Creationists omit facts from research to “disprove” evolution, nobody is suprised

Taung child

Taung child

The Institute for Creation Research (ICR) probably spends more of their time bashing evolution than actually researching creationism. Which is quite odd, given they apparently don’t understand the subject. In the past they’ve argued human evolution is false because people 13,000 years ago were just as smart as modern humans; apparently ignorant of the fact that all palaeoanthropologists agree that the people 13,000 years ago were actually modern humans.

And now they’ve mucked up their timeline again.

This latest article is about the Taung child fossil, a 3 year old ape-like human ancestor who died over 3 million years ago. It has a special place in my heart as being the first Australopithecus ever discovered; finally showing we did evolve from ape-like ancestors in Africa. Except, according to the ICR:

Now the famous Taung child, a supposed example exhibiting early transitional developmental skull features has been debunked

Arguably the most important fossil ever has been debunked! Where did we all go wrong? The answer is sutures. The human skull is not made of a single bone, instead several bones gradually knit themselves together. In humans one of the sutures towards the front of the skull is finished between the age of 9 – 14 months (although in some people it doesn’t finish until adulthood); but in chimps it’s done before they’re born. Some authors had argued that Taung (at age 3) had open sutures, like a minority of modern people.

However, as the ICR explains, new research (freely available) shows Taung didn’t have the open sutures after all. Instead, they argue that it would seem there’s…

no evidence of a distinct superiorly protruding ridge on the Taung natural endocast indicating a possible open (or partially fused) metopic suture … [suggesting] that this young Australopithecus skull comes from an ape—just like the rest of its genus. Once again, when scrutinized by advanced imaging technology, the highly subjective field of anthropology vindicates the scientifically accurate biblical claim that mankind is created uniquely in the image of God.

 

Now, I’ve already given you the reason why this argument falls apart. Were you paying attention?

As I said, in most people the frontal suture is closed by their first birthday so even if Taung was fully human (since they were ~3 years old) we’d expect them to have a closed suture. Either that, or the ICR thinks that the majority of humans whose sutures have closed by this age are actually apes.

This is something that the new research actually points out, commenting that

In modern humans, the metopic suture normally closes 3–9 mo postpartum … [so] with an estimated age between 3.73 and 3.93 y at death, Taung is well beyond the age for normal closure of the metopic suture exemplified by modern humans or chimpanzees and other primates

So it would seem that the ICR didn’t actually read the paper that they’re basing their conclusion on (or they’re going with the most humans are apes hypothesis). Except they clearly did, given that some parts of their article are almost lifted right out of the new research. For example, compare this paragraph from the new research.

The endocast is distinguished by numerous calcite deposits on its surface. Indeed, the midline region is marked by numerous calcite deposits, indicating that the true surface of the endocranium lies below these deposits. In addition, there are remnants of the endocranial table adhering to the surface of the natural endocast, obscuring many of its morphological features, including portions of its left frontal lobe. Finally, Dart’s exuberant use of his wife’s knitting needles to extricate the fossil from the surrounding breccia may have scarred the surfaces, forever obliterating some of the original features of the natural endocast.

With this one from the ICR article

1) The endocast had numerous calcite [mineral] deposits on it that obscured the real contours of the surface. 2) The remnants of the inside of the cranium that adhered to the endocast also obscured the true surface. 3) The discoverer of the fossil skull damaged it by the “exuberant use of his wife’s knitting needles to extricate the fossil from the surrounding breccia [rock material] may have scarred the surfaces, forever obliterating some of the original features of the natural endocast.”

So they clearly read the research, presumably including the rather lengthy description of why this discovery doesn’t disprove Taung as a human ancestor. And then they promptly ignored it? You can go read the ICR piece yourself (here’s the link again), they make no mention of the fact that the research they’re citing contradicts their conclusion in multiple places. To me that goes a bit beyond simple ignorance, instead suggesting deliberate deception.

Or, of course, there’s still the aforementioned possibility that they’re subtly hinting most people are apes. Which could be their sneaky way of admitting evolution is right.

taxonomy

Humans, after all, are technically apes

12 thoughts on “Creationists omit facts from research to “disprove” evolution, nobody is suprised

    • I am always curious whether or not there’s lying or just severe incompetence going on when this sort of stuff is going on. And if it’s the former, is it cynically trying to ensure the faithful keep funding your; or are they so convinced evolution is completely evil they feel justified in stretching the truth a bit to attack it.

      • I’ve had a similar question regarding politicians denying climate change (and various other issues). Do they actually know better and know they’re lying, or do they actually not get it. I hadn’t really considered the possibility they might be prevaricating in the name of “doing the right thing” (as they see it).

        • It’s a surprisingly common possibility; which is why I quite like these clear cut cases of either incompetence or deceit. I’ve already heard a creationist talking about this article, and when they do I get to point out how there’s something very shifty going on.

          And their response is always very interesting when I do. Often they’ll acknowledge that there may be a bit of lying going on; but really it’s fine of reasons.

          Either that, or pointing out the dilemma shuts them up. Either works for me.

  1. “The Institute for Creation Research (ICR) probably spends more of their time basing evolution than actually researching creationism.”

    Probably? That is the understatement of the year.

    They certainly don’t have anything to actually research for creation. I really look forward to the whining and name calling they will undoubtedly do when nearly complete and articulated “Little Foot” skeleton finally gets published — assuming Dr. Clarke ever gets around to full publication. Also whatever the Rising Star material is, the very fact that it represents all but 20 bones should result in mix of character assassination, misrepresentation of evidence, and entertaining misconceptions.

    • Well there are a couple of pieces of research they do. Some of the folk at Answers in Genesis are counting genera to guesstimate how many animals were on the arc, whilst some ICR peeps look at genomes every so often and remark how complicated they are.

      It isn’t much, but I feel like it happens so rarely I need to praise it. It’s the sort of research that might lead them away from some of their silly ideas. In fact, a creationist “researcher” trying to figure out what “kind” Australopiths belong to actually wound up concluding they’re part of the human family after all.

      Little Foot seems to be getting closer and closer to publication, I’m pumped. The labs at my university were CT scanning the fossils still encased to try and create a digital model of the thing. And rising star is exciting. I enjoyed following it along live, rather than just getting a press release about it 3 years later when they decide to publish.

      • Todd Wood, the guy who suggested that the Malapa hominins are human, along with Kurt Wise, whose main claim to fame was Richard Dawkins calling him an honest creationist, are certainly exceptions to the name calling, lies ,and misunderstandings which are the rule for creationists. I have actually read some of Wood and you can see the evidence of evolution in what he writes. If he had not said that the Bible trumped all, one would be scratching one’s head wondering how he could possibly be a creationist. Wood and Wise can get credit for at least trying to do something that has a somewhat superficial resemblance to science which is not someone I would say for the rest of the pack.

        I will admit I was surprised when I learned Wood was willing to call the Malapa hominins “human” especially since he puts “Lucy” as an “ape.” But maybe it should not be surprising. After all what Wood is doing is sort of a creationist version of cladistic analysis. Given we probably share a more recent common ancestor with the Malapa hominins than with “Lucy” it would not be surprising that even a pseudo-cladistic analysis put some australopithecines with humans. In any event, with Malapa excavation finally started, this too will be a continued source of entertainment for those who watch creationism.

    • Yeah, apparently he was convinced by that ol’ chestnut “fossils are used to date layers, layers are used to date fossils.” If that’s the starting point ICR staff are coming from then it’s no wonder they get things so horribly wrong

  2. So basically the ICR’s arguement is “THat skull has no open sutures!” And the response is “She died at age 3, long after such sutures would close, so no shit.”

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