Saturday, September 30, 2006

Dikika Hominid, Round 2

Afarensis continues exposing the minimalist interpretations for the new Dikika hominid (ah, it's just an ape!) that are trotted out as explanations for why creatures with both human and ape characteristics are frequently found in the paleontological record. Again, Afarensis states the errors and provides the actual data in context, but I couldn't help responding myself to this statement in the comments from Reasonable Kansans:

What is so amazing about this creature? Could this not have been an extinct ape that we are not familiar with? What makes it a human ancestor? It seems like it’s an ape with legs slightly different than what we are used to seeing on an ape.

I'm sorry, but I'm fighting this urge not to laugh. Bipedalism is "slightly different" from ape-like locomotion? Go to the zoo, watch chimps and gorillas move around their pens, then watch the humans....again, watch the apes, then watch the humans. Australopithecus afarensis walked much more like a human than an ape. Not exactly like a human, no...there are discussions concerning the efficiency of the bipedalism in which Lucy and her kin engaged (i.e., did they walk as well as we do?). But if you were to look only at the way in which an afarensis walked there's no doubt you would include it with the humans. If you looked at its teeth, you would see they are somewhat ape-like, but really more like us (but not quite) and different from the gorilla or the chimp. If you spent your life studying ape and human anatomy and you looked at other skeletal features, you would not be comfortable placing afarensis in the "APE" box, nor would you be comfortable putting afarensis in the "HUMAN" box...they are actually something kind of, well...in-between (intermediate? transitional?). So, in absence of evolutionary theory, how would you explain the existence of this kind of creature to a group of students?

Reasonable Kansans (does Red State Rabble know about this site?) also points out the following:

Again, most readers are not paleoanthropologists...

No, they are not. And that's why those of who have been trained in that and similar fields get so annoyed when lawyers (Casey Luskin, Philip Johnson) and mathematicians (William Dembski) make comments that are clearly not intended to give the average viewer the appropriate context but rather play to their ignorance on the subject matter. That's also why the subject matter in science classes should be left to legitimate scientists and not the general public.

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