The following is extracted from a general commentary on the Watchtower Society book Life H

---
Master Index Current Directory Index Go to SkepticTank Go to Human Rights activist Keith Henson Go to Scientology cult

Skeptic Tank!

The following is extracted from a general commentary on the Watchtower Society book _Life - How Did It Get Here? By Evolution Or By Creation?_. -------------------Cut Here---------------------------- Paragraph 33 of the _Life_ book discusses the creature called _Homo erectus._ The paragraph is distinguished more by what it does not say than by what it does. For example: Its brain size and shape do fall into the lower range of modern man's. While true, this statement leaves out a number of signifi- cant points. The cranial capacity of _H. erectus_ skulls averaged about three quarters that of modern man. The shape of the skull was very different. The skull was so different that no one would mistake its skull for that of a modern human. The skull bones were much thicker, it had huge brow ridges, the face was much more massive, and the dome of the skull was much smaller. One has only to examine a series of photos of skulls to see this. See for example, _National Geographic,_ [1] for a comparison of _Australopithecine_ and _Homo_ skulls. It does not take an expert to see a struc- tural sequence from _H. habilis_ to _H. erectus_ to archaic _H. sapiens_ and Neanderthal to the modern form of skull. See also _Human Evolution: An Illustrated Introduction,_ [2] pages 47, 53, 56, 71, 75-77, and compare the gross differ- ences in skull shape among the above fossils. See also the drawings of skulls in _The Myths of Human Evolution,_ [3] on pages 70, 84, 107, 110, 138, 147-149, and 153. Also see any _Encyclopedia Britannica_ version after 1980, under the sub- jects "Homo erectus" and "Evolution, Human." _Life_ does not mention the gross differences in skull shape between _H. erectus_ and modern man. Next, paragraph 33 refers to _Encyclopedia Britannica,_ which said that "the limb bones thus far discovered have been indis- tinguishable from those of _H[omo] sapiens._" As shown above, this assessment has been superceded by newer information. By comparison with _other species_, the skeleton is very much like modern man's. But it was much more massive and had far more substantial muscle attachment points. _Blueprints_ [4] commented that these were extremely powerful people, if indeed they were people. They made the brutish Neanderthalers seem positively effete by comparison. It is interesting to note that _Life_ used the 1976 _Encyclopedia Britannica_ for the above quotation, rather than the latest edition available before _Life's_ 1985 pub- lication date. The following parallel quotation from a sim- ilar article appearing in the 1984 edition shows why. Note that the 1981 through 1985 edition articles were identical. Under the subject "Homo Erectus" it said: [5] - 2 - the limb bones thus far discovered have been similar to (although more robust than) those of _H. sapiens._ Note that the quotation _Life_ used said the limb bones were _indistinguishable from,_ rather than _similar to_ those of _H. sapiens._ I was not able to locate a 1976 _Britannica,_ * but a 1974 edition said the same thing as quoted in _Life._ The article was virtually identical to the 1984 article, except for the above quotation. Very little had changed between 1974 and 1984 concerning _H. erectus_ except the assessment of the limb bones, and _Life_ selected a quo- tation from the edition that happened to be the most advan- tageous to its argument. Is this not yet another example of selective use of quotations and of arguing as a literary critic to support a preexisting point of view? The 1992 _Britannica_ said much the same as the 1984 edi- tion. Under the subject "Homo erectus" it said: [6] Most of the anatomical differences between _H. erec- tus_ and _H. sapiens_ concern the skulls and teeth. The limb bones of _H. erectus_ that have been found so far have been similar to _H. sapiens,_ leading to the inference that _H. erectus_ was a creature of medium stature who walked upright. What did _Britannica_ mean when it said the limb bones were similar? The 1992 edition _Macropaedia,_ Vol. 18, expanded upon this under the subject "Evolution, Human" on pages 827-828: The form of these [femur] bones resembles that of mod- ern humans, and _H. erectus_ must have walked upright efficiently. On the other hand, the construction of the bones is robust, a condition also seen in other skeletal members. This robusticity suggests that the life-style of _Homo erectus_ was physically demand- ing.... The total pattern of the bodily structure of _H. erectus,_ as preserved in the bones, is rather different from that of _H. sapiens._ Parts of the postcranial skeleton are robust but otherwise gener- ally comparable to those of modern humans. The brain is relatively small, though not so small as that of _Australopithecus_ and _H. habilis._ In addition, in this hominid's thick skull bones and extraordinarily developed eyebrow ridges and occipital torus, some investigators say they see unique, specialized fea- tures, not characteristic either of its presumed ancestors or of apes and not pointing to _H. sapiens_ as the direction of subsequent