Creationism and Homo floresiensis

I’m sure everybody watched the Alien From Earth if not follow the link. Especially because I am about to lay some serious stupid on you. I was randomly surfing the web and stumbled across two articles on Homo floresiensis both of which were written by creationists.


The first, called The Hobbit File is pretty straightforward. H. floresiensis was compared, and found to be similar to australopithecines and since australopithicine means “southern ape” H. floresiensis is an ape. They discount the microcephaly argument:

The “microcephalic dwarf” interpretation would only work if there was a double deformity, i.e.
dwarfism plus microcephaly – they are not the same. Dwarfs have normal brain sizes even though their bodies are small. This means they have big heads in proportion to their bodies. Microcephalics with brains as small as H. floresiensis are severely mentally retarded and unlikely to survive in primitive conditions, unless they are cared for by normal humans.

Which is about as good as their argument gets…
The second The Flores Skeleton and Human Bariminology is somewhat more interesting, although equally confused.
Wise argues that because Homo erectus is found on three continents they represent the post-Babel diffusion of humans (like a lot of creationists he considers H. erectus to be human) and, therefore, the Lower and Upper Pleistocene were post-Babel as well. So the radiocarbon date of 18,000 BP is totally consistent with a post-Babel time frame.
Wise then turns to the question of whether the Flores remains are human and cites the tools and charred animal remains as indicating that the remains are human. In looking at the morphology of H. floresiensis Wise cites the morphology linking it to H. erectus:

The fact that the Flores skeleton post-dates H. erectus and contains characters similar to unique erectine morphologies of Indonesia (e.g. the double mental foramina in the mandible: Brown, et al. 2004, p. 1058) suggests the Flores skeleton might be a descendant of H. erectus. Since Homo erectus is considered human by a number of creationists (e.g. Lubenow 1992, 2004; Wise 2002, p. 238; Wieland 2004), it is most likely that the Flores skeleton is human.

This is where things start to get interesting. Wise turns next to a consideration of human variation. He notes the small stature and small brains size and attributes it to a cessation of brain growth far earlier than in any known human (or H. erectus for that matter). For Wise this means that there are four distinct human morphologies represented by H. erectus, Neanderthals, H. floresiensis, and modern human. Wise then makes a confusing argument about how the decreasing age of attainment of sexual maturity indicates that lifespan is decreasing (even though it’s not) and argues that humans have experienced heterochrony in developmental rates. Having just argued that human lifespan was decreasing Wise then argues that:

Even though each of these involve increased growth rates in the past (rather than the decreased growth rates over the longer time range, as suggested by the biblical account), these studies and others do evidence heterochrony in human history (see also Minugh-Purvis and McNamara 2002), something which is evidenced in both biblical and historical data. The unique developmental program of Homo floriensis would represent yet another example of heterochrony in human history

In other words, even though the arguments he just made were bullshit, Wise is still correct ’cause, hey, heterochrony happens. Wise argues that the distinct morphologies represented by H. floresiensis and Neanderthals probably arose due to genetic drift in small geographically isolated populations. The Bible says humans went through a bottleneck:

The Bible indicates that all humans are derived from a man and a woman who lived less than 10,000 years ago. Then, less than two millennia later (at the time of the Flood) the human population went through a population bottleneck of 8 people. Although the calculations have not been re-evaluated by creationists, these facts are probably consistent with the diversity of modern human mitochondrial DNA being derived very recently from one woman (Cann et al. 1987; Gibbons, 1993) and modern human Y-chromosome DNA being derived very recently from one man (Dorit, et al. 1995).

Three things need to be said about this. First, from Cann et al:

All these mitochondrial DNAs stem from one woman who is postulated to have lived about 200,000 years ago [bolding mine- afarensis}, probably in Africa.

Second from Dorit et al:

A coalescence model predicts an expected time to a most recent common ancestral male lineage of 270,000 years (95 percent confidence limits: 0 to 800,000 years [bolding mine- afarensis]).

That doesn’t sound very recent to me…(heh, he got the title to the Dorit et al paper wrong too).
Third, the fact that a given gene coalesces at a given time does not mean that that individual was the only person alive at that time.
Wise then goes on to make a confusing argument about the multiregional continuity argument and convergent evolution on the human form – something he chalks up to ontogenetic redundancy. Later he says that these changes happened post-Babel and then the respective distinct populations migrated to areas where they felt the most comfortable due to their morphology. Basically, the morphologically similar erectus morphology diverged into several distinct morphologies which then converged on the human morphology.
Then Wise gives the farm away:

Various creationist arguments and studies (e.g. Jones 1972; Wood and Murray 2003, pp. 71-2; Wood 2005) suggest that the created kind may be roughly approximated by the taxonomic level of the family.

