Fossil Hominids: Response to Gordon's FAQ

This article is written in response to the Creation Science FAQ written by Darren Gordon for the Penn State University Origins Club. It addresses some of the arguments in Gordon's FAQ about human evolution. All of them are based on material from Marvin Lubenow's book Bones of Contention.

What does the fossil record tell us about human evolution?

The fossil known as KP 271 (the distal end of a humerus found in 1965 by Bryan Patterson of Harvard University in an excellent state of preservation) has been given by evolutionists a date of 4.5 million years ago, thus it becomes virtually the oldest hominid fossil ever found -- older than Lucy and all of the australopithecines. Much to the evolutionist's surprise, this oldest respectable hominid fossil ever found, representing a part of the anatomy where it is relatively easy to discriminate between humans and the other primates -- both living and fossil, ...

Lubenow's support for this is a statement by McHenry, who says:
"The hominoid distal humerus is ideal for multivariate analysis because there are such subtle shape differences between species, particularly between Homo and Pan, which are difficult to distinguish in a trait by trait (univariate) analysis."
In other words, multivariate analysis is useful because distal humeri are so similar that anatomists can't distinguish between them otherwise. When you have to use computers and sophisticated mathematics to tell which species bones belong to, it's not "relatively easy"; it's about as hard as it can get and still be doable. (A Cray computer is an excellent tool for performing weather simulations, but that doesn't mean simulating weather is easy.) Gordon continues:
[... both living and fossil] is virtually identical to that of Homo sapiens (modern humans). This suggests that true humans were existed before the australopithecines appear in the fossil record. KP 271 could not be distinguished from Homo sapiens morphologically or by multivariate analysis by Patterson, his partner, or by many others who have analyzed it since then.
There is at least one exception, which Lubenow did not mention: Feldesman (1982) found that KP 271 was more similar to robust australopithecines than it was to humans.

More importantly, a recent and very detailed study on the lower humerus (Lague and Jungers 1996) has detected differences between KP 271 and humans. It found that KP 271 was most similar to a group of other humeri of fossil hominids, and that the probability it belonged to the human group, rather than to the fossil group, was less than 0.001.

And even if KP 271 did belong to Homo, how could we determine that it belonged to H. sapiens, as opposed to H. erectus, H. habilis, or an even earlier species of the genus Homo? Answer: we couldn't, and so there is no grounds for claiming that it had to belong to H. sapiens.

Yet not surprisingly, this fossil has been called Australopithecus africanus. It was called Australopithecus because of its age, in spite of the scientific evidence. Evolutionists "know" it is impossible for true humans to have lived before the australopithecines, even though the fossil evidence would suggest otherwise, because humans are supposed to have evolved from the australopithecines, so they come to the unreasonable conclusion mandated by evolution theory.

Evolutionists ignore the morphology of fossils that do not fall into the proper evolutionary time period, and wave their magic wand to change the taxon of these fossils. Thus, it is impossible to falsify the concept of human evolution (proof that it is not a scientific theory). To the evolutionist, the value of data does not depend upon its intrinsic quality but upon whether or not it supports evolution and its time scale. Good data is that which supports evolution. Bad data is that which does not fit evolution, and it is to be discarded or manipulated.

The fossil record shows us that anatomically modern Homo sapiens, Neanderthal, archaic Homo sapiens, and Homo erectus all lived as contemporaries at one time or another.

So what? Evolutionary theory doesn't say that an ancestor and descendant species can't live at the same time. Some overlap is expected and perfectly normal.

Lubenow also makes the much stronger claim that modern humans do not merely overlap some other varieties, but that they coexist with all their supposed ancestors, back to about 4 million years ago. If true, this would be a serious problem for human evolution. This will be discussed below.

None of them evolved from a more robust to a more gracile condition; in fact, in some cases (Neanderthal and archaic Homo sapiens) the more robust fossils are the more recent fossils in their respective categories. All of the fossils ascribed to the Homo habilis category are contemporary with Homo erectus. Thus, Homo habilis not only did not evolve into Homo erectus, it could not have evolved into Homo erectus.
It's true that if H. habilis evolved into H. erectus, it had to exist before it. And it's even true that none of the well-known habilis fossils precede erectus by much (1.9 compared to 1.8 million years old; Lubenow puts them both at 2.0 My, but that difference is not important for now). But there is evidence of early Homo before 2 million years ago, in the form of stone tools and a number of fossils, some of which were known when Lubenow wrote his book, and others that have been discovered since then.