evolution.... __________________________ * _Encyclopedia Britannica,_ 1974, Macropaedia, Vol. 8, p. 1032. - 3 - _Britannica_ then discussed various theories of descent from early hominids through _H. erectus_ to modern man, showing there is much evidence that is difficult to interpret, and there are several possibilities for reasonable explanations, including one that _H. erectus_ was an evolutionary side branch that did not lead to modern man. It comments that much work needs to be done to sort out all the evidence. Finally it says: In the meantime, another hypothesis that meets most of the available evidence is that _H. erectus_ was in the process of evolving from pre-_Homo erectus_--probably _Australopithecus_ and _Homo habilis_--to post-_Homo erectus;_ that is, to _Homo sapiens._ In most details, the bodily structure of _H. erectus_ fulfills what might have been predicted for an intermediate between _Australopithecus_ and _H. sapiens._ _The Myths of Human Evolution_ gave an alternative view: [7] In sum, during the period that lasted from about 1.6 million to 0.4 or 0.5 million B.P., nonrobust hominids [referring to _A. robustus_] seem to be represented by a single species which is both geographically and locally variable, but which has an instantly recogniz- able gestalt. The major cranial characteristics of this species, _Homo erectus,_ have already been enu- merated, and postcranially it is clear that _Homo erectus_ was robust but an erect biped in the manner of ourselves. What many have found remarkable is that over this long span of time, well over a million years and perhaps as long as 1.2 million, _Homo erectus_ shows virtually no change; local and geographical variations are at least as striking as differences between older and younger members of the lineage. Some scholars have suggested that brain size does show an increase over time, pointing to the fact that ER-3733 had a brain of under 900 cc., while the largest of the late Choukoutien population had a brain volume of over 1,200 cc. One should point out, how- ever, that after the East Turkana specimens the oldest firmly dated _Homo erectus_ is the Olduvai skullcap, dated at about 1.2 million years and which has a capacity of almost 1,100 cc., larger than all but two of the Choukoutien specimens, which are the best part of a million years younger. Indeed, a recent attempt to quantify variation in _Homo erectus_ over time has failed to show significant trends that would convinc- ingly suggest that the species was undergoing any gradual transformation. Paragraph 33 next says of _H. erectus:_ - 4 - However, it is unclear whether it was human or not. This is only in the judgement of _Life's_ author. He leaves it vague simply because the Watchtower Society does not want to commit itself on evidence that so clearly could cause difficulties for the Biblical viewpoint. The Society proba- bly feels the chances of getting burned are too great. Paleontologists judge that it was not a modern human, but was a member of the human family. This is fairly well con- firmed by the presence of cultural artifacts, such as tools and the remains of hearths found in association with _H. * erectus._ The point is whether _H. erectus_ was a member of the human family, since it is obvious that it was not a modern human. That it was not quite fully human is sug- gested by the fact that no remains have been found in an obvious burial, in contrast with the later Neanderthals. As the expression says, a picture is worth a thousand words. _National Geographic_ contains a picture of a skele- ton discovered in 1984, of a _Homo erectus_ boy about twelve years old at the time of death 1.6 million years ago. [1] It is the most complete _H. erectus_ skeleton ever unearthed. The skeleton is virtually human, but the skull is something else again. The accompanying article comments: This spectacular find dramatically confirms the antiq- uity of the human form. In its parts and proportion only the skull of the Lake Turkana boy would look odd to someone untrained in anatomy. The rest of his skeleton, essentially human, differs only subtly from that of a modern boy. And too, because it is a youth's skeleton and so com- plete, it offers us a unique glimpse of growth and development in early humans. At five feet four inches tall, the boy from Turkana was surprisingly large com- pared with modern boys his age; he could well have grown to six feet. Suitably clothed and with a cap to obscure his low forehead and beetle brow, he would probably go unnoticed in a crowd today. __________________________ * Some people have attributed the cultural artifacts to modern men that lived alongside _H. erectus_ and hunted it, but whose fossil remains have never been found. See, for example, _Ape-Men--Fact or Falla- cy?