That Wild and Crazy Casey Luskin Uncorks Another Beauty: Makes Monkeys Out of Professional Palaeoanthropologists

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. [1 John 1:1]

I’m beginning to get a sense of the problem. When approaching the voluminous literature of human evolution Young Earthers and Creationists/IDers [i.e. Intelligent Design adherents] can’t get past the habit of believing that [at least some of] what they read as being the revealed word of a deity. As such my colleagues could afford to be a bit more careful when choosing their words. I can easily see why their best efforts feed into the Christian creation myth.
     Notwithstanding his propensity to treat the writings of us as the word of a deity revealed [much like my colleagues come to think of it], Luskin is either very lucky and came up with the foundation for his argument by chance or the man has done his homework and read widely in ‘our’ literature. Such is his virtuosity.
     Shortly before leaving for the Czech Republic in July I felt preternaturally compelled to write about the efforts of Casey Luskin, a lawyer and IDer. At that time he was promising a whole series of tell-all revelations that he reckoned would dissolve the humanist edifice that is our present knowledge of the fossil record. As I now discover, in the interim I’ve missed many more articles by the prolific Mr. Luskin. No worries! The SA news ticker came to the rescue the other day when up popped this: 

THE GENUS HOMO: ALL IN THE FAMILY

Luskin’s major point is a variation of the theme of the earlier article. Australopithecus is an ape; Homo is a human. Read on to find out how he makes monkeys out of my colleagues. 
     I could give Luskin’s whole spiel a pass were it not for the way in which he artfully weaves the words of our colleagues into a narrative that underscores his conclusion–that the appearance of Homo in the fossil record isn’t prefigured by the earlier australopithecines, and is thus strong evidence of the special creation of humanity. Of course, to do so he must paint all members of the genus Homo in such a light that ‘we’ all appear to be like modern humans. And that’s where where my colleagues come in–aiding and abetting Luskin and his ilk with authoritative statements such as the ones included in the medley of the following Luskin quotes [complete with a very scholarly looking list of references cited]. 

‘Donald Johanson suggests that were erectus alive today, it could mate successfully with modern humans to produce fertile offspring.’ [from Lucy]

‘Wood and Collard [reinforce the similarities among members of our genus when they write]: “The numerous associated skeletons of H. neanderthalensis indicate that their body shape was within the range of variation seen in modern humans.” ‘ [That wouldn’t be you, Mark, would it?] [published in Science]

 ‘Erik Trinkaus likewise argues: “They may have had heavier brows or broader noses or stockier builds, but behaviorally, socially and reproductively they were all just people.” ‘ [From an interview in Time]

‘Trinkaus and others say there is no reason to believe they were any less intelligent than the newly arrived ‘modern humans.’ ‘ [Washington Post interview]

‘Fred H. Smith [adds in a Smithsonian interview] “[The first European palaeoanthropologists] believed [Neanderthals] to be scavengers who made primitive tools and were incapable of language or symbolic thought.” Now, … researchers believe that Neanderthals “were highly intelligent, able to adapt to a wide variety of ecological zones, and capable of developing highly functional tools to help them do so. They were quite accomplished.” ‘

‘Francesco d’Errico affirms these comments [in the same Smithsonian article], stating, “Neanderthals were using technology as advanced as that of contemporary anatomically modern humans and were using symbolism in much the same way.” ‘

My dear old friends from the Kebara Cave project add fuel to this fire: ‘ “the morphological basis for human speech capability appears to have been fully developed” in Neanderthals.’

‘Neanderthals made musical instruments like the flute.’ [citing the debunking article in Current Anthropology, as it happens]

‘a report in Nature from 1908 that reports the discovery of a Neanderthal type skeleton wearing chain mail armor.’ [from Notes in Nature, 77 (April 23, 1908): 587, see below.]

[At least Luskin owns up to the preceding two inferences being somewhat ‘uncertain’–would that my colleagues were so circumspect.]

