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Keerax
27th November 2006, 05:48 PM
My girlfriend and a friend of mine have both told me that they recently saw a program proclaiming new evidence of the Lucy fossil that disproves she could have possibly been a transitional fossil for humans. Could anyone provide links to this information or even corroborate it for me? I've tried searching google and even these forums but the only websites I've found saying so were all creationist websites and they'll obviously be denying anything that ties humans to apes.

Thanks in advance!

Soapy Sam
27th November 2006, 05:59 PM
Can you not ask your friends for the name of the programme?

If they can't recall the name, I have to wonder how accurate is their recall of the content. The interpretation of hominid fossils is open to much speculative hypothesizing and subject to change as new evidence is found. I have not heard about this, but it's not impossible.

Questioninggeller
27th November 2006, 06:08 PM
... saw a program proclaiming new evidence of the Lucy fossil that disproves she could have possibly been a transitional fossil for humans.

A scientific show claiming that? Maybe a creationist argument on TV (an incorrect claim). There is no debate about whether it/she was a hominid.

The term hominid refers to a member of the zoological family Hominidae. Hominidae encompasses all species originating after the human/African ape ancestral split, leading to and including all species of Australopithecus and Homo. While these species differ in many ways, hominids share a suite of characteristics which define them as a group. The most conspicuous of these traits is bipedal locomotion, or walking upright.


http://www.asu.edu/clas/iho/lucy.html

It is one of many "transition" fossils showing a progression of change.

Gravy
27th November 2006, 06:24 PM
You may also be interested in a more recent find, dubbed "Baby Lucy (http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2006/09/060920-lucys-baby.html?fs=www9.nationalgeographic.com)." She's much more complete than adult Lucy, and older. There's a more detailed article than the above link in the December issue of Scientific American.

articulett
27th November 2006, 07:00 PM
You may also be interested in a more recent find, dubbed "Baby Lucy (http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2006/09/060920-lucys-baby.html?fs=www9.nationalgeographic.com)." She's much more complete than adult Lucy, and older. There's a more detailed article than the above link in the December issue of Scientific American.

Yep...There's a great mock up of what she looked like on the front of National Geographic (and I'd send a link) if the evil internet demons weren't making my cable behave so annoyingly. The photos in side are sooo fantastic; there's this one where you can see her lying on her side with her little hand up by her face (as they found her) and it just pushed all the "mom buttons" in me--even though you can't help but notice the lower face protrudes in a somewhat chimp like fashion.

It was a true marvel to find such a well preserved ancient specimen.

The big controversy over Lucy is whether she was an ancestor of hominids (with today's pygmy's being her closest descendants) or if she was a separate species like Neanderthals are. The common ancestor of all humans and all Neanderthal came prior to the splitting--although some humans appear to have some Neanderthals in their direct ancestry (estimates that 5% of those from Northern Europe do (where the Neanderthals lived.) If Lucy is an upright species (and both she and the new discovery were bipedal), it would be really fascinating if she was a separate species...because then, like the Neanderthal, there were several upright species only one of which survives today. There is a lot to be said for it being a separate species, but one scientist says that it's just a malformed microcephalic proto-human. But with the discovery of the new baby austrolepithecus, it seems there were a whole bunch of this "hobbit" sized people. Whether they our direct ancestors mated with them or helped kill them off is a question that we don't know yet. I don't think we'll have much success at getting DNA from such and old fossil. Much of what we now know about Neanderthal came from molecular DNA studies (first of mitochondrial DNA...and now we have about 1% of their nuclear DNA mapped.)

blutoski
27th November 2006, 07:08 PM
My girlfriend and a friend of mine have both told me that they recently saw a program proclaiming new evidence of the Lucy fossil that disproves she could have possibly been a transitional fossil for humans. Could anyone provide links to this information or even corroborate it for me? I've tried searching google and even these forums but the only websites I've found saying so were all creationist websites and they'll obviously be denying anything that ties humans to apes.

Thanks in advance!

I think you'll have to ask them for details if you want to follow up. FWIW: Lucy is just the first of many specimens from the same species.

Tell them that in 2006, we should be a little past "I saw it on TV so it must be true."

fuelair
28th November 2006, 05:20 AM
http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2006/09/photogalleries/afarensisancestors/index.html
for nat. geo info including 3D of reconstructed head

bjb
28th November 2006, 01:05 PM
I also thought Lucy was an evolutionary dead-end and not an ancestor of modern humans. Here's a story about a fossil that was discovered back in 2001 that cast even more doubt on the Lucy story:

http://www.seacoastonline.com/2001news/3_22_w1.htm

Leakey said the species represented by the new skull could have been an ancestor of modern humans, or it could have been an evolutionary dead end. At the same time, she said, the same could apply to Lucy.

I know that doubts about Lucy being our ancestor have been around well before 2001. About ten years ago, I saw a PBS shows about human evolution and how it didn't seem like there was a branched family tree. At one time, the fossils that did exist suggested a straight-line evolution of humans from one species to another and finally, to us. There were no branches or dead-ends in the family tree as with every other animal on earth and this fact was being used by creationists to prove 'intelligent design'. But after many years and many more discoveries, it was found that there have been many hominid species and our family tree does have some branches and dead ends, just as expected.