As far as we can tell from the fossil record, when humans first appear in the fossil record, they are already fully human. It is this abrupt appearance of our ancestors in morphologically human form that makes the human fossil record compatible with the creation model. This fact is evident even when the fossils are arranged according to the evolutionist's dates (which are believed to be grossly in error under the creation model). In other words, even when we accept the evolutionist's dates for the fossils, the results do not support human evolution. The results, in fact, are so contradictory to human evolution that they effectively falsify the theory.

The contradiction is only apparent. It arises because 1) Lubenow mistakenly considers that any overlap between two species proves one cannot be the ancestor of the other 2) many recent fossils that Lubenow considers to be H. erectus are H. sapiens 3) many older fossils that Lubenow considers to be H. sapiens are either not well identified, or belong to other species such as H. habilis or erectus.
Paleoanthropologists reinforce the notion that human evolution is a philosophy, not science, when they refuse to let observation get in the way of evolution theory.

(See Bones of Contention by Marvin L. Lubenow, pg. 57, 178-179)

Do skull sizes and morphology indicate evolution?

In seeking to establish the concept of human evolution, the evolutionist leans heavily on skull morphology and, to a lesser degree in recent years, on skull size. Both are spurious arguments and prove nothing.

If skull morphology doesn't prove anything, what would, for heaven's sake?? What other criteria could we use to evaluate fossil skulls? This seems to be an admission that no matter how good the fossil evidence is for human evolution, creationists are going to find some way of explaining it away.
Typical of the charts and illustrations used by evolutionists is a display at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City:

Increasing Brain Size

Homo sapiens 1450 cc [cubic centimeters]

Neanderthal 1625 cc

Pithecanthropus 914 cc

Australopithecine 650 cc

Gorilla 543 cc

Gibbon 97 cc

So what is the point of such a display? The evolutionist is obviously trying to establish that the hominid brain has enlarged by evolution over time. However, no evolutionist in the world believes that it happened in the way the chart implies it did. No evolutionist believes the evolution went from gibbon to chimpanzee to gorilla to the australopithecines to Homo erectus to Neanderthal and then to modern humans. Evolutionists believe that we evolved from some transitional form that was the ancestor to both humans and living primates (despite the fact that this transitional form, if it ever existed, would readily be called an ape by anyone who saw it). This type of display is nothing more than a cheap form of propaganda to convince the uninformed public of the "truth" of evolution.

The truth is that relative brain size means very little. The relationship between brain size and body size must be factored in, with the crucial elements being organization and complexity, not size.

And when we do factor in the relationship between brain and body size (instead of relying on brain size alone), we find that many fossil hominids are intermediate in cephalization between living apes and humans (Walker and Leakey 1993) and also that many hominid skull that are too small to be human show many modern features (Tobias 1987).
The human brain varies in size from approximately 700 cubic cm to 2200 cubic cm with no differences in ability or intelligence -- that's a difference of over 300 percent! (See Races, Types, and Ethnic Groups by Stephen Molnar, pg. 57)
Molnar provides no documentation for this statement, and one of the references he uses on the same page contradicts it: Tobias (1970) says that the smallest cranial capacity ever documented in the scientific literature is 790 cc. Obviously cranial capacities below this, if they exist, must be extremely rare, so Lubenow's statement that skulls such as ER 1470 (750-775 cc) are "well within the modern human range" is an extreme exaggeration, as well as ignoring the fact that ER 1470 has many other primitive features.

Basing an evolutionary sequence on skull morphology is just as futile. For example the archaic Homo sapiens fossil Rhodesian Man has pronounced brow ridges making it the most "primitive", "savage", or "apelike" human fossil in existence.

Which is why a single characteristic is not enough to classify fossils. In many other respects, Rhodesian Man is more modern than H. erectus skulls, which is why it is classified as an archaic H. sapiens.
Perhaps the most remarkable feature of this fossil is that it was found about sixty feet underground at the far end of a shaft in a lead and zinc mine. He was either mining lead and zinc himself or was in the mine shaft at a time when lead and zinc were being mined by other humans -- indicating a very high degree of civilization and technology. Not surprisingly, many evolutionists report that Rhodesian Man was found in a cave. While not an outright lie, one has to consider if calling a mine shaft a cave is not a crude attempt to minimize the technical abilities of ancient humans.
There is no deception. As the original paper on Rhodesian Man (Woodward 1921) clearly states, the fossils were found in a cave, which was found in a mine. Lubenow's claim that the Rhodesian Man was mining lead and zinc is one of his more spectacular mistakes. No evolutionist has ever claimed that Rhodesian Man was mining. Why would they? The mine is of recent (19th century) origin, and Rhodesian Man was found in it along with remains of other animals (perhaps they were mining too?).

