The Effect of Ardipithecus ramidus on Agnopithecus creationus

Ardi (Ardipithecus ramidus)
Image by Mike Licht, NotionsCapital.com via Flickr

There were a stream of posts on the anthropology blogs about Ardipithecus ramidus, the 4.4 million year old fossil hominid originally discovered by a team led by Tim White in Ethiopia between 1992-1993. I really wanted to get in on it but barely had time to read some of the reports and none to offer up a post until now. So what can I say that others in the blogosphere haven’t already pointed out? Probably not much, but I thought I’d highlight some of the reactions by creationists
(Agnopithecus creationus» ).

Chris Esparza, a writer for the Dallas Christian Living Examiner, made some comments that may or may not be from the creationist point of view, but certainly call into question what the find means to “Christians[1].

Esparza gets a little heat in the comments section for his mis-quoting the age of Ardi to “3.2 million years ago” rather than the 4.4 mya date arrived at by the research team. This is interesting since it reveals the dedication the author had in the science, perhaps symbolic for the dedication that creationist and the 40 percenters» have for science: they read the headlines, skim for key words, and pick out the bits they feel support their conclusions -even if that latter bit means twisting the words or even re-inventing them. Esparza goes on to say about the “theory of evolution:”

[it’s] idea of the missing link is that somewhere way back when, there was a primate who almost seemed to be half monkey and half human, proving that there was at some point an evolutionary split. A recent discovery in Ethiopia disproves that theory.

Not only did Esparza get wrong the concept that the Nat. Geo. quote was trying to convey, he conveniently reshapes the quote into his own pre-conceived notion that evolution is questionable to begin with and probably that “only” belongs in front of theory whenever talking about evolution. It doesn’t. What the National Geographic article[2] was pointing out is that there *is* a common ancestor to chimpanzees and modern humans, but it might probably isn’t something that would be “half-chimp / half-human,” rather it is an ape that exhibits a mix of derived and primitive characters, appearing very different from any modern primate (i.e. chimps, gorillas, humans), but still ancestral.

In another online Christian publication, Michael Foust of the Baptist Press[3] quotes Answers in Genesis, headed by cult leader Ken Ham, as saying Ardi has “relatively little in common with humans.” What’s interesting with the AiG stance is that they at once criticize the methods by which the analyses were done:

“And we can’t forget that all of these conclusions are inferred from digital reconstructions and fallible reconstructions of bones that were in very bad shape.”

Then align with a quote mined from the National Geographic article quoted above in their dismissal of Ardi as a human ancestor:

“Instead, the new evidence suggests that the study of chimpanzee anatomy and behavior — long used to infer the nature of the earliest human ancestors — is largely irrelevant to understanding our beginnings,” National Geographic science writer Jamie Shreeve wrote. “Ardi instead shows an unexpected mix of advanced characteristics and of primitive traits seen in much older apes that were unlike chimps or gorillas.”

AiG is relying scientific analysis to dismiss a scientific conclusion because a result of the analysis appears to fit their preconceived conclusions. Yet they don’t think the analysis is accurate! And, they get the implications of the result wrong to begin with! Agnopithecus creationus! In its natural habitat.

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References and Notes:
  1. http://www.examiner.com/x-10272-Dallas-Christian-Living-Examiner~y2009m10d1-Oldest-human-skelton-disproves-missing-link-theory []
  2. http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2009/10/091001-oldest-human-skeleton-ardi-missing-link-chimps-ardipithecus-ramidus.html []
  3. http://www.sbcbaptistpress.org/BPnews.asp?ID=31389 []
-okay, I made this term up, borrowing the fictive genus name from “agnotology,” the study of culturally-induced ignorance or doubtPowered by Hackadelic Sliding Notes 1.6.5
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About Carl Feagans 312 Articles
Professional archaeologist that currently works for the United States Forest Service at the Land Between the Lakes Recreation Area in Kentucky and Tennessee. I'm also a 12-year veteran of the U.S. Army and spent another 10 years doing adventure programming with at-risk teens before earning my master's degree at the University of Texas at Arlington.