_, by Malcolm Bowden, 1981, sections on Java man and Peking Man; _The Bone Peddlers: Selling Evolu- tion,_ by William Fix, 1984, pp. 117-122; and _Evolu- tion: The Challenge of the Fossil Record,_ by Duane T. Gish, 1985, pp. 180-204. These books must, of course, be taken with a large grain of salt because they, too, leave out whatever evidence does not sup- port their ideas. - 5 - A later report on this find said: [8] In 1985 Richard Leakey and his colleagues reported the recovery of the remains of a remarkably complete skeleton of an approximately 12-year-old _Homo erec- tus_ youth, which revealed some surprising anatomy. For instance, in the cervical and thoracic vertebrae, the hole through which the spinal cord runs is signif- icantly smaller than in modern humans--presumably indicating a smaller demand for nerve signal traffic. In addition, the spines on all the vertebrae are longer and do not point as far back as in modern humans, the significance of which is puzzling. The thigh bone is unusual, in that the femoral neck is relatively long while the femoral head--which is part of the ball-and-socket joint with the pelvis--is large. This combination is something of a mix between modern human and australopithecine anatomy: modern humans have a short femoral neck attached to a large head, while in australopithecines the neck is long and the head is small. The pelvis itself indicates that the birth canal was smaller than in modern humans, which implies that infants born to _Homo erectus_ mothers would have needed to continue fetal growth rates after birth. This so-called secondary altricial condition means that a more extended period of child care was inevitable, which might well have had important social consequences. The _Homo erectus_ youth, which came from 1.6 million- year-old deposits on the west side of Lake Turkana in Kenya, is `the first [early fossil hominid] in which brain and body size can be measured accurately on the same individual', note Leakey and his colleagues. After paragraph 33 says it is unclear whether _Homo erectus_ was human or not, we finally read: If so, then it was merely a branch of the human family and died off. This statement is so absurdly obvious as to be disingenuous, since _Homo erectus_ is clearly not alive today. It is rem- iniscent of a statement made in 1799 by one Charles White, a British physician. He tried to show the gradation of life forms inherent in the "Great Chain of Being" concept popular at the time. In describing this idea Roger Lewin quoted him and said: [9] "Ascending the line of gradation, we come at last to the white European; who being most removed from the - 6 - brute creation, may, on that account, be considered as the most beautiful of the human race," opined Charles White.... White concluded a panegyric on the suppos- edly superior qualities of the European form with the following: "Where, except on the bosom of the Euro- pean woman, [can one find] two such plump and snow white hemispheres, tipt with vermillian?" Quite so. It is obvious that the _Life_ book does not want to bur- den its readers with the unnecessary details of specific information. References 1. "The Search for Our Ancestors," _National Geographic Mag- azine_, pp. 568-573, Washington, D.C., November, 1985. 2. Roger Lewin, _Human Evolution: An Illustrated Introduc- tion_, W. H. Freeman and Company, New York, 1984. 3. Niles Eldredge & Ian Tattersal, _The Myths of Human Evo- lution_, Columbia University Press, New York, 1982. 4. Maitland A. Edey and Donald C. Johanson, _Blueprints_, p. 329, Penguin Books, New York, 1989. 5. _Encyclopedia Britannica, Macropaedia_, Vol. 8, p. 1032, 1984. 6. _Encyclopedia Britannica, Micropaedia_, Vol. 6, p. 27, 1992. 7. Niles Eldredge & Ian Tattersall, _op cit_, pp. 144-145. 8. Roger Lewin, _Human Evolution: An Illustrated Introduc- tion, Second Edition_, pp. 99-100, Blackwell Scientific Publications, Boston, 1989. 9. Roger Lewin, _Bones of Contention_, pp. 303-304, Simon and Schuster, New York, 1987. -------------------Cut Here---------------------------- Alan Feuerbacher | As long as you think you have the truth, you Tektronix, Inc. | will feel no need to pursue knowledge and PO Box 500, MS 47-623 | understanding. Beaverton, OR 97077 | There is often a difference between good alanf@atlas.pen.tek.com | sound reason and reasons that sound good. ---------------------------------------------------------------------------- Robert P.J. Day 277-3175 "Have you read the little blue book 'Life - how did it get here, by evolution or creation ?'" ----------------------------------------------------------------------- Last year, a couple of Witnesses came to my door, waving that particular book around. I invited them into the living room, where they had no choice but to stand next to my bookshelf filled with all of my books on religious criticism and evolutionary biology. They were just a touch uncomfortable but, sensing an open mind, pulled up a couple of chairs and we were off to the races. The elder of the two (with a young, thoroughly brainwashed acolyte in tow), proceeded to quote at me from their little blue book. At one point, he brought up Francis Hitching, quoting him, "For all its acceptance in the scientific world as the great unifying principle of biology, Darwinism, after a century and a quarter, is in a surprising amount of trouble." I stopped him there, and tried to explain the difference between an acceptance of evolution, and an adherence to Darwinism. To no avail. I did not have my Hitching ("The Neck of the Giraffe") handy, but I told the elder to please call back in a few weeks and I would be happy to dissect his little tome. Shortly after they left, I tracked down Hitching, and perused carefully the first few pages. The little blue book gives a