A common creationist criticism is the lack of fossils of human ancestors (known as hominins). I wrote about it a few weeks back when dealing with the question “why is there only one Lucy?” The fact of the matter is that this simply isn’t true, we’ve found tens of thousands of human fossils representing over 1,000 individuals. Yet most creationists are only aware of a handful of these, so wind up with the view there is only one Lucy. I opined that this is because most creationist organisations provide a very limited discussion of the human fossil record, repeating the same arguments about the same small sample of fossils over and over again (Piltdown man, Java man and the like).
So today I’m testing my hypothesis: do the big internet creation ministries offer a distorted, limited view of the human fossil record? To test this I searched the sites of the big 3 ministries (Answers in Genesis, Institute for Creation Research and Creation.com) for discussion of the 5 important fossils I brought up in the “only one Lucy” post. These five fossils are, like Lucy, very complete and provide an awful lot of critical data on our ancestors. In many ways they’re actually more important than Lucy. But are they ignored by these ministries?
This table shows the results of my search. I looked for the technical name (e.g. KSD-VP-1/1); along with their more colloquial nickname (or species name, if no nickname exists). The results are the total of the two searches, excluding any links shared by both queries. Foreign translations of pages, year in reviews and lists of links to articles (or where the fossils were included as a “see also”) were also omitted. This search was done in 03/03/14.
|KSD-VP-1/1 (Big Man)||0 pages||2 pages||2 pages|
|DIK-1-1 (Dikika baby/Selam)||2 pages||10 pages
|BOU-VP-12/130 (Au. garhi)||0 pages||3 pages
|MH1 & MH2 (Au. sediba)||7 pages
||Lots. I’m going to give AiG a pass on this one, they had so many pages it made my laptop crash loading them.||4 pages|
|D4500, (Skull 5, Dmanisi)||2 pages||1 page claiming it is human||1 page claiming it is a human|
So, ICR produced a mean of 2 articles about each of these fossils, AiG had 4 (excluding Au. sediba) and creation.com had 3. But does this qualify as a misrepresentation of the data? To figure this out we need a bit of context to put these number in. So I repeated the same process, this time searching for the classic creationist trope: Piltdown man.
ICR had 9 articles about the hoax, AiG had 71 pages and creation.com contained a whopping 79 English language references to Piltdown man. For creation.com that’s over 600% more reference to Piltdown man than to 5 critical human fossils. 400% more for AiG. The ICR is the only one who wrote about real fossils more than Piltdown Man, but even then they referenced the hoax 81% as often as real fossils (and had nothing at all to say about 2 of the real fossils).
Piltdown Man is an out-dated, irrelevant non-fossil whose only contribution to our current understanding of human evolution is as a cautionary tale. Yet amongst most creationists it’s getting an order of magnitude more [computer] screen time than several critically important fossils that actually inform modern palaeoanthropology.
This is some pretty conclusive evidence in favour of my hypothesis that these organisations are presenting a distorted view of human evolution; ignoring or under-representing key fossils. No wonder their followers wind up thinking there is only 1 Lucy.