Foley/Milton debate, message 5b1

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Date: Wed, 5 Nov 97 14:09:29 MST
In-Reply-To: <>
Subject: Foley's reply to Milton (Homo habilis)

This is my second response to Richard Milton, responding to his claims
about Homo habilis.

> You are also ignoring the fact that a number of scientists have
> questioned whether H. habilis is a real creature at all and not merely
> an artefact of the "Java Man" kind.

Not really.  The following comments applied to one H. habilis specimen, not
to the species as a whole.  Even if was true that the hand bones were
misidentified, the skulls OH 7, OH 13, OH 16, OH 24, ER 1813, and ER 1470
aren't going to disappear into thin air as a result of it.

>     RM
> >>> 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,

So which type descriptions are you talking about here, and who did them?

> >>> 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.
> The differences between H. habilis and modern humans are principally those 
> that I have already outlined here myself: they were of small stature, only 
> around four feet tall and with a cranial capacity only around half that of 
> modern humans.

Got a reference for that?  I say any paleoanthropologist (or even
halfway competent undergraduate) would laugh at the idea that these are
the only major differences between H. habilis and H. sapiens.

> But I have already pointed out that although this is different from the
> norm of modern Europeans it is still within the range of people who are
> alive and kicking today and who live in the same place that H. habilis
> lived [see below for further details].

You have indeed "pointed it out".  What you haven't done is to offer a
shred of evidence in support of it.  Does any qualified scientist make any
such claim?  I bet not.

[P.S.: note also that the promised "further details" were not supplied]

> >  >JIM FOLEY -
> >  >So you are saying that all the Homo habilis fossils are human?
> >   
> >   RM
> >>> 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.
> >
> >  JF
> >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
> >     remains)
> >
> >     "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)
> >
> Small stature in humans is known to produce abnormal anatomical 
> characteristics which resemble ape-like characteristics, such as the jaw 
> and dentition (because the individuals have the same number of teeth as us 
> in a much more confined space) and the length of the arms.  That is why 
> many pygmy's faces look different to ours (often showing prognathous teeth 
> and jaws).

Looking at the pictures of pygmies in Colin Turnbull's "The Forest People",
I see no differences from other humans, other than (obviously) that
they're small.

> Here is Francis Huxley: "In both types [of pygmy] the eyes tend to bulge, 
> the upper jaw juts out, and the arms are longer than the legs."  [Peoples 
> of the World, 1971].  Here is David Davies [A Dictionary of Anthroplogy, 
> 1972] "There are two types [of prognathism] alveolar prognathism, which is 
> restricted to the tooth region, and facial prognathism, which affects a 
> much larger area of the face causing it to jut out, so increasing the 
> facial area.  A small chin is characteristic of both conditions. 
> Prognathism is considered a primitive feature, particularly as it is most 
> commonly found in apes and ancient primitive men.  The Andamanese [pygmies] 
> have pronounced prognathism."

Huxley's statement is rubbish, probably copied from something in the first
half of the century when people still talked as if native races were
actually more physically primitive than white folks.  Human arm length
averages 72% of leg length, so if pygmies have longer arms than legs, their
arms are 39% longer than those of average humans.  I really, really, doubt

I couldn't find any measurements of arm/leg length for pygmies in the
literature, but I do have information on the ratio of humerus/femur length.
In humans it averages 71.8, and ranges from about 64-79% (Korey, JHE 83:81

For pygmies, Jungers (Nature 297:667 1982), referring to a single specimen,
and Wolpoff (Nature 304:60 1983), referring to a number of studies, both
give a value of 73.3%.  Now if the pygmy humerus is only 73% as long as the
femur, then the forearm would have to be ridiculously longer (about 1.75
times as long, by my estimate) than the upper arm in order for the arm to be
longer than the leg.  How likely does that sound?

The Davies quote sounds more reasonable.  But even if it's right, neither
of these people are experts in human evolution, and *they're not even
talking about Homo habilis*.  Even if pygmies are more prognathous than
most humans, it doesn't follow that they are as prognathous as Homo
habilis.  Nor do either of these sources state that pygmies have a brain
size like that of Homo habilis, or the post-orbital constriction found in
habilis, or the broad flat face, or teeth larger than in modern humans,
etc., etc.

> These descriptions are uncannily like the so-called Australopithecine 
> characteristics described above ("From the size of the palate and the area 
> allotted to the molar roots ...." ".... the maxilla [upper jaw] and facial 
> region are unlike those of any known form of hominid ....." etc etc.)  