reference for the above quote as page 12 -- that's wrong, it's on page 4. What is more shocking is what follows immediately (and I mean IMMEDIATELY) after that quote in the text. And I quote from Hitching: "Evolution and Darwinism are often taken to mean the same thing. But they don't. Evolution of life over a very long period of time is a FACT (emphasis added), if we are to believe evidence gathered during the last two centuries from geology, paleontology, molecular biology and many other scientific disciplines. Despite the many believers in Divine creation who dispute this ..., the probability that evolution has occurred approaches certainty in scientific terms." In addition, in the edition I have, the opposite page has a chart of the geological ages, quite clearly going back hundreds of millions of years. It is difficult to believe that whoever wrote the little blue JW book could have actually read Hitching and not continued to read the very next paragraph or seen the geological chart. To present Hitching as rejecting evolution is either blindingly incompetent or hideously dishonest. Quite simply, "Life -- how did it get here?" seems no better or worse than the standard dishonest creationist dreck one would get from the ICR or the Creation Research Society Quarterly, possibly even a little worse. Hard to believe. ---------------------------------------------------------------------- > It is difficult to believe that whoever wrote the little blue JW book >could have actually read Hitching and not continued to read the very next >paragraph or seen the geological chart. To present Hitching as rejecting >evolution is either blindingly incompetent or hideously dishonest. >Quite simply, "Life -- how did it get here?" seems no better or worse >than the standard dishonest creationist dreck one would get from the >ICR or the Creation Research Society Quarterly, possibly even a little >worse. Hard to believe. I've got another one. The original quotes are from Dr. Robert Jastrow's "God and the Astronomers:" (from page 14) "The details differ, but the essential elements in the astronomical and biblical accounts of Genesis are the same: the chain of events leading to man commenced suddenly and sharply at a definite moment in time, in a flash of light and energy." (pages 115-116) "...A sound explanation may exist for the explosive birth of our Universe; but if it does, science cannot find out what that explanation is. The scientist's persuit of the past ends at the moment of creation. "This is an exceedingly strange development, unexpected by all but the theologians. They have always believed the word of the Bible: In the beginning God created the heavens and earth. To which St. Augustine added: "Who can understand this mystery or explain it to others?" It is unexpected because science has had such an extraordinary success in tracing the chain of cause and effect backward in time. We have been able to connect the appearance of man on this planet to the crossing of the threshold of life, the manufacture of the chemical ingredients of life whithin stars that have long since expired, the formation of those stars out of the primal mists, and the expansion and cooling of the parent cloud out of the cosmic fireball. "Now we would like to persue that inquiry further back in time, but the barrier to further progress seems insurmountable. It is not a matter of another year, another decade of work, another measurement, or another theory; at this moment it seems as though science will never be able to raise the curtain on the mystery of creation. For the scientist who has lived by his faith in the power of reason, the story ends like a bad dream. He has scaled the mountains of ignorance; he is about to conquer the highest peak; as he pulls himself over the final rock, he is greeted by a band of theologians who have been sitting there for centuries." The following text was described (by a minister I'm debating on a local BBS) as a single "paragraph", found on page 105. In my copy of Jastrow's "God and the Astronomers", the first section is found on page 14, the second on page 115, the third on 116. This is from "A Shattered Visage", by Dr. Ravi Zacharias: "The details differ, but the essential elements in the astronomical and biblical accounts of Genesis are the same... "This is an exceedingly strange development, unexpected by all but the theologians. They have always believed the word of the Bible. But we scientists did not expect to find evidence for an abrupt beginning because we have had, until recently, such extraordinary success in tracing the chain of cause and effect backwards in time... "At this moment it seems as though science will never be able to raise the curtain on the mystery of creation. For the scientist who has lived by his faith in the power of reason, the story ends like a bad dream. He has scaled the mountain of ignorance; He is about to scale the highest peak; as he pulls himself over the final rock, he is greeted by a band of theologians who have been sitting there for centuries." Not only is the surrounding context eliminated, but the quote itself has been re-written! Does anyone have a copy of "A Shattered Visage"? I'd love to mail a photocopy to Dr. Jastrow.

---

E-Mail Fredric L. Rice / The Skeptic Tank