I remember when Lucy was discovered back in the 70's and I even read the National Geographic article suggested that she was our earliest known ancestor. It was big news and the idea has been around ever since. But that PBS show was on a long time ago, so I suppose this idea is going to take a long time to catch on. As more people 'discover' this fact, they are going to be surprised that those zany scientists have taken so long to figure it out. Why can't those guys ever make up their minds, anyway?

What's funniest about the creationists who point to these new discoveries as 'proof' of their ideas never mention that it is the real scientists who are making these new discoveries! Creationists don't go out and find evidence to support their claims, they just look at existing information and twist it around to suit their purpose. In this respect, they're a lot like the 9/11 conspiracy theorists.

AK-Dave
28th November 2006, 01:11 PM
I think this blog entry discusses this "debunking" near the end:
http://scienceblogs.com/afarensis/2006/11/25/fisking_creationist/

It is one of the ScienceBlogs, Afarensis (http://scienceblogs.com/afarensis/).

-David

Marc L
28th November 2006, 01:14 PM
My girlfriend and a friend of mine have both told me that they recently saw a program proclaiming new evidence of the Lucy fossil that disproves she could have possibly been a transitional fossil for humans. Could anyone provide links to this information or even corroborate it for me? I've tried searching google and even these forums but the only websites I've found saying so were all creationist websites and they'll obviously be denying anything that ties humans to apes.

Thanks in advance!

I don't know if it was on tv recently, but I remember back when I was a fundie (between 7 and 14 years ago), being told that Lucy and other "evolutionary" claims had been debunked.

Marc

Meri
28th November 2006, 01:28 PM
I don't know if it was on tv recently, but I remember back when I was a fundie (between 7 and 14 years ago), being told that Lucy and other "evolutionary" claims had been debunked.

Marc

My roommate my freshman year of college had been told the same thing, except she still believed it. She'd been told that Lucy was a fraud, and I think for some reason believed the skeleton was made of chicken bones.

articulett
29th November 2006, 02:05 AM
Yes, religion is sly. Tell people to have faith in what you say (and never to question god) and you have gullible masses you can lie to and manipulate. Debunked, indeed.

I think the one they found in 2001 is the baby...they have to clean it off, literally grain by grain...they still haven't uncovered the feet and everyone wants to know if the toes are like humans or opposable like chimps". And though they've found a lot of bones and bone fragments of Lucy types...this is only the second full form--and it is older and more detailed than Lucy.

Do those fundies think National Geographic, Time Magazine, and Scientific American are part of an "evolution" conspiracy? Or does their brains just not compute anything which can sway their belief. Amazing.

VonNeumann
29th November 2006, 03:17 AM
Hi, girl.
I haven't been around for a few months. Last time was posting with you. Just dropped in (couldn't even remember my password).

I don't really know anything about Lucy but I remember reading that Johansen himself claimed publically the bones for Lucy were found at much different places.


After a quick search, I found this from "Creation Science" which you will probably dismiss merely considering the messenger. But if you can believe they accurately reported what the Lucy discoverer/reconstructer says, you'll see here:

http://www.csama.org/csanews/LUCY1.pdf

that he admits a 200 foot vertical spread and more than a one mile spread on where the pieces come from. If that is true, the anthropaleontological community should put this disclaimer up front, in my opinion.

Would you call Lucy a 'fraud' if indeed Johansen assembled one specimen from distantly scattered locations? If there were DNA correlation, then it wouldn't matter -- but I don't know of any DNA analysis done or even if it is possible to do so.

MRC_Hans
29th November 2006, 03:39 AM
On the idea that a fossil is a malformed specimen: Since the "privilege" of becoming a fossil is given on a random basis (happening to be in just the right place during the right conditions), we can assume that a given fossil is just as representative of its population than any randomly selected individual. In a naturally living population, malformed and otherwise divergent individuals are unlikely to survive for long, so it follows that any random specimen, and thus any fossil, is highly likely to be representative of its population. Therefore, it is reasonable to assume that if we find just one fossil, a viable population of creatures like it must have existed. If we find two fossils of the same species, it becomes virtually certain that such a population has existed.

Hans

MRC_Hans
29th November 2006, 03:44 AM
After a quick search, I found this from "Creation Science" which you will probably dismiss merely considering the messenger. But if you can believe they accurately reported what the Lucy discoverer/reconstructer says, you'll see here:

http://www.csama.org/csanews/LUCY1.pdf

The origin of the message would certainly make me wary of the messenger. However, it is reading the message that makes me likely to dismiss it:


On November 20, 1986 several CSA members had the rather
dubious pleasure of joining 800 other folks at UMKC to learn
why LUCY, a "3,000,000 year old" chimpanzee, was really
our ancestor; rather than the assorted apes exhumed by the
Leakey family. Donald Johanson, of Stanford University,
opened with a few persuasive remarks about how all science is
very tentative and "paleoanthropology" is even more tentative
than most (All he has to work with are pieces of rock and lots
of imagination).


I think this sort of sets the style. Can anybody give me a good reason to read on?

