution toward schizophrenia.

For unflinching faith in evolution despite the evidence, for wondrously illogical dogmatism, and for faithful devotion to Father Charlie, Meredith easily wins Stupid Evolution Quote of the Week.  Or month.  We’ll have to wait and see, since many more schizophrenics contestants are waiting in the wings for this popular competition.

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Categories: Dumb Ideas, Early Man, Fossils

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