Foley/Milton debate, message 5d1

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Date: Thu, 4 Dec 97 13:09:16 MST
Subject: Foley's reply to Milton (misc)

> >  >JIM FOLEY -
> >  >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.
> >
> >   RM
> >>> 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.
> >
> > JF
> >"human" is sometimes used in both popular and scientific literature to
> >refer to all of genus Homo, or hominids, or just Homo sapiens.
> Wait for it. <Engages suspicion mode>.
>  JF
> >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.
> Jim has excelled himself with this one.  He gives us _his_ 
> definition of "human", meaning modern humans but not fossil 
> humans.

I did not say that at all.  That definition is based on anatomy, not on
whether they are living or fossil.

> Then, having arbitrarily created the definition, without 
> bothering to support it scientifically, he coolly informs us that 
> "By this definition all scientists agree ...".  Jim first creates 
> am unsupported definition that begs the very question under debate, 
> then tells us that "all scientists" agree with him!

First, a definition makes no claim so there's nothing to support.  It
is just a way for me to ensure that when I use the term, a reader will
know what I meant by it.

Second, I am merely conforming with Richard's usage.  *He* uses "human" as
if it was synonymous with "no significant differences from modern humans",
since his claims would make no sense otherwise. [1]

I wanted to point out that scientists do not use "human" that way: they
often use it to refer to species such as H. erectus and H. habilis that
they consider evolutionary ancestors of H. sapiens.

> When Jim says "All scientists agree that H. erectus and habilis are non-
> human", this is simply not true. There are plenty of scientists who do not 
> agree with Jim's interpretations.  I belong to an organisation called the 
> "Scientific and Medical Network" which has around 2,500 members worldwide 
> who are mainly professional scientists and medical people who reject the 
> mechanistic reductionist approach typified by neoDarwinism.  I doubt that 
> one in ten of them would agree with Jim's extremist viewpoint.  Jim is 
> grossly overstating his case.

Has a single one of these 2,500 members published an article in a
peer-reviewed journal showing claiming that H. erectus and/or habilis are
modern humans?  Is a single one of these 2,500 a paleoanthropologist that
would even be qualified to do so?  If so, let's hear some names.

> >   RM
> >>> 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.
> >
> >JF
> >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
> >"discredited".
> On the contrary I have already provided references to two independent 
> studies of the fossils of Australopithecus by Darwinists both of which have 
> revised the original claims by saying it is not a human ancestor and is an 
> extinct ape (Zuckermann, 1954 and Oxnard, 1984). 

True, you did give references to two scientists who think the
australopithecines are not ancestral.  What you don't mention is that their
views are almost universally rejected, and you don't provide any reason why
we should accept their opinion rather than everyone elses.

You didn't provide *any* references to support your claim that H. habilis
and H. erectus are "discredited" as "missing links".

>     RM
> >>> 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?
> >
> >JF
> >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.
> >
> This is a much more damaging admission than it might appear.

Huh?  I fail to see how this is any sort of an admission, let alone a
damaging one.  All I am doing is refusing to accept the premises of a
question which seems to assume a priori that no ape-human intermediates
exist.  Richard goes on to accuse me of using a definition of ape-human
intermediates which is non-falsifiable.  The truth is the exact opposite.
My above claim would obviously be falsified if such creatures did not

> Jim (and most 
> other modern Darwinists) are here trying to square a circle that has so far 
> defied them.  The first attempts to identify a missing link or intermediate 
> form between ape and human involved what seemed at the time a logical step: 
> the creation of a hypothetical new genus, _Pithecanthropus_ or ape-man.  
> Darwinists quickly ran into trouble here because no-one could agree what 
> characteristics this creature should have and the fossils ascribed to it 
> were later reassigned, either as apes or as humans (Homo.)

Again this bizarre assumption that anything in the genus _Homo_ is
automatically human.  It isn't.  I don't know of anyone else, creationist
or evolutionist, who would claim that.

> To get round this problem, modern Darwinists have pulled a gypsy switch
> on us.  They ignore the need for an intermediate genus as such but claim
> instead that the imperfect fossil record shows us merely highlights from
> a gradual transition.

