Creationist Arguments: Overview

When one reads creationist literature about the human fossil record, there is a definite pattern in the fossils that are selected for discussion.

Huse (1983), in a summary of "some of the more significant so-called fossil ape-men", discusses the insignificant Nebraska Man, Piltdown Man, Lucy, the Neandertals, and the original Java Man fossil, ignoring all other H. erectus fossils, H. habilis, and A. africanus.

Taylor (1992), ("Each of the most famous 'missing links' is discussed") devotes only two sentences to H. habilis, mentioning no fossils by name and dismissing it as an ape. Taylor also makes misleading use of the past tense to imply that even evolutionists no longer accept habilis as a transitional form - an implication which is totally incorrect. Of H. erectus, only Peking Man and the original Java Man fossil are mentioned in the main text.

Parker (Morris and Parker 1982) claims that "all the candidates once proposed as our evolutionary ancestors have been knocked off the list", and then proceeds to give the list, which is inexplicably lacking H. erectus (it is lumped in with Java Man) and H. habilis, and the gracile australopithecines. (Parker then contradicts himself by admitting that the gracile australopithecines are still possible candidates.)

Gish (1985) discusses Java Man, Peking Man and ER 1470, but almost totally omits mention of all other H. habilis and H. erectus fossils.

Bowden (1981) discusses Piltdown Man, Java Man and Peking Man extensively. Unlike most creationists he is at least aware of other Homo erectus fossils and the Homo habilis fossils from Olduvai Gorge, but they receive only a brief mention.

Lubenow (1992) alone appears to be aware of all the fossil material, and comes closest to addressing the evidence, but he fails to discuss some of the more compelling intermediate fossils such as OH 7, OH 24 and ER 1813 (because his book is about the human fossil record, and he considers most habilis specimens to be apes).

Until recently, most creationist literature followed Gish in claiming that the Java Man and Peking Man fossils were of apes. Since Lubenow's book was published in 1992, some creationists have backed away from this absurd and untenable position, though Gish (1995) has not. If he eventually does so, it looks as though his strategy will be to blame Boule and Vallois for his own incompetence:

"... the Asian H. erectus fossils were apparently very different in many respects [from modern humans], if Boule and Vallois and others are correct in their assessment of these creatures." (Gish 1995, p.301)

Boule and Vallois made very clear that both Java and Peking Man were intermediate between apes and humans, and Gish was only able to make it appear otherwise by badly misrepresenting them.

Creationists appear to avoid discussion of the fossils that are the best evidence for human evolution. These include superb fossils such as ER 3733 and Sangiran 17 (human but with primitive features), Sts 5 (apelike, but with some modern features) and OH 7, OH 13, OH 24, and ER 1813 (so perfectly transitional that they are difficult to classify).

In contrast to the above omissions, it is almost impossible to find a creationist work that does not mention Nebraska Man (Lubenow is the one exception), despite the fact that it was at best weak evidence for human evolution even during its brief heyday 70 years ago, and Piltdown Man, despite the fact that the hoax was discovered over 40 years ago. Ramapithecus, which was often claimed to be a human ancestor in the 1960's and 70's, also gets mentioned frequently.

Some transitional fossils are often mentioned in creationist literature, typically Java Man and Peking Man, and sometimes ER 1470. This is probably because most creationists, knowing little about the fossils and copying their information from other creationist sources, are under the mistaken impression that these fossils have been shown to be either ape or fully human. When creationists do perform their own evaluations, they show a surprising inability to agree on which fossils are apes and which are humans, exactly what one would expect if evolution had occurred and intermediates existed.

Even more surprisingly, creationists do almost no anatomical comparisons, even of the fossils they do discuss. (Virtually the only exception is Mehlert (1996), who I hope to address in the future.) Typically, they will flatly assert that a fossil is a human or an ape. Rarely do they provide photographs, so that their readers could judge for themselves whether the fossils are transitional or not. If, as many of them claim, Java Man is an ape, a comparative photo of an ape, Java Man and a human would be an easy way to demonstrate it. If they are confident in their interpretation of the data, why do they not show the evidence to their readers?

Another feature of creationist literature is its approach to scientific authority. Creationists appear to make no attempt to weigh evidence; they often accept uncritically any statement made by a scientist which can be used to advantage, while ignoring any contrary opinions. Scientists used in this way include Oxnard, Zuckerman, and Ivanhoe. Their results are often treated as if they were authoritative, when in reality they are very much minority opinions in the scientific community.

Creationists fail to see evidence of transitional forms not because there is none, but because they have a infallible method of explaining away any evidence. Starting with the certainty that transitional fossils do not exist, any fossil that is too different from H. sapiens to be considered a human is an ape, and all others are humans. No creationist ever defines what would be acceptable as a valid transitional fossil, because examples could be found to fit any reasonable definition. Instead, creationists are forced to take potshots at irrelevant fossils, misrepresent a few carefully selected examples, and ignore the strongest evidence for human evolution.

This page is part of the Fossil Hominids FAQ at the Archive.

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