Hans

Cuddles
29th November 2006, 03:45 AM
I think the one they found in 2001 is the baby...they have to clean it off, literally grain by grain...they still haven't uncovered the feet and everyone wants to know if the toes are like humans or opposable like chimps". And though they've found a lot of bones and bone fragments of Lucy types...this is only the second full form--and it is older and more detailed than Lucy.

I really want opposable toes.

Marc L
29th November 2006, 05:55 AM
[/SIZE][/FONT]I think this sort of sets the style. Can anybody give me a good reason to read on?

Extreme masochistic tendicies?

Marc

DeviousB
29th November 2006, 06:06 AM
I don't really know anything about Lucy but I remember reading that Johansen himself claimed publically the bones for Lucy were found at much different places.

No, that's what creationists claim, even after it has been shown to be incorrect (http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/knee-joint.html).

Would you call Lucy a 'fraud' if indeed Johansen assembled one specimen from distantly scattered locations? If there were DNA correlation, then it wouldn't matter -- but I don't know of any DNA analysis done or even if it is possible to do so.

No, I would call it a fraud to pretend that Johansen is saying this when he isn't. It was wrong twenty years ago, it hasn't got 'more right' in the intervening period.

ponderingturtle
29th November 2006, 06:33 AM
My girlfriend and a friend of mine have both told me that they recently saw a program proclaiming new evidence of the Lucy fossil that disproves she could have possibly been a transitional fossil for humans. Could anyone provide links to this information or even corroborate it for me? I've tried searching google and even these forums but the only websites I've found saying so were all creationist websites and they'll obviously be denying anything that ties humans to apes.

Thanks in advance!

Is it that that particular branch of hominid did not lead to humanity or what?

There are certainly hominid branches that did not lead to humanity, but to conceder that as being debunked is a bit extreme as they where not generally being explicitly claimed to, but rather illustrate the process that arrived at humanity

ponderingturtle
29th November 2006, 06:40 AM
On the idea that a fossil is a malformed specimen: Since the "privilege" of becoming a fossil is given on a random basis (happening to be in just the right place during the right conditions), we can assume that a given fossil is just as representative of its population than any randomly selected individual. In a naturally living population, malformed and otherwise divergent individuals are unlikely to survive for long, so it follows that any random specimen, and thus any fossil, is highly likely to be representative of its population. Therefore, it is reasonable to assume that if we find just one fossil, a viable population of creatures like it must have existed. If we find two fossils of the same species, it becomes virtually certain that such a population has existed.

Hans

Depends. I don't think anyone is arguing that the bog people who where sacrificed where a random sample. When you get a society into it, some individuals might be much more likely to be preserved than others.

Keerax
29th November 2006, 02:11 PM
My girlfriend can't remember where she heard it. My friend thought perhaps he'd seen it on the History Channel but can't remember when or what program.

I'm still not seeing anything credible, from searching myself and looking at what you've all posted here, that would make me think that Lucy wasn't what she's been claimed to be. I would think that anything definitive against Lucy would've been plastered everywhere by now.

I'm sticking with the Lucy is a transitional fossil camp until new evidence can convince me otherwise.

hammegk
29th November 2006, 02:35 PM
... The photos in side are sooo fantastic; there's this one where you can see her lying on her side with her little hand up by her face (as they found her) and it just pushed all the "mom buttons" in me--even though you can't help but notice the lower face protrudes in a somewhat chimp like fashion.
You must have a real fun time -- with all your mom buttons on high alert -- when visiting the bonobo cage at the zoo. Do chimps do it for you too?

DeviousB
29th November 2006, 03:16 PM
I'm still not seeing anything credible, from searching myself and looking at what you've all posted here, that would make me think that Lucy wasn't what she's been claimed to be. I would think that anything definitive against Lucy would've been plastered everywhere by now.

I'm sticking with the Lucy is a transitional fossil camp until new evidence can convince me otherwise.

Here (http://www.mnh.si.edu/anthro/humanorigins/ha/afar.html)'s a good link from the Smithsonian.

The position of A. afarensis in the phylogeny of early humans is under debate. Many feel that it is ancestral to the east African "robust" early humans, and possibly to all robust forms. Additionally, A. afarensis is proposed as the ancestor to later Homo. Yet, research now suggests that A. africanus might be ancestral to later Homo.

Certainly until very recently, if not still, Lucy was considered an ancestor. This view hasn't been debunked, but may now have been discarded in light of evidence for a more likely candidate.

ponderingturtle
29th November 2006, 03:56 PM
My girlfriend can't remember where she heard it. My friend thought perhaps he'd seen it on the History Channel but can't remember when or what program.

I'm still not seeing anything credible, from searching myself and looking at what you've all posted here, that would make me think that Lucy wasn't what she's been claimed to be. I would think that anything definitive against Lucy would've been plastered everywhere by now.

I'm sticking with the Lucy is a transitional fossil camp until new evidence can convince me otherwise.

The current view is one of many hominid species with lucy belonging to one of them. If she is part of our ancestry or just a slightly different branch on the family tree is what is being debated.

This is not exactly debunked, that would fit more into her being like piltdown man and be a fake.

