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'Ardi' and Human Evolution
Composite photograph of the skeleton showing approximate placement of elements. (From Science Magazine: click to see full-size image at www.sciencemag.org).

From Science magazine. Click to see full-size image at www.sciencemag.org.

It’s been at least 4.4 million years since “Ardi” was in the limelight.

And the limelight then was nothing like now.

Magazines, television, and websites all over the world  have been flashing the image this week of a homely, hairy human ancestor:

Ardipithecus ramidus, her skeleton painstakingly recreated from tiny fragments scooped up in Ethiopia.

For years, we’ve all known “Lucy” as the oldest link. Now, there stands “Ardi,” asking us to reconsider what we know about the path of human origins.

This hour, On Point: a key interpreter of the discovery on what we’ve learned from Ardi.

You can join the conversation. Tell us what you think — here on this page, on Twitter, and on Facebook.

Guests:

Joining us from Charlottesville, Va., is Owen Lovejoy, professor of biological anthropology at Kent State University. He was a lead analyst on the team that discovered and examined “Ardi,” and he was a lead author on some of the articles in Science presenting the findings.

From Washington, D.C., we’re joined by Bernard Wood, professor of human origins and human evolutionary anatomy at George Washington University. He is a senior scientist at the National Museum of Natural History and the Smithsonian Institution.

More:

You can find out more about the archaelogical site, called the “Middle Awash,” in Ethiopia, where Ardi was found.

Here’s an illustration in the journal Science showing how the researchers who discovered Ardi think she fits into the path of human evolution. The “CLCA” in the graphic indicates the “Last Common Ancestor” shared by humans and chimps:

ardi

Credit: Courtesy of Science magazine (www.sciencemag.org). Copyright J. H. Matternes.

Here’s another illustration courtesy of Science showing Ardi’s unique feet, compared with that of humans and chimpanzees/bonobos (the genus called Pan):

Ardifoot

Credits: Courtesy of magazine (www.sciencemag.org). Copyright J. H. Matternes; chimpanzee climbing, J. DeSilva; bonobo and human feet, S. Ingham.

And below is an artist’s reconstructions for Science showing how Ardi’s skeleton, muscles, and body looked, and how she would have moved on top of branches:

Credits: Courtesy of Science, ILLUSTRATIONS © 2009, J. H. MATTERNES

Credits: Courtesy of magazine (www.sciencemag.org). Illustrations © 2009, J. H. Matternes.

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  • Gerald Fnord

    Please note: scientists’ changing their minds about a specific fact does not mean that the scientific method doesn’t work: this is precisely how it works.

    Similarly, this does not ‘disprove Evolution’ because our new facts are still consistent with it—Darwinian evolution is an algorithm and the predictions based upon our understanding of it, not a story-board that depends on its particular panels’ contents and ordering.

    I am pre-emptively writing this because all too often I have read comments from faith-minded individuals who think that a theory is just a collection of facts (with which collection they are annoyed, because some of them contradict their own such collection).

  • Chris glover

    This is a whole new historical breakthrough that is really starting to make us think. But can we actually make the connection to Ardi is the question.

  • Naomi Bindman

    Tom, thank you for using the term “humankind” in your intro.

    I just visited the Human Evolution exhibit at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City. At the entrance is a recreation of two of “Lucy’s” species (australopithecus afarensis, I believe), a male and a female walking upright. The male has his arm around the shoulder of the female in a gesture of protection/ownership characteristic to our culture, as if the two were strolling through Central Park. This seems extremely anachronistic and ethnocentric. I find it highly unlikely that these early humans would have had the same cultural gestures as we do 3.2 million years later. In fact, would they have had a “culture” at all? And how do scientists who do these reconstructions avoid imagining those species as early versions of our species and our culture?

  • BR

    random: I think your guest sounds eerily like the late Sydney Pollack

  • Michael

    score one for evolution, take that Creationism

  • Todd

    Still just a theory.

  • JP

    Todd,
    you show yourself to be another ignorant person who doesn’t even know the meaning of one science’s most basic terms: “Theory.”

    Perhaps you should begin your education in science starting with that simple concept.

  • Neal Rubenstein

    Hi Tom,

    When Owen Lovejoy describes the comparative
    morphology of the canines he makes it sound as if
    Ardi is later then Lucy. i. e., the canines are
    disappearing in Ardi and this is explained in
    terms of cultural changes, while in Lucy, a
    million years later, the canines are larger again.