A created kind is the equivalent of the “family” in taxonomy? Really? That means that all this is a created kind:

* Primates (Order)
* Haplorrhini (Suborder)
* Simiiformes (Infraorder) [apes and monkeys]
* Catarrhini (Parvorder)
* Hominoidea (Superfamily) [apes]
Proconsul africanus
* Hominidae (Family) [great apes]
* Homininae (Subfamily) [includes gorillas but not orangutans]
Pierolapithecus catalaunicus
* Hominini (Tribe) [includes chimpanzees but not gorillas]
Sahelanthropus tchadensis, common ancestor with chimpanzees[citation needed]
Orrorin tugenensis, first species after split with chimpanzees[citation needed]
* Hominina (Subtribe) [humans are the only surviving species]
Ardipithecus
Kenyanthropus
Australopithecines: includes Paranthropus and Australopithecus
Australopithecus
Paranthropus
* Homo (Genus)
Homo habilis
Homo ergaster
Homo erectus
Homo heidelbergensis
* Homo sapiens (Species)
Homo sapiens idaltu
* Homo sapiens sapiens (Subspecies)

Yup, orangs, chimps, gorillas, australopithicines, and humans are all the same “kind”!
It’s all downhill from there, but you can read it for yourself…

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17 Responses

  1. I’ve heard any number of credible-sounding arguments in the ongoing “hobbit wars” as to whether or not the Flores hominids were or were not a species. Quite frankly, at this point, I’m “agnostic” on this issue. But this is the first time I’ve heard that creationists are glomming on to the “hobbits”. I’ve known for years that they try to represent Neandertals as something they weren’t so I guess I shouldn’t really be surprised.
    Anne G

  2. What is a separate “kind” are creationists – Homo Dumbassis.
    They are definitely NOT human. Fortunately, the War On Christmas is due to start up again, so it will, as always, be a good opportunity to limit their gene pool.

  3. So I guess it will be just fine and dandy for folks like James Dobson if a human marries an orangutan (as long as they’re not same sex).

  4. Nitpick: The “science” of determining what biological groupings match Biblical kinds is “baraminology” not “Barimology.”

  5. Typo fixed…

  6. Thanks so much for that explanatory bit: “In other words, even though the arguments he just made were bullshit, Wise is still correct ’cause, hey, heterochrony happens.” That sounds like the way evolution was first explained to me in school, along with revolutions, most institutions, inventions, and a lot of other -tions. I learned most really interesting stuff at home from my dad who had held onto his college textbooks and his interest in history and science in spite of teachers who had almost as much brains as Mr. Homo dumbassis (liked that one too, J-Dog) above.
    An odd thing about H. floresiensis, though. If there really was only one, it could be as diseased and peculiar as any of those critics wants it be. The trouble is, although Morwood and company only discovered one complete skull, they found bits and pieces of over 12 individuals. That’s an awful lot of diseased folk in one spot! I seriously doubt that H. erectus was having a tribes full of sickly babies and carting them to Flores to leave at Liang Bua cave. Somehow that just doesn’t seem like something a person two steps beyond chimpanzees would bother doing. Even people of my granny’s generation kept their invalids at home. I have an ancient photo of an auntie of a sort with her baby whose head is the size of a beach ball, and the little one is sitting in her lap, instead of being cast off to Flores Island for being odd. Jane Goodall describes chimp mamas carrying babies paralyzed by polio, just as if those infants were regular chimp babies — until they died. No Flores trips there either. Just a thought.

  7. Kurt Wise is the quintessential Young-Earther paradox – scholarly, trained by Stephen Gould, and yet believes in complete bullshit. Religious dogmatism is such a mental Chinese finger-trap and the harder the believers apply reason (which should pull away from nonsense) the stronger the pull back into the crap gets.
    Which seems rather sad since their Teacher (and mine) said things like “And the Truth shall set you free.” Makes for an interesting study in the pathologies of reason to disentangle where the bullshit filter gets disengaged and otherwise intelligent people say the most outrageous nonsense.
    Wonder what Wise thinks of H. georgicus? It’s such a neat transitional population between the Habilines and the Erects.