JoeTheJuggler
29th November 2006, 04:07 PM
As mentioned, Lucy was just one of the first identified fossils of what we now call australopithecus afarensis. I suspect that the program your girlfriend saw may have been an anthropologist claiming that a. afarensis is not one of our ancestors, which may or may not be true and can be debated. I don't believe anyone has credibly challenged that the Lucy fossil is a genuine fossil or the dating or anything like that.

Debunking usually means someone was trying to pull off a hoax or something. In the course of science, ideas can be put forth, challenged, accepted and/or tossed aside. Only bunk can be debunked.

Windom
30th November 2006, 12:36 AM
Hey, Lucy almost definitely isn't. Chances are she (and any other fossil we happened to find) is more like a cousin to our ancestors than a real ancestor.

references: Richard Dawkins, "Ancestor's Tale"

DeviousB
30th November 2006, 02:13 AM
Chances are she (and any other fossil we happened to find) is more like a cousin to our ancestors than a real ancestor.

references: Richard Dawkins, "Ancestor's Tale"

Not that I condone quote mining, but...

"Anyone with an intelligent imagination should get the point from the undeniable fact that we animals are all cousins: it is the merest accident that the evolutionary intermediates happen to be extinct." -- Richard Dawkins (http://www.simonyi.ox.ac.uk/dawkins/WorldOfDawkins-archive/Dawkins/Work/Articles/2001-12-27word_made_flesh.shtml).

VonNeumann
30th November 2006, 07:11 AM
No, that's what creationists claim, even after it has been shown to be incorrect (http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/knee-joint.html).

No, I would call it a fraud to pretend that Johansen is saying this when he isn't. It was wrong twenty years ago, it hasn't got 'more right' in the intervening period.

Okay, I didn't search very deep. Thanks for the link.

VonNeumann
30th November 2006, 07:16 AM
The origin of the message would certainly make me wary of the messenger. However, it is reading the message that makes me likely to dismiss it:



I think this sort of sets the style. Can anybody give me a good reason to read on?

Hans

You quoted something above, that they said, regarding what Johanson said. Could you say what specifically got your goat? Was it where Johanson said paleoanthropology is one of the more "tentative" branches of science?

DeviousB
30th November 2006, 10:58 AM
You quoted something above, that they said, regarding what Johanson said. Could you say what specifically got your goat? Was it where Johanson said paleoanthropology is one of the more "tentative" branches of science?

Well, he is actually reported as saying that all science is tentative, and paleoanthropology is more tentative than most.

1) Given the propensity for quote-mining in anti-evolution literature, I'd like to see a full transcript.

2) What he said is true. Paleoanthropology is based on a proportionally smaller number of data that Paleontology as a whole. The same is also true of anyone specialising in a particular group or family's transitional forms.

The article is not intended to be an even evaluation of the lecture or lecturer. The transitional nature of the fossil is dismissed ("Lucy's femur and pelvis, he claims, were more robust than most chimps, indicating she 'could have walked upright.' Come now, I 'could have been' president of IBM."), despite - or perhaps because - it being just what creationists have been asking for. The Leaky's finds are consistently referred to as 'chimps' (clearly they are not), an a priori rejection of evidence. Strawman arguments abound ("And chickens walk upright, but this does not seem to help them sire humans.", "[T]he Budweiser Clydesdale horses have considerably more robust skeletons than do Arabians. But, no one argues that this improves the odds of Clydesdales giving birth to elephants!"), as do logical errors of every hue. The (oft-still) repeated quote from Colin Patterson is trotted out (perhaps excuseable in a 1987 publication), though Patterson made it abundantly clear in his 1999 book Evolution (2nd Ed.) that he did not support YEC or a separate ancestry for humans and apes, and that molecular homology could, when properly evaluated, support inferences about common ancestry. He also criticised creationists willingness to quote out of context in lieu of any evidence.

Tanstaafl
30th November 2006, 12:58 PM
Hey, Lucy almost definitely isn't. Chances are she (and any other fossil we happened to find) is more like a cousin to our ancestors than a real ancestor.

references: Richard Dawkins, "Ancestor's Tale"

I think all anyone means by "ancestor" is that she is (or might be) one individual of a species which is ancestral to modern humans. Not that she as an individual is an ancestor.

Assuming I interpreted your post correctly.

KingMerv00
30th November 2006, 01:17 PM
My roommate my freshman year of college had been told the same thing, except she still believed it. She'd been told that Lucy was a fraud, and I think for some reason believed the skeleton was made of chicken bones.

Heh yea...a chicken with big frickin arms and specialized teeth:

http://www.scienceclarified.com/images/uesc_06_img0296.jpg

CurtC
30th November 2006, 01:26 PM
There are certainly hominid branches that did not lead to humanity, but to conceder that as being debunked is a bit extreme as they where not generally being explicitly claimed to, but rather illustrate the process that arrived at humanityThis whole thread just shows how easy it is to confuse laymen like Keerax's friends, who are not educated in the science. The fact that there were small evolutionary dead-ends on the path to how we got here, such as the Neanderthals apparently were, and how Lucy might have been, is a little more subtle, but does not detract from the fact that the fossils are solid evidence that the big-picture transition occurred.

