A. sediba and the Laetoli Footprints

This is some kind of weird crossover sequely thing. Australopithecus sediba, last seen only a short while ago in A. sediba, and The Star That Should Not Exist has teamed up with the Laetoli footprints for today’s DpSU from the Institute for Creation Research’s Brian Thomas, Is Fossil Really a ‘Game Changer’ for Human Evolution?

Mr Thomas opens with the following:

Primate fossils discovered in South Africa in 2008 are being hailed as an evolutionary “game changer.” ABC News recently reported that these fossils provide a “key link in the process of evolution that led to modern human beings.” But neither is true, and it’s not too hard to understand why.

I can’t find the original source for the ‘game changer’ comment – this search pulls up nothing, for example – so I’m guessing that it must be an off-hand comment said to some journalist. Wherever it came from I don’t intend to defend it. And bear in mind with the ‘key link’ statement that A. sediba is not necessarily on the direct path of human ancestry, though it is certainly near it.

Five technical papers offering new analyses of the various Australopithecus sediba bone fossils appeared this month in the journal Science. In one, researchers explained why they believe that the extinct ape-like fossils’ specific age assignment makes them valid candidates for pre-human ancestors.

The previous DpSU only covered one of the five – this time a different paper is being commented on, Australopithecus sediba at 1.977 Ma and Implications for the Origins of the Genus Homo.

The study authors argued that the “Sediba” fossils are very close to being exactly 1.977 million years old. They then attempted to build a case that there are no clearly Homo, or human, fossil remains any older than 1.9 million years. In this scenario, humans did not evolve until after Sediba. Thus, they argued that man could have arisen from some Sediba-like ancestor during the 77,000-year gap between the supposed time these remains were deposited and the time when true humans were found in the fossil record.

The genus Homo is not one and the same as a classification of ‘true humans,’ I should point out.

But a stronger case can be made that genuine human remains were deposited below, and thus before, Sediba fossils. If humans existed prior to Sediba, then these fossils are not “game changers” at all because ancestors cannot also be descendants of the same generation of creatures.

As B.T. points out later, if more developed remains are older than A. sediba, that would be a game changer, although not quite to the degree he thinks it would be.

In his book Bones of Contention, anthropologist Marvin Lubenow highlighted three fossils that were recognisably human, described in evolutionary peer-reviewed journals, and dated older than 1.977 million years. In an online 2010 article, Lubenow wrote:

I list three fossils from Kenya and Tanzania dated by evolutionists at older than 2 million years that, morphologically, are indistinguishable from modern humans. Further, I list at least 18 Homo erectus fossils that are dated by evolutionists between 1.75 and 2 million years. More recent Homo discoveries include an upper jaw (maxilla) from Ethiopia and a lower jaw (mandible) from Malawi, both dated at 2.3 million years.

That quote comes from this Answers in Genesis article. The article does not give me enough information to determine exactly which fossils he is referring to, and neither my local library nor my local creationist bookshop seem to have Lubenow’s book, so I suppose I’ll only know if somebody tells me.

Wikipedia’s article on Homo erectus maintains that there are no H. erectus fossils older than 1.9 million years, but it’s article on Human evolution would agree with Lubenow, so I really don’t know. It’s possible that the Human evolution article is simply out of date, although it’s edit history suggests otherwise.

The abstract to the Science paper refers to “the earliest uncontested evidence for Homo in Africa.” (my emphasis). In short, the older finds are probably debatable – the paper chooses to ignore them, and indeed if it didn’t we could easily be in a situation where Brian Thomas is berating the paper for using such unreliable evidence. Certainly, either the Science paper or the older fossils are wrong, but this is how science progresses, after all. And Human evolution is a messy business.

The seriousness aside, now for some fun:

In addition, two recent studies concluded that the Tanzanian Laetoli tracks were made by essentially human feet. Many researchers consider these tracks to have been formed 3.7 million years ago—long before Sediba. There’s also the discovery of a human foot bone that was assigned an age of three million years. And what about “the first appearance of stone tools at 2.6 million years ago”?

