Author: James Lippard (lippard@ccit.arizona.edu) Title: Lucy's knee joint: How creationist

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

Skeptic Tank!

====================================================================== Author: James Lippard (lippard@ccit.arizona.edu) Title: Lucy's knee joint: How creationists deal with their errors Update: August 11, 1994 ====================================================================== LUCY'S KNEE JOINT: A CASE STUDY IN CREATIONISTS' WILLINGNESS TO ADMIT THEIR ERRORS By Jim Lippard Last updated: August 11, 1994 Originally posted: June 17, 1994 Creationists have been making the claim that Donald Johanson found the knee joint of "Lucy," a 40%-complete skeleton of the species _Australopithecus afarensis_, in a location "Sixty to seventy meters lower in the strata and two to three kilometers away" (Willis 1987). They have sometimes gone on to add the claim that "Only under questioning did [Johanson] admit that the knee was found over a mile from Lucy. To the best of our knowledge this admission has _not appeared in print_!" (Willis 1987; emphasis in original; Also see Brown 1989a, p. 44) The claim is used by creationists to show that (a) evolutionists are dishonest and (b) "Lucy" did not walk upright. It successfully shows neither of these things, because it is false. (Even if it were true, it would not demonstrate (b), for reasons given in Lippard (1989-90).) The claim is not only false, it is clearly shown to be false in Johanson's published writings about "Lucy" (e.g., Johanson and Edey 1981, ch. 7-8) and it has been pointed out repeatedly to its proponents that it is false. Despite this, none of the major proponents of the claim has publicly retracted it. One major proponent has privately agreed that it is false, and a few creationists have agreed to stop repeating it. One minor proponent made a public retraction. The claim originated with Tom Willis, head of the Creation Science Association for Mid-America, in an article he wrote for the _Bible-Science Newsletter_ (1987). In his article, Willis reported on a lecture by Johanson at the University of Missouri on November 20, 1986. Willis reported that the following exchange occurred during the question-and-answer session which followed Johanson's lecture: Q. How far away from Lucy did you find the knee? A. Sixty to seventy meters lower in the strata and two to three kilometers away. Either Willis or Johanson (probably Willis) misunderstood the question being asked. The question was not how far away from Lucy her own knee joint was found, but rather how far away from Lucy was the knee joint Johanson found the year before he discovered Lucy. The discoveries of both the original knee joint (1973) and Lucy (1974) are described in detail--including the locations of the finds--in Donald C. Johanson and Maitland E. Edey, _Lucy: The Beginnings of Humankind_ (1981) and in the articles in the April 1982 issue of the _American Journal of Physical Anthropology_. The creationist misunderstanding would never have occurred had either of these sources been consulted. Johanson has always been clear about the fact that his 1973 knee joint was a separate find from Lucy. All of the bones shown in photographs of Lucy were found at a single location. The problem has been compounded by the Institute for Creation Research's use of the name "Lucy" to refer to both the species _Australopithecus afarensis_ and the individual "Lucy," as ICR Museum director John Rajca did on the June 18, 1994 segment of the ICR's "Science, Scripture and Salvation" radio program. Rajca said: In the fall of 1973, near Hadar, Dr. Johanson found the fossil of what is now called Lucy. The reason it is called Lucy is that the Beatles song "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" was playing in the camp when the fossil was discovered. The first specimen of Lucy to be uncovered was a knee joint. At first this was judged to be a monkey; it was later labelled by Johanson as a hominid. Lucy is a 40% complete female skeleton.... The claim that Lucy's knee joint was