In spite of this evidence, evolutionists continue to base much of their evidence for human evolution on the alleged primitive-to-advanced contours of fossil skulls. Creationists maintain that in light of the evidence of the wide genetic diversity in the human family, skull contour is an inadequate basis for determining relationships. The Selenka Expedition to Java, for example, succeeded in revealing the nature of the human fossil record -- that the human family had wide morphologic diversity (even more so than today) and that Java Man was not our evolutionary ancestor.

The Selenka expedition claimed to have found evidence of humans of the same age as Java Man, but the evidence was very meagre: bits of bone, evidence of hearths, and charcoal. I don't know what the modern opinion on this evidence is, but it sounds like the sort of thing that could either occur naturally, or as a result of the activities of Homo erectus. The only other evidence was a "human" tooth, called the Sonde fossil. H. erectus teeth are very similar to ours, the main difference being that they're bigger. According to Keith's 1911 paper on the Selenka expedition, which Lubenow refers to, the Sonde tooth is "of remarkable dimensions", so it seems more likely it belonged to H. erectus than to H. sapiens.

How, exactly, does this meagre evidence reveal "wide morphologic diversity" in humans?

Should Homo erectus really be classified as a separate species?

A number of evolutionists have expressed the fact that Homo erectus, while slightly different in morphology, is not so different from modern humans as to warrant a separate species designation.

There are a few scientists, most notably Milford Wolpoff, who think that H. erectus should be "sunk" into H. sapiens. This is not because the amount of morphological difference is very small (it's not), but because they consider that there has been no speciation event at which H. sapiens evolved from a population of H. erectus. Wolpoff agrees that H. erectus was different from us and that it evolved into us, and that H. erectus skulls fall outside the range of variation of modern humans (personal communication).
The range of variation of many features of Homo erectus (such as Java and Peking) fall within that of modern man.
Where is the evidence for this? While some features of these skulls may fall within the human range, all modern scientists agree that the skulls as a whole fall outside it. For example, read about the controversy around the Java Man skull after its discovery (Trinkaus and Shipman, 1992). It is very obvious that the skullcap was so far outside the range of anything previously known that scientists were at a loss as to how it should be classified.
When considering the vast differences that exist between remote groups such as Eskimos and Bushmen, who are known to belong within the single species Homo sapiens, it seems justifiable to conclude that Homo erectus belongs among this same diverse species.
The diversity of appearance in modern humans is mainly in soft tissue features. Skeletally, all modern humans are much more similar to each other than they are to H. erectus.
Changes in locomoter anatomy from Homo erectus to modern man are relatively minor, and by earliest Homo erectus times body size was essentially modern.

Furthermore, many anthropologists believe that a modern man and a million-year-old Homo erectus woman could together produce a fertile child. In other words this species distinction is based solely on the time element, which is an evolutionary concept -- valid only if evolution is valid.

An ability to interbreed does not mean that two animals are in the same species. For fossils such as H. erectus, the decision to place them in a separate species is based on the fact that they fall outside the range of variation of modern humans.
If one million years would not produce significant genetic change to inhibit conception, then the differences between Homo erectus and Homo sapiens are not the result of evolution but instead represent genetic variation within one species. Although I am genetically isolated from my great grandmother because of time, this does not mean that she and I are different species. A species distinction based primarily on time is an absurd evolutionary necessity.

Are australopithecines ancestors to humans?

This is yet another evolutionary fable, and an example of the inevitable circular reasoning behind evolutionary theory. The australopithecines had nothing to do with human origins, they are simply extinct primates. There is already evidence which shows that humans appeared in the fossil record before the australopithecines and lived as contemporaries with the australopithecines throughout all of australopithecine history.

The creationist evidence for humans coexisting with the gracile australopithecines that are thought to be our ancestors consists of a grand total of two fossils: KP 271, discussed above, and the Laetoli footprints, discussed later.

The case for the australopithecines as human ancestors has been based on three evolutionist claims: that they were relatively big brained; that they were bipedal; and that they appear in the fossil record at the relevant time. In reality, the fossil record shows us that the australopithecines do not appear in the fossil record at the relevant time -- they are far too recent. Although brain organization is more important than brain size alone, the significant gap between cranial capacities of the largest australopithecine and the smallest human has not been bridged. There is no smooth transition from nonhuman to human fossils in this regard.

