April 30, 2008 | David F. Coppedge

Veggie Tales of Human Evolution

Evolutionists may not know who our human ancestors were, but they know they were vegans.  That seems to be the essence of a couple of new twists on the human evolution saga.

  1. Pear-shaped tones:  Paranthropus has been called the “Nutcracker Man” because of robust teeth assumed strong enough to munch on nuts and seeds.  Enter the Sugar-Plum Fairy into this Nutcracker Suite.  Science Daily reported it more likely that this “ancient hominin” (roughly a homonym for hominid) ate fruit.  Researchers at University of Arkansas examined microscopic scratches on the teeth and deduced that Paranthropus wasn’t eating nuts, even if he had the jaws and skull for them.  Instead, it appeared he had been dining on a kind of tutti-fruity jell-o.  The article is accompanied by an artist’s conception of the furry father figure sucking on a big juicy fruit.
        Gorillas, for instance, have the equipment for chewing tough leaves, but will take fruit every time if given the choice.  “The morphology suggests what P. boisei could eat, but not necessarily what it did eat,” said the lead researcher.  He explained why this change in thinking is more than a fad diet:

    These findings totally run counter to what people have been saying for the last half a century,” said Peter Ungar, professor of anthropology in the J. William Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences.  “We have to sit back and re-evaluate what we once thought.”….
       This finding represents a fundamental shift in the way researchers look at the diets of these hominins.
        “This challenges the fundamental assumptions of why such specializations occur in nature,”Ungar said.  “It shows that animals can develop an extreme degree of specialization without the specialized object becoming a preferred resource.

    This is indeed worrisome.  What will scientists in 2058 be overthrowing that today’s scientists will claim for the next 50 years?  Even then, who should re-evaluate the re-evaluators?

  2. Cave Cookout:  What’s more iconic than brutish cavemen and cave-women barbecuing mammoth meat over a campfire?  Better add the salad bar.  National Geographic News now says that Neanderthals ate vegetables.  The truth is in the tooth, they say.  “It seems logical to me that they took advantage of any food sources they had available in their environments, which would vary from place to place and from time to time.”  An Iraqi Neanderthal apparently liked plant food, according to its discoverers.  The claim needs a disclaimer:

    Henry cautions that Shanidar III is only one fossil and does not provide enough evidence to make conclusive statements about the entirety of the Neandertal diet.
        “The finding suggests that characterizing Neanderthals as obligate meat-eaters may be wrong, but there is still a lot more work to be done on this issue,” Henry said.

    In spite of the disclaimers, the researchers claimed that by employing various methods they could get “a much more realistic picture of paleodiets.”

What the Public Is Told
Fundamental assumptions may continue to be overthrown, but the parade of human evolution displayed for the public marches on.  A press release described a new exhibit on human evolution by the University of Pennsylvania that offers “thought-provoking and insightful” experiences at viewing humans in the broad context of mammals.  Janet Monge and Alan Mann wrote of Darwin’s theory,

This powerful theory, which appears in the news virtually every week because of the controversy surrounding it, has vast implications that affect every aspect of our lives.  As the explanatory tool of all the related fields in the biological sciences, nothing makes sense except in the light of evolutionary process.  Our new exhibit makes this point during Penn’s Year of Evolution, which celebrates Charles Darwin’s 200th birthday.

If a controversy surrounds a theory 149 years old, there must be at least a few smart people who have reasons to doubt it.  One might think those controversial issues deserve be aired and addressed.  What are those controversies?  The article didn’t say.  It simply consigned all doubters to an emotional, full-immersion, multi-media re-education camp:

The genesis of the idea came from Alan Mann’s realization that students seemed to understand the broad impact of evolutionary process if they could witness it for themselves in their own bodies and minds.  In order to evoke this response in the context of the exhibit, we challenge visitors to try to understand and define what it means to be human—to revel in the experience of humanness.  We ask them to witness the evolutionary process and to contextualize the human experience.  This part of the exhibit is peppered with over 200 touchable casts of both modern and extinct mammals and primates, including many of our human ancestors, our chimp relatives, and even comparisons to horses and whales.
    Visitors are now ready to see evolutionary history in their own bodies.

