<link rel="stylesheet" href="//fonts.googleapis.com/css?family=Roboto%3A300%2C400%2C500%2C700%7CRoboto+Slab%3A400%2C700">New Chinese hominins: A racist find - misguided mondays - Filthy Monkey Men

Back before I settled into this blog I would just write for half an hour on whatever I fancied then give up. Going through some of these old posts I (re)stumbled across one of the more horrific misguided (mis)uses of evolutionary anthropology. It’s from Across the Fruited Plain of “lets invent radiocarbon inconsistencies” fame and their post concerns the new Chinese hominins that were found a while back.

This horror doesn’t arrive until right at the end of the post. Before then there’s some old creationist canards like “evolution means life has no purpose” or “there are no transitional forms” or “nebraska man!!!!!1111!!!”. Although a handful of novel arguments do make it into the post – along with a few ideas I applaud the author for (they want to see the original bones which is a desire to investigate matters I can only encourage) – just when you think this is nothing more than an above average, albeit not revolutionary, post you run into this paragraph of terror.

4. How can evolution theorists not see how insulting and racist this is as a concept?

Many people do not realize that the full title of Darwin’s chief work is not called “Origin of Species” but rather On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life . That’s right, “Favoured Races”. To begin with, I am insulted by the notion that my ancestors were primates and that I share a common heritage with earthworms. However, were I of African descent, I would be mortified and indignant that people could believe the races evolved and were promoting the idea by depicting a black man with transitional ape-like features! If the races evolved, then some must have evolved further than others. Naturally Hitler and the Third Reich thought it was the blonde hair, blue eyed Germans (Aryan). Meanwhile they viewed Africans as “Predominantly Ape.” Columbine shooters and evolution enthusiasts Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold made a video tape prior to the Columbine shootings. On that tape they said, talking about one of the football players, “He doesn’t deserve the jaw evolution gave him. Look for his jaw, it won’t be on his body.” These two boys were very strong believers in evolution and one of them wore a shirt that said “Natural Selection” according to the autopsy. They did the shooting on Hitler’s birthday on purpose. They shot Isaiah Shoels simply because he was black.

What was going on in their thinking?

Evolution Theory led them to believe that blacks have evolved last and were thus expendable.

This paragraph is terrible because it’s exploiting real human tragedy merely for the emotional punch it lands. There’s no rational reason to drag such tragedies into the discussion since ultimately the only connection between them and evolution is fallacious. Even if Origin was Hitler’s manifesto that would say nothing to the validity of the theory, that’s just guild by association/appeal to the consequences, both of which are fallacies rendering the argument irrelevant. It’s only brought up to score emotional points in an argument and such an exploitation is simply despicable. You might be insulted by being related to earthworms but I am insulted by the way you play on human tragedy.

On top of that it’s simply factually wrong for the most part. The entire reason someone of “African descent” should take offence is based off a warped idea of evolution – that it is a “ladder” with some people further up it than others. In reality it’s a bush with branches growing in all different directions and no single group “more” evolved than another. Further, as far as we can tell the Chinese hominin is of African descent, being most similar to the archaic humans common on that continent, so characterising them as such is as accurate as we can be. And that’s forgetting that this group is not a direct relative to any human but a “cousin” branch like the neanderthals so should have no impact on how you perceive modern humans.

The “ladder” mistake is also prevalent throughout attempts to use evolution to justify eugenics and other such crimes. In other words, evolution is not so much responsible for these offences as a bastardisation of the idea is. Whenever Hitler, for example, made reference to evolution it is associated with trying to make humans climb to a “higher stage of being.” In other words, that there is a ladder and that by killing the Jews he can make humans climb it. But that ladder does not exist.

In short this paragraph is found both factually and morally wanting and is highly offensive because of it. Ironic given how the creationist is attempting to make the argument that he is offended by evolution and other should be too. However, if you really want something to boil your blood then this is the kind of thing that should be looking for. This is but one example of people exploiting human tragedy just for that extra few points in an argument. And it’s reprehensible.

