Thursday, May 14, 2009

Stupid Creationist Quote of the Week

Today we have comments by two commenters at UD.

First up is a commenter named Barb. Barb left a rather lengthy comment talking about Lucy. The part that earned her a "stupid creationist quote" award is this:

The paucity of fossil evidence makes knowing all of human evolutionary history impossible. The best evidence for Lucy came, not from bones or teeth, but from footprints.

There are over 250 specimens referable to Australopithecus afarensis - Lucy being the most widely known example:

AL288-1 Most of the specimens of A. afarensis were discovered in the 1970's, but a significant number have been discovered in the years since. Our knowledge of A. afarensis does not come from the few papers written about the Laetoli footprints. Our knowledge of A. afarensis comes from a thorough study of their anatomy and by comparing these specimens to those of monkeys, apes, and hominins (including humans). At this point there are hundreds of scientific studies, consequently, anyone who claims that knowledge of "Lucy" comes mainly from footprints quite simply does not know what they are talking about. Barb then claims that all the fossils pertaining to human evolution can fit into a single coffin. She is corrected on this by a later commenter, who points to some fossils, then Barry Arrington jumps into the fray:

eintown, thank you for making Barb’s point even more forcefully. It shows what we already know to be the case. The fossils in question are very fragmentary (not complete skeletons as you implied), and altogether they could easily fit in an average sized coffin
. I have addressed this idiotic argument in a previous post so I will quote from that:

At Omo over 500 specimens have been found representing gracile and robust australopithicines and early homo. At Sterkfontein over 600 specimens representing over 50 individuals from Australopithecus africanus, A. robustus and Homo habilis. At Makapansgat over 30 specimens representing approximately 12 individuals from A. robustus and H. erectus. At Hadar over 250 specimens representing approximately 35 individuals from A. afarensis. At Atapuerca/Gran Dolina 100 specimens from 6 individuals. At Atapuerca/Sima delos Huesos 28 individuals. At Predmosti 29 individuals. At Dolni Vestonce 35 individuals. At Krapina 800 specimens representing over 80 indivuals. At Vindija 80 specimens. At Skhul 10 individuals. At Shanidar 9 individuals. Whats missing from the list I just presented are sites such as Olduvai Gorge and Sangiran, among others. The amount of diversity in terms of morphology in the above list is certainly adequate to characterize the full range of variation for most of the species we are familiar with.


Some of the other sites I didn't give figures for are Koobi Fora, Modjerko, Zhoukoudian (both the H. erectus site and the upper cave), Abri Pataud, Jebel Irhoud, (three fairly complete skulls, of which two are adult and one is a juvenile), Allia Bay, Ambrona, Arago, Baringo, Blombos, Bodo, Dali, Maba, Dmanisi, Drimolen, Florisbad, Hexian, Lake Mungo, Petralona, etc, the list goes on and on. The Catalogue of Fossil Hominids put out by the British Natural History Museum in 1976 listed over 3900 fossils. I've heard recent estimates in the 10,000 range.

Finally some other sites where hominins of one sort or another have been found:

Swanscombe, Steinheim, Nariokotome, Ndutu, Olorgesailie, Konso-Gardula (in the Middle Awash), Daka, Ngandong, Florisbad, Die Kelders Cave, Equus Cave, Border Cave, Klasies River Mouth, Herto, Aduma, Ngaloba, Eliye Springs, Rabat, Dar-es-Soltane, Mugharet el Aliya, Zouhra, Engis, Forbes Quarry, Neander Valley, Spy, Ehringsdorf, Le Moustier, La Chapelle-aux-Saints, La Ferrassie, La Quina, Mladec, Brno, Ochoz, Sipka, Cro Magnon, Laetioli, Kanapoi, Mauer, Lothagam, Lukenio, Ngororaa, Tabarin, Bouri, Peninj, Chesowanja, Konso, Lomekwi, Sali, Trinil, Gongwangling, Lantian, Yuanmou, Jian Shi, Yiyuan, Yunxian, Boxgrove, Bilzingsleben, Ceprano, Reilingen, Biache, Montmaurin, Saccopatore, Kabwe, Saldanha, Eyasi, St. Cesaire, Zuttiyeh, Wajak, Niah Cave, Kow Swamp, Tandou, just to name a few more...Oh, I almost forgot Olduvai Gorge and Flores.

The specimens found at these sites range from fragments (which can be informative depending on the morphology that they preserve) to entire bones to partial or complete skeletons. We have already seen Lucy, here are some others.

part of the more complete "Little Foot" skelton - may be A. africanus

Homo habilis OH-62

H. erectus KNM-WT 15000

Neanderthal Shanidar 4 and 6

Neanderthal Shanidar 3

Neanderthal Shanidar 1