> When you re-examine Jim's claim above in this light, you can see that, by 
> making this claim, he (and other Darwinists) cannot any longer be 
> scientifically contradicted _whatever_ the evidence.  No matter what 
> fossils are found, they can be claimed as "transitional" either because 
> they are claimed to look a little bit more human that the usual apes or a 
> little bit more ape-like than the usual humans.
> What makes this approach scientific nonsense is that all known ape fossils 
> are within the range of modern or extinct apes

Now that's a tautological statement if I ever heard one.

> while all known human fossils have been scientifically accepted as Homo,
> not ape.  So what _scientific_ reason is there for regarding them as
> having any kind of intermediate status (if you exclude an ideological
> commitment to a Darwinist viewpoint)?

Anatomy, obviously.  The fact that erectus and habilis are assigned to
the genus Homo doesn't exclude them from being intermediates; it only
means that the differences aren't considered enough to assign them to a
separate genus.

> >  >JIM FOLEY -
> >  >
> >  >..............  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)
> >
> >   RM
> >>> 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.
> >
> >JF
> >Who did these type descriptions which assigned Homo habilis and erectus to
> >humans, and A. africanus and afarensis were apes?
> I don't understand your question. The names of the individuals is a matter 
> of record.  The nomenclature they chose is a matter of record. What's your 
> point?  Are you challenging their type descriptions?

Not at all.  I accept Leakey et al.'s type description of H. habilis as a
pre-human ancestor (Nature, 202:7-10, 1964).  I accept Dart's type
description of A. africanus as a man-like ape (Nature, 115:195-9, 1925).

If it's a matter of public record, it should be easy to answer my question:

   Who did these "type descriptions" which assigned Homo habilis and
   erectus to humans?

The definitive references on the H. habilis fossils which I'm aware of
(Tobias 1991 and Wood 1991 listed above, both of whom have worked on these
fossils for decades) certainly aren't dismissing them as evidence for human

> >  >JIM FOLEY -
> >  >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?
> >
> >   RM
> >>> 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.
> Yes it does.  It answers it emphatically "no".  It does not _necessarily_ 
> follow from initial confusion over identification that the skulls are 
> missing links.  An alternative and far more probable explanation is that 
> the confusion was caused by Darwinist ideologues like Leakey wrongly 
> attempting to claim 'missing link' status,

How can you blame creationist confusion on evolutionists?  After all, ER
1470 was found 25 years ago, time enough one would think for any initial
confusion to be resolved.  And yet ER 1470, which you say is human, is
claimed by Duane Gish to be an ape.  Are you saying Gish is so incompetent
that he can't tell the difference between an ape and a human?

P.S. elsewhere in your post you said Leakey was the first to call Homo
habilis human, and here you say that he was wrongly attempting to claim
'missing link' status.  Which is it?

> but being dismissed by calmer more rational consideration as in the
> example I provided.  As I said, the scientists whose nomenclature
> eventually _prevailed_ were not confused -- only the original Darwinist
> claims.

So whose "calmer more rational consideration" was it which eventually
"prevailed" over Leakey's claims that habilis was a pre-human ancestor?
References to the scientific literature, please.  Who "prevailed" over the
idea that erectus is a primitive human?  Who "prevailed" over Dart's claim
that africanus was a man-like ape?  Zuckerman and Oxnard??  You jest.
Zuckerman's views are entirely discredited, and Oxnard is in a very small

> >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
> >sapiens.
> There is only one empirical test of species status in zoology and that is 
> the bearing of fertile offspring between the individuals concerned.  It is 
> a matter of regret that this test cannot be applied to human (or other) 
> fossils, but the fact remains that it cannot and that the assignment of one 
> fossil to one "species" of human and a second fossil to another "species" 
> of human must remain a subjective value judgment.

So?  It's usually a subjective value judgement for *living* species.
Scientists don't actually go around cross-breeding specimens to determine
species boundaries, they mostly use morphological differences.

> That these judgments can and do break down over time because of
> scientific prejudice is nicely illustrated by "Neanderthal Man".

> When he described H. neanderthalis in 1875, Hermann Schaffhausen depicted
> him as a shambling brute, dragging his knuckles along the ground and
> unquestionably an ape-man.

Oh?  Your source, John Reader's "Missing Links", says of Schaaffhausen's
1857 report ('1875' may be a typo) that:

  "Shaaffhausen was convinced that the remains were ancient and human; but
  the limb bones were exceptionally thick, he remarked, with pronounced
  muscle attachments denoting an extremely powerful individual.  The
  strange shape of the skull was due to natural conformation, said
  Schaaffhausen, but was quite unlike any modern race, even the most
  barbarous." (p.25)

Very similar to a modern assessment, actually.