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Categories: Creationism

27 Comments

synapticcohesion · 27th August 2012 at 8:27 pm

Come on. The depictions of our supposed “transitional” ancestors/”missing links”/etc. always have dark skin and, more often than not, look suspiciously black or of African ancestry. Even though there is no telling WHAT skin color or even facial features these people had. It’s all a matter of imagining and recreating what one wishes to see; what they wish to PROJECT.

And I never understood the psychology or the primitive thinking behind equating the dark fur of apes to humans with dark skin. Yet skin color is always the factor and the pseudoscientific attempt to tie human beings to apes.

    Adam Benton · 28th August 2012 at 4:00 pm

    What you have to remember is that our species only left Africa ~60,000 years ago. Yet our lineage diverged from chimps ~7,000,000 years ago and our species arose between ~400,000 – 195,000 years ago. In other words, for the vast majority of our history we have been African. The first humans were African, the first people to migrate around the world were African and these ideas are only negative if one buys into the faulty “evolution as a ladder” concept.

    It’s also worth noting that dark skin and dark fur are not equated. Underneath their fur chimps have pigmentless skin and so that is believed to have been the “original” human (or human ancestor, since we may have lost our fur before our species arose) skin tone. However, dark skin was the first to evolve from this pigmentless base because that helps protect against UV damage from the harsh African sun.

      synapticcohesion · 28th August 2012 at 5:09 pm

      “However, dark skin was the first to evolve from this pigmentless base because that helps protect against UV damage from the harsh African sun.”

      You don’t know that. The climate may not have been as harsh back then, thus extra melanin production would be unnecessary.

      And chimps may have little pigment, but gorillas appear to have a lot of pigment. Though, unlike human beings, their skin does not appear nearly as photosensitive and it their skin pigment (face, hands, and feet) remains largely unchanged by the sun.

        Adam Benton · 31st August 2012 at 2:56 am

        Sitting alone in my bedroom I might not be able to work out how harsh the ancient African sun was, but environmental archaeologists can. They’ve reconstructed the prehistoric environment and their data shows that it wasn’t that dissimilar to the modern climate whilst humans were evolving. Although it wasn’t identical to the modern climate it did not fall out of the range of the modern climate (i.e. the least severe prehistoric African environment was not less severe than the least severe environment you can find in African today). In other words they weren’t significantly different. As a case study look at the article I wrote on the diet of Australopithecus sediba, which provides a brief overview of the environment during that time period.

        This is the last comment which will fit in this chain, if you wish to continue the conversation please make a “new” post.

        synapticcohesion · 31st August 2012 at 3:36 am

        Even if the climate were similar, the only way that this would make any sense is that if you explain the mass migrations of lighter skin primates as being an initial result of evolution in process.

        You cannot jump from pigmentless skin to skin that produces an abundance of melanin in one step; thus it would make sense that the earliest hominids (without having yet “evolved” this protective feature) had to initially emigrate to areas where the sun was not as harsh. Many of those that remained in the hotter climes of Africa carried a “mutation” that enabled them to better resist the sun and, over time, the rest of the population benefited and they evolved darker skin that produced more melanin and enabled them to live comfortably in their environment–sans their original protective primate body hair.

        Makes sense, doesn’t it? Thus it absolutely makes no sense to depict these supposed ape-like hominids as looking like modern day black human beings. It would actually make more sense to propose the opposite assertion–that the earliest ape-men have very light skin. Thus necessitating the mass migrations of these early hominids to areas that may not have been as warn and pleasant, but enabled their survival before evolving skin that was more resistant to the sun.

        Once again, I completely reject this theory but am proposing something that makes more logical sense than the one asserted by most evolutionists.

        Adam Benton · 5th September 2012 at 10:29 am

        I think I dealt with most of these points in other comments, so will just add that they recently did some high quality sequencing of the Denisovan genome, who are a lot like these Chinese hominins except they split from our lineage ~1,000,000 years ago. The results show they had darks skin.

        synapticcohesion · 5th September 2012 at 5:59 pm

        “they recently did some high quality sequencing of the Denisovan genome, who are a lot like these Chinese hominins except they split from our lineage ~1,000,000 years ago. The results show they had darks skin.”