    Doesn’t this make it sound as if, in the evolution
    of the canines, Ardi is later than Lucy?

    I called with this question during the program,
    and was told after a wait that you had moved past
    my question. What did that mean?

    Cheers,
    Neal

  • Neal Rubenstein

    Right on, Naomi.

  • Neal Rubenstein

    Naomi
    Right on.

  • Gerald Fnord

    JP, reasonable point, but please be nice to Todd and people like him.

    For one thing, one convinces people generally not with the strength of one’s argument, but by appearing to be someone they’d like to be more like.

    For another, it’s not his fault. Speaking as a former science teacher, I’d have to say that we generally tech more _about_ science than teach science, that is how the scientific method works. Instead, we tend to teach a set of rote facts and (sometimes) experiments to students, without enough of the underlying structure necessary to distinguish that set of facts arrived at through one method (the scientific) with those arrived-at via another (the collection and partial rationalisation of tribal legends and transcendent subjective experiences, usually with the supposed assistance of some guiding, extra-human, authority).

    It were better that we taught less fact and much more method; for one thing, we could demonstrate how the scientific method is a refinement of primate ‘best practices’ for finding out useful information and making relatively accurate predictions about the real world.

  • JP

    I didn’t think I was being mean or nasty.

    Todd’s statement is indeed based on ignorance, and there are many just as ignorant, thus making him “another.”

    My choice of wording was based on concision, and apologizing for being accurate is the kind of nonsense that allows people like Todd to decide which textbooks are used to “educate” the youth in our country.

    If our society is ever to choose reason over the primeval fear of chaos and the unknown or uncontrollable (in other words, religion), ignorance should regularly be identified as what it is: ignorance.

  • Michael

    great point JP,
    I heard comments such as todd from people expecting to give the same balance of Creationism to Evolution, telling schools that they have to teach creationism. even in some places substituting evolution for it. (texas)

    even outright calling evolution false for a creationism that states such theorys as earths 6k years old, women came from mans ribs, requireds only faith in place of any type of scientific proof.

    This thinking is a slap in the face to science and logical thinking in gerenal.

    The guest on the show stated the science involved in coming to his conclusion, history, evidence,theories.

    If the guest on this show said he had faith that Ardi’ is who he says she is and nothing else to prove such would people could people and should people believe him only on his faith?

    great job JP, and i understand Gerald thinking but in this case logic wouldn’t win over blind faith therefore such blindness should be pointed out.

  • Gerald Fnord

    Short version:
    Telling people ‘You’re ignorant,’ is not a good way of getting them to stop. It’s better to show them how ignorance hurts them, and how not being ignorant makes your life better.

    tl;dr:
    All right, but
    1.) One can be kind and sympathetic at the same time as one is forceful, just as a good defender can break an attacker’s arm whilst holding no ill will toward him—and be a better defender therefor, and
    2.) The way it was, phrased, it seemed more like a way of saying, ‘You are a low-status primate who should be ignored,’ than an actual attempt to convince someone else that he were ignorant and to convince him to ameliorate the condition.

    By my own lights, Todd is in fact a low-status primate because he believes in nonsense, but I would like to hold that against him as little as I would hold against him his being (say) poor. I strongly doubt that he knowingly asked to be ignorant or poor, as determinedly as he might now be pursuing courses that might keep him so, and to the extent that he did so, simple rachmones requires that I forbear criticism when all it would serve would be to pump my own ego.

    In either case I would rather try, insofar as it were possible, to get his state improved, to that of a atheist rationalist materialist in one case, preferably a Marxist-Stirnirist, to that of ‘idle rich’ in the other.

  • Belinda Robinson

    This information might shed some light on Naomi’s comment about the “couple” on display at the Am. Mus. of Nat. History. That display is from an artist’s rendering of a combination of both a. afarensis, a chimp-like hominid, and the Laetoli footprints. The footprints, which are modern human in form, contain one large and one smaller set, side by side. The prints are so close together that a male and female couple could be envisioned walking closely. Although these footprints date to the same age as a. afarensis (“Lucy”), they were found over 1000 miles away. The form of Lucy’s foot is still under debate. Evolutionary tunnel vision led many paleontologists to assume that all remains dating from the same age belonged to the same creature. Hence the assigning of the Laetoli footprints to “Lucy”. Any who suggested that both afarensis and humans could coexist during that time period was belittled by the evolutionary community. “Everybody” knew that 3 million years ago we had a common ancestor, and it might have looked like afarensis. (Read with attitude: Come on, Creationists, don’t be so stupid!) Well as more specimens have been uncovered, and they have been sorted more accurately, they seem to fall into two fairly distinct groups: humans and primates. Now our common ancestor date has been pushed back to 5-10 mya. It would be nice to see erroneous displays, such as that one, removed. And perhaps a bit more humility and open-mindedness would further the cause of science, instead of stiffling it.

