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Reason and Revelation Volume 35 #4

Hobbit Man: Another Blunder...And an Insult

Digging on the small Indonesian island of Flores in 2004, paleontologists discovered a few bones from seven different individuals that had not yet completely fossilized (cf. Brown, et al., 2004; Morwood, et al., 2004; Dalton, 2004; Lahr and Foley, 2004). The most complete individual discovered, labeled LB1, which consisted of most of the skull, as well as some of the leg, hands, feet, and pelvic bones, was thought to be a species of its own, and given the Latin name Homo floresiensis.

The media called it Hobbit Man because he was thought to be only 3½ feet tall. Paleoartists quickly went to work depicting what this sub-human creature looked like. Writing in Time magazine, Michael Lemonick said,“What makes the discovery truly shocking is that the beings were not, like the Pygmies of equatorial Africa, just a short variety of modern Homo sapiens. Dubbed Homo floresiensis, they represent an entirely new twig on the human family tree…. The chapter of biology textbooks that describes our family tree will have to be rewritten” (2004, pp. 50-51). His recommendation was heeded. Homo floresiensis was subsequently added to biology textbooks in the section on primate evolution (e.g., Miller and Levine, 2010, p. 770).

This unfortunate series of actions highlights fundamental flaws in the practices of modern paleontologists and paleoartists. Paleoartists presumptuously construct portraits and models of creatures from woefully insufficient evidence from paleontologists, and yet their speculative, conjectured illustrations shape the minds of millions for years to come regarding human origins—even when they are later found to be totally wrong in their depictions. Java Man (based on the upper part of a skull, fossilized teeth, and a thigh bone), Piltdown Man (based on a jaw bone and a portion of a skull), Nebraska Man (based on a single tooth), Flipper Man (based on a fossilized rib), and Orce Man (based on a skull cap) are just a sampling of the infamous alleged missing links of human evolutionary history, grandiosely depicted by paleoartists, that proved to be completely erroneous (cf. Harrub and Thompson, 2003; Anderson, 1983). Writing in Science magazine, Michael Balter discusses his interview with anthropologist Adrienne Zihlman of the University of California, Santa Cruz, who highlighted eye-opening practices of those evolutionists working to sort out human evolution. Balter said, “In her view, much of the work that human evolution researchers do today is based on conjecture as well as hard science. The paleoartists, Zihlman told Science, ‘are doing what the rest of us do. Most of what we do is part art and part science’” (2009, p. 139, emp. added).

There is no doubt that paleoartists have been extremely influential in shaping the public mind about evolution and making people believe that Darwinian evolution is factual, and yet evolutionists admit that at least part of their work is based on conjecture. Only part of their work is science, the other part being “art.” How much of their work can be said to be conjecture and art versus actual science? The aforementioned examples seem to indicate a large part of their work must be the former in order to make such blunders, especially since paleoanthropologists admit that typical fossil finds are comprised of only a handful of isolated bones—fragments and teeth, for example (cf. DiChristina, 2012; Wong, 2012, p. 32).

The paleoartists are not the only ones at fault. Lee Berger is the famous paleoanthropologist of the University of Witwatersrand in South Africa who discovered the Australopithecus sediba fossils in 2008 (cf. Miller, 2012). Writing in Scientific American, Berger chided the standard practice in paleontology of trying to draw too much information from single, isolated bones. The sediba skeletons were more complete than typical fossil finds (even though the sediba skeletons were much less than 50% complete skeletons). Berger makes the point that if any of the bones he found had been found isolated, as is the typical scenario in fossil finds, completely different conclusions would have been drawn about the skeletal anatomy. He said, “Sediba shows that one can no longer assign isolated bones to a genus” (as quoted in Wong, p. 34). Paleoanthropologist and professor at George Washington University, as well as adjunct senior scientist at the National Museum of Natural History, Bernard Wood, agrees that Berger is “absolutely right”—that isolated bones cannot be used to predict the appearance of an animal (as quoted in Wong, p. 34). Sadly, it is unlikely that many paleoanthropologists will listen to their admonitions, since most fossils that have been discovered are indeed isolated bones that must be used to conjecture about human evolution. And yet evidence to support their admonitions continues to surface. The announcement in August, 2014 regarding Homo floresiensis highlights that truth yet again.