Lubenow regards the ER 1470 Homo habilis skull as a modern human, and most other H. habilis fossils as apes. One of these, OH 7, has a brain size of around 670-680 (despite being a juvenile), within 100 cc of ER 1470. This is far larger than any chimp, and very large even for a male gorilla, but OH 7 is quite modern, with none of the crests and ridges seen on large ape skulls. In addition, the teeth of OH 7 are far more human than any ape, though large by modern human standards. ER 1470, on the other hand, is about 5 standard deviations below the human average brain size, and has many very robust facial features, along with tooth sockets that indicate it also had extremely large teeth.

To sum up, ER 1470, which is supposedly a human, appears to be far more similar to the supposed ape OH 7 than it it is to modern humans. If such an apelike human, and such a humanlike ape, are not transitional fossils, what would be?

(Incidentally, you will not find OH 7, or some other habilis fossils of around 650 cc, discussed in Lubenow's book.)

The evidence for australopithecine bipedality is controversial. First it should be noted that bipedality does NOT indicate a human relationship. Birds are bipedal, but no one suggests that they are closely related to humans. Evolutionists make much of the alleged australopithecine bipedality because to make a case for human evolution they must demonstrate the origin of bipedality from a primate stock.

If indeed the australopithecines were bipedal, there is strong evidence that their locomotion was significantly different from that of humans (consequently most paleoanthropologists agree that if they did in fact walk, it was not in a human manner).

True, they probably did not walk identically to humans. But they did walk bipedally, and a lot more like us than any modern apes do. And, unlike birds, their anatomy also shows strong resemblances to ours. That sounds like evidence for australopithecines being transitional, not evidence against it. Creationists seem to be saying that a fossil can't be considered a transitional form unless it walked identically to us.
This brings us to the infamous Laetoli footprints, discovered by associates of Mary Leakey beginning in 1978, thirty miles south of Olduvai Gorge in northern Tanzania. The strata above the footprints has been dated at 3.6 million years ago, while the strata below them has been dated at 3.8 million years ago (K-Ar). These footprint trails, preserved in fresh volcanic ash by a unique combination of circumstances, are one of the greatest fossil discoveries of the twentieth century.

Mary Leakey described the footprints as "remarkably similar to those of modern man." (National Geographic, April 1979, p. 446) Three parallel trails are seen, made by three individuals, with one individual walking in the footprints of another. There are a total of sixty-nine prints extending a length of about thirty yards. Virtually everyone agrees that these prints are strikingly similar to those of modern humans, yet in spite of this fact, evolutionists have ascribed them to the Lucy-type hominid known as Australopithecus afarensis. Obviously this is totally unprovable.

The most extensive recent study of these footprints was done by specialist Russel H. Tuttle at the invitation of Mary Leakey. Not only did he confirm the remarkable humanness of the Laetoli hominid feet, but he described them as "indistinguishable from those of habitually barefoot Homo sapiens." He also said that "none of their features suggest that the Laetoli hominids were less capable bipeds than we are." (see American Journal of Physical Anthropology, February 1991, p.244) He not only rejects the notion that the Laetoli footprints were made by Australopithecus afarensis, but he found that the former work on the footprints which led to this conclusion was flawed.

Tuttle is one of a number of people who have worked on the prints. He has concluded that they could not have been made by A. afarensis. Other scientists, including Don Johanson, have reached the opposite conclusion. So far, the evidence is ambiguous enough that it cannot be stated with any certainty that A. afarensis did not make the prints, let along that they were made by modern humans, as opposed to an earlier species from the genus Homo.

So WHY then do evolutionists not ascribe these fossil footprints to Homo?

Some do. Even if they were Homo, of course, that does not mean they were modern humans.
Because that would not fit the evolutionary timeline. According to the theory of evolution, those footprints are too old to have been made by true humans. It is a classic case of interpreting the facts according to a preconceived philosophical bias. Evolutionists refuse to call extremely old fossils by their proper names, in order to protect evolution theory. Hence, it is obvious we are dealing not with science but with a philosophy.

Does fossil evidence confirm the Creation model?

One way to discriminate between the two models of human origins is to place all of the relevant fossil material on a time chart according to the probable dates for each of the fossil individuals and to evaluate the results as to whether the evidence favors an evolutionary or a morphological continuum. When this is done, the evidence is strongly in favor of a morphological continuum, both horizontally across species, and vertically over time. The horizontal continuum shows that anatomically modern Homo sapiens, Neanderthal, archaic Homo sapiens, and Homo erectus all lived as contemporaries over extended periods of time. The vertical continuum shows that as far back as the human fossil record goes, the human body has remained substantially the same and has not evolved from something else.