  8. Actually Pongo and Homo are different kinds if a “baramin” is defined at Family level. Thus Chimps and Gorillas (Fay Ray would’ve been fine, aside from the size disparity) are OK, but Orangs are right out.

  9. Not necessarily. If we take Wise’s word the the baramin is the equivalent of the family then there are a number of classifications out there that include pongo in the same family as Gorilla, Pan, and Homo. Wood and Richmond spring to mind.

  10. There are as many taxonomies as there are taxonomists :o)
    Personally being more closely related to several other apes than say asses are to horses is no cause for generic chauvinism in my view. We should all be “Homo”. But they’re all a bit too hairy for my taste.

  11. I learned only recently that several years ago, a creationist got a PhD from Harvard, that there was opposition to granting it to him but that Gould argued in his favor. I was appalled when I heard of it. Was it Wise?

  12. This is extremely upsetting. I imagine Gould believed he was acting in the interest of academic integrity, or was trying to avoid being accused of discrimination, but I feel it was a very poor decision. I also heard recently about Marcus Ross, a YEC who “earned” a PhD in geoscience at URI about a year and a half ago. He’s now at Liberty U, telling his students that there are “gaping holes” in evolutionary and cosmological theory.
    I feel very strongly that these people should not be admitted to graduate programs in the sciences in the first place; moreover, if they earn degrees honestly, then flip out and start advocating ID, YEC, flat earth or any other brand of science-flavored stupidity, the degrees should be revoked.
    This is the slippery slope. There is a growing number of evangelicals at secular universities, including Ivy League and other top-tier schools. I’m sure there will be more cases like this. These people will then do what Wise and Ross are doing – capitalize on the reputations of the schools that awards the degrees in order to legitimize their beliefs, while cheapening the degrees for those who come after. It threatens the future of legitimate science, and represents the encroachment of the psychotic parallel reality, complete with its own revisionist history and science, that the Christian fundamentalists have spent the past two decades creating.

  13. It’s incredible how much consternation can be brood from this single discovery in Indonesia. I am very interested in how all this plays out regarding the “hobbits”.
    The “creationist” weighing in on this subject I was not expecting for some reason. But, it brings to mind the totally unnecessary arguments that the 10,000 year creationists and the agnostic/atheistic evolutionists constantly engage in. It’s unfortunate that “creationists” have dug themselves into a scientific hole with no foundation or rooftop. It’s also unfortunate that evolutionists use Darwin as a sword against religion in general and Christianity in particular. This scenario never should have come to be. Science and religion do not have to be at odds. “Theistic Evolution” and “Bio Logos” are now terms used to describe people like myself who believe that the bible and science truly compliment one another.
    I would encourage anyone who wants to try and reconcile the unnecessary conflict between creationists and evolutionst to read Dr. Francis Collins’ book THE LANGUAGE OF GOD.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/BioLogos

  14. Jeff – I disagree. If someone can demonstrate that they understand the subject well enough to pass a series of classes and obtain an advanced degree then they deserve their degree. Nor should we be discriminating against them. How they reconcile the intellectual dishonesty involved is, of course, up to them – which is not to say we can’t, frequently, point out that dishonesty.

  15. Afarensis – I can’t agree. A graduate, PhD-track science program isn’t simply about passing courses; it’s about doing creative, innovative work, based upon a foundation of the work that others have done before. Disagreement is fine, but to say, as Ross has done, that even if all of the evidence stands against biblical creationism, he will still believe it because it says so in a 2500 year-old book, is to demonstrate an utter contempt for the basic principles of science.
    Larry Moran has said it much better than I can on his blog: http://sandwalk.blogspot.com/2007/02/what-is-science.html
    If a young person applied to a graduate program in physics, and told them, at the onset, “I will absorb everything you tell me and parrot it back accordingly; however, I want you to be aware that I’m convinced that Newtonian mechanics tells us everything we need to know about the universe. Everything else – relativity, quantum theory, string theory – is nonsense, and absolutely nothing will change my mind.”, he or she would never be considered – unless it was expressed as a matter of faith, then the idiot might actually have a chance. For some reason, we give religion a free pass – and the fundamentalists are exploiting this and using it to their advantage at every opportunity.
    Every time a Wise or a Ross gets a degree from a reputable university, it’s another chink in the fence.

  16. I have to respectfully disagree with Larry. Scientists are not in the business of insuring conformity. Wise and Ross fulfilled the requirements of their coursework and they deserve their degree. If they choose to cheapen it by believing in and championing bullshit that is their problem.

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