Monday, October 20, 2008

Science in Seattle

The reason I haven't made any posts for a while is because I've been on holiday. My wife and I went on a road trip around Washington state and British Columbia, and spent a couple of days in Seattle, home to the conservative think tank and creationist stronghold The Discovery Institute. This is the organization responsible for the "Teach the Controversy" strategy to get religion taught in school science classes. From Wikipedia:

In 2005, a federal court ruled that the Discovery Institute pursues "demonstrably religious, cultural, and legal missions", and the institute's manifesto, the Wedge strategy, describes a religious goal: to "reverse the stifling dominance of the materialist worldview, and to replace it with a science consonant with Christian and theistic convictions".

It was gratifyingly ironic that just a half-hour walk from this fortress of ignorance, at the Pacific Science Center, the remains of a 3.2 million year old humanoid fossil was on display. Named Lucy (after The Beatles' Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds), she's one of many "missing" links between the modern human and our ape-like ancestors. The exhibit was superb, and Lucy was part of a much larger collection of fossils as well as cultural artifacts from Ethiopia, where she was discovered.


At the end of our tour we exited through the obligatory gift shop, which had a ton of books for sale on evolution, Darwin and the invalidity of intelligent design. Not a single creationist book was to be found, I'm glad to say. If the Discovery Institute can't even influence the science in their own city, it bodes well for the rest of the US...


David said...


"Lucy, She's No Lady!” by David Menton [complete lecture]


Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5

Part 6

Lucy--She’s No Lady! (DVD)
A Critique of One of the Supposed Ancestors of Man
Featuring Dr. David Menton

About the speaker
David Menton earned a Ph.D. in cell biology from Brown University. He served as a biomedical research technician at Mayo Clinic and then as an associate professor of anatomy at Washington University School of Medicine(St. Louis). For almost two decades he has been profiled in American Men and Women of Science—A Biographical Directory of Today’s Leaders in Physical, Biological and Related Sciences. Dr. Menton has lectured throughout the United States and Canada on the creation-evolution controversy.

'Ape-woman' statue misleads public: anatomy professor

Lucy's Knee Joint Revisited

The following letter was submitted by David Menton to the St. Louis Post Dispatch on Aug. 2,1996

Letter to the Editor from David N. Menton

Aug. 2, 1996

In his July 28 letter to the editor, Henry Firsching strongly disapproved of my skeptical comments about the anatomical accuracy of the St. Louis Zoo's "Lucy" statue ("The Great Primate Debate," Everyday section, July 22).  Surely it is appropriate for both scientists and students of science to be skeptical of poorly documented claims in any field of science. Our Zoo may continue to portray Lucy as having what appears to be an ape head on essentially a human body because of the desired impression it creates, but this is inconsistent with the fossil evidence. I suspect that many visitors to our Zoo who reflect upon Lucy's shapely human-like body, her contemplative gaze, excellent posture, and distinctively human stride, will not realize that a growing number of anthropologists now believe that she slept, ate, and lived primarily in the trees!

Lucy, a well known fossilized representative of the species Australopithecus afarensis, has long been portrayed as having virtually human-like feet in an effort to support her proposed role as an upright-walking, evolutionary ancestor of man. Although the relatively complete Lucy specimen (40%) includes only two bones from the foot, several other fossilized specimens of her species have been found in the Afar basin of Ethiopia revealing a foot that more closely resembles that of the apes. In a definitive study published in the American Journal of Physical Anthropology -- six years before John Holmes crafted our Zoo's Lucy statue -- anthropologists Jack Stern and Randall Susman described both the hands and feet of these Ethiopian apes as being long, curved and heavily muscled. Indeed their data show that both the finger and toe bones of "Lucy" are highly curved, even compared to those of modern apes! Hardly the hands and feet that Holmes chose to graft on his Lucy statue.
Firsching ignores the anatomical evidence for the ape-like nature of "Lucy's" foot, and argues that her feet are human-like because members of her species are believed to have made the virtually human-like footprints discovered by Mary Leakey and coworkers in Laetoli, Africa, in 1978.  How can Firsching be so sure of this? Why, because both "Lucy" and the Laetoli footprints are currently believed to be somewhere between 3 and 4 million years old.  What a coincidence! Firsching failed to mention that many anthropologists, including Mary Leakey herself, are not so sure that "Lucy" could have made these prints, but rather hope that some other ape-like ancestor of man with essentially human feet may yet be found.    
The Laetoli fossil footprints comprise a trail of 20 prints identical to those of a modern 10 year old child, and a closely adjacent trail of 27 prints of a still smaller child -- both with a well developed arch and distinctively human left-right stride. During a 1982 lecture in St. Louis, Mary Leakey revealed that footprints of yet a third smaller individual were found to be placed squarely on each of the footprints in the trail of the larger individual, much as a child might step in the footprints of an elder! The problem is that evolutionists feel certain that there were no humans around when these obviously human-like footprints were made, yet efforts to force Lucy's feet into something they don't fit have been as futile as those of Cinderella's stepsisters.  Now evolutionists are faced with the daunting question: what has feet like a human and walks like a human?

