Misreading Evidence for Early Man
Paleoanthropology has a long history of misinterpreting evidence and committing spectacular blunders. Are we seeing more examples right now?
In his latest book, Evolution’s Blunders, Frauds and Forgeries (CMI, 2017), Dr Jerry Bergman documents the long history of ‘fake science’ that fooled the world’s experts, sometimes for decades. The episodes are almost comical if they had not been so misleading to the public. Piltdown Man and Nebraska Man are just two of the more famous frauds he details, but there were many others. If the experts of the past could be so wrong, shouldn’t we expect today’s experts can also be wrong? We should expect exactly that, since they share the same worldview assumptions that led earlier anthropologists astray. As Bergman demonstrates, the strong desire to confirm evolution often led scientists down the primrose path into error. All the while, they lambasted creationists who doubted their so-called evidence. But the creationists were right. And tragically, generations of students grew up accepting evolution based on fraudulent “evidence” presented by self-proclaimed experts.
Bergman quotes experts bluffing with an air of certainty about what turned out to be outright frauds. Such statements were made by world experts like Henry Fairfield Osborne (head of the American Museum of Natural History) and Sir Arthur Smith Woodward (head of the London Natural History Museum, who built his career on Piltdown Man). Their statements are laughable in hindsight, but it wasn’t just a few who goofed. Someone estimated that 500 scientific papers were published about Piltdown Man before it was exposed as a shoddy forgery!—and that is beside other statements in textbooks and popular articles not only in America but around the world (Bergman, p 140). Visitors to natural histories were treated to displays of Piltdown Man for years before its exposure in 1952. It was touted as evidence for evolution at the Scopes Trial, as was Nebraska Man, the fictional ape-man built out of a pig’s tooth.
Let’s look at some recent examples that show today’s experts might have not fully recovered from the tendency to make evolutionary mountains out of evidential molehills. As usual, we will be quoting only pro-evolutionist sources.
Sporadic sampling, not climatic forcing, drives observed early hominin diversity (PNAS). This surprising open-access paper by Maxwell, Hopley, Upchurch and Soligo in America’s leading science journal pulls the rug out from under a story long told by paleoanthropologists. The story is that climate change drove human evolution. For instance, a warming climate in Africa, they say, drove apes out of the trees onto the ground, where they learned to walk and evolved upright posture. That’s just one example of interpretations about ‘hominins’ based on climate change. Climate had little (if anything) to do with human evolution, these four warn. From their mathematical analysis, they find that paleoanthropologists made unwarranted inferences due to sampling bias. The diversity they found, that they have assumed was due to climate change, is more a matter of (1) how easy it was to reach the fossils and (2) how hard teams worked to collect them. Notice that this paper is by believers in human evolution and millions of years.
Paleoanthropologists have long been intrigued by the observed patterns of human evolution, including species diversity, and often invoked climatic change as the principal driver of evolutionary change. Here, we investigate whether the early hominin fossil record is of suitable quality to test these climate-forcing hypotheses. Specifically, we compare early hominin diversity to sampling metrics that quantify changes in fossil preservation and sampling intensity between 7 and 1 million years ago. We find that observed diversity patterns are governed by sporadic sampling and do not yield a genuine evolutionary signal. Many more fossil discoveries are required before existing hypotheses linking climate and evolution can be meaningfully tested….
We find that apparent relationships between early hominin diversity and indicators of climatic instability are, in fact, driven largely by variation in suitable rock exposure and collection effort.
Human-like walking mechanics evolved before the genus Homo (Science Daily). Behold a just-so story in the making: “Ancient footprints help researchers date the switch from a crouched to more straight-legged gait.” Yep; the old Laetoli footprints are back. Those are the famous prints supposedly made by relatives of Lucy that look just like modern human footprints (22 March 2010). This should not be. Because of the mismatch between expectations and reality, evolutionists are forced to explain how an ape evolved modern feet. Here we go, Tontology and all: “A close examination of 3.6-million-year-old hominin footprints discovered in Laetoli, Tanzania, suggests our ancestors evolved the hallmark trait of extended leg, human-like bipedalism substantially earlier than previously thought.” Who thought that? Certainly not creationists, who deny that the prints are 3.6 million years old.
Well, if scientists could write scientific papers about Piltdown Man in the 1920s, they can write scientific papers about fictional apes with human feet today. Why? They need those millions of years for apes to become people. If the feet are jumping the selectionist gun, they must somehow be forced into the timeline. Notice how the authors draw the public into their own deception, implicating innocent bystanders in errors committed by evolutionists:
Ever since scientists realized that humans evolved from a succession of primate ancestors, the public imagination has been focused on the inflection point when those ancestors switched from ape-like shuffling to walking upright as we do today. Scientists have long been focused on the question, too, because the answer is important to understanding how our ancestors lived, hunted and evolved.
Were you focused on that? Don’t let fallible experts blame you for their faults. The shameful quotes in the article, sounding so certain (see Bluffing in the Baloney Detector), could have been written by Henry Fairfield Osborne. Today’s paleoanthropologists cannot bring themselves to admit that they were wrong. No way can they bring themselves to believe that actual modern humans walked across that plain, when their dating system requires that the layer is millions of years old!
Genomics study in Africa—demographic history and deleterious mutations (Pasteur Institute via Phys.org). Raw data are getting in the way of a good Darwin story again. Evolutionists know that mutations should accumulate in small groups. They predicted that the pygmies and Bantu peoples of Africa would show differences in accumulation of mutations based on the hunter-gatherer lifestyle of the former, and the agricultural lifestyle of the latter. Well, they were wrong. Notice the phrase, “Against all expectations”—but it was not against creationist expectations! Notice also the assumption of natural selection, and the Darwinists’ favorite phrase, “shed light” on evolution:
The scientists focused their research on a comparison of populations that lived through one of the most significant socio-cultural transitions in human history: the transition to agriculture. By comparing the genome diversity of more than 300 individuals from groups of forest hunter-gatherers (pygmies) and farmers (Bantu-speaking peoples) in western and eastern Central Africa, the study aimed to shed light on the way in which demographic changes associated with the Neolithic transition also influenced the efficacy of natural selection. “We therefore characterized the genetic structure of these populations using exome sequencing data [editor’s note: the exome is a fraction of the genome that contains protein-coding regions] and used computer modeling techniques to reconstruct changes in population size over the past 200,000 years,” continues Lluis Quintana.
Against all expectations, his team observed that the current groups of forest hunter-gatherers are descendants of prosperous ancestral populations with a genetic size comparable to that of the farmers’ ancestors. Simulations also indicate the existence of genetic admixture between the groups more than 20,000 years ago.
This cannot be. In a desperate theory-rescue operation, the authors invoked “purifying selection” to explain why “the current burden of mutations is similar in the two groups, despite their different demographic histories and lifestyles.” Purifying selection is to natural selection what an eraser is to a pencil: it erases mutations, which are supposed to be the raw material for monkey-and-typewriter Shakespearean plays. And lo and behold, what do you know, but that there had been “a strong and constant admixture with farmers” by the pygmies! I.e., they intermarried. So that, dear public, is why “No differences were detected in the number and severity of mutations carried by forest hunter-gatherers and farmers.” But never forget: evolution is a fact!
Bergman’s book is excellent. Get it. Read it. Learn how wrong evolutionists have been, can be, and still are.