‘Trinkaus says that when comparing ancient Europeans and Neanderthals: “Both groups would seem to us dirty and smelly but, cleaned up, we would understand both to be human. There’s good reason to think that they did as well.” ‘ [Another humdinger from the Washington Post article cited above]

Plunging the knife in even a tad further, Luskin then cites the recent DNA ‘evidence’ that Neanderthals R Us and vice versa. I don’t have to tell you what I and a few others think of those tasty inferences. The author finishes the medley of incriminating statements with: ‘We saw earlier that Leslie Aiello said “Australopithecines are like apes, and the Homo group are like humans.” ‘ [Shame on you Leslie Aiello. You of all people should know that you can’t split the ape family/superfamily into us and them.]

I ask you. How can we expect to gain credibility with the supernaturalists when we so readily feed their doctrinal belief that humans aren’t apes?  At every chance we should be reminding them that humans are nothing if not apes. That oughta get ’em thinking.
     So, let’s all get on the same page and stop these people from making monkeys of us all! 

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Wheels Up in 16 Hours. But First, I Skewer Intelligent Design

Soon I’ll be whooshing through the atmosphere in the direction of fun. As long as I’m able to tap into Czech telecommunications, I should be back here on Monday.
     In the meantime I just saw this on the news ticker:

Human Origins and the Fossil Record: What Does the Evidence Say?

It’s published in Evolution News and Views, a front for the Discovery Institute. Their metier is what is euphemistically referred to as intelligent design. The article pointed to here is by Casey Luskin, a lawyer, and will be worth watching because he proposes, in a series of articles to advance his thesis, as follows:

Hominin fossils generally fall into one of two groups: ape-like species and human-like species, with a large, unbridged gap between them. Despite the hype promoted by many evolutionary paleoanthropologists, the fragmented hominin fossil record does not document the evolution of humans from ape-like precursors.

I know that it’s like shooting geese in a swimming pool, but I have to take him at his word, and I’m compelled to deconstruct his thesis to show it for the straw man that it is.

     Luskin’s thesis can never recover from his first statement, which contrasts what he calls ape-like and human-like. Such a false dichotomy side-steps, charlatan-like, the issue of how ‘ape-like’ both apes and humans are. Even if one were to ignore all of the genetic and morphological differences between primates and the other mammals, and even if one were to ignore the evidence for the unmistakable relatedness of the higher primates (and it’s a prodigious trait list), there still remains a formidable corpus of traits that we humans share, one-to-one, with the other apes, and which give lie to Luskin’s main premise. 
     For example, in the Order Primata the apes exhibit the autapomorphic absence of a tail. I can’t imagine Luskin having an explanation for the preponderance of tails among mammalian groups and the absence thereof among the extant apes and their closely related fossil precursors. But it’s easy to see that we humans don’t have a tail because we share a close common ancestor with the other apes–no other explanation is possible [unless Luskin were to argue that God thought it was a good idea to deprive chimps and gorillas of tails, too, when he was intelligently designing His special creations, humans]. 
     Dentally, compared with all of the other dentate animals, the apes possess adult teeth according to this pattern: 4 upper and 4 lower incisors, 2 upper and 2 lower canines (or cuspids, to the dentists), 4 upper and 4 lower premolars (or bicuspids to the dentists) and 6 upper and 6 lower molars. Moreover, apes, which includes all of the fossils that Luskin would term ape-like, have a 5-cusped third molar. This is why its so easy for us to identify fossil apes from even individual teeth, because of the unique morphology of ape molars.
     It is, then, utterly pointless for Luskin to point to anything called ape-like as distinct from anything human-like, for both groups are, demonstrably and unequivocally apes. And, if Luskin is happy to conclude that ‘human-like’ fossils are the result of God’s intelligent design, then he’d have to conclude equally that God was designing the other apes along the same lines. I doubt very much that Luskin could explain the similarities amongst the apes as a function of intelligent design, any more than he can logically conclude that humans were the result of a different, more intelligent, supernatural design.
     I could go on. But I think it would get redundant.
     Hit these bastards where it hurts the most. Confront them with the truths they refuse to see. I hope I’ve made it a little easier today.
      

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