It's closely related to Kent Hovind's argument that no fossil of anything is evidence for evolution, because there is no evidence that any particular fossil had offspring. Of course, now he's having to make that argument from behind bars.

The Central Scrutinizer
30th November 2006, 01:40 PM
I also thought Lucy was an evolutionary dead-end and not an ancestor of modern humans.

Not that I am aware of. If I remember my studies correctly, Lucy was a member of Australopithicus afarensis, which is most certainly a descendant of modern humans (Homo sapiens sapiens), at least as far as we currently know.

And as to the thread title, Lucy is not "bunk", therefore she cannot be "debunked".

Meri
30th November 2006, 02:43 PM
Heh yea...a chicken with big frickin arms and specialized teeth:


Well, she was well drilled in creationist nonsense, but not very good at basic observation.

Marc L
30th November 2006, 02:46 PM
Lucy was a member of Australopithicus afarensis, which is most certainly a descendant of modern humans (Homo sapiens sapiens), at least as far as we currently know.

I think you meant ancestor. :) To my knowledge, we don't have any descendants, yet.

Marc

KingMerv00
30th November 2006, 02:51 PM
Well, she was well drilled in creationist nonsense, but not very good at basic observation.

No need for the redundancy.

crackers
30th November 2006, 02:51 PM
I think you meant ancestor. :) To my knowledge, we don't have any descendants, yet.

Marc


You don't have any descendants? I thought the cute little kid in your avatar was your daughter.

Marc L
30th November 2006, 03:09 PM
You don't have any descendants? I thought the cute little kid in your avatar was your daughter.

I meant as a species, Mr. Smarty-Pants. :hit:

Marc

bjb
30th November 2006, 03:16 PM
Not that I am aware of. If I remember my studies correctly, Lucy was a member of Australopithicus afarensis, which is most certainly a descendant of modern humans (Homo sapiens sapiens), at least as far as we currently know.

The problem with remembering your studies is that knowlege keeps changing, but our memory of our studies does not. I also learned that Lucy was our ancestor but that was a long time ago and today, not all scientists agree with this idea any more:

http://www.hypography.com/article.cfm?id=30437


"We've always assumed Lucy was our ancestor, and now we need to re-evaluate that idea,'' Frank Brown, a University of Utah geologist who helped date the site.

http://www.caller2.com/2001/march/22/today/national/20928.html

Scientists have discovered a 3.5 million-year-old skull in Kenya that might force them to rewrite the anthropology textbooks and drop the fossil nicknamed "Lucy" from the line of human ancestors.


http://www.findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_qn4158/is_20010207/ai_n14365879

They believe that Millennium Man - whose scientific name has still to be announced - is both older and "more human-like" than "Lucy", the famous ape-like hominid discovered in Ethiopia in 1974 and estimated to be 3 million years old.

However, finding a hominid creature that is twice as old and probably even more "human" than Lucy suggests that, if anything, Lucy was a mere side-show, an evolutionary "dead end" who has no direct descendants living today.

These aren't quotes from creationist websites. There are real scientists who are re-evaluating whether or not Lucy is our direct ancestor.

I honestly don't understand why skeptics are having such a hard time with this. There must always be branches and dead-ends in any evolutionary family tree. So what if Lucy turns out to be a dead-end? This only means our true ancestor is out there somewhere. Maybe Millenium Man is that ancestor, I really don't know. But holding on 100% to Lucy despite contradictory evidence is something I would not have expected from skeptics.

The Central Scrutinizer
30th November 2006, 03:20 PM
But holding on 100% to Lucy despite contradictory evidence is something I would not have expected from skeptics.

Who is doing that? Nobody that I've seen so far.

blutoski
30th November 2006, 08:18 PM
You must have a real fun time -- with all your mom buttons on high alert -- when visiting the bonobo cage at the zoo. Do chimps do it for you too?

They do for me! eg: Frodo circa 1977.

Metullus
30th November 2006, 08:33 PM
Yep...There's a great mock up of what she looked like on the front of National Geographic (and I'd send a link) if the evil internet demons weren't making my cable behave so annoyingly. The photos in side are sooo fantastic; there's this one where you can see her lying on her side with her little hand up by her face (as they found her) and it just pushed all the "mom buttons" in me--even though you can't help but notice the lower face protrudes in a somewhat chimp like fashion.

It was a true marvel to find such a well preserved ancient specimen.

The big controversy over Lucy is whether she was an ancestor of hominids (with today's pygmy's being her closest descendants) or if she was a separate species like Neanderthals are. The common ancestor of all humans and all Neanderthal came prior to the splitting--although some humans appear to have some Neanderthals in their direct ancestry (estimates that 5% of those from Northern Europe do (where the Neanderthals lived.) If Lucy is an upright species (and both she and the new discovery were bipedal), it would be really fascinating if she was a separate species...because then, like the Neanderthal, there were several upright species only one of which survives today. There is a lot to be said for it being a separate species, but one scientist says that it's just a malformed microcephalic proto-human. But with the discovery of the new baby austrolepithecus, it seems there were a whole bunch of this "hobbit" sized people. Whether they our direct ancestors mated with them or helped kill them off is a question that we don't know yet. I don't think we'll have much success at getting DNA from such and old fossil. Much of what we now know about Neanderthal came from molecular DNA studies (first of mitochondrial DNA...and now we have about 1% of their nuclear DNA mapped.)Lucy lived long before erectus, neanderthal, or sapiens. I am not aware of any controversy in this regard. I think that you are confusing Lucy (Australopithicus afarensis) with the recently discovered "hobbits" (Homo floresiensis)...

