Foley/Milton debate, message 3

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Date: Tue, 26 Aug 97 14:23:41 MDT
In-Reply-To: <> (message from Richard Milton on Sun, 17
	Aug 1997 15:34:43)
Subject: Re: Milton's response to Kuban

>>>>> On Sun, 17 Aug 1997 15:34:43, Richard Milton
>>>>> <> said:

  >RM  Glen [Kuban] is becoming confused again.  FACT: Java "man" was a
  >    gibbon (see any competent authority). 
  >Glen is correct.  *Every* competent authority I'm aware of (Leakey,
  >Johanson, Walker, Trinkaus, Wood, Day, Tattersall, Brace, Campbell, etc)
  >considers Java Man to be a member of Homo erectus.  Richard, which
  >competent authorities do you have in mind?

>> For a clear resume of the real facts see John Reader _Missing Links_,
>> 1981, [details of discovery of Java Man followed ...]

I don't dispute any of his facts about how Java Man was discovered.  But
does he give any evidence that Java Man is a gibbon?  I'll bet he says, as
I do, that Java Man is Homo erectus.

>> The leg bone was almost certainly that of a modern human.  It is my 
>> understanding that the skullcap is now regarded as that of an extinct 
>> gibbon-like creature. 

On what is this understanding based?  Do you know of *any* scientists
qualified in paleoanthropology who believe this?

>> But the important fact is not the origin of the fossils but that the
>> association of the femur and skull cap is not scientifically justified.

I consider this totally irrelevant.  I think the association to the same
individual is probably incorrect, and many of the above scientists probably
do too.  That has nothing to do with how the skullcap is classified.

>> It was in recognition of these facts that the restoration of Java 'man' 
>> paid for by Ernst Haeckel was removed from the Leiden Museum to its 
>> basement and in the mid 1980s, the exhibit of Java 'man' was removed from 
>> public display in the American Museum of Natural History.

References?  This seems *highly* unlikely, given that Ian Tattersall, head
of the Dept. of Anthropology at the AMNH, and curator of their human
evolution exhibit, discusses Java Man prominently in his books "The Human
Oddyssey" and "The Fossil Trail".  In these books it is clear that both
Tattersall and the scientific community accept Java Man as Homo erectus.

[I have since personally verified that a cast of the Java Man is indeed
displayed in the Human Evolution hall at the AMNH, as one would expect -
JPF, Aug 10 1998]

I don't know anything about the Leiden reconstruction or why it might have
been removed.  Any references on this?

>> To apply the word competent to anyone who claims that the association of
>> these fossils is valid seems to me an unusual use of the term.

I did not use competent in this sense.  I did not even mention the femur,
let alone claim it belonged to the skullcap.  When you said "Java 'man' was
a gibbon" you were clearly referring only to the skullcap, not the femur.
So was I when I said every competent scientist considers it to be Homo

  >To say that Homo erectus fossils can't be transitional merely because
  >they're in the genus Homo doesn't follow.  After all, it could be (and I
  >would say is) that erectus is more primitive than us and different
  >enough to be in another species, yet similar enough to be in the same
  >genus.  Seems to me that to determine if something is transitional or
  >not, we need to look at it's *anatomy*, not its name.

>> This is a piece of semantic gymnastics.

>> Pithecus (as in _Australopithecus_) means ape.  Homo means man.  These
>> are not just semantic niceties which can be changed at will depending on
>> how clever a debater you are.  They are a direct reflection of
>> scientific classification.

"human" is sometimes used in both popular and scientific literature to
refer to all of genus Homo, or hominids, or just Homo sapiens.

When I say "human" below, I mean a fully modern human, with no significant
differences from us.  By this definition, all scientists agree that
H. erectus and habilis are non-human.

You say below that anatomy must be considered, but your argument consists
of saying that if it belongs to Homo it must be human, and if belongs to
Australopithecus it must be an ape, based solely on the names!  That's what
I'd call "semantic gymnastics".

>> There are cases where overenthusiastic Darwinists have tried to
>> introduce a new species in order to prove the existence of a missing
>> link, but where later, scientific accuracy prevails and the 'missing
>> link' is discredited.

There are some such cases, such as Louis Leakey's "Zinjanthropus" (now
known as A. boisei) which you mentioned.  I don't think any other
scientist ever seriously believed Leakey's claim that Zinj was a human
ancestor, and it disappeared quickly.

