Thursday, August 09, 2007

Another Milestone in Evolution

Well it seems that the most recent studies of the fossils from Africa have led to some interesting and disturbing conclusions. First it should be noted that these are not fossils in the true sense and certainly not anywhere near complete skeletons. What these bone hunting scientists have found are fragments, pieces of skull, teeth, and bone fragments. From these fragments these scientists have constructed an entire being, determined the sex, the species, the size, and have named them, apparently laboring under the Amerindian philosophy that to name a thing is to know it. But it isn’t much of a logical stretch to question these conclusions, after all no complete skeleton exists so what they have could be fragments from different animals and at the least they are probably from different individuals even if they are of the same species.

To give you an idea as to how this works – take a cup, a bowl, and a plate from your cupboard and smash them to pieces. Mix all of these pieces together so they cannot be easily distinguished as to their source. Now remove six pieces and throw the rest into the trash. You now have six pieces of what appears to be china but from these you can determine their age, the chemical content, the probable size of the original piece. This is essentially what these scientists have done except they have gone one step further and have concluded that what they have are fragments from a set of china that includes a cup, a plate, a saucer, and possibly a teapot. Naturally these conclusions are written in the most convincing scientific jargon and presented as “facts” when in actuality they have is a lot of speculation resting on a rather tenuous set of facts. After all, they do know they have pieces of china, the pieces are the same age, they have the same chemical content, and the fragment from the plate looks like many other plate fragments, so it is probably a plate.

Of course all of these fragments have been discovered in Africa, many in the Olduvai Gorge by the Leakey family, who have turned early hominids into a family business if not a cottage industry. They have constructed – working from fragments – an entire hypothetical family tree for Homo sapiens. Of course they grant that these fragments are really not human but bone fragments from a Hominid whom they have christened Homo erectus or Homo habilius and who lived approximately 2.4 million years ago. This connection between these fragments and humans rests on the various stone tools found in association with them. The rationale is that only humans are clever enough to make and use tools so these creatures must have been proto-humans.

Several things have crept into this otherwise beautiful hypothesis that is causing some strain. First, it has now been determined – through observation – that various animals make and use tools and pass this information on to offspring and to each other. This behavior has been observed in chimpanzees, baboons, and even birds and otters. So making and using tools does not automatically qualify one for a position on the human family tree. The other fly in this ointment has to do with the bone fragments themselves. Even if we accept that they are pre-humans but of different species it seems that these creatures were contemporary and not the proclaimed evolutionary steps that show development from ape to human. The conclusion is that they must have had a common ancestor that was even older but then no evidence of that exists. So in effect the Leakey family’s revolutionary work becomes interesting but does not bear up under scrutiny. Indeed these early hominids may be related to Homo sapiens but then maybe not, maybe they are just extinct apes.

The problem with Darwin’s Theory of Evolution is that it remains unproven. There is no empirical evidence that any species has ever evolved into another species. The fossil record provides ample evidence of species adapting to changing conditions but they remain the same species. Elephants do not become Rhinoceros nor do snakes become alligators and these family trees that purport to demonstrate how various contemporary species are related are pure speculation and have no basis in fact. So the highly publicized “Lucy” fossil that is the bread and butter of the Leakey family appears to be an ape or hominid that may have used tools and might be related to humans if we only knew how they could have changed from ape to hominid to human. Evolution remains a theory and unproven.

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