  • Todd

    “Todd,
    you show yourself to be another ignorant person who doesn’t even know the meaning of one science’s most basic terms: “Theory.”

    Perhaps you should begin your education in science starting with that simple concept.”
    Posted by JP

    JP,
    Here’s an offer: if you’ll agree to fund my science education, then I’ll agree to fund your English education. I’m quite confident that you’re expenditure will be considerably less than mine.

  • Jennifer

    There are well educated, intelligent, thinking public radio enthusiasts who believe in creationism. I’m one of them. This post is not meant to add to or create any arguments. Just taking the opportunity to state my beliefs, as others have been doing. If you have doubts about the validity of the theory of evolution, good for you! Seek out the truth for yourself. Use the brain that GOD gave you.

  • Todd

    “JP, reasonable point, but please be nice to Todd and people like him.”
    Posted by Gerald Fnord

    I appreciate the your consideration Gerald, but I have no need of the “ignorance” defense. I’ve studied this subject in depth. No rational thinking person with a modicum of common sense, who has objectively scrutinized the science, could endorse the evolutionary myth—it’s junk science. It doesn’t necessarily take a Christian fundamentalist religious fanatic to reject it. I used to accept evolution as fact too, until I considered ALL of the scientific evidence—or rather the lack thereof.

  • Todd

    “There are well educated, intelligent, thinking public radio enthusiasts who believe in creationism. I’m one of them. This post is not meant to add to or create any arguments. Just taking the opportunity to state my beliefs, as others have been doing. If you have doubts about the validity of the theory of evolution, good for you! Seek out the truth for yourself. Use the brain that GOD gave you.”
    Posted by Jennifer

    Thank you—well said! :)

  • LRJ

    I just thought I’d make this point.

    Ultimately, though unlikely, it could be proved that we and apes do not share a common* ancestry. I put an asterisk to say, they most likely do, but it might be as much as lizards. However this possibility does not disprove evolution.

    You could look at a horse skeleton anatomy and conclude that it’s not far-fetch that we at some point had a shared lineage. The scope of this investigation is focused on apes because they have the most similarities. However, it should be pointed out that apes aren’t the only ones who share similarities with us.

    (For the record, I’m speaking to a specific group. Thus excuse my laymen demeanor.)

  • LRJ

    Jennifer, I don’t doubt the existence of people who are well educated yet believe fallacies. However I attest you’re not making a case that you are one of them.

  • Todd

    “However, it should be pointed out that apes aren’t the only ones who share similarities with us.”
    Posted by LRJ

    Yes, I agree; with snakes, rats, pigs, sloths, and lemmings being several of the other ones that come to mind.

  • Dave

    On the way home from work today I listened (as I occasionally do) to Rush Limbaugh. I don’t know… I guess I hope someday he’ll say something useful or constructive. Once home I tuned in to On Point. What a difference. The show on Ardi was amazing. Useful. Interesting. Objective. Callers treated with respect regardless of their point of view. Who’d have thought? Good show, Tom Ashbrook.

    While I’m here I might as well weigh in on the commenters’ remarks. Jennifer and Todd, with the deepest possible respect for your faith, I’ll take Ardi over Adam any day. It just makes more sense to me, despite the fact that human evolution is a fluid, evolving (pun intended), theory, it is nevertheless based on facts. Faith just doesn’t get much traction with me.

  • bill

    I listened to the last 40 minutes of On poin ttoday and found it very interesting. Having at least a passing interest in this subject I found that the guest whom kept pounding on all the “research” that lead to his theoretical conclusions a bit baffled when the other guest pointed out the illogical “assumptionology” used to make his theories that “ardi” is a direct human ancestor. I’m not religious , but I do find it hard to see the monkey in the man if you will in such anthropology. When you read in detail about that famous Leaky’s and their claims there is alot lacking in actual provable evidence other than their name and claim(s). This is a trend across most of human anthropology I find alarming… almost a religion in itself that discredits anomolies that counter their ‘theoretical belief system’.This very sad trend is found in egyptology to this day regarding anomolies and provable astrology/archeology that goes against that intelligentsia click.