CurtC
30th November 2006, 08:42 PM
I honestly don't understand why skeptics are having such a hard time with this. There must always be branches and dead-ends in any evolutionary family tree. So what if Lucy turns out to be a dead-end?Even if Lucy is part of an evolutionary dead-end, it's not a fraud, and it still provides good information about our transition from the other apes. It's like saying that my great-great-great-great-great grandfather had a brother who never had any children, but he still can be important in helping me plot the family tree, especially if I know more about him that his brother that is my actual ancestor.

Silly Green Monkey
1st December 2006, 01:05 PM
What puzzles me about the articles bjb posted was that this discovery was made over five years ago, and yet my professor made no mention of him, he's not in the textbook, and Lucy is still in the line of humanity.

LostAngeles
1st December 2006, 01:26 PM
Lucy was, according to my notes and text here, an A. Afarensis, which according to my notes, the number of specimens of such (not necessarily whole specimens) are approximately 1000. Lucy just happens to be the most complete and even though she may not look like a lot, the hallmarks of bipedalism are there.

Her species is one of the, "gracile," Australopithicines, which I understand to generally be considered the group our ancestors came from as opposed to the robust group. That doesn't mean she's part of the human line, but as has been said she's still an important find, due to her age and her bipedalism. I believe that A. garhi is considered to be part of the line (based on one partial fossil. I'm not kidding. It's cranial remains and some teeth). Garhi may or may not be absorbed into one of the currently existing species.

The last bit I heard about Lucy and any (valid) controversy was if she was still a brachiator. Supposedly the idea is that while afarensis was bipedal, they may have still spent a lot of time in trees.

bjb
1st December 2006, 01:30 PM
What puzzles me about the articles bjb posted was that this discovery was made over five years ago, and yet my professor made no mention of him, he's not in the textbook, and Lucy is still in the line of humanity.

I googled for "hominid family tree", hoping to find Lucy's place in human evolution. I found one that showed her as our ancestor:

http://cogweb.ucla.edu/Images/HominidTree.jpg

and another one that does not:

http://www.mnh.si.edu/anthro/humanorigins/ha/a_tree.html

On the PBS site, there's a tree that shows Lucy as an ancestor:

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/evolution/library/07/3/l_073_06.html

and another that shows her as a dead-end:

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/evolution/humans/humankind/

You have to click 'skip intro', then click on 'hominid family tree' at the bottom of the Flash window. Lucy is D in the chart.

It's always tempting to behave like you have all the answers, but the best a professor can do right now is show several of these trees and let their students know there isn't a clear consensus. Maybe in another 30 years there will be fewer question marks on the charts. Although the details vary, the bottom line is that there is a great deal of fossil evidence that links us to the common ancestors of other primates. Creationists would like to believe that making Lucy go away would disprove evolution but a dozen or so other hominids, both earlier and later than Lucy, are the evidence of human evolution.

LostAngeles
1st December 2006, 01:33 PM
What puzzles me about the articles bjb posted was that this discovery was made over five years ago, and yet my professor made no mention of him, he's not in the textbook, and Lucy is still in the line of humanity.

Seems I've got it in passing, but marked as a dead end. Nicholas Toth and Kathy Schick of Indiana University who wrote this particular chapter considered our line to come not through Lucy or through K. Platyops, but A. Garhi. (Which, once again, one specimen.)

This text (The Human Past, Edited by Chris Scarre), is nice because each chapter is written by a person or persons who have experience and knowledge in that field, rather than just one book covering everything and written by one person.

The downside is that this really is an archaeology/world pre-history text. It covers the evolution part rather well, I think, but as I'm without my actual biological anthro text (and research time), I have to rely on this and what I remember from my biological anthro class. :(

WildCat
1st December 2006, 03:54 PM
The big controversy over Lucy is whether she was an ancestor of hominids (with today's pygmy's being her closest descendants).
Huh?

articulett
1st December 2006, 07:26 PM
Huh?

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/10/061009031321.htm

Metullus
1st December 2006, 07:57 PM
Huh?

articulett is evidently confusing Lucy (Australopithicus afarensis) with the "hobbits" of Flores (Homo floresiensis)...

articulett
1st December 2006, 09:05 PM
Lucy lived long before erectus, neanderthal, or sapiens. I am not aware of any controversy in this regard. I think that you are confusing Lucy (Australopithicus afarensis) with the recently discovered "hobbits" (Homo floresiensis)...

You're right. And I found the source of my confusion.

http://www.abc.net.au/science/news/stories/s1480331.htm

"Hobbits may have walked the Earth with modern humans but their body shape and size are more like a 3 million-year-old from Africa known as Lucy, say scientists."

(damn, I always get my little people mixed up.)

And I think the debate has tended towards the notion H Floresiensis are not a separate species--but ancestors of modern humans--most recently the pygmys.