> After half a century of revision, Cave and Strauss were able to announce
> in the _The Quarterly Review of Biology_ (1957) that Neanderthals sewed
> clothes from animal skins, used fire for cooking, built shelters and gave
> their dead a ritual interment which included placing flowers in the
> grave.

What page number would that be?  I can't find it in my copy.

> Finally they observed that if he were given a bath, a collar and
> tie, Neanderthal Man would pass unnoticed in the New York subway.

Not exactly.  They said:

  "Notwithstanding, if he could be reincarnated and placed in a New York
  subway - provided that he were bathed, shaved, and dressed in modern
  clothing - it is doubtful whether he would attract any more attention
  than some of its other denizens".

> Today Neanderthals are recognised as Homo sapiens -- a virtually complete
> u-turn on the original identification.

Not quite.  They are usually classified as Homo sapiens
neanderthalensis, although support seems to be growing for the idea that
they should be in a separate species, Homo neanderthalensis

> >   RM
> >>> 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.
> >
> > JF
> >To say that australopithecines can't be missing links because they have
> >"-pithecus" (= ape) in their name is wrong for any number of reasons:
> This is a misrepresentation.  I did not say as you claim that 
> "australopithecines can't be missing links because they have "-pithecus" 
> (= ape) in their name".  I said that the scientists who ascribed their 
> zoological status and hence their names to them were in no doubt whether 
> they were apes or humans and named them accordingly.  We are not here 
> discussing words, we are discussing the sciences of paleoanthropology and 
> taxonomy. Had they believed a new genus (eg Pithecanthropus or similar 
> formation) was justified by the anatomy, they were free to coin such a 
> genus.  They chose not to.
>     JF
> >1. By the same reasoning, Basilosaurus must be a reptile, instead of a
> >   fossil whale, because it has "-saurus" in its name.
> Come off it, Jim. You know this is not a comparable case.  Basilosaurus was 
> mis-named at a time when not enough was known to guide the type-species 
> author to a taxonomically consistent name.  The naming of all fossil apes 
> and fossil humans has happened relatively recently and both types of fossil 
> have been described against a relatively well-known taxonomic background 
> (apes, humans and the hypothetical possibility of an intermediate type 
> respectively).

Basilosaurus was misnamed because the original describer was not very
competent; Richard Owen a few years later had no trouble recognizing that
it was a mammal and not a reptile.

Milton's claim that species such as H. habilis, A. africanus, A. afarensis
were so named because the people who named them considered them apes or
humans is just blatantly wrong.  *All* of these species were named by
scientists (Dart, L. Leakey, Johanson, etc.)  who considered them human
ancestors and ape-human intermediates.

>     JF
> >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).
> But he specifically _did not_ name the fossils as ape-man 
> (pithecanthropus or any comparable word formation) but he named them 
> 'southern ape'.  Why did he not name them as ape-man?

Because he thought they were more ape-like than man-like.

> Because scientifically, he was not sure whether they were or were not
> human ancestors.

Totally wrong, see below.

> The mere fact that something is a man-like ape does not mean it 
> shares a common ancestry with humans. The term "man-like ape" (anthropoid 
> ape) has been in common use for a century and is still applied today to 
> apes like the gorilla and orang utan.  Nobody imagines that this term 
> implies common ancestry with humans, merely that there are anatomical 
> similarities.

True, but in the context of Dart's paper, he thought it was *more* man-like
than the living apes, as should be patently obvious from the above quote.

>     JF
> >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.
> What are you saying here, Jim?  Are you claiming that Dart's nomenclature 
> is wrong and deserves to be changed?  If so, what scientific evidence do 
> you have for such a claim? And what new taxonomic category do you propose 
> Australopithicines should be placed in? Homo?  Pithecantropus?  And if you 
> don't believe that, then what the heck are you saying?

The nomenclature can't be changed, even if people think it is misleading,
for the same reason that Basilosaurus' name hasn't changed:

  "These "southern apes" of Africa have turned out not to be confined to
  southern Africa, nor are they apes. However, because of the stringent
  rules of the International Code of zoological Nomenclature, which govern
  the naming of taxa, Dart's name cannot be altered."  (Johanson and Edgar,
  "From Lucy to Language", p.117)

> As I said above, Dart chose his nomenclature with care because he
> could see the pitfall that Darwinists are rushing headlong into in
> their eagerness to make Australopithecus a human ancestor.