found separate from the rest of the skeleton has been made by Russell Arndts (1991), Walter Brown (1989a), Donald Chittick (1994), Michael Girouard (1989), Kent Hovind (1993a), David McAllister (1993a), John Morris (1989), David Nutting (1991, 1993, 1994), Paul Taylor (1989), and Tom Willis (1987). The following is a brief summary of attempts to get retractions: * Arndts was corrected by a letter to the editor of the _Bible-Science Newsletter_ from Lippard (April 12, 1991). The letter was neither published nor replied to. A copy of the then-current version of this article was sent to Arndts c/o the _Bible-Science News_ on July 13, 1994. * Brown was corrected by Lippard (1989-90 and 1989), quoting from Johanson (1989). Brown's response (1989b and 1989-90) was to evade the issue and offer a completely different criticism of Johanson's "First Family" finds. This was in turn responded to by Lippard (1990), quoting from Johanson (1990). Brown never responded further. A letter from Lippard to _Origins Research_ (May 1990) responding to Brown (1989b) was never published or acknowledged. (The information in that letter was published in Lippard (1990).) A copy of the then-current version of this article was sent to Brown on July 13, 1994. * Chittick was sent a copy of the then-current version of this article on July 13, 1994. In a letter dated July 29, 1994, Chittick wrote that "The knee joint found lower and away from the 40% complete skeleton was the item Johanson used in his claim that 'Lucy' walked upright." Johanson argues that the 1973 knee joint is of the same species as "Lucy" on the grounds of anatomical similarity, and points to it as one of several pieces of evidence that the species, and therefore "Lucy," walked upright. But this is not a claim that the 1973 knee joint was "Lucy"'s knee, which is what Chittick and others have claimed or implied. On August 10, 1994, I wrote back to Chittick asking "what is the evidence that Johanson has ever claimed the 1973 knee joint as belonging to the individual 'Lucy'?" * Girouard was corrected by Lippard in person immediately after his presentation, and given a copy of Johanson (1989). Girouard asked Lippard to write him a letter, and promised to respond. Lippard's letter of December 5, 1989 provoked no reply. A copy of the then-current version of this article was sent to Girouard c/o the ICR on July 13, 1994. * Hovind was corrected by a letter from Lippard (October 30, 1993) and agreed to stop using the claim (1993b). A copy of the then-current version of this article was sent to Hovind on July 13, 1994. * McAllister was corrected in person by Lippard and given copies of Johanson (1989 and 1990). He publicly corrected the mistake during his lecture, and asked for other criticisms of his lecture and seminar workbook by letter. Lippard sent a detailed critique (November 7, 1993). McAllister (1993b) responded saying that he did not have time to reply at the moment, but would do so before the end of the year. He never did. A copy of the then-current version of this article was sent to McAllister on July 13, 1994. * Morris (1993) admitted that he had read Lippard (1989-90) and knew the claim was false, but stated that he did not feel that a retraction of his 1989 article was necessary. A copy of the then-current version of this article was sent to Morris on July 13, 1994. * Nutting was sent a letter by Jim Foley asking about the claim in January 1994. He has not responded to that letter, and has subsequently repeated the claim (1994). Foley sent Nutting another letter, including an earlier version of this article, on July 6, 1994. * The fourth edition of Taylor's book (second printing, June 1993) does not mention Willis' article or the knee joint claim directly, but part of reference [206] in this edition says: Albert W. Mehlert, "A Study of Comments by Evolutionist Authorities on the Alleged Hominids Found in the Hadar/Afar region of Africa," _Contrast: The Creation Evolution Controversy_ Vol 6, No 1 (Bible-Science Association, January 87), pp1-2,4 (provides evidence that "Lucy" was made