Lucy is not a separate species either. And there is a lot of information about the new dikika baby who is also an autrolepithecus afarensis on the web. Creationists have claims about disproving Lucy and they are trying to make the new find seem bogus.

VonNeumann
3rd December 2006, 11:51 AM
Well, he is actually reported as saying that all science is tentative, and paleoanthropology is more tentative than most.

1) Given the propensity for quote-mining in anti-evolution literature, I'd like to see a full transcript.

2) What he said is true. Paleoanthropology is based on a proportionally smaller number of data that Paleontology as a whole. The same is also true of anyone specialising in a particular group or family's transitional forms.

The article is not intended to be an even evaluation of the lecture or lecturer. The transitional nature of the fossil is dismissed ("Lucy's femur and pelvis, he claims, were more robust than most chimps, indicating she 'could have walked upright.' Come now, I 'could have been' president of IBM."), despite - or perhaps because - it being just what creationists have been asking for. The Leaky's finds are consistently referred to as 'chimps' (clearly they are not), an a priori rejection of evidence. Strawman arguments abound ("And chickens walk upright, but this does not seem to help them sire humans.", "[T]he Budweiser Clydesdale horses have considerably more robust skeletons than do Arabians. But, no one argues that this improves the odds of Clydesdales giving birth to elephants!"), as do logical errors of every hue. The (oft-still) repeated quote from Colin Patterson is trotted out (perhaps excuseable in a 1987 publication), though Patterson made it abundantly clear in his 1999 book Evolution (2nd Ed.) that he did not support YEC or a separate ancestry for humans and apes, and that molecular homology could, when properly evaluated, support inferences about common ancestry. He also criticised creationists willingness to quote out of context in lieu of any evidence.
On the word "tentative" when applied to "science":

An axiom of science: that there is no intent, no purpose, no intentional design, no teleology, to the physical laws of the universe.

What follows: This applies to the emergence of chemical elements, to life's building blocks, that there is no intent, no purpose, no design, all exists by some mechanism of random chance/mutation and selection by a natural landscape of survival pressures, including human consciousness.

Disclaimer: some would say the non-teleology only applies after the emergence of life and not to the emergence of the physical laws, but I think the point remains the same.

My question: isn't this axiom a "given"; isn't it a tentative assumption?

ponderingturtle
3rd December 2006, 12:12 PM
articulett is evidently confusing Lucy (Australopithicus afarensis) with the "hobbits" of Flores (Homo floresiensis)...

Has there been a concensus reached on if those, if they are seperate homonids or a microcephalic modern humans

fuelair
3rd December 2006, 03:19 PM
Just a tag on a mention of Leakey earlier - Leakey has clearly been royally pissed about Lucy since the discovery which took attention from his parents and himself. That does not make him wrong, but it is wise to take lots of salt when listening to/reading him on that topic. I am not an anthropologist myself, but I can recognize professional jealousy and its' effects in most fields.

DeviousB
3rd December 2006, 04:03 PM
An axiom of science: that there is no intent, no purpose, no intentional design, no teleology, to the physical laws of the universe.

I think what you are referring to is 'Methodological Naturalism'. And yes, in broad, you are right. While there is no onus on a scientist to not believe in a supernatural or metaphysical explanation outside of the reach of science, I feel it is safe to say that it is expected that a scientist conducts his or her scientific inquiries as though there was not.

Basically, whatever you are conducting a scientific investigation of, you are expected to proceed as though the subject is wholly explainable by science. If you come up against something that is not explainable by current science, you treat it as an unknown natural phenomenon. See Steven Schafersman (http://www.freeinquiry.com/naturalism.html)'s article for a better explanation.

My question: isn't this axiom a "given"; isn't it a tentative assumption?It's an axiom, a "proposition not susceptible of proof or disproof; assumed to be self-evident"; but I don't think any 'true scientist' (even the Scottish ones) tentatively assume it. Science investigates nature on the basis that nature is all there is. Everything that happens is assumed to have a natural cause, even if it's an unknown one. Without this stricture science becomes self-defeating.

blutoski
3rd December 2006, 04:45 PM
Just a tag on a mention of Leakey earlier - Leakey has clearly been royally pissed about Lucy since the discovery which took attention from his parents and himself. That does not make him wrong, but it is wise to take lots of salt when listening to/reading him on that topic. I am not an anthropologist myself, but I can recognize professional jealousy and its' effects in most fields.

The rivalry between Johansson and the Leakey/White camp is bizzarre and personal.

I actually think it started with the Laetoli footprints: after Mary Leakey spent so long uncovering them and writing them up as H. Habilis, Johansson proved beyond doubt that they were made by his hominoid instead. Ouch.

fuelair
3rd December 2006, 05:45 PM
Isn't purely objective science wonderful!!^^^

articulett
3rd December 2006, 06:34 PM
Has there been a concensus reached on if those, if they are seperate homonids or a microcephalic modern humans

From what I gather the consensus seems to be--pygmy ancestors--not microcephalics and not another species...the the info. could evolve. And as noted from others--there is some underlying soap opera that puts some of the claims into question.

thaiboxerken
3rd December 2006, 06:39 PM
Pertaining to evolution, fossils and evidence...if a creationist said it, it's probably a lie.

blutoski
3rd December 2006, 08:33 PM
Isn't purely objective science wonderful!!^^^

Inasmuch as when confronted with a better explanation, the Leakeys changed their minds despite personal embarassment: yes.