        Right…

        Adam Benton · 6th September 2012 at 2:16 am

        And brown hair and brown eyes.

        synapticcohesion · 6th September 2012 at 2:47 am

        Double riiiight.

        Face it–scientists know nothing about these hominids except that a lot of those discovered were very old and arthritic (which explains their “ape like” features).

        synapticcohesion · 6th September 2012 at 3:21 am

        By the by, I did my own sequencing of the genome and discovered that these hominids, as their ape brethren, were in fact of little skin pigmentation to begin with as they had a generous amounts of body hair to protect them from the harsh African sun (some humans still have ample amounts of this vestigial primate fur) . As they evolved, however, they began to acquire the ability to produce adequate amounts of what we call “melanin,” as thus began to lose the need for their wooly coats.

synapticcohesion · 27th August 2012 at 8:34 pm

Edit: Nix the “African ancestry” part of my comment as Africans come in different skin colors. I used this reference as it is often used synonymously with being black–but it confuses the point being made.

    Adam Benton · 28th August 2012 at 4:29 pm

    Skin colour is a surprisingly fluid trait and is believed to have changed a few times over the course of human evolution. Therefore, as you note, linking skin colour to – for want of a better word – race is not something that should be done.

synapticcohesion · 27th August 2012 at 9:07 pm

I also never understood trying to correlate the noses of apes (that have little more than nostrils) to human noses that are broad, or bulbous (used mainly in reference to darker skinned people). Their noses do not look at all alike, yet the correlation is constantly made. It’s all very SUBJECTIVE and ludicrous.

    Adam Benton · 28th August 2012 at 4:27 pm

    I’m going to have to go with Scott on this one and ask who or what you’re talking about?

Scott McGreal · 28th August 2012 at 2:40 am

In response to synapticcohesion, surely you would admit that dark skin is an adaptation to a climate with high levels of sunlight. Artists’ depictions of hominids with dark skin reflect the climate in which they are thought to have lived.
What is this correlation between the noses of apes and human noses you are talking about? Who is constantly making it? Can you name any serious scientists who have made such claims?

    synapticcohesion · 28th August 2012 at 3:58 am

    “surely you would admit that dark skin is an adaptation to a climate with high levels of sunlight.”

    Not necessarily. If these hominids were really more ape-like in nature, there is know telling what they would look like. Take the skin color of many chimpanzees, for instance. Yet these ape-like (even chimp-like) depictions of our supposedly ape-like ancestors always seem to have brown or black skin. Curious, isn’t it?

    One could easily conclude (pseudoscientifically and subjectively, of course) that the oldest ancestors migrated out of Africa and settle into the northerly climes of Europe and to the Middle East. And that the evidence of this more ancient ancestry is evident in the last remaining vestiges of our ape evolutionary heritage: an abundance of body hair.

      Adam Benton · 28th August 2012 at 4:23 pm

      You can predict what skin colour should exist at various latitudes given the harshness of the sun at that time. When you test this on humans you find that the results match up very well – people living in regions with more UV rays have darker skin to protect from that damage. So when you find another naked ape you should also expect it to have similarly dark skin.

      Further, the evidence for African ancestry stems from more than an abundance of hair. Africa contains the largest amount of genetic diversity whilst the rest of the world appears to have undergone a population bottleneck. In other words, a limited subset of the African diversity left the continent meaning the descendants of the migrants had less genetic diversity. There’s also the fact that Africa contains the oldest human haplotypes and human fossils.

        synapticcohesion · 28th August 2012 at 5:34 pm

        Keep in mind I do not buy any of this as I pose hypotheticals to an improbably theory.

        As I had mentioned, chimps and gorillas have exposed skin (face, hands, and feet) that is not nearly as photosensitive as human skin. Thus a fundamental difference between we humans and apes. Another point, it that even if we accepted your assertion that they were originally pigmentless as chimps but evolved pigment over time as an evolutionary (adapative) trait, that would simply prove that the oldest ape-like ancestors we had would have likely had lighter skin to begin with, would they not? You cannot go from relatively pigmentless skin to dark skin in one step. It is a slow and progressive change over “millions of years.”