up of fossils from two separate sites and was an ape, "probably a chimp-like ape"). Taylor's description of Mehlert (1987) is misleading in its use of the name "Lucy" to refer to the species _A. afarensis_, which Mehlert himself does not do. Mehlert argues that "Lucy" (Site 162) is a "chimp-like ape" and the "First Family" finds (Site 333) "included many human bones." He does not claim that the individual "Lucy" was composed of bones from both sites; Taylor's implication to this effect is false. A copy of the then-current version of this article was sent to Taylor on July 13, 1994. * Willis was corrected by a letter from Lippard in 1989, but never responded. A copy of the then-current version of this article was sent to Willis on July 13, 1994. To date (August 11, 1994) none of the creationists sent letters on July 13, 1994 except Chittick have responded. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS Thanks to Jim Foley (Jim.Foley@FtCollinsCO.NCR.COM) for the information about the fourth edition of Taylor's book and about David Nutting. Thanks to KG Anderson (kga@uncmvs.oit.unc.edu) for information about Rajca and the ICR radio program. Thanks to Stephen Watson (watson@bellatrix.sce.carleton.ca) for the information about Donald Chittick. REFERENCES Arndts, Russell (1991) "MinnLogic: The Size of the Burial Site and the Number of Individuals Buried," _Bible-Science Newsletter_ vol. 29, no. 4, April, p. 8. Brown, Walter T. (1989a) "Brown Responds to Lippard," _Creation/Evolution_ vol. 9, no. 1, issue 25, Fall, pp. 35-48. --- (1989b) "Dr. Brown Responds," _Origins Research_ vol. 12, no. 2, Fall/Winter, p. 12. --- (1989-90) "A Second Response to Jim Lippard," _Creation/Evolution_ vol. 9, no. 2, issue 26, Winter, pp. 34-54. Chittick, Donald (1994) Public lecture at Bethel Pentecostal Church, Nepean, Ontario, Canada, May 16. Girouard, Michael (1989) "Ape Men--Monkey Business Falsely Called Science," Presentation at the Institute for Creation Research "Back to Genesis" Conference in Tucson, Arizona, December 1. Hovind, Kent (1993a) Videotape of lecture in South Carolina (unknown date). --- (1993b) Personal communication (audiotape) to Jim Lippard, November 5. Johanson, Donald C. (1989) Personal communication (letter) to Jim Lippard, August 8. --- (1990) Personal communication (letter) to Jim Lippard, May 30. Johanson, Donald C. and Edey, Maitland A. (1981) _Lucy: The Beginnings of Humankind_. N.Y.: Simon and Schuster. Lippard, Jim (1989-90) "A Further Examination of the Research of Walter Brown," _Creation/Evolution_ vol. 9, no. 2, issue 26, Winter, pp. 17-33. --- (1989) "Johanson Coverup?" _Origins Research_ vol. 12, no. 2, Fall/Winter, p. 12. --- (1990) "A Final Response to Walter Brown," _Creation/Evolution_ vol. 10, no. 1, issue 27, Summer, pp. 28-36. McAllister, David (1993a) _Creation or Evolution: The Real Story_. Seminar workbook, Christian Life And Service Seminars (C.L.A.S.S.), Tucson Community Church. Seminar on November 7. --- (1993b) Personal communication (letter) to Jim Lippard, November 23. Mehlert, Albert (1987) "A Study of Comments by Evolutionist Authorities on the Alleged Hominids Found in the Hadar/Afar Region of Africa," _Contrast: The Creation Evolution Controversy_ (included in the _Bible-Science Newsletter_) vol. 6, no. 1, January-February, pp. 1-2,4. Morris, John D. (1989) "Was 'Lucy' an Ape-man?" _Back to Genesis_. In _Acts & Facts_, November, p. d. --- (1993) Personal communication (telephone interview) with Jim Lippard, November 2. Nutting, David I. (1991) _Think and Believe_ vol. 8, no. 1, January/February. Cited in Nutting (1994). --- (1993) Personal communication to Jim Foley after public lecture in Ft. Collins, Colorado, November 14. --- (1994) "Was Your Great-Great Grandpa An Ape?" _Think and Believe_ vol. 11, no. 3, May/June, p. 3. Taylor, Paul S. (1989) _The Illustrated Origins Answer Book_. Mesa, Ariz.: Films for Christ Association, Inc. First printing. Willis, Tom (1987) "'Lucy' Goes to College," _Bible-Science Newsletter_ October, pp. 1-3.

---

E-Mail Fredric L. Rice / The Skeptic Tank