Keerax
3rd December 2006, 09:17 PM
Not related to the topic at all but I just wanted to share how tickled I am that I got mentioned in the latest Randi Commentary! :D

December 1st, 2006

"IN CLOSING…
Carl Sagan’s superb book, “The Demon-Haunted World,” is available in a Japanese edition, I believe. I have a reader who wants very much to obtain a copy. Any offers or information, please?"

That's meeee! XD
I'll be keeping a copy of this for any time in the future when I may need a pick-me-up.

JoeTheJuggler
3rd December 2006, 09:17 PM
On Homo floresiensis: (not Lucy)
From what I gather the consensus seems to be--pygmy ancestors--not microcephalics and not another species...the the info. could evolve. And as noted from others--there is some underlying soap opera that puts some of the claims into question.

I know they always mention the other pygmy animals that evolved on that island (a precedent for smaller versions of once large animals being selected for).

Plus--FWIW--there's also an oral tradition there about the little folk that used to live there.

Is there still only the one skeleton?

JoeTheJuggler
3rd December 2006, 09:37 PM
But holding on 100% to Lucy despite contradictory evidence is something I would not have expected from skeptics.

Whether or not a. afarensis is a direct ancestor to humans, I would still hold on to Lucy 100%. It is still an ancient hominid fossil of importance to paleoanthropology. I don't think any skeptic has a problem accepting that a. afarensis may not be a direct human ancestor.

I suspect that what you've run into is that intro courses and text books often oversimplify things (to the point of error--remember all the "ladder of life" diagrams? as if evolution is a straight-line, goal-directed process somehow).

Back to the OP: Lucy will never be "debunked" because it is in fact an ancient hominid fossil. Piltdown Man was debunked because it was a hoax--and science self corrects.

It's a loaded term used in this situation, and smacks of the argument from ignorance that creationists make: "if you can't explain x, then evolution isn't true"--and an even bigger leap to: "and therefore i.d. or creation is true".

ponderingturtle
4th December 2006, 06:47 AM
From what I gather the consensus seems to be--pygmy ancestors--not microcephalics and not another species...the the info. could evolve. And as noted from others--there is some underlying soap opera that puts some of the claims into question.

Pygmy sure, but they had a number of traits that put them into the microcephalic camp I thought, because of the so called primitive features seen on the fossil skulls.

kleinjahr
4th December 2006, 10:35 AM
"little folk "
I think all cultures have some version of the little folk. A folk memory of an actual people? Maybe. There is no direct evidence of such, aside from Pygmies and now the "Hobbits". More likely the stories are a way of explaining midgets/dwarfism.

sphenisc
4th December 2006, 10:55 AM
Huh?

I think this a misinterpretation of the phrase "pygmy ancestors" to mean ancestors of pygmies.

ETA: I'm talking rubbish - carry on.

articulett
4th December 2006, 05:36 PM
I think this a misinterpretation of the phrase "pygmy ancestors" to mean ancestors of pygmies.

ETA: I'm talking rubbish - carry on.

That's actually correct. Pygmy ancestors implies that the ancestors were Pygmys while their decendents were not.

There is more here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Homo_floresiensis

They lived in the same time period as Neanderthals, so maybe one day we'll get DNA--or at least a few more skulls.

I can't imagine getting DNA from the millions year old skeletons from the Lucy era...humans have generally classified all ancient hominids as our ancestors, but DNA studies showed that, though there may have been interbreeding going on after the split--the common ancestor of all humans and all Neanderthal came before the species began diverging. http://johnhawks.net/weblog/reviews/genomics/neandertal/neandertal_genomics_faq_2006.html

I think it's positively amazing what we have discovered so far and really cool that we can do molecular DNA analysis on some Neanderthal DNA.

Keerax
4th December 2006, 09:06 PM
Back to the OP: Lucy will never be "debunked" because it is in fact an ancient hominid fossil. Piltdown Man was debunked because it was a hoax--and science self corrects.

I want to apologize for my use of debunk. I didn't actually mean to use it but since I was more in a rush to find information to present to my friends one way or the other on the subject, I rushed the post.

So for the record, all I really meant was, "Has new information about Lucy arose to change the scientific consensus on how she's currently considered in relation to humans." But "debunked" is so much faster to write. :)

MRC_Hans
7th December 2006, 03:09 AM
Depends. I don't think anyone is arguing that the bog people who where sacrificed where a random sample. When you get a society into it, some individuals might be much more likely to be preserved than others.Agreed. Fossils (presumably) selected by a religious ceremony will not be random samples, and indeed the bog fossils show many anomalies.

Hans

Cuddles
7th December 2006, 03:32 AM
Are modern pygmies a seperate species? I don't think they are, although I could be wrong. It seems a little premature to claim that a new species of pygmy hominid has been found on the basis of one skeleton, when we know that similar traits have evolved in modern humans without any new species being formed.