  • Todd

    “Jennifer, I don’t doubt the existence of people who are well educated yet believe fallacies. However I attest you’re not making a case that you are one of them.”
    Posted by LRJ

    LRJ,
    As for your case, I’d suggest negotiating a plea bargain.

  • Todd

    “Jennifer and Todd, with the deepest possible respect for your faith, I’ll take Ardi over Adam any day. It just makes more sense to me, despite the fact that human evolution is a fluid, evolving (pun intended), theory, it is nevertheless based on facts. Faith just doesn’t get much traction with me.”
    Posted by Dave

    Dave,
    Three things. First, thank you for the respect–consider it mutual. Second, cite one fact upon which evolution is based. Third, many people have a problem with faith; and more still have a greater problem without it.

  • LRJ

    Todd,

    I’m not going to get into it with you. It should be obvious to even you that your tactics will only gain favor with the ignorant. You’re either trying to invoke disgusting imagery with your loaded choice of comparison. Or making a straw man argument. Or, hopefully you’re that ignorant, you believe I would side with you.

  • Todd

    “It should be obvious to even you that your tactics will only gain favor with the ignorant.”
    Posted by LRJ

    Your unfavorable response tends to disprove that assumption.

  • Bonnie

    The program was thoughtful and the discovery is exciting, even if we do not know the exact significance of Ardi, or her place in our origins. She is another important piece in the puzzle we are trying to piece together of how we modern humans came to be what we are. It is hard to put together a puzzle when you have the picture on the box!

    It is surprising to read the creationism argument coming into the comments on this program. It seems inappropriate to the topic, which is a science topic, and it has taken up too much space in this comment section. To add to it: We don’t know everything yet, but we have figured out the earth isn’t the center of the universe or even our solar system. Ask Galileo about that! The knowledge we gain from the efforts of fine scientists like those interviewed today and their colleagues who called in, will deepen and broaden our knowledge of our world. One only hopes that the rather limited minds of those who preach creationism can open a bit more to accept the facts as they unfold.

  • Todd

    “It is hard to put together a puzzle when you have the picture on the box!”
    Posted by Bonnie

    So, it would be easier to put the puzzle together if there were no picture on the box? If this statement is an example of your ability to reason, then I can understand the ease of your belief in evolution.

  • Chris

    Lots of posts in here about how stupid you have to be to believe in creationism and use Lucy as proof for this. Funny thing is the evidence for evolution Lucy gave was a toe bone that “proved” Lucy walked on two legs. Interestingly enough, the bones for Lucy were scattered over a 10 mile area. How do we actually know we are putting the right pieces together? We don’t.
    As for Ardi the proof given is the toe and hip bones as far as walking and muscle growth. However, I haven’t seen anything on how the remains were except that the bones were mostly crushed. So, there really isn’t much information released on this yet to really think critically about it. So as far as Ardi goes, I can’t say much yet, waiting for more facts.
    Oh and Micheael, you think creationism is dumb because they think that women came from a man’s rib. Yet you think we came from an explosion that came from nothing. Nice logic there.

  • sandy

    The saddest part of this discourse , is that so much time and thought is spent on finding fault with someone who expressed an opinion . If there is , in fact , evolution it would do well to get us beyond this nitpicking each other to death , and spend the same time on exploring constructive ideas. Just a thought .

  • LRJ

    let’s assume I was ignorant, what part of my statement makes you believe i meant all ignorant people would agree with you.

    I’m not surprise you would come to that conclusion. Unfortunately, your disposition will always yield you the short stick, Todd.

  • Todd

    “It is surprising to read the creationism argument coming into the comments…It seems inappropriate to the topic, which is a science topic, and it has taken up too much space in this comment section. To add to it: We don’t know everything yet…Ask Galileo about that!…One only hopes that the rather limited minds of those who preach creationism can open a bit more to accept the facts as they unfold.”
    Posted by Bonnie

    Since science cannot definitively answer all questions, then why should it be considered inappropriate to delve into other disciplines for answers? Or hasn’t your mind evolved enough to do that? Even among those who argue the origin of life strictly within the confines of science, a consensus has/can not be reached.