In other cases, like H. erectus, H. habilis, A. africanus and A.
afarensis, the current thinking is very close to the claims that were
originally made for them.  None of these species is considered

>> Of course it is true that we must look at the anatomy of the fossils
>> themselves.  But it is dangerous to allow Darwinists like the Leakeys to
>> construct 'missing link' theories on their estimate of the fossils:
>> safer to trust the type description which is usually done by specialists
>> on the basis of comparative measurement and in the calm of the lab, not
>> in the headlines of National Geographic.

Indeed.  And when we look at the definitive studies of some of the Homo
habilis fossils,

  Tobias P.V. (1991): Olduvai gorge, volume 4: the skulls, endocasts and
  teeth of Homo habilis. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

  Wood B.A. (1991): Koobi Fora research project, volume 4: hominid
  cranial remains. Oxford: Clarendon Press.

we find that the differences from modern humans are clearly described.

>> Is Jim saying that he knows of cases where names are not an accurate guide 
>> because fossils described as _Homo_ are in fact apes, or cases where 
>> fossils described as ape are in fact human?

I do not claim that any Homo fossils are apes, or that any
Australopithecus fossils are human.  That would be to fall into the trap
of assuming a priori that every fossil is either ape or human, and that
it is only necessary to decide which category is most appropriate.

Instead, I claim that there are Homo fossils which are different from
and more primitive than modern humans, and Australopithecus fossils
which are more human-like than any ape.

>> If so then let him present the evidence for that claim.  It would be
>> a most startling scientific claim.

There is nothing startling about my above claim.  It is universally
accepted by experts in human evolution.  Evidence is offered below.

  >So you are saying that all the Homo habilis fossils are human?

>> I'm saying there is nothing to distinguish them from modern humans.
>> _Homo habilis_  was discovered by the Leakeys at Olduvai in 1964.
>> The habilines are calculated to have had a small brain: perhaps only 
>> half the size of the average modern human's.  But the habilines were 
>> also small in stature, so their brain was not small in relation to 
>> their body size, rather like modern pygmies.

I say there is plenty to distinguish Homo habilis from modern humans.  The
following quotes all refer to the famous habilis skull ER 1470, discovered
by Richard Leakey in Kenya in 1972:

     "The endocranial capacity and the morphology of the calvaria
     [braincase] are characters that suggest inclusion within the genus
     Homo, but the maxilla [upper jaw] and facial region are unlike
     those of any known form of hominid." (Leakey 1973, Nature, 242:447-50)

     "From the size of the palate and the expansion of the area
     allotted to molar roots, it would appear that ER 1470 retained a
     fully Australopithecus-sized face and dentition." (Brace et al.
     1979, Atlas of human evolution)

     "KNM-ER 1470, like other early Homo specimens, shows many
     morphological characteristics in common with gracile
     australopithecines that are not shared with later specimens of the
     genus Homo" (Cronin et al. 1981, Nature, 292:113-22)

     "There is no evidence that this cranium particularly resembles H.
     sapiens or H. erectus according to either phenetic or cladistic
     evidence. Phenetically, KNM-ER 1470 is closest to the remains from
     Olduvai [considered apes by creationists] referred to H. habilis.
     (Wood 1991, Koobi Fora research project, volume 4: hominid cranial

     "Ignoring cranial capacity, the overall shape of the specimen and
     that huge face grafted onto the braincase were undeniably
     australopithecine." (Walker and Shipman 1996, The wisdom of the bones)

Note that 1470, at 750-775 cc, is the largest of the Homo habilis skulls.
The other skulls (OH 7, OH 13, OH 16, OH 24, ER 1813), range from about 510
cc to 680 cc.  These are smaller than even the most extreme figure for
minimum human brain size (Lubenow's 700 cc).  However even 1470 is below
what most people consider the human minimum (somewhere in the 800-900
range; see
for details).

No scientist considers ER 1470 human.  Some creationists think it is human,
some an ape.  Of the other habilis fossils, *no-one*, creationist or
evolutionist, considers them human.  Richard is the first person I have ever
seen suggest that these are human.

Richard, what is your support for your claim that there is nothing to
distinguish these Homo habilis skulls from modern humans?

  > RM  No-one is confused here, Glen except you.
  >Glen is correct again.  Creationists are horribly confused, and can't
  >work out whether fossils like Java Man, Peking Man and ER 1470 are
  >humans or apes.  (If anyone doesn't believe this, ask me for examples)

>> I am unable to say whether creationist are confused on this issue or not
>> as I'm not a creationist.  I, however, am not confused.  For the reasons
>> given above, those scientists describing the type specimens have
>> assigned them to Homo if they are human and Australopithecus if they are
>> apes.