Nonsense (and how would you know what Dart's motivations were?).  No-one
(with the possible exception of Broom) was more eager than Dart to make
Australopithecus a human ancestor.  His 1925 paper (Nature, 115:195-9) was
*full* of evidence about the human characteristics of the Taung child.  He
clearly considered it a human ancestor:

  "It is manifest that we are in the presence here of a pre-human stock,
  neither chimpanzee nor gorilla, which possesses a series of differential
  characters not encountered hitherto in any anthropoid stock."

He called it Australopithecus because although he considered it an
ape-human intermediate, it was more similar to the apes than to modern

  "It is therefore logically regarded as a man-like ape." [rather than an
  ape-like man]

See also Reader's "Missing Links", which is quite clear that Dart
considered his find an ape-human intermediate.  Dart even proposed a new
zoological family to put it in: the Homo-simiadae, or "man-apes".

>     JF
> >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?
> You don't need to explain to me that many scientists are neoDarwinists who 
> think this way for purely ideological reasons.

But before you claimed that scientists named it Australopithecus because
they *didn't* think it was a human ancestor, and now you're admitting that
scientists *do* think it is a human ancestor.

> Indeed, you could have gone further and added that _all_ the articles on
> paleoanthropology published in _Nature_ show diagrams of how humans have
> descended from apes.

Actually most paleoanthropology papers in Nature have no such diagrams; you
can't have read many of them.  But it is true that most experts in the
field would put some of the australopithecines in human ancestry.

> That is not because there is strong, direct evidence of such descent but
> because the ruling ideology of the life sciences is neoDarwinism and
> hence most scientists conform to that interpretation while shunning
> contradictory views.  My point is that it is merely an interpretation,
> that it is not the only interpretation and that at least two
> distinguished anatomists who I quoted reject the interpretation, not
> because of ideology but because of anatomical facts.

In other words, anyone who disagrees with you is biased.  How is that you
ignore the opinion of virtually every current expert, and accept
uncritically the opinion of Zuckerman and Oxnard?  Bias?

> >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.
> On the contrary it is conclusively demonstrated to be true by the 
> indisputable fact that the scientific community (who else would re-assign 
> them?) has renamed the claimed missing links either as apes (pithecus) or 
> humans (homo).  For instance 'Pithecanthropus erectus' is now Homo erectus: 
> Zinjanthropus is now Australopithecus. 'Peking man' is now Homo erectus and 
> 'Neanderthal man' is now Homo sapiens.

In other words, anything in Homo is human, and anything in Australopithecus
is an ape.  If we play this sort of word game obviously nothing can be
transitional.  Richard said in a previous post:

  "Of course it is true that we must look at the anatomy of the fossils

but that is exactly what he is not doing.  He hasn't referenced *anyone*
who has looked at anatomy and said H. habilis is human.

By the way, many scientists are now putting the robust australopithecines
in the genus _Paranthropus_ ("near man").  If Richard's method of
classification by name made any sense, Paranthropus must be more human-like
than Australopithecus ("southern ape").  It doesn't make any sense because
the rules of nomenclature sometimes mean that fossils end up with names
that don't reflect current thinking, and it is forbidden to change the
names merely to track current opinions.

> I have no objection to you surrendering your critical faculties and blindly 
> following Darwinist scientific "authorities" if you choose to do so, Jim, 
> but don't be so surprised if some of us decline to follow you without 
> evidence.
> I am perfectly willing to continue this debate with Jim, but it would be 
> conducted more efficiently in future if he would produce some specific, 
> strong, direct, concrete evidence to support his belief in a missing link, 
> instead of generalisations, opinions and scientific urban myths.

Java Man.  ER 1470.  I've produced plenty of references showing that
they are not a gibbon and a modern human respectively.  You have yet to
produce any credible counter-evidence.  Also Louis Leakey's Homo habilis
skulls (OH 7, OH 13, OH 16) which you claim are human.  I'd like to know
by what definition these can be considered "human".  Also Peking Man, which
we haven't discussed yet.

Jim Foley

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

[1] Note also that my definition of 'human' ("a fully modern
human with no significant differences from us"), about which
Milton is objecting so strenuously, seems virtually identical
to his own phrasing of "a human essentially the same as
modern humans", which can be found at the top of milton1.html.

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