    It’s rather a contradiction, how those with such a distaste for anything religious will cling so desperately to a pseudo-science theory that has become THE fashionable secular “religion” of our age, and based upon a faith in facts that do not exist. One only hopes that the rather limited minds of those who preach evolution can open a bit more to accept the fact that no facts have unfolded.

    One point upon which we can agree is that “we don’t know everything yet.” Oh, and when do you think we’ll be able ask Galileo? Perhaps upon the second coming of Darwin to save us all?

  • Todd

    Tom, thank you for using the term “humankind” in your intro.
    Posted by Naomi Bindman

    Why, would you have had a serious doubt about being human if he hadn’t?

  • Todd

    “let’s assume I was ignorant, what part of my statement makes you believe i meant all ignorant people would agree with you.

    I’m not surprise you would come to that conclusion. Unfortunately, your disposition will always yield you the short stick, Todd.”
    Posted by LRJ

    Thank you for removing all need for further assumption on my part. And I didn’t evolve from canines either, so I don’t bargain for sticks, regardless of length.

    You should really quit while you’re behind now.

  • James F

    Todd,

    By definition as a scientific theory, evolution is, like gravity, plate tectonics, relativity, germ theory, and atomic theory, based on evidence. Right now, there are nineteen million scientific publications listed on the National Library of Medicine’s PubMed database. Nineteen million. Not a single piece of data providing evidence for creationism appears in a peer-reviewed scientific research paper there, and none present data refuting evolution. How do you account for this? I’m not being facetious when I ask you: are all scientists incompetent, or engaged in a decades-long global conspiracy?

  • Michael

    Yes sandy it makes perfect since god took a rib from man to create women, i forgot it must be taught in medical school. Now it makes since we can teach our kids and children in school a magical being can take a mans ribs and create a women,(hey guess that can solve dating :) ) where do tell dinosaurs fall in line with creationism?How does creationism explain the disappearance of dinosaurs? Or how primates are related (chimps to use)?

    Did god create stars and planets for us to look at? Science working with evolution has helped with understanding disease, plagues, mutations in genes,understanding mental/physical conditions, ,health risk for babies if both parents or a parent has any genetic defects or was god having a little fun?

    Again the guest makes his claims with some type of proof, history, bones far more than anything any creationism has presented.

    Now where is your proof to support creationism? I have yet to see any such or anyone present such besides the tried argument of blind faith.

    To bad you didn’t take the same approach on evolution and finding more answers for creationism.

    Evolutions ask questions and tries to explain such and ask even more questions to try and explain how we evolved. as for Creationism takes the simplistic approach by saying a magical being created use as we currently are neglecting the age the earth, animal, species, genetics.

    Gerald had it right with his first post

    “Please note: scientists’ changing their minds about a specific fact does not mean that the scientific method doesn’t work: this is precisely how it works.

    Similarly, this does not ‘disprove Evolution’ because our new facts are still consistent with it—Darwinian evolution is an algorithm and the predictions based upon our understanding of it, not a story-board that depends on its particular panels’ contents and ordering.

    I am pre-emptively writing this because all too often I have read comments from faith-minded individuals who think that a theory is just a collection of facts (with which collection they are annoyed, because some of them contradict their own such collection).”

  • Todd

    “Oh and Micheael, you think creationism is dumb because they think that women came from a man’s rib. Yet you think we came from an explosion that came from nothing. Nice logic there.”
    Posted by Chris

    Touché Chris! Ironically, none of the evolutionists would have a problem accepting the concept of extracting and altering DNA from a man’s rib in order to clone life.

  • http://job-run.com kent

    Todd, I will be respectful although I’m not sure what there is to respect in a rhetoric that seems to be equal parts ego, church-sign cliche and ad hominem.

    There is a fundamental difference in the way that science and revealed religion approach knowledge. Religion assumes that the truth is already known and therefore new information must either conform to what is known or else be dismissed. Science on the other hand can only state one thing with absolute certainty: that our knowledge is incomplete and imperfect. Science exists to continually examine and re-examine what we know and what we can learn about the world we live in and to come up with the best explanation it can manage for what it finds. Those best explanations always come a caveat: best so far. They are always amenable to change if new information comes to light that refines or even contradicts them. Some of these explanations, say that old standby the theory of gravity, could even be mistaken for “fact/truth” (in religious terms) yet even such a hoary old theory has is up for re-consideration when we try to pin down the mechanics of black holes or space-time. A theory such as one that says Ardi is representative of our direct ancestors is relatively tentative, but just as with gravity it is theory not in the sense of an unsupported guess, but in the sense that it is the best explanation for the facts available… so far.