        They would have also have had to gone through changes in the skin of their face, hands, and feet in order to match the rest of their photosensitive bodies–as humans have completely photosensitive skin (including the face, hands, and feet). It seems highly improbable that evolution would have resulted in the this change in order to make our supposedly prior ape-like skin (tough and more photoresistant in the face hands, and feet) resemble the completely UNIFORM photosensitive skin (the facial skin be more vulnerable and photosensitive) that human beings have today.

        Adam Benton · 31st August 2012 at 12:35 pm

        All current variation in human skin tone only appeared in the last 60,000 years since our species left Africa. Clearly skin colour is capable of (relatively) rapid evolution. As such, whilst there may well have been a window during which our ancestors had very pale skin (assuming it was not darkening as we gradually lost our hair) that window would’ve been very small.

        Also, iirc skin “toughness” is strongly influenced by skin thickness and so any change in toughness is probably a by-product of the fact our lineage has become a lot more gracile over the years. Assuming there has been any such change of course, I couldn’t find anything about it during a cursory sweep of the literature. Do you have a reference?

synapticcohesion · 28th August 2012 at 4:24 am

^^^^^^
Keep in mind that the above is purely hypothetical to make a point. I reject the idea that humans evolved from ape-like beings.

    Adam Benton · 28th August 2012 at 4:38 pm

    Presumably because of all the false drawings you see.

Jim Birch · 28th August 2012 at 6:04 am

It is well established that white skin an an adaptation for vitamin D. The whitest europeans belonged to groups that farmed in in northern latitudes but ate no meat so had virtually no source of vitamin D apart from what they generated themselves.

What’s more interesting to me is the fact that we are so visually sensitive to skin colour variations. The reflectivity v. wavelength curves for “black” and “white” skin are so similar when plotted that you would not be able to them reliably, yet we are tuned to pick up a tiny variations and “see” them as big differences. The odd wavelengths that our eyes see are clearly tuned to see the amount of blood under the skin and it’s level of oxygenation, ie, our health and emotional state. (The red and green channels ideal for picking up the blood oxygenation kink but otherwise redundantly close.) Other primates with trichromatic vision have hairless faces, indicating that displaying your health and emotional state to your kin in this manner is adaptive.

    Adam Benton · 28th August 2012 at 4:33 pm

    That certainly is more interesting than the vitamin D aspect (since I already knew that), do you have any suggestions for further reading?

synapticcohesion · 28th August 2012 at 6:37 am

“It is well established that white skin an an adaptation for vitamin D. The whitest europeans belonged to groups that farmed in in northern latitudes but ate no meat so had virtually no source of vitamin D apart from what they generated themselves.”

Even if this were true, what is the point being made? And we always get vitamin D–from the sun, FYI. We don’t get as much in northerly latitudes, but we still get it. Black absorbs light, white reflects it (a possible reason for the higher prevalence of osteoporosis in people with whiter skin).

    Adam Benton · 28th August 2012 at 4:37 pm

    I’m not Jim so can’t speak for him but I think the point is that therefore skin colour is linked to sunlight and so based on the sunlight a particular species is exposed to you can predict what skin colour it has. It’s the link between colour and sunlight that is key here, not the “link” between skin colour and – again, for want of a better word – race.

Headless Unicorn Guy · 11th April 2016 at 6:07 pm

Regarding the “ladder mistake”:

According to Gould, Darwin never liked the word “Evolution”, because it had connotations of Linear UPWARD Progress. (i.e. “The Victorians thought history ended well — because it ended with the Victorians.” — Chesterton) Darwin himself preferred the description “Descent with Modification”.

    Adam Benton · 11th April 2016 at 7:37 pm

    There’s a lot of stuff associated with Darwin he didn’t actually do. I don’t think he was the one who came up with “survival of the fittest” either

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