Who did these type descriptions which assigned Homo habilis and erectus to
humans, and A. africanus and afarensis were apes?

  >That seems odd to me.  After all, no living human skull would be
  >mistaken for an ape, and no living ape skull would be mistaken for a
  >human, even by a creationist.  And yet there are a number of fossil
  >skulls which some creationists claim are human, and some say are apes.
  >Doesn't it necessarily follow that these skulls must be more apelike
  >than any human, and more humanlike than any ape?  And isn't that the
  >sort of thing we would expect to see if humans evolved from apes?

>> The scientists who described the type specimens and assigned their 
>> zoological status were not confused.  They were perfectly clear.

This does not answer the questions that I asked.

I agree, the scientists were not confused.  They have always clearly
recognized that the Homo erectus and Homo habilis fossils are not modern
humans.  That is why they classify them in different species from Homo

In fact, Dubois, who described Java Man, did give it a name describing its
zoological status: Pithecanthropus, or "Ape-man".  The only reason it was
changed was because it was judged to be not different enough from Homo
sapiens to merit belonging to a different genus.  Scientists agree that
Dubois' interpretation was basically correct: he had discovered a primitive

  >I object also to the idea that something is "known" if you can find one
  >or two studies to support it.  To me, "known" implies that something
  >that is accepted by all or almost all workers in the field, otherwise
  >we can have the absurdity that a claim and its negation can both be
  >"known" to be true.
  >By my definition, it is *not* "known" that australopithecines are
  >extinct apes unrelated to humans.  Quite the opposite.  That opinion is
  >in a distinct minority.

>> Then why were they named Australopithecus (= Southern ape) by the 
>> specialists who described their type specimens?  The fact that there is a 
>> long queue of Darwinists desperate to find a 'missing link' and willing to 
>> shoehorn each new discovery to fit does not alter the anatomical facts.

To say that australopithecines can't be missing links because they have
"-pithecus" (= ape) in their name is wrong for any number of reasons:

1. By the same reasoning, Basilosaurus must be a reptile, instead of a
   fossil whale, because it has "-saurus" in its name.

2. They were named "Australopithecus" by Raymond Dart, the same man who
   first claimed that they were human ancestors.  Dart (Nature 1925,
   184:491) referred to it as a "man-like ape", and "an extinct race of
   apes intermediate between living anthropoids and man" (his italics).

3. Even if the name was inconsistent with being a human ancestor, modern
   scientists aren't responsible for a name assigned 70 years ago.  And
   even if they wanted to, the rules of nomenclature forbid them changing
   Australopithecus to another name.

4. It is a demonstrable fact that many scientists consider Australopithecus
   a human ancestor.  For example, see Wood (Nature 355:783 1992) which
   shows 6 different diagrams of hominid phylogeny suggested by various
   workers.  "The First Humans (ed. Burenhult) has 4 diagrams.  All ten of
   these diagrams have either one or both of A. africanus and A. afarensis
   as human ancestors.

So tell us again how it can be "known" that australopithecines are
unrelated to humans, when a large majority of paleoanthropologists
obviously disagree with that statement?


  > Again, "known" by whom?  Not by scientists studying the fossils.
  > In the case of Homo habilis in particular, there are a number
  > of features that distinguish them from modern humans.
  > Are you saying, then, that habilines like ER 1470, OH 7, OH 13 are all
  > modern humans?  

>> I'm saying that there are modern humans, living only a few miles from
>> the place where these fossils were found, who have comparable stature
>> and brain capacity to habilines (the Mbuti pygmies of Zaire).

Is there any evidence for this?  If so, where?

I say this claim is totally false.  For example, S.J. Gould's "The
Mismeasure of Man" contains statistics for a number of racial groups
(p. 55) including some pretty small ones, although admittedly not pygmies.
The lowest value for any group is 1225 cc.  I have another article by
paleoanthropologist Colin Groves which says that the lowest average he is
aware of for *any* group is 1159 cc with a standard deviation of 119 cc
(based on 15 skulls of South African "Bushmen").

This is far closer to the human average of 1350 cc than it is to the
habiline average of less than 700 cc.  The habilis average is 4 standard
deviations away (!) from the smallest known human population.  This is a
HUGE difference.

