Note to DaveScot: Hominin Fossils Would Fill a Coffin Many Times Over

Over at UD DaveScot makes a claim profoundly at odds with reality (no surprise there, eh). Specifically, in the thread that about MacCallum’s PLOS article Davescot says:

All the hominid fossils we have wouldn’t fill a single coffin.

I guess DaveScot doesn’t know that over 400 Neanderthal fossils have been discovered. Many such as at Shanidar are fairly complete, or have substantial portions of the skeleton. Here is a rundown of some other numbers from a previous post of mine

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. In short, DaveScot doesn’t know what he is talking about.
If I left any out, and I am sure I have – all the recent Trinkaus discoveries for example – let me know. I would like to hear from the anthro readers (whether students – who should ask their teachers as well – or professors) on this subject…
(Hat tip to Jack Krebs)
Update 1: 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.
Update 2: Greg Laden and David W. at Athiest Self both have interesting comments on this post. Check them out.


35 Responses

  1. David Springer’s brains aren’t enough to fill a standard martini glass, even if you added three olives and far too much vermouth.

  2. Sigh. I remember repeating that creationist mantra, “All the fossil evidence of human evolution couldn’t fill a single coffin” back in 1993 (but never again starting in 1994!).

  3. It’s worse than even you feared sinned34, the offending quote is from 1974 and is still in widespread use by creationists!

  4. Surely it depends on the size of the coffin.
    If it was, for instance, a blue whale coffin, then I’m afraid DaveScot is correct!
    Damn you DaveScot, you’ve foiled us yet again!

  5. I wonder how much space all of the electrons that have ever been measured would take up? How many atoms of the latest chemical element are there?
    Is there supposed to be something significant about the total volume, or any other physical quantity, of the evidence for something?
    There is an ongoing problem with anti-evolutionary arguments that have multiple obvious mistakes to them. If one elaborately points out one of the mistakes, it may give the appearance of accepting without comment all of the other ways they go wrong. And to point out all of the mistakes in detail, there is the problem with attention span.

  6. DaveScot has a pretty tenuous grasp on reality. This is just another instance of his delusions of adequacy and his ignorance.

  7. He might have meant a REALLY BIG coffin. One as big as the ark?

  8. Funny, I’ve heard that comment before. From whom, you ask? The Dilbert creator – Scott Adams. Perhaps Dave Scott was merely quoting that authority on hominid fossils.

  9. I think DaveScot’s coffin is the size of his ego. No wonder there is so much room.

  10. I think what DS meant was that they wouldn’t fill a single coffin if you first pulverized them all into a fine dust. Two-thirds full, maybe, but surely no more. Now if you’ll just give him a sledgehammer and a few minutes alone with the evidence, he’ll be happy to prove his point (and make the world safe again for the willfully ignorant).

  11. Can anyome come up with a good (that means hard work) estimate? Something like the “blue whale” as a quick comeback?
    Even a bare weight or net volume picture (without the coffin dressings)A droning “cubic feet by species” that is easy to remember to flip off with?
    Some meet these birds that wag the “coffin size” tale quite frequently. Whoever made up the estimate for the Creationists got the evidence for the assertion outta his arse.

  12. I’m working on coming up with a number estimate, a volume estimate would be a bit tough…

  13. Don’t forget the 9 (so far) individuals of Homo floresiensis, Peking Man, Java Man (since vanished), etc.

  14. Added Flores (D’OH). Zhoukoudian and Trinil (Peking and Java man respectively) were already mentioned.

  15. They wouldn’t fill a single coffin *if you compressed them to neutronium*! And you better put heavy-duty handles on that coffin.

  16. Are the weights of the samples routinely documented? That would make a fairly easy calculation.
    If not, how about orders of magnitude. 10kg, 100kg, or 1000kg and a typical homo sap. skeleton of equivalent size and condition would weigh how much in comparison?

  17. Neanderthal infant (fairly complete) and other assorted bits, I think a few teeth, from Roc de Marsal, Fr.

  18. Are the weights of the samples routinely documented?

    No, the specimens are usually not weighed. Partially because of the fragile nature of the fossils and partially because it wouldn’t tell us much. Although, as I type this, it occurs to me that there might be some data on bone density…

  19. Perhaps DaveScot’s diet isn’t going too well. Extrapolate 20 to 30 years or so…

  20. The majority of the fossils you enumerate are actually far from complete skeletons. You are making the unfounded assumption that if a partial skull is found, it is the remnant of a complete hominid. Sticking to evidence based science, the partial skull fossil merely indicates a partial skull creature running around the forest. The same goes for femurs, molars, and other such remains. There is absolutely no justification for the assumption that there was more to the original specimen than that. With this understanding, the container requirement does shrink considerably. I think what Professor Scot is doing here is promoting Empedocles’ theory of evolution.

  21. I had to take a third look to figure out that was a parody. Kudos, AnInGe.

  22. I’m working on coming up with a number estimate, a volume estimate would be a bit tough…

    I suspect that estimate is going to be rather sensitive to your exact definition of fossil; that is, what criteria you use to exclude “modern” human remains. As I understand it, the older hominid fossils are rarer. Still, I suspect one would have to exclude most of hominid evolution to meet DaveScot’s criteria.