Then why is it that fully modern human fossils go back to only about 100,000 years, while archaic H. sapiens fossils go back a few hundred thousand years, the even more primitive H. erectus fossils go back to about 1.8 million years, other primitive Homo fossils go back a bit further, and are preceded by australopithecines? Lubenow's supposed exceptions to this chronology are all based on quite dubious identifications.

This is what the creation model would predict, that is, it is what we would expect if creation were true. The evidence, in fact, is so strong for the creation model of human origins that it is extremely unlikely that any future fossil discoveries would weaken it. New fossil discoveries have only strengthened the creationist position, which is why it is understandable that evolutionist books no longer carry this type of human fossil chart. Charts of bits and pieces of the human fossil record abound in evolutionary books, but one will not find a time chart that places all of the relevant human fossil material on a time chart according to the morphological description of the individual fossils. If you are interested in learning more about the evolutionist perspective on human evolution, check out the fossil hominids FAQ by Jim Foley.

I do commend Gordon for including a link to my pages; he is the only creationist I know of who has done so.

Myth: There are very few hominid fossils.

The public is unaware of the rich harvest of hominid fossils we now possess. Although many myths about evolution are not the fault of evolutionists, this one clearly is. Every competent paleoanthropologist knows about this wealth of fossils, and when a worker in this field speaks of the scarcity of the human fossils, he is actually saying, "Although there is an abundance of hominid fossils, the bulk of them are either too modern to help me, or they do not fit well into the evolutionary scheme. Since we all know that humans evolved, what is so perplexing is the difficulty we are having in finding the fossils that would clearly demonstrate that fact."

The reality is that by 1976 approximately 4000 hominid fossil individuals had already been unearthed. The period since that time has seen the most intensive and successful search for hominid fossils in the history of paleoanthropology. No one knows exactly how many have been found to date, however a conservative estimate exceeds 6000.

The implication of this argument is that paleoanthropologists have no reason to complain about a lack of fossil evidence. While the number of fossils is indeed large, quantity is not the same as quality. Most fossils are of small fragments of bone or teeth which can often not even be firmly assigned to a species. Also, the fossil record is heavily weighted towards more recent periods. Quantity is also not the same as completeness. For most hominid species, many bones of the skeleton are not known.

The number of pre-Homo sapiens fossils consisting of moderately complete skulls or skeletons is probably on the order of two or three dozen. This is enough to document the existence of transitional stages between apes and humans, but it's not enough to answer many important questions about human evolution. For example, we know little about the post-cranial anatomy of H. habilis, or the number of species of australopithecines found at Hadar, or how many species the fossils usually assigned to H. habilis really cover, the range of variation of all hominid species, the relationships between species, etc., etc.

If the hominid fossil record was anywhere near complete, we wouldn't keep finding new species at the rate we are. As an illustration of how little we know, the discovery of one single fossil, Lucy, meant that A. afarensis was better known than any other australopithecine species. And when the H. erectus skeleton WT 15000 was discovered, many of its bones were the first ever known for that species. That single fossil probably tells us more about H. erectus than hundreds of fragments would.


Feldesman M.R. (1982): Morphometric analysis of the distal humerus of some Cenozoic catarrhines: the late divergence hypothesis revisited. American Journal of Physical Anthropology, 59:73-95.

Keith A. (1911): The problem of Pithecanthropus. Nature 87:49-50.

Lague M.R. and Jungers W.L. (1996): Morphometric variation in plio-pleistocene hominid distal humeri. American Journal of Physical Anthropology, 101:401-27.

Lubenow M.L. (1992): Bones of contention: a creationist assessment of human fossils. Grand Rapids,MI: Baker Books.

Tobias P.V. (1970): Brain size, grey matter and race - fact or fiction? American Journal of Physical Anthropology, 32:3-31.

Tobias P.V. (1987): The brain of Homo habilis: a new level of organization in cerebral evolution. Journal of Human Evolution, 16:741-61.

Trinkaus E. and Shipman P. (1992): The neandertals: changing the image of mankind. New York: Alfred E. Knopf

Walker A.C. and Leakey R.E. (1993): The Nariokotome Homo erectus skeleton. Cambridge,MA: Harvard University Press. (a volume of papers about the Turkana Boy skeleton WT 15000)

Woodward A.S. (1921): A new cave man from Rhodesia, South Africa. Nature, 108:371-2. (announcement of the discovery of the Rhodesian Man fossil)

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

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