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Creation Vs. Evolution: Paleontology

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No Interest in Reporting the Truth

by  Brad Harrub, Ph.D.

Is the media methodically and purposefully reshaping the cultural attitude of society? Are they interested in reporting the facts, or are they revealing a deeper motive? Are they objective seekers of the truth, or are they more concerned with ratings and which stories will “sell”? Consider how many Americans listen to their trusted news anchor, or read the headlines from their favorite paper or Web site, without ever really questioning the validity of those stories. A great deal of trust is placed in those familiar faces or specific networks. But is that trust well-placed?

Consider for just a moment the alleged “Hobbit Man” that was reported by almost all of the major news outlets. In 2004, a new hominid species, Homo floresiensis, was introduced as the next “missing link” candidate for the origin of mankind (see Harrub, 2004). This latest fossil discovery was labeled “Hobbit Man,” and it received front-page and cover-story attention from the media—most of which assured audiences that this was evidence for the evolutionary theory. Anthropologist Desmond Morris went so far as to boldly proclaim: “The existence of Mini-Man should destroy religion” (Wilkinson, 2004).

Since the original flurry of media attention, there has not been a single cover-story or front-page newspaper article giving the public an update as to the status of this alleged missing link. In the passing months, prime-time news anchors have remained eerily silent about this alleged ape-like creature. And yet, during those months scientists have demonstrated in several scientific studies that this alleged missing link is nothing more than a human being who suffered from microencephaly. In addition, Adam Brumm and his colleagues just released a report on the stone tools that were collected in the area of H. floresiensis that also call this creature into question. They concluded that “pronouncements that H. floresiensis lacked the brain size necessary to make stone artifacts are therefore based on preconceptions rather than actual evidence” (2006, 441:628, emp. added).

Preconceptions rather than actual evidence?! Surely the news media would expose this erroneous information. In truth, this “actual evidence” has received little-to-no airtime. Science writer Robert Matthews remarked:

Fossil hunters are all too eager to ignite controversy by over-stating claims. The unearthing of a new species of human is one scientific event guaranteed to make headlines. For who can resist discoveries casting new light on our distant past? Not the fossil-hunters doing the digging, that is for sure. Over the years they have proved all too keen to see their names in lights—even if it means bending the rules of scientific evidence to breaking point (2006).

Two aspects of this fossil find have caused the case to be considered closed by most scientists. The first involves the size of the brain of H. floresiensis. As Matthews correctly pointed out, “Some leading anatomists argued that the small skull could just as easily belong to a prehistoric human with a brain disease known as microencephaly. It is a view now backed by research in the current issue of Science, showing that the skull is so small that it contradicts biological rules for the relative sizes of the skeletons and skulls of healthy humanoids” (2006).

H. floresiensis was initially reported to have a brain capacity of 380 cm3 (as measured with mustard seeds), but this figure was increased to 417 cm3 later using three-dimensional computed tomography (Weber, et al., 2005, 310:236b). Researchers quickly pointed out that this brain size falls neatly into the range of microcephalic humans. Disagreeing with the notion that this is a new species, Weber and his colleagues argued:

We disagree with this conclusion and have subsequently analyzed 19 microcephalic modern humans. The corresponding brain volume varies between 280 and 591 cm3, with a mean value of 404 cm3. Thus, the virtual cranial capacity estimate for H. floresiensis is well within the range of variation for microcephalic brain volumes, with the newly determined capacity of LB1 being quite close to the microcephalic mean value. In addition, similarities or phenocopies between LB1 and microcephalic skulls are evident with respect to the supraorbital torus (a ridge on the frontal bone above the eye socket), the postorbital constriction, and the protrusion of incisors (310:236b, emp. added).

They go on to point out: “Both skull and brain morphologies of microcephalics are extremely heterogenous and grossly resemble the anatomy and proportions of H. floresiensis.... Because Falk, et al., evaluated only one microcephalic endocast, it is premature to exclude LB1 from any pathological anatomy” (310:236b).

This conclusion was originally proposed by Dr. Teuku Jacob, an eminent specialist in the field of paleontology who was once described as the “undisputed king of paleoanthropology” (Mervis, 1998, 279[5356]:1482). Later, paleopathologist Maciej Henneberg of the University of Adelaide in Australia, published a letter in the October 31 issue of Adelaide’s Sunday Mail “arguing that the skull of the Florid hominid is very similar to a 4000-year-old microcephalic modern human skull found on the island of Crete” (Balter, 2004, 306:1116). In a personal communication with our offices on November 10, 2004, regarding this matter, Dr. Henneberg wrote:

Last Friday I telephoned Prof. Teuku Jacob at Gadjah Mada University (the best in Indonesia). He then just finished a study of original LB1 remains and independent of my opinion arrived at the same diagnosis—microcephaly in a usual Homo sapiens, not a new species. He announced his views at a press conference and they were published in English on line by Jakarta Post and picked up by Guardian/Observer in London.... I am convinced that LB1 is a microcephalic H. sapien, and will defend this view (Henneberg, 2004, emp. added).

Henneberg told the journal Science, “They jumped the gun” concluding that the skeleton is “a simple Homo sapiens with a pathological growth condition” (Balter, 2004, 306:1116).