With regards to the Laetoli tracks I mentioned when I posted on it that calling the footprints identical to human ones is ludicrous, as you can clearly see by the picture I gave. Top is a normal human footprint, middle is a human footprint from a running foot, and bottom is the fossil. Totally different.

The foot bone is from the famous Lucy. The source is an old DpSU from before I started this blog, which on first reading doesn’t really seem to stack up. The creationists are fond of claiming that Lucy is fully human, and I think I may have to do a retroactive DpSU on it, à la the petroglyph one. I’ll add it to my ever-growing list of projects to finish.

And what about “the first appearance of stone tools at 2.6 million years ago”? Is there some rule that says non-Homo species can’t use tools? Ants drop small stones onto other ants nests – why can’t Australopithecus species do something similar?

But due to their dogmatic adherence to an evolutionary interpretation of history, evolutionists must insist that these bones, tracks, and tools were not human, even though a human origin is their most straightforward explanation. The recent Science authors conveniently dismissed evidence that genuine human remains were found in earth layers lower than Sediba’s, stating:

Most of these purported early Homo fossils are of equivocal taxonomic assignment, or their age is uncertain, and thus do not conclusively demonstrate the existence of Homo before 1.90 Ma.

See what I meant – they’re not definitive. It really wouldn’t matter if it turned out that the older fossils were legit, except that the conclusions of this specific paper would be incorrect. There is no ‘dogmatic adherence’ to anything – Darwin believed that Whales were descended from Bears, but we know now that that was wrong. If the evidence tells us that A. sediba came far too late to have been the ancestor of anything Homo, so what? As it happens sediba could still be ancestral even if these sediba fossils are younger than some Homo fossils – evolution is a tree after all, and so Homo could have branched off but A. sediba could have still remained there.

However, the very reason evolutionists doubt the existence of pre-Sediba humans is because this would totally revoke Sediba’s candidacy as a pre-human ancestor! In truth, the many pre-Sediba Homo remains are the real game changers. But they do not mesh well with evolutionary beliefs, so they are explained away or dismissed.

I dispute that entirely – it wouldn’t matter if A. sediba wasn’t a human ancestor at all.

The conclusion to Mr Thomas’ article needs to be saved for posterity, or at least until Baraminology is brought up again. The long list of things that are required to give Noah’s Ark even the vaguest possibility of working out includes the concept that only a representative pair of each ‘kind’ (and not species) was on the ark, thus requiring less room. The upshot of this is that in the post flood world we would need a population of horse-like creatures, say, rapidly evolving into horses, zebras and donkeys. Consider that, and then consider the following from B.T.:
these features:

Even if the human bones, tracks, and artifacts that predate Sediba were somehow not from Homo, what is the feasibility that a creature like Sediba could have evolved into a human in 77,000 years? According to the researchers, morphing Sediba into Homo would require refashioning at least

Increased brain size and organization, dentognathic [protruding mouth] reduction,…(a projecting nose), increased body size, biomechanical reorganization of the pelvis for locomotion, relative lower limb elongation, enhanced bipedal characteristics of the foot (a longitudinal arch), and the potential for tool use and manufacture.

All those precise alterations by accidental natural forces in only 77,000 years? Really? Such drastic changes are not only impossible over the 77,000 years given in the Science report, but no amount of time would be sufficient for natural forces to transform one fully formed, well-fitted creature into another.
Instead of being a “key link” in the human evolutionary chain, Australopithecus sediba will prove to be just what Marvin Lubenow has called it—an extinct variety of an original Genesis ape kind.

That will be all…

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2 thoughts on “A. sediba and the Laetoli Footprints

  1. Pingback: The ICR’s Acts and ‘Facts’ – December « Eye on the ICR

  2. Pingback: Frustrating Year for Evolution « Eye on the ICR

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