I fail to see how "unlike those of any known form of hominid" can be taken
as evidence of similarity to pygmies, nor do your references say anything
about the size of the palate or the area of the molar roots in pygmies.
Determining that the Homo habilis fossils look like pygmies requires far
more than these vague descriptions, it requires *looking* at both habilis
and pygmies, and there is no evidence that Huxley and Davies looked at

> Exactly the same mistake was made about the Australian aborigine by
> Huxley and Darwin who regarded them as "primitive" because they, too,
> have prognathism of the jaws.

Sounds like exactly the same mistake that your "experts" are making too.

> >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).
> Even if we use the FAQ as our source as you suggest (and I 
> regard this as biased towards the Darwinist viewpoint

Well, it's easy to toss around accusations of bias whenever you find
inconvenient facts.  Do you have any better figures?

> rather than scientifically objective) we find several references to very
> small modern human brains.
> One of the most distinguished living palaeoanthropologists, Philip Tobias 
> (1970), quotes the discoverer of Australopithecus, Raymond Dart, as saying 
> that "apparently normal human beings have existed with brain-sizes in the 
> 700s and 800s" and that the smallest cranial capacity ever documented is 
> 790cc. Stephen Molnar in _Races, Types and Ethnic Groups_ says there are 
> "many persons with 700 to 800 cubic centimetres."  I am prepared to accept 
> provisionally the FAQ claim that Molnar does not provide references for 
> this and I intend to check his sources myself.  But even if we ignore 
> Molnar completely, you still cannot dismiss the fact that humans have lived 
> in modern times with cranial capacities that are very close to or even 
> smaller than 1470, so you have no really sound scientific grounds for 
> ruling out H. habilis as human on the basis of cranial capacity.  

I am not dismissing it, since it was I who pointed out this evidence to
you.  However it is only extreme individuals who even approach 1470's
brain size of 750 cc.  No living human group is anything like that small
on average.  And 1470 is one of the *biggest* habilis skulls.  The ones
found by Leakey in the early 1960's were even smaller, around 640 - 680
cc.  Do you know of any humans who even come close to that?

By the way, here's another quote from Boule and Vallois, since you seem to
consider Boule a reliable authority:

  "As, in normal man, even amongst the primitive races, this capacity
  rarely falls below 1000 cubic centimetres, and as in the largest Anthropoid
  Apes it scarcely ever exceeds 600 cubic centimetres, the volume of the
  skull of Pithecanthropus is intermediate between that of the highest Apes
  and of the lowest Man."  (Fossil Men, 1957, p. 116)

And, from "Race and Human Evolution" (Wolpoff and Caspari, 1997, p.187),
talking about the Peking Man skulls:

  "Yet, their individual cranial capacities were within the normal human
  range, although their average was less than the average for any
  population today."

Their average was 1020, and it is *less* than any modern human group, yet
Richard is trying to tell us that pygmies are similar to the Homo habilis
average of less than 700.  Wolpoff, I would point out, is one of the most
knowledgable physical anthropologists in the world, and is very familiar
(Nature 304:60 1983) with the scientific literature on pygmies.

So I stand by my earlier statement that no human group is anywhere near
H. habilis in brain size.  In support of that, I have Boule's statement,
Wolpoff's statement, evidence that groups of small human (Hottentots and
Bushmen) average above 1150 cc from a couple of sources, and an email
from Ralph Holloway, a world expert on hominid crania, saying that 750
cc is much too low for pygmies.  I've lost the latter email, but if you
doubt it, I'll happily email Holloway again to get him to repeat his

I also asked Harry Jerison, a world expert in mammallian brains, whether
pygmies had habilis-sized brains.  He said:

  No, they're "low" normal.  Phil Tobias (Witwas...) has some
  measurements.  My memory is about 1300 ml, as a number.  H. hab was
  maximum meas: 775ml.

If Richard still seriously thinks that pygmies have brain sizes the same
size as habilis, I could probably contact Tobias for those figures.  I
would be willing to do so on condition that Richard agrees to accept his
figures as accurate.

> >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.
> The first person to suggest they are human was their discoverer 
> Louis Leakey.

And where was this?  In his paper which named H. habilis (Nature, 202:7-10,
1964) he defined the differences from other species in the genus Homo, and
clearly considered them human ancestors.  He points out, for example,
that his crania are smaller than the 700-800 cc values that had
previously served as the lower cutoffs for Homo.