On August 6th scientists announced another blunder. The Huffington Post began the announcement of the latest studies on Homo floresiensis with the line, “Were scientists all wrong about prehistoric hobbits?” (Cooper-White, 2014). The skull that influenced the decision to place Hobbit Man in his own species was examined in two studies and found to be merely the skull of a human with Down Syndrome. His facial asymmetry, cranial volume, and skull circumference, as well as the length of his thighbones, were all found to fall perfectly “within the range for a modern human with Down syndrome” (Cooper-White). When measurements of the skull’s cranial volume were compared to previous figures, they were found to be slightly different.Professor of developmental genetics and evolution at Pennsylvania State University, and one of the authors of one of the studies, Robert Eckhardt, said, “The difference is significant, and the revised figure falls in the range predicted for a modern human with Down syndrome from the same geographic region” (as quoted in Cooper-White).

Consider the implications of these recent discoveries: (1) Homo floresiensis has been used as conclusive evidence of human evolution for 10 years to teach the masses, and in particular, students. All the while, the alleged evidence was simply false—even though it was advocated as truth. What might that imply about the other alleged evidences that are currently taught as truth? (2) Paleoartists’ depictions are in large part fantasy, should be taken with a grain of salt, and not be allowed to be used as evidence that shapes the way the population views human origins. (3) Apparently the Down Syndrome population of the world can be mistaken by the paleoanthropology community to be a band of hobbits that are not quite human. How insulting. Would it not be advisable for one to ensure that he has his facts straight before so rashly promoting his evolutionary propaganda?

REFERENCES

Anderson, I. (1983), “Humanoid Collarbone Exposed as Dolphin’s Rib,” New Scientist, April 28.

Balter, Michael (2009), “Bringing Hominins Back to Life,” Science, 325[5937]:136-139, July 10.

Brown, P., T. Sutikna, et al., (2004), “A New Small-bodied Hominin from the Late Pleistocene of Flores, Indonesia,” Nature, 431:1055-1061, October 28.

Cooper-White, Macrina (2014), “Controversial ‘Hobbit Species’ Simply May Have Been Early Human With Down Syndrome,” The Huffington Post, August 6, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/08/06/hobbit-human-down-syndrome_n_5651429.html?page_version=legacy&view=print&comm_ref=false.

Dalton, Rex (2004), “Little Lady of Flores Forces Rethink of Human Evolution,” Nature, 431:1029, October 28.

DiChristina, Mariette (2012), “The Story Begins,” Scientific American, 306[4]:4, April.

Harrub, Brad and Bert Thompson (2003), The Truth About Human Origins (Montgomery, AL: Apologetics Press).

Lahr, Marta Mirazón and Robert Foley (2004), “Human Evolution Writ Small,” Nature, 431:1043-1044, October 28.

Lemonick, Michael D. (2004), “Hobbits of the South Pacific,” Time, 164[19]:50-52, November 8.

Miller, Jeff (2012), “Sediba Hype Continues,” Reason & Revelation, 32[9]:92-93, September, http://apologeticspress.org/apPubPage.aspx?pub=1&issue=1093&article=2039.

Miller, Kenneth R. and Joseph S. Levine (2010), Biology (Boston, MA: Pearson).

Morwood, M.J., R.P. Soejono, et al., (2004), “Archaeology and Age of a New Hominin from Flores in Eastern Indonesia,” Nature, 431:1087-1091, October 28.

Wong, Kate (2012), “First of Our Kind,” Scientific American, 306[4]:30-39, April.




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