  • Michael

    Sorry sandy my post were directed toward chris

  • Putney Swope

    I have a question for the creationist.
    If gravity is a theory do you not believe in it being proven to be just what the theory says it is?

    Religion is full of myths, creationism is another myth.
    It’s not science, it does not even deal in the realm of science.

    By the way saying you believe in creationism is all well and good, but it’s kind of like saying you believe in the tooth fairy.

    “There are well educated, intelligent, thinking public radio enthusiasts who believe in creationism.”

    Good, I’m glad people are well educated, intelligent and like public radio, however saying you believe in creationism is a bit of an oxymoron. How do you explain the universe and the concept of time. You see the big problem with creationism is it’s so centered on the ego of human beings. Which is kind of absurd in context to the size, scope and theories on the age of the universe. Science is only asking questions about the universe, it’s not assuming or dealing with absolutes.

    Now getting back the the theory of gravity.

  • Putney Swope

    “Oh and Micheael, you think creationism is dumb because they think that women came from a man’s rib. Yet you think we came from an explosion that came from nothing. Nice logic there.”
    Posted by Chris

    Touché Chris! Ironically, none of the evolutionists would have a problem accepting the concept of extracting and altering DNA from a man’s rib in order to clone life.

    This makes no sense whatsoever. Both statements show more about how little each person knows or even is aware of the difference between evolutionary science and astrophysics. First off the idea of the Big Bang is that it is a theory, not an absolute.

  • JP

    It’s too absurd to even argue.

    Evolution is a fact, plain and simple.
    It is based not only on the simplest logic and observation, but by innumerable facts and data across almost every scientific discipline.

    I could begin enumerating all the most obvious and commonly known facts and data, but what would be the point of trying to educate people who choose to ignore the obvious and instead buy in to fairy tales about a magic being who just exists without being created, has no scienctific data to explain any part of his story, and spends all of his time obsessing over a few chosen followers despite supposedly having created everything across trillions of light years of space?

    It is human nature to fear completely that which cannot be controlled, which is why baseball players and other sports figures employ such inane superstitious practices (their biggest fear is not being in control of their performance), and why the uneducated buy into fairy tales that allow them to pray and hope for the best in a chaotic world.

    Until a decent education is afforded to absolutely everyone, superstition will always be a part of the human condition.

  • Jean D

    I fail to see how something that requires people to believe absent of any facts can be considered a discipline worth anything in the matters of understanding. this whole system of yours is oxymoronic Todd. step out of that brainwash box of yours and think man. THINK.
    Listen Todd, if you want to believe, do that. You can do that freely, but bring some common sense if you want to talk about science. Your faith has no facts period. everything they tell you requires you to believe out of faith that’s it’s true, not on anything that can be demonstrated. Frankly, I can understand why someone could have doubts about evolution. However I think your frankly crazy for thinking your religion is real. You are simply just a scared little child who doesn’t want to accept the big scary reality that is life. You’re not special, you’re not immortal. once you die, you’re worth no more than dirt. Frankly, you’re proving to be worth no more than dirt already.

  • Jean D

    so Todd, sense science hasn’t answered everything, we should be impatient as you and substitute good sense for the imaginary bearded guy in the clouds?
    yeah sounds good to me. It’s been a long time sense i had an imaginary friend. is there room for the easter bunny too? why not the spaghetti monster? I mean all it takes is believing. Why not?

  • Todd

    “Todd, I will be respectful although I’m not sure what there is to respect in a rhetoric that seems to be equal parts ego, church-sign cliche and ad hominem.”
    Posted by kent

    You seemed to hit 2 out of 3 yourself with that one. But, otherwise, I accept the balance of your post as a cogent response.

  • Todd

    “so Todd, sense science hasn’t answered everything, we should be impatient as you and substitute good sense for the imaginary bearded guy in the clouds?
    yeah sounds good to me. It’s been a long time sense i had an imaginary friend. is there room for the easter bunny too? why not the spaghetti monster? I mean all it takes is believing. Why not?”
    Posted by Jean D

    Yeah, sure, imagine away—all it takes is believing for it to be so. No reason to limit the scope of your imagining to evolution only? Maybe even imagine that your grammar will improve too.

  • Todd

    “I fail to see…”
    Posted by Jean D

    It wasn’t easy, but I managed to find something in your post with which I can agree.

