Sunday, July 21, 2002

From the Sands of Chad

A wise old paleontologist once told me that the essence of his craft was to dig up a set of bones, and then proceed to invent a story about them. In other words, paleontology is part science, part invention, part fancy. I say this not to discredit the science as such, but to point out that it is by nature a highly speculative discipline. Paleontologists themselves are usually, but not always, well aware of this fact. People in the media with an agenda, however, lack this necessary scientific humility.

This woeful tendency is most evident in the current story about a partial skull found in the Sahel region of Chad, which has promptly been named a "seven million year old ancestor of man." Time magazine, never one to worry too much about accuracy, has come out and named the creature "father of us all," complete with a fanciful picture of the creature--a hairy, chimp-like fellow with a few semi-human facial characteristics--somehow reconstructed from a partial skull and three teeth found nearby.

Darwin's defenders have used these sort of fanciful tricks for decades. Now I ask you: how in God's name can you get a partial skull and three teeth, and reconstruct an image of the creature itself? The skull gives you no idea whether the creature walked upright, like humans, or walked along on hands and feet, like a chimp. Fossil bones give us absolutely no clue about soft tissue features like hair, and only a few indications of structures like muscle. The method used in inventing these fanciful drawings is to find some living creature with a few similar features, and operate on the assumption that the fossil may have shared the same characteristics. Like I say--you invent a story. Darwin's defenders, ever anxious to promote their agenda, have certainly told a few whoppers in the past.

In the early twentieth century, some scientists put together the skull of an Orangutan, filed down the teeth to make it look more human, and invented the story of Piltdown Man. This obvious fraud was accepted as fact for several decades before a few real scientists looked at the skull and pointed out what should have been obvious to anyone without an agenda to adhere to. Paleontology, like many other fields of science, is vulnerable to the tendency to invent a theory, and then go looking for evidence to support it. If that is your scientific method, you'll probably find the evidence somewhere. A truly disciplined scientist seeks, not to prove his theory, but to disprove it. Not using this method leads a lot of scientists down the path to a lot of embarrassing frauds, including Nebraska Man, another fully-fleshed-out picture of a hairy, upright-walking hominid, reconstructed from the evidence of a single tooth, which ended up belonging to a pig. Interestingly, many scientists, in unmasking these frauds, nonetheless felt that the frauds were well-intended. Though they were false, it seems, at least they were motivated by a search for the truth. Huh?

According to some scientists, the skull fragment and teeth from the Sahel might very well belong to a female gorilla, but that, unfortunately, ruins the story.

Isn't it amazing how anxious some people are to put together stories based on the merest fragments of bones found in a desert somewhere? To scream out loud, in writing, that these fragments are those of a human ancestor, takes a combination of temerity and delusion that is positively breathtaking. Establishing lineage is difficult enough in living species; it is almost impossible when dealing with fossils. When people make such claims, they should at least admit they are engaging in highly-tentative speculation, rather than science. But that sort of an approach doesn't garner headlines.

What is the actual method by which species change form over time? I have to admit I don't have the answer--though I speculate about it in my novel, Transfiguration ( Evolutionists are slowly coming around to the realization that their theory of gradual evolution, caused by chance genetic mutation, is so full of holes and so contradicted by the evidence that it is almost certainly false. Of course, a lot of them, with the fervor of the True Believer, cling stubbornly to their fanciful beliefs. The theory of Punctuated Equilibrium, which says that the biological history of the planet is one of long periods of stability, followed by sudden, dramatic changes, at least follows the fossil evidence, which is remarkably free of intermediate species, and remarkably full of species that seem to (in the words of a paleontologist) spring forth fully formed, like Athena from the head of Zeus. That such dramatic changes occur is almost beyond dispute; the exact mechanism of such wholesale biological change is not understood at all. We likely won't know what causes these changes until we've been around for a few million years to observe such changes actually taking place, assuming we last that long.

Unfortunately, most people in the media are trained in public schools, where classic Darwinism is still the unchallengeable dogma. Most public school victims still mouth the mantra of Darwinism's faked evidence--peppered moths, Darwin's finches, Haeckel's embryos--as gospel Truth, like True Believers reciting the Catechism. An excellent little book, Icons of Evolution, demolishes these frauds quite effectively, but the mainstream press, realizing the danger such books pose to their agendas, do their best to ignore them.