  > I have one final question for Richard. What *would* be an acceptable
  > example of an ape/human intermediate, since he doesn't like any of  
  >the claimed specimens?

>> There are three criteria that distinguish humans from apes anatomically.  
>> They are:-

>> 1.  The way the skull is joined to the spine, balanced upright in humans, 
>> sloping in apes.

And as is well known, australopithecines are quite humanlike in this
respect.  See, for example,, taken from "Humankind Emerging" by Bernard Campbell

>> 2.  Human feet are flat for walking upright.  Ape feet are long and 
>> curved for grasping branches.

>> 3. Ape teeth are characteristically different from human teeth.

See "Lucy", Johanson and Edey, 1981, pages 260-279, has a long discussion
about australopithecine teeth.  Ape teeth are indeed different from human
teeth.  Guess which A. africanus most resembles?  Yes, humans.  See, again taken from Campbell's book.

The earlier A. afarensis is much more apelike than africanus, but has some
human characterics.

>> These are the important criteria.  Darwinist sometimes try to confuse 
>> the issue by introducing matters like cranial capacity or pelvic 
>> construction, but this is largely smoke and mirrors. 

I fail to see why.  Both of these characteristics are quite different in
humans and apes and hence are as good diagnostic features as your first
three points.

4. Brain size.  Few humans are smaller than 900 cc.  Chimps have a max of
500 cc, gorillas are about 700 cc max but they are far larger than any
hominids and have grossly apelike skulls.  Homo habilis skulls fit in the
gap beautifully, being intermediate in both brain size and anatomy.  Some
of the smaller H. erectus skulls are also in the 750-900 cc range, with
significant anatomical differences from modern humans in addition to their
exceptionally small size.

5. Pelvic construction.  While certainly not a human pelvis, Lucy's pelvis
resembles a human more than a chimp.  The pelvis is a good indicator of
locomotion, and Lucy's indicates that she was bipedal when on the ground
(which was probably not all the time).  The australopithecine pelvis Sts 14
also belonged to a bipedal creature.

>> Australopithicines like Lucy have their skulls joined to their spines like 
>> apes, they have long curved hands and feet for grasping branches (longer 
>> and more curved than a chimpanzee for instance) and their teeth are those 
>> of an ape.

>> Show me a fossil that has feet, teeth and skull posture halfway 
>> between an ape's and a human's and I'll be very interested to see it.

Teeth: look at A. afarensis, A. africanus, H. habilis, H. erectus.
Skull posture: look at Sts 5
Feet: almost none available.  There is OH 8, which seems to be bipedal but
isn't a modern human.
Posture: Lucy and Sts 14 already show bipedality and a pelvis quite similar
to those of humans.
Brain size: we have skulls covering the entire gap between apes and humans.
Bipedality: the earliest hominid pelvises we have are already bipedal.

>> Show me a sequence of fossils with progressive development of these three 
>> criteria from a sequence of securely dated rock strata and I'll be willing 
>> to accept that there is evidence for an ape-human transition.

Since Richard doesn't accept radiometric dating, I don't know what he'd
accept as proof of "securely dated rock strata".

>> So far no-one has found a single such fossil.  Of course, I accept that 
>> doesn't mean that such fossils will not one day be found, but that is not 
>> the point I am making.  The point I am making is that some Darwinists are 
>> so mesmerised by their ideological beliefs that they were willing to make 
>> scientific claims that are not borne out by observation and measurement and 
>> this makes their 'missing link' claims nothing more than scientific urban 
>> myths.

Richard started this off by saying:

>RM "Java Man" is now accepted as having been an extinct ape, and
>    every single claimed "missing link" fossil has been re-assigned
>    either as an extinct ape or as a human essentially the same as
>    modern humans. 

Richard may consider that every single claimed "missing link" fossil is an
ape or a human.  But to imply, as he does here, that the scientific
community has reclassified every one (who else would be re-assigning them?)
as an ape or a human, is demonstrably and obviously false.

Not a single scientist I am aware of would call Homo habilis a modern human
or an ape.  (I gave 5 quotes above showing differences from modern humans).
Not a single scientist says that Java Man is a gibbon, something Richard
claims is a "FACT" accepted by any competent authority.  Not a single
scientist disputes that Homo erectus is morphologically more primitive than
Homo sapiens.  And most scientists accept one or more australopithecines as
human ancestors and hence have not reassigned them as "extinct apes".

Jim Foley

In theory, theory and practice are the same, in practice they're not.

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