A skeptic not yet immersed in the revelry might ask whether casts of extinct and living animals necessarily demonstrate an ancestral relationship.  In addition, calling certain casts human ancestors and chimp relatives seems to beg the question that Darwin’s theory is the only or best explanation for the observations.  The parade continues without a misstep.
    What evidence does the museum show forth during the controlled experience to support the broad view that humans emerged from other mammals by an undirected process of mutation and natural selection?  Some listed were: “bad backs, difficult childbirths, teeth that do not fit in our jaws, as well as many other maladies that are best understood from an evolutionary perspective.
    In other words, the authors appealed to dysteleology (bad design) – a theological issue – the assumption being that no God would design such maladies.  But if evolution is so good at adapting animals to their environments, as in whales and horses, the same charge could be leveled at the evolutionary process.  Why would not every stage of every missing link be perfectly adapted to its niche for its time?  Why would bad backs and insufficiently-sized birth canals persist for 100,000 years?  The authors did not ask such questions.  They did, however, make it clear that the “understanding of evolution” requires purposelessness: “it is not progress and it is not predictable.”
    A corollary of the undirected nature of evolution is that it is not progressive and it is not complete.  This brings us back to the diet question: ““What implications do changing patterns in diet have on human health and disease?  How will human-based environmental change influence human biology and culture in the future?”  Evolution is not just about the past.  It’s what was, what is, and what will be.
    The goals of this exhibit are much more expansive than the hall in which it is housed. 

If the exhibit succeeds, our visitors will leave knowing that humans are part of the natural world—one species among the many mammals and primates all descended from a common ancestor—and that we are the product of the process of evolution, which has made us functional through a series of compromises, but not perfect, as can be seen in certain human ailments that may be the consequence of our evolution.  Our visitors will appreciate the many ways in which our evolutionary past defines our bodies, our minds, our culture, and our destiny.  They will understand that human societies and cultures have developed in different ways in response to specific environments around the world, but also in similar ways in response to the same basic human needs.  They will have seen that scientists are constantly searching for, finding, and interpreting evidence of the evolutionary process, and they will begin to imagine the impact of future medical and biological developments on human evolution as they join us in exploring our shared history and potential future as human animals.

A major theme of the museum, stated and restated, emphasizes evolution’s practical relevance: “The evolutionary process and its outcomes have a profound impact on every aspect of our daily lives.”  The Answers in Genesis Creation Museum might agree, but with completely different assumptions, definitions, aims and conclusions.

The block quote above won Stupid Evolution Quote of the Week because it begs numerous questions and is self-refuting.  Experienced readers will know why.  Just look at all the values words: aims, succeeds, knowing, compromises, perfect, appreciate, searching for, finding, interpreting evidence as if an evolved monkey brain even has access to reality, let alone any hope of knowing anything.  The aims of this exhibit exceed the capabilities of an evolved cerebrum.  Why have aims, anyway, if evolution is aimless?
    Notice that the first two stories indicated major revolutions in the storytelling plot.  Mixed in with those were doubts about the ability of science in 2008 to say anything definitive about past behaviors.  As for the ailments our cave ancestors supposedly passed on to us, these have all been answered with creationary responses (e.g., Creation Magazine and Technical Journal) – as if that were even necessary.  It would be gratuitous to respond to any self-refuting proposition.
    We hope the bottom line message of Year of Evolution was not lost on pastors, churchgoers, students, parents and thinking citizens.  They told you themselves that this controversial issue of human origins is not just about science, fossils and bad backs.  It has “a profound impact on every aspect of our daily lives.”  If our “potential future as human animals” is anything like that being explored today (see next entry), with no moral compass, no values and no direction, be afraid – be very afraid. 

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