    You seem to know even less about science or logic than you do about religion; and you don’t know me at all–so don’t pretend that you do.

  • Todd

    “It’s too absurd to even argue. Evolution is a fact, plain and simple.”
    Posted by JP

    Then name one plain and simple fact about evolution; other than the fact that it’s a fallacy.

  • Todd

    “I have a question for the creationist.
    If gravity is a theory do you not believe in it being proven to be just what the theory says it is?”
    Posted by Putney Swope

    In effect, gravity is a law of physics, not merely a theory. Yes, to the extent that we UNDERSTAND it (thus far), gravity can be said to be a theory; however, to the extent that we can OBSERVE its effect with reasonable predictability, gravity is a law. So, to answer your question, yes I believe in the observable effects of the law of gravity; however, along with the majority of the world’s physicists, I do not yet fully understand the nature of just how gravity causes its effects.

    And a question for you, the apparent evolutionist: Notwithstanding the Big Bang or whatever other scientific theory you want to posit, explain to me the origin of all the matter in the Universe. How do you account for its existence? Do you believe that it’s all simply a result of spontaneous generation; that from absolute nothingness it caused itself to suddenly come into being?

  • Todd

    “Religion is full of myths, creationism is another myth.
    It’s not science, it does not even deal in the realm of science.”
    Posted by Putney Swope

    Has it ever occurred to you that not all things in life are a science; that there are truths in this universe that science isn’t equipped to measure or define? If not, then you have indeed found chosen your religion, whether you call it one or not.

  • Todd

    “Todd,
    By definition as a scientific theory, evolution is, like gravity, plate tectonics, relativity, germ theory, and atomic theory, based on evidence. Right now, there are nineteen million scientific publications listed on the National Library of Medicine’s PubMed database. Nineteen million. Not a single piece of data providing evidence for creationism appears in a peer-reviewed scientific research paper there, and none present data refuting evolution. How do you account for this? I’m not being facetious when I ask you: are all scientists incompetent, or engaged in a decades-long global conspiracy?”
    Posted by James F

    I appreciate the sincerity of you comment/question and will respond in kind.

    Theory is not fact; theory merely attempts to explain fact(s) under a given set of conditions. Though there is some dispute regarding the particulars, the general scientific method is: observation, hypothesis, prediction, and experimentation. It employs valid DEDUCTIVE reasoning to reach a conclusion. Depending on the final analysis, this may result in an accepted theory—or even a law, if it achieves the status of being irrefutable. Gravity is a law of physics, not merely a theory; albeit, it is a law that may be bend, so to speak, at the atomic/subatomic level. Still, accurately assessing the effect of a law such as gravity is subject to the limitations of human perception. For example, if one were disoriented and standing on one’s head, one could be led to wrongly posit that gravity causes an object to fall up, instead of down. Which, in turn, begs the question: what is meant by up and down, and does gravity alone determine how we interpret those terms? Though not completely understood, at least the effects of gravity can be observed and repeated with relative consistency. To the extent that we UNDERSTAND it, gravity can be said to be a theory; however, to the extent that we can OBSERVE its effects with predictability, gravity is a law. Same with plate tectonics, relativity, germ theory, atomic theory, and even music theory. In all of these phenomena, we start with an observable/repeatable effect, put forth and test a hypothesis, and form a logical theory as to how each phenomena operates within known scientific principles/laws. Then repeatedly test the theory for consistently predictable results under various given conditions. Evolution, on the other hand, approaches the scientific process backwards. It attempts to employ weak INDUCTIVE reasoning of fact for the explanation a of untested hypothesis/theory.

    As for the “nineteen million scientific publications” not refuting evolution. I say, so what? Neither do those publications PROVE evolution. I could cite the scholarly existence of nineteen million peer-reviewed theological publications which do not provide a single piece of data for evidence of evolution, or present data refuting creationism; but that would not constitute positive proof of creationism. The lack of a refutation does not equal a proof. No, I don’t think all scientists are incompetent—far from it. However, I do think that it is quite likely for a flawed theory, one generally assumed to be correct, to cause subsequent conclusions based upon that theory to be equally flawed. In other words, garbage in, garbage out.

    The “fact” is, it is impossible to prove or disprove anything 100% of the time under every conceivable condition. But, life goes on. Take care mon ami!

  • Putney Swope

    Todd thanks for the good answers. I have to say that you seem like a very bright guy. So if evolution as a theory is wrong or false how do explain the age of the earth and the origin of life in relation to that?

    I mean come on do you really believe that there were people walking around with dinosaurs 150 million years ago?

    As for how the universe began, I don’t know but the Big Bang is an interesting theory. I don’t think it all started from nothing that there was very dense matter and some event caused it to expand. To offer up a supreme being as an alternative is just silly and not very scientific.

    Your comment on how evolution is studied is backwards, well that’s not a valid point as we can’t study dinosaurs or early mammals. All we have are the bones.

    If you don’t believe in evolution, how do you explain the horse. How do you explain the quick evolution of the wolf into the dog?

    Why did some finches on some islands in the Galapagos have very specialized beaks and yet on the main land of Chile they same species of bird had a completly different beak. If it was not an evolutionary process then it means it was something else. The question is what? God? This supreme being just put the birds there? Why the Galapagos? Why not Australia or Siberia?

    Evolution is not a perfect theory, but it seems to me that there is a huge amount of evidence and research supporting it.

  • Mark

    Most of us are adults here and there are simple facts we understand about the world. We understand why evolution is fact. We understand what a working theory based on fact is. The only thing in dispute is which species are we most related to. in simple terms, which is a brother, and which is a cousin, third cousin etc… but the process which is evolution is verifiable fact.

    I’m disappointed that so many of you bother to argue with this guy. Another fact we understand is that it’s futile to reason with an irrational person. He’s proving to be just that. So recognize this fact and leave him be. The premise on which he looks at this topic is way off base. He perceives science as a religion, because in his reality religion is the most important thing that every person must have. Thus how do you expect him to understand something that he perceives as an opposition to his reality. Science simply is just competition for him. If we don’t believe his fairy tales than that means we must be worshiping something and that Darwin is our messiah.

    Todd, be merry as luck has it that the day you die they’ll still be people who think as you do. However, your arguments are ages old. There was a time when your people thought the same about the “theory” that the earth is not the center of the universe. substitute any now universally accepted scientific fact and your people opposed it at some point. We’ve been through this before, and in time even your own brainwashed offsprings will laugh at you.

  • GalapagosPete

    Todd posted, “Theory is not fact; theory merely attempts to explain fact(s) under a given set of conditions. Though there is some dispute regarding the particulars, the general scientific method is: observation, hypothesis, prediction, and experimentation. It employs valid DEDUCTIVE reasoning to reach a conclusion. Depending on the final analysis, this may result in an accepted theory—or even a law, if it achieves the status of being irrefutable.”

    No. Very simply put:

    A fact is an observation of an event.

    -If I drop an object, it falls to the ground.

    If we see the even consistently repeated then we have a law.

    -Every object I drop falls to the ground.

    Next comes the hypothesis, the first guess at “why”.

    -There must be an attractive force that acts between masses.

    Then you work on it for years, refining your explanation, adding detail. If it holds up against other scientists, if it has more explanatory and predictive power than any other explanation, then you may have yourself a genuine scientific Theory.

    Note a couple of things. A theory may not explain everything about a phenomenon; actually it probably won’t. But it will be the BEST explanation we have.

    But more central to what I’m getting at here is that a scientific theory does not “become” a fact, or a law. On the ladder of science, a theory – the explanation – is the ultimate goal. It’s the hardest part, and the most useful, and the most satisfying.

    So, Todd, scientific theories don’t “become” anything. Obviously there’s a great deal of detail I’ve omitted, but you have the idea.

  • Todd

    “I’m disappointed that so many of you bother to argue with this guy. Another fact we understand is that it’s futile to reason with an irrational person…So recognize this fact and leave him be.”
    Posted by Mark

    So Einstein, what’s your excuse for bothering to argue with me? Didn’t you, in fact, just increase your own disappointment—how irrational of you. You failed to recognize and take your own advice. I’d say that’s rather indicative of what you really think it’s worth.

    FYI, sound theology and sound science are not in opposition to one another.

  • Todd

    “So, Todd, scientific theories don’t “become” anything. Obviously there’s a great deal of detail I’ve omitted, but you have the idea.”
    Posted by GalapagosPete

    Yes and No. In general, yes, I “have the idea”; but, on one specific point, I must differ with you. Scientific theories DO indeed “become” something; they either become accepted or rejected.

  • Todd

    “So if evolution as a theory is wrong or false how do explain the age of the earