Creationist “debate” finally breaks out

Creationists disagreed over what Homo naledi was. However, they never acknowledged the existence of such debate, until now.


The creationist debate over Homo naledi is finally kicking off. Kind of. Creationists have been “arguing” over the species since it was discoveered more than a year ago.  This is because the species straddles the divide between our genus – Homo – and the earlier, more ape-like Australopithecus. Such a “transitional form” cannot exist in their mind, leading to some fascintating “debate” within the movement.

I put debate in quotemarks because there actually hasn’t been any. As the excellent summary above (from the equally excellent Naturalis Historia) shows, there’s plenty of disagreement between creationists on the subject. They have mutually contradictory reviews supported by mutually contradictory opinions. Yet there’s very little engagement between these creationists on the subject. No debate, discussion, or even real acknowledgement that they aren’t all of one mind.

Until now. Sort of.

Backtracking in Genesis

Jean O’Micks is an “independent scholar” whose been published by many creationist outlets. He’s written for Creation Ministries International, the Journal of Creation Theology and Science, as well as Answers in Genesis. He weighed in on the discovery of Homo naledi shortly after it was found. The gist of his argument being that the skull shared more similarities with Homo so it should belong in the human “baramin“.

This argument was apparently quite convincing. Other creationists found his argument compelling and changed their mind. Although, it’s worth pointing out the main outlets continued with their previous opinion without a word given to Jean’s argument. Notably, Answers in Genesis conintued claiming the species was just an ape and never discussed the fact that this opinion was not a creationist consensus. Jean’s work never came up, despite disagreeing with them from a Biblical foundation.

Until he changed his mind.

As I previously mentioned, Jean’s initial work was based on a comparison of various skulls. In an effort to improve the reliability of this result, he commendably expanded out this analysis. He compared the body of Homo naledi to the body of other hominin species. The results revealed the opposite, suggesting the species was more ape-like than human.

He wrote a paper to this effect which has recently been published by Answers in Genesis.

Best creationist research ever

At this point I might usually go through and disect this “research”. Pull up some hopeless inadqucies and critiqe them. I don’t want to suggest that Jean’s new work is somehow perfect. It is still based in the flawed “science” of baraminology after all. But beyond that it’s pretty decent. It seems to come from a genuine quest for improving knowledge and fixing his previous mistakes. It shows a decent grasp of paleoanthropology. And as an added bonus, it doesn’t waste too much time quoting Bible versus or ranting over the evils of evolutionists.

As a little case study, just take a look at how relatively reasonable the conclusion sounds.

baramin

There’s unceartainty and caution. Statistical analyses with significance. Beyond the flawed foundation of baraminology, the worst thing you can really say about this research is that it disagrees with paleaonthropological conclusions. Scientists still place Homo naledi within the genus Homo after all. The name kind of gives that away.

Why they got this result

The paper itself hints at why it got a contradictory result. Beyond using a false foundation. Jean notes how the human species Homo naledi’s body is most similar to is Homo erectus. 

erectus

Yet when it comes time to conduct the analysis, Homo erectus data is nowhere to be found.

FYI, postcarnial data for Homo erectus does exist

FYI, postcarnial data for Homo erectus does exist

Instead, he compares Homo naledi to more modern species like Homo sapiens. But when the Australopithecus comparison occurs, more (relatively) contemporary species are used. In short, the conclusion can be read as “Homo naledi is most like the species that lived nearest to it in time”. And because the nearest species analysed were Australopithecus, it winds up looking like an Australopithecus.

Conclusion

On it’s own, this creationist research isn’t particularly interesting. It’s not wrong enough to be funny, not right enough to have a point. But is curious as the first hint of creationist in-fighting referenced by one of the large YEC organisations. And on it’s own it’s a particularly benign example of in-fighting. One creationist refuting their own work and propping up the publishing organisations’ opinion in the process.

But the benality of it all is what I findi interesting. It looks to me like a clear case of white-washing. Trying to hide the fact that creationism isn’t the hive-mind it pretends to be.

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12 thoughts on “Creationist “debate” finally breaks out”

  1. Natural Historian says:

    Yes, O’micks has created some intrigue finally. I also have to comment him for doing a pretty thorough analysis. Too bad that it was published at nearly the same time that a batch of new Homo naledi papers were released that contain much more data that he could have used. But at least he has an opportunity to do the analysis again:-) Interesting that he published in the AiG journal since his conclusions now fit the AiG interpretation. I have to wonder if he would have been forced to publish elsewhere had he come to a different conclusion.

    1. Adam Benton says:

      I think some light might be shed on this if we had any clue about the publication process here. In particular, time to submission versus publication. Unfortunately, the ARJ is a black box so I doubt we’ll ever know. Unless of course, Jean does a third test and finds AiG is wrong yet can’t get it published in their paper. That would be quite telling.

      On that note, I suspect another factor that influenced his results is the post-cranial measurements he took. The majority are from the upper limb which appears to be one of the most archaic aspects of the species. IIRC he analysed >20 features from the hand <5 from the foot.

    2. Matthew Cserhati says:

      Man, they also published Todd Wood’s paper in ARJ who took the exact opposite position. In fact they had a scientific debate within that journal.

  2. Belac says:

    The cannibalization continues. This is just the most recent of the articles published for homo naledi, the last few have pretty much been civil back-and-forth arguing. To me, this demonstrates the big problem with baraminology: rigid categories. Of course, when shown the alternative, they’d happily take the confusion over the confession.
    https://answersingenesis.org/human-evolution/rebuttal-geology-taphonomy-of-homo-naledi-and-humans-in-fossil-record/

  3. Belac says:

    Also found this. It’s a bit old, but still interesting.
    http://creation.com/explaining-robust-humans

    1. Adam Benton says:

      It’s just assumption after assumption. If people really did live a super long time and did adapt to it in a particular way then if you squint and look at it sideways, this could explain the Neanderthals. And if that wasn’t wrong enough, they have to throw in the old adage about the hobbit being a cretin despite the mountains of evidence to the contrary. But hey, they could find one quote of a dude saying it was so it’s totes true.

  4. Matthew says:

    You know, science didn’t begin with evolution, so baraminology is scientific. All it really does is do away with evolutionary pre-suppositions that all species have to be related somehow, and acknowledges that clusters of species are not related in any way to one another. Baraminology simply takes the facts as they are as opposed to evolution.

    1. Adam Benton says:

      Many fields of study have scientific origins before 1859. Baraminology isn’t one of them. As the Creation Research Society’s summary of the first baraminological conference notes, the method wasn’t formally laid out until 1990. In fact, the term baramin wasn’t coined until the 1940s, nearly a hundred years after evolutionary biology’s formal start.

      FYI, that same summary also handily refutes the idea that baraminology is some sort of neutral idea, “simply taking facts as they are”. When laying out a method for defining a baramin, they note that:

      Scripture claims (used in baraminology but not in discontinuity systematics). This has priority over all other considerations. For example humans are a separate holobaramin because they separately were created (Genesis 1 and 2)

      1. Matthew says:

        Then you don’t know the history of science, because prior to Darwin there were the natural theologians. I wrote an entire thesis work on them. These lumpers and splitters either lumped species into one kind, or tended otherwise to split groups into smaller subgroups. These species groups correspond to the baramins of baraminology. Let me ask you this: is it possible to do origins science in a supernaturally created world? Science doesn’t answer the question of what the original reason was for the universe to come into existence. Hence, the universe could have either a naturalistic or supernatural origin. Nobody can tell, using the tools of scientific inquiry. This is purely a metaphysical issue. Thus, it is possible to pursue origins science from a creationist perspective. It’s totally legitimate. Everybody has presuppositions, it’s just that evolutionists aren’t honest enough to admit theirs, namely that nature is everything that was, is, and shall be. As to the table comparing different creationist viewpoints, let’s apply the same standards of criticism towards evolutionary theory – evolutionists aren’t even sure about the basic mechanism of evolution, be it gradual evolution or punctuated equilibrium (aka humorously called the “punk-eek” theory 🙂 ). Or we could name a whole row of contradicting evolutionary theories – 1. australopiths being direct forerunners of Homo, 2. birds evolving by gliding or jumping,etc. Just because creationists may disagree on certain things, doesn’t mean they’re both wrong. As you should well know, Todd Wood did not come forth (as far as I know) with any new papers showing that H. naledi is human, after all. Even Lee Berger himself has come round in describing naledi as an ape (see talk in Dallas, around Oct. 2017).

        1. Adam Benton says:

          I’m sure people were thinking about these things for a long time. Many disciplines have a surprisingly deep history. The Ancient Egyptians, for instance, documented cases of cancer and their treatments for it. But that doesn’t mean the modern field oncology is actually thousands of years old, nor does it gain credence from the fact that people were thinking about the same subject thousands of years ago. And similarly, those Egyptians don’t get bonus science points because their efforts eventually evolved into a rigorous medical field. Their treatments still weren’t that great.

          So you’re probably right. People were thinking about kinds for a long time. But that doesn’t change the fact that baraminology as we know it wasn’t really a proper field until the 90s. Nor does that prior history give what happened since the 90s extra credibility.

        2. Adam Benton says:

          As for your question about science being possible in a created world, I’m not sure. Science requires reproducibility and the prospect of supernatural intervention kinda ruins that. How would we know if we had identified a real phenomenon in an experiment, or the results were actually caused by a miracle? Maybe Fleischmann and Pons really did observe cold fusion, but it was a miracle and so they couldn’t reproduce it for the scientific community.

          This is why science tries to reduce and remove assumptions, rather than embracing them as you seem to be intent on doing. Occam’s razor is a powerful tool for this reason, trimming down the unnecessary baggage that’s getting in the way of research. This principle is also why science appears naturalist. It’s not really, it just doesn’t make the extra assumption that the supernatural exists since that is a presupposition that has yet to be vindicated. So it gets cut by the razor.

          But that doesn’t mean that science thinks the supernatural doesn’t exist, just that the assumption it does hasn’t been proven. This wiggle room is why many scientists still hold to some supernatural beliefs.

        3. Adam Benton says:

          Finally, we get to the issue of disagreement within creationism; which was the main topic of this post. Yes, there is often intense disagreements within science. However, because it an evidence-based practice everyone is working from the same premise. That ensures that as the debate proceeds and new evidence emerges, people eventually reach an agreement. Take the issue of punctuated equilibrium for instance. It turns out both views are right and the issue somewhat settled, although disagreement remains over how common the different causes are.

          Contrast this to what the table shows in creationism. It doesn’t prioritise evidence so the debate is rare and, on the occasions it does happen, futile. Few creationists are going to be convinced by the evidence in these papers because they don’t hold their positions for evidentiary reasons.

          As such, it should come as little surprise to learn that you are wrong. Todd Wood has published further research on the subject, still unconvinced by the arguments discussed in the post. And the person he disagrees with has danced-back at him, still unconvinced by Todd’s evidence as well. Because evidence isn’t what they prioritise. On his personal site, Todd has made a similar observation, noting that:

          O’Micks seems to be quite adamant that Homo naledi is not human, but he still seems to misunderstand what I’m claiming. And frankly, I’m not at all sure why he’s so passionately opposed to including Homo naledi in the human holobaramin.

          If I could advise O’Micks, I would say that you don’t have to write a rebuttal. You could be the bigger man and walk away. Judging by what you’ve written, silence would be wise.

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