Dr. David N. Menton
Associate Professor of Anatomy,
Washington University School of Medicine,
St. Louis, Missouri

Is there fossil evidence of 'missing links' between humans and apes?

"Evolutionists claim that no fossils of chimpanzees have ever been found. The evidence suggests that fossils of chimpanzees have been found, but the blinding power of a naturalistic evolutionary philosophy, and the determination of evolutionists to find evidence for it has not allowed these fossil chimpanzees to be recognized for what they are."--Marvin Lubenow, "Paleoanthropology in Review", CEN Technical Journal, Vol. 10, No. 1 (1996), pp.10-17

David Buckna

Anonymous said...

Sigh, trying to look cleaver.
Sorry I have read all this before about Lucy.
It means nothing.
It does not invalidate evolution or the theory of our Ape like ancestors.
The Laetoli fossil footprints were not made by a human. They were made by a hominid that was not walking in the same way that we do.
This information was from a recent book on African Prehistory.
The above is a way creationists try and pull the wool over peoples eyes. By sounding scientific they try and convince people they know what they are talking about.

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Anonymous said...


so what if a human with a limp, or a human with a strange way of walking, decided to, well, you know, walk?

There were only a few foot-prints- and how on earth does a different way of walking make a human IN-human?

Proof, please, and then conclusions. I'm satisfied with the Creationist evidence here.

aj said...

What about the evidence that Lucy has locking wrist joints (usually seen in knuckle-walking apes)? Lucy also has long curved fingers, quite unlike those of a human, but very like those of many apes. Other australopithecus afarensis skeletons also have long curved toes - totally unlike the Laetoli footprints (although I suspect none of those were made by Lucy or any of his/her buddies). And as for Dr. Owen Lovejoy sawing up the pelvis and remaking it allegedly as it would have been before it was broken - after looking at casts of the pelvic bones (unfortunately, I haven't seen the real thing), I don't find his reconstruction at all convincing.

The Revolutionary Blogger said...

Dr. Menton is arguing that Lucy is not what many evolutionists claim, a transitional creature between modern humans and an ape like ancestor. The Lucy statue in St. Louis, which I've seen, was created to present a reality that does not exist. If Lucy was such a slam dunk for Darwinian evolution then such artistry would not be required.

This is not the first time that art, not science, has created false ideas.

Anonymous said...

Sirius 1: "Sigh trying to look cleaver."?

I do appreciate irony. I think you meant "clever."

Anonymous said...

evolution is basically a fact. the only reason it isent is because people like your doctor menton are utterly blind. you fail to see whats right infront of you. vestigial organs, fossil evidence, and demonstrations of evolution HAPPENING REAL TIME. we can grow bacteria in a lab and watch them evelove right before our eyes. when we apply an antibiotic the strong survive and the weak die, the strong ones pass on their resistance to their offspring and they are now a population of antibiotic resistant bacteria. its happened fairly recently and because of it we don't have any effective antibiotics left. how can you call yourself a doctor. you are a disgrace to the name!

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