  23. DaveScot, actually David Springer, is the final authority on a number of subjects. “Global warming is a swindle”. Species extinction – there is nothing to it. He apparently has found the cure to cancer. His greatest achievement and a record not likely to be surpassed is his history as the greatest deleter and banner in the history of internet communication. He is the most unprincipled, ruthless opportunist that ever trod the sod. As an intellectual terrorist he makes Osama bin Laden look like Mahatma Gandhi. He has never made a mistake in his pathetic sociopathic existence and never will. “Got that? Write that down homo.”
    “Dr. Davison is no longer with us,” another of his unexplained pronunciamentos. What a jerk!
    Springer is to William Dembski what Alan Fox is to Wesley Elsberry, and what P.Z. Meyers is to Richard Dawkins, nothing but a hired goon. Springer is by far the worst though because he doesn’t believe a thing that Dembski stands for. Frankly I think both Dembski and O’Leary are deathly afraid of him. He has treated them both with utter contempt. Why they tolerate him escapes any other explanation.
    “A past evolution is undeniable, a present evolution undemonstrable.”
    John A. Davison

  24. Got a direct link to where DaveScot says that? I couldn’t find that in a quick browse.

  25. “that” being all of the hominin fossils not filling a coffin.

  26. Density of bone: 1.5 kg/cm^3
    Weight of Skeleton: 50 kg
    Volume of Skeleton: 33.3 cm^3
    Coffin: 200.66 x 60.96 x 35.56 cm
    Volume of Coffin: 434,978.227 cm3
    434978.227/33.3 = 13,049.3599 skeletons per coffin
    Estimated weight of skeleton from percentages
    And that’s entire skeletons.

  27. Wouldn’t the expected response from DS and others be that those fossils have been misidentified as hominin? Doesn’t your average creationist usually maintain that all hominin remains are either H. sapiens or some (non-ancestral) extinct apes? Pointing out the wealth of hominin remains means nothing to them because they deny the identification of the fossils, not their existence.

  28. Comstock: DaveScot, Dembski and their ilk are not “Old-Timey Creationists” they are “New Age ID Creationists”. They don’t “officially” call their designer God, they just believe it. At one time DaveScot was banning, or threatening to ban those that DIDN’T believer in common descent, so “officially” ID Creos shouldn’t have a problem with hominin species.
    If you want a more detailed, and humerous look at daveScot, and Dembski’s Offical Uncommonly Dense Web Site, come visit;act=SF;f=14
    There are almost 15,000 posts about the stupidity of DaveScot, Dembski and IDists.

  29. Brian you can find Davescott’s comments here they are comments 46 and 49.

  30. >434978.227/33.3 = 13,049.3599 skeletons per coffin
    I think you’re a bit off there, and it looks like you missed it at “density of bone: 1.5 kg/cm^3”.
    Try 1.5 grams per cubic centimeter. So, that’s more like 13 skeletons per coffin, assuming you could grind ’em into bits and shovel ’em in there.

  31. Yes, another way of looking at it is that the cranial capacity of modern humans ranges from 1100-1700 cm3 which means that if you accept the calculations of “commenter” you could fit anywhere from 33-50 skeletons inside the human cranium!

  32. *if you compressed them to neutronium*

    Which you can because gravity is “the strongest force in nature”.
    (The joke is that normally, one reserves strong/weak for the parameter describing interaction strength, not for the resulting interaction effect. Of course, a joke explained isn’t a good joke. But what do you expect of -ds, anyway? 😐 )

    Density of bone: 1.5 kg/cm^3

    Weight of Skeleton: 50 kg

    Those figures immediately jump out for me as wrong.
    Since the density of water is ~ 1 kg/liter = 1 kg*dm^-3, bone would be approximately the same. And indeed, your reference cites numbers between 1000 – 1900 kg*cm^-3 ~ 1.5 kg*dm^-3.
    Similarly, slender women can mass 45-50 kg. The skeleton is ~ 20 % body mass in an adult ( ). So typically we get a mass of 10 – 15 kg bones, it seems.
    (OT note: I know the rough numbers by heart, since I took a lung screen for my diver cert, and the medical staff assembled to look on what they called ‘a one-in-a-thousand bone thickness’. Scared the hell out of me, before they explained why they were curious. Of course, I had already suspected it from my joints being adult size early on.
    One upshot is that I can always subtract ~ 1 kg from my weight – presumably I have heavy bones. 😮
    Another is that I haven’t broken a single bone despite several “good attempts”. 🙂 )
    Volume (mass/density) of Skeleton : ~ 10 dm^3 (5300 – 15 000 cm^3).
    Now, out of a sense of decorum I would only put one individual in a coffin. But if we do it your way, we could press in ~ 435/10 = 40 whole, pulverized skeletal remains of individuals in a normal coffin.
    Sounds reasonable to me, compared to 13 k individuals.
    Assuming 90 – 95 % of the 500+ individuals are bits and pieces, it is still a problem for one coffin, I think.

  33. numbers between 1000 – 1900 kg*cm^-3

    A typo. Numbers between 1000 – 1900 kg*m^-3, of course.
    I wanted to clear out any confusion, no skeleton in the closet here. 😉

  34. I ran across a variant of this claim, one that added an important qualifier: that all of the hominid fossils between 5 and 10 million years old would fit on a pool table. I don’t know enough paleontology to know whether the fossils you list above fall into that range or not.

  35. Thanks afarensis.

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