The evolutionist Web site, Talk Origins, rejects the idea that this is merely a human who suffered from microcephaly, and as evidence, they offer a quote from an interview of Peter Brown that was published in Scientific American. In that interview Brown noted: “We now have the remains of 5 or 6 other individuals from the site, so it’s not just one. There’s a population of these things now and they all share the same features” (see Wong, 2004). So because more than one of these small brained individuals has been discovered, the possibility of microcephalic humans is excluded? This argument is of little use when one considers the report of Martin, et al., who described a skull of similar size noting: “The skull was included in an early anthropological survey of microcephaly and is that of Jakob Moegel from the village of Plattenhardt, who died aged 10 years. His recorded cranial capacity (272 cc) was the smallest in the survey and is substantially smaller than that of LB1. Three of his 10 siblings were also microcephalics” (2006, 312:999b, emp. added). Thus, it is logical to conclude that a family unit that had many members suffering from this condition was identified in Flores.

The second hurdle that evolutionists are facing entails the stone tools that have been identified with the fossils and the ages assigned to them (however, we do not believe in these evolutionary dates ascribed by faulty dating methods). In discussing the original age assigned to the bones, Morwood and his colleagues noted: “Dating by radiocarbon (14C), luminescence, uranium-series, and electron spin resonance (ESR) methods indicates that H. floresiensis existed from before 38,000 years ago (kyr) until at least 18 kyr” (2004, 431:1087). However, if all of the sectors that were excavated are included, fragments date from the oldest being dated at 95,000 years ago and the youngest being dated at a mere 13,000 years ago. This poses a serious puzzle for evolutionists, because the stone “tools” found at the site were dated at around 800,000 years old!

Bruce Bower, staff writer for Science News observed:

Simple stone tools accompanied the fossils of Homo floresiensis, the half-size human cousin that inhabited the Indonesian island of Flores around 74,000 to 12,000 years ago, but some scientists argued that those tools had been made by Homo sapiens. Now, much older tools discovered on Flores suggest that H. floresiensis individuals carried on cultural practices initiated by their island ancestors. Stone artifacts much like those previously found among H. floresiensis fossils in Flores’ Liang Bua cave have emerged at another site on the island. The new finds date to between 840,000 and 700,000 years ago, reports a team led by Adam Brumm of the Australian National University in Canberra.

So which is it? Are the dating methods for the stone tools incorrect, or are we to believe this group of island people never advanced their tool-making ability in over 700,000 years? The Talk Origins Web site is left with very little options. They can: (1) mimic the media and let “Hobbit Man” fade away quietly, hoping no one realizes they have removed it from their Web site; or (2) they can dig in their heels and continue to contend that this microcephalic individual represents a whole new species. Matthews summed it up well when he noted: “But the fact remains that to see a whole new human species in so little evidence requires Tolkien-esque levels of imagination” (2006). Imagination indeed!

To Desmond Morris and the mainstream media we boldly proclaim: “The exposure of ‘Mini-Man’ as simply a microcephalic modern human should destroy evolution.” But we are not holding our breath that they will adhere to the truth.

REFERENCES

Balter, Michael (2004), “Skeptics Question Whether Flores Hominid is a New Species,” Science, 306:1116, November 12.

Bower, Bruce (2006), “Stones of Contention: Tiny Homo Species Tied to Ancient Tool Tradition,” Science News, [On-line], URL: http://www.sciencenews.org/articles/20060603/fob6.asp.

Brumm, Adam, Fachroel Aziz, Gert D. van den Bergh, Michael J. Morwood, Mark W. Moore, Iwan Kurniawan, Douglas R. Hobbs, and Richard Fullagar (2006), “Early Stone Technology on Flores and its Implications for Homo floresiensis,” Nature, 441:624-628, June 1.

Harrub, Brad (2004), “Hobbit Heresy,” Apologetics Press, [On-line], URL: http://www.apologeticspress.org/articles/2641.

Henneberg, Maciej (2004), Personal Communication, November 10.

Martin, R.D., A.M. MacLarnon, J.L. Phillips, L. Dussubieus, P.R. Williams, W.B. Dobyns, (2006), “Comment on ‘The Brain of LB1, Homo floresiensis’Science, 312:999b, May 19.

Matthews, Robert (2006), “Science and Nature Battle over Man,” The First Post, [On-line], URL: http://www.thefirstpost.co.uk/index.php?menuID=1&subID=505.

Mervis, Jeffrey (1998), “Keeper of the Keys to Fossil Kingdom,” Science, 279[5356]:1482, March 6.

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.

Weber, Jochen, Alfred Czarnetzki, and Carsten M. Pusch (2005), “Comment on ‘The Brain of LB1, Homo floresiensis,’” Science, 310:236b, October 14.

Wilkinson, David (2004), “What Does it Mean to be Human?” BBC News, [On-line], URL: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/magazine/3971045.stm.

Wong, Kate (2004), “Digging Deeper: Q & A with Peter Brown,” Scientific American, [On-line], URL: http://www.sciam.com/article.cfm?chanID=sa004&articleID=00082F87-7D35- 117E-BD3583414B7F0000&pageNumber=1&catID=4.




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