> The thing that first caused Leakey to search in Olduvai 
> Gorge for fossils other than apes (Australopithecines) was the existence of 
> a working floor littered with stone tools.  Apes do not make flaked stone 
> tools: humans do.  It was the maker of these tools that the Leakeys were 
> looking for.  The habilines are the people that they believe made the tools 
> and this is the most important diagnostic criterion that caused Leakey to 
> identify them as human rather than ape or some intermediate genus (Homo 
> rather than Australopithecine or Pithecanthropus).

> Jim can't have it both ways.  Either the habilines are tool-
> making humans or they are not.  If they are toolmaking humans, 
> then Jim is wrong.  If they are not human, Jim needs to tell us who made 
> the flaked stone tools at Olduvai Gorge -- and produce evidence to back up 
> this new theory of human evolution.

Richard has defined "human" so broadly that intermediates can't exist.
Either habilis used tools, in which case they're human, or they didn't, in
which case they're doubtless apes!  What about the possibility that they
were primitive human ancestors, capable of making primitive stone tools?
This was clearly Leakey's view, and is still the generally accepted view
(see any modern paleoanthropology textbook).

> >Richard, what is your support for your claim that there is nothing to
> >distinguish these Homo habilis skulls from modern humans?
> I didn't say (or didn't intend to say) that H. habilis is indistinguishable 
> from _you and me_.  I said that there are modern humans that are comparable 
> with H. habilis in stature, brain capacity and way of life.  I have cited 
> one example of modern humans (the Mbuti people of Zaire) who resemble the 
> habilines in the most important physical characteristics (their so-called 
> "intermediate" stature and brain capacity) and in minor features such as 
> prognathous teeth and upper jaw, and relatively long arms.

You haven't provided *any* evidence about pygmy brain size.

[P.S.: ... or any of his other claims here about habilis, for that matter.
In response to repeated requests for evidence, Milton merely evades the
request and repeats his assertions]

> I could also point out that there are plenty of modern humans who, because 
> of genetic disorder, also have a stature and cranial capacity that is 
> similar to (even less than) that of the habilines.  One famous example is 
> Charles Stratton ('Colonel Tom Thumb') who toured with Barnum and who, 
> because of growth hormone deficiency grew into his teens only twenty five 
> inches tall, later reaching an adult height of only 40 inches.  The 
> importance of such cases is that Mr Stratton's cranial capacity was also 
> significantly reduced but intellectually he was a modern human in every way 
> with no obvious reduction in intellectual function.  In other words, as far 
> as cranial capacity is concerned, H. habilis could have read the daily 
> papers, played the horses, smoked cigars, discussed politics in Washington 
> and entertained ladies to dinner at Maxim's, just as Colonel Tom Thumb did.

Modern humans reach a size of around 900 cc by 3 or 4 years (Walker and
Leakey, 1993: The Nariokotome Homo erectus skeleton, p.424), and Tom Thumb
was at least as big as a small child (as you said, 40 inches high).  I
would be surprised if his brain size was below 900 cc.  If Richard wants
to claim Tom Thumb had a habilis-sized brain, let's see some evidence for

> >   RM
> >>> 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).
> >
> > JF
> >Is there any evidence for this?  If so, where?
> >I say this claim is totally false.  For example, <totally irrelevant  
>  figures on large cranial capacities of people who are _not_ pygmies 
>  deleted>
> You seem to have forgotten that a moment ago you cited the 
> FAQ yourself, which, as we've already seen, contains references to Philip 
> Tobias (1970) quoting Raymond Dart as saying that "apparently normal human 
> beings have existed with brain-sizes in the 700s and 800s". You need to 
> read your own "bible" more carefully.

Not at all.  Those data show that a few rare *individuals* approach (but
do not pass) the upper limit of Homo habilis.  They also show that *no*
human individuals are as small as the habilis average, which is below
700 cc.  The non-pygmy figures I gave are not irrelevant, because they
show that no human *groups*, even small-statured ones, come anywhere
near the habilis average.

But then, it was you who made the claim that pygmies have a similar
brain size to habilis.  My "irrelevant" data is a lot better than
anything you've provided.  So far you've given NO information to back up
that claim (even the Huxley and Davis material, lame as it was, didn't
mention brain size).

Jim Foley

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

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