The subject of Cordova’s attempts at pretending to know something about paleoanthropology concern the recent reconstruction of 1470 by Dr. Timothy Bromage of the New York University School of Dentistry (he works with Dr. Paul Caufield). The reconstruction was presented as a poster at the International Association for Dental Research (I wonder if Dr. Egnor can enlighten me as to why anthropologists are presenting cranial reconstructions at dental research symposiums since evolutionary theory offers nothing to medical research). The poster can be found here. I don’t wish to inflict the details on you, instead I will just give you the results. At issue is the cranial capacity and facial profile of 1470. Based on Richard Leakey’s reconstruction 1470 had a flat face and a cranial capacity of about 775 cc’s. Bromage’s reconstruction gives 1470 a more prognathic face and a cranial capacity of 526cc ± 49cc. “Ah Ha”, cries Cordova “Leakey manipulated his data to make 1470 look more human”. I can’t blame him for parroting that line because Bromage is pretty snarky about Leakey and his reconstruction as well, saying at one point:
No biological principles were initially used to reconstruct KNM-ER 1470, thus the extreme orthognathy and cranial capacity posited for this specimen were free to satisfy 1970’s preconceptions of the shift from more ape-like relationships and proportions, such as represented by the genus Australopithecus, to those that were more human-like; that is, “to be Homo it must have a flat face and large brain”.
and at another:
It wasn’t long before the age was corrected to 1.9 million years, but the reconstruction has endured despite a common appreciation for the psychosocial circumstances surrounding Richard Leakey’s reconstruction. Based upon the premise that KNM-ER 1470 was the oldest human, preconceptions led to it being reconstructed with two supposed quintessential traits of Homo: a large brain and flat face.
Which may or may not be accurate (and I personally think it is not, putting crushed and fragmented skulls back together isn’t easy). The question is, does this reconstruction bear the weight that Cordova places on it. Does it, in fact, vindicate Wells hackery in Icons of Evolution? The answer is no. See, here is the problem. There are a number of fossils that have been attributed to Homo habilis. Among them are: OH 7, OH 13, OH 16, OH 24, OH 37, KNM-ER 1470, KNM-ER 1590, KNM-ER 1802, KNM-ER 730, KNM-ER 1813 (which Bromage compared 1470 to), KNM-ER 820, KNM-ER 992, KNM-ER 1805, KNM-ER 3732, and KNM-ER 3735 to name a few. As these fossils began to accumulate, paleoanthropologists (contrary to Sal it is not spelled paleoantrhopologist) realized that the above assemblage contained a large amount of variability in cranial anatomy and measurements. Some argued that there was too much variability to be contained in one species and suggested dividing the taxon into H. habilis, H. rudolfensis and possibly H. ergaster. Bernard Woods, for example, put all the Olduvai fossils (the OH’s above) into H. habilis along with KNM-ER 1813, KNM-ER 1478, etc. 1470 went into H. rudolfensis along with 1482, 1590, 1802 and 3732 (among others). This was done on the basis of a whole slew of morphological features that differentiated the two groups. Cranial capacity (and Bromages estimate is only 2 SD from the mean for H. rudolfensis) and prognathism, or lack thereof, are only two of them. Additionally, there are some traits that H. rudolfensis shares with earlier australopithecines (which, by the way are considered to be because of convergent evolution). As Conroy put it in Reconstructing Human Origins:
In this taxonomic scheme, H. habilis from Olduvai is regarded as an early species of Homo that retains an essentially australopith postcranial skeleton with a more Homo-like masticatory complex, whereas H. rudolfensis combines a more Homo-like postcranial skeleton with a more robust australopith craniodental complex…
Regardless of whether Bromage’s 1470 reconstruction holds up and 1470 is either moved to H. habilis or considered one of the smaller H. rudolfensis I don’t see how this helps Wells or the creationist movement.
Update 1: There is at least one critic of Bromage’s reconstruction – more specifically, the cranial capacity estimate:
But not everyone agrees that brain size can be inferred from jaw protrusion. Biological anthropologist Robert Martin, of the Field Museum in Chicago, said the researchers “may well be right” in their reconstruction of the face, but said the researchers’ claims about being able to estimate cranial capacity from facial features are “crazy.”
“What they’re claiming is you stick the face out, and because the face sticks out more the brain capacity has to be less. I don’t follow that at all,” said Martin, who is an expert on hominid skulls and who was not involved in the study.
“They haven’t changed the skull at all; they’ve simply rotated the face outwards,” Martin added.
Martin also disputes the claim that H. rudolfensis’ large cranial capacity made it stand out among ancient hominids. Martin points out that a 1.6 million-year-old Homo erectus skeleton known as “Turkana Boy” had a cranial capacity of about 900 cc.