On November 26, 1986, Donald Johanson gave a lecture at the University of Missouri at Kans
On November 26, 1986, Donald Johanson gave a lecture at the University of
Missouri at Kansas City at which creationist Tom Willis was present. During
the question and answer session, someone asked Johanson, "How far away from
Lucy did you find the knee?" Johanson responded, "60 to 70 meters lower in
the strata and two to three kilometers away." "The knee" here means the
1973 knee joint, *not* Lucy's knee. One of two things happened here. Either
Johanson misunderstood a questioner who was asking about *Lucy's* knee,
or Tom Willis misunderstood both the question and the answer. He turned
around and wrote the article "'Lucy' Goes to College" in the October 1987
issue of the _Bible-Science Newsletter_ (pp. 1-3). In this article, Willis
concluded that Johanson has been deceiving people about "Lucy" and he
further commented that "To the best of our knowledge this admission has
*not appeared in print!*" (emphasis in original).
If Willis had bothered to look, he would have seen quite the opposite.
Johanson has always been completely clear about the knee joint being
a separate find. For example, in chapters 7 and 8 of his book, co-authored
with Maitland Edey, _Lucy: The Beginnings of Humankind_ (1981, Simon and
Schuster), he is quite clear about it. (Also see volume 57, no. 4 of
the _American Journal of Physical Anthropology_, 1982, which is devoted
entirely to "Pliocene Hominid Fossils from Hadar, Ethiopia.")
Since Willis' article, the claim has been repeated by other creationists.
John Morris of the ICR made it in his "Was 'Lucy' an Ape-man?" in the
November 1989 issue of _Back to Genesis_ (p. d). Paul Taylor makes it
in his book _The Illustrated Origins Answer Book_ (1989, Films for Christ,
p. 91). Michael Girouard of the ICR made the claim in a "Back to Genesis"
seminar here in Tucson on December 1, 1989. Walter Brown made the claim
in a debate with me in the _Creation/Evolution_ journal, Fall 1989, p. 44.
(Brown also repeated Willis' claim about the details of the knee joint
find not being in print, saying that "None of [Johanson's] published writings"
clarify the matter. Morris implied the same in his short article, saying,
"Johanson seldom reminds us" of the fact that the knee joint was a separate
find.) Russell Arndts made the claim in the "MinnLogic" column of the April
1991 issue of the _Bible-Science Newsletter_.
I have rebutted the claim in "A Further Examination of the Research of
Walter Brown," _Creation/Evolution_ XXVI (Winter 1989-90), pp. 27-28
and in "Johanson Coverup?" _Origins Research_, Fall 1989, p. 12. In
both cases Brown responded by ignoring the knee joint issue completely
and claiming that there are other problems with Johanson's "First Family"
finds. My response to that was not published by _Origins Research_, but
appears in "A Final Response to Walter Brown," _Creation/Evolution_ XXVII
(Summer 1990), pp. 33-34. In each of these places, I quote extensively
from letters from Johanson responding to Brown's claims.
I also wrote a letter to the _Bible-Science Newsletter_ in response to
Arndts which was not printed, and I gave a copy of Johanson's first letter
to me to Michael Girouard the evening he made the claim. (He promised
to look into it and to respond to a letter I said I would write him. I
wrote him, and he never responded. It would not surprise me if the claim
continues to be made in the ICR's "Back to Genesis" seminars.) Finally,
I also wrote to Tom Willis trying to get more details on who misunderstood
whom in the first place, but he did not reply.
For more details, I recommend you see my _Creation/Evolution_ articles
(or ask here).
E-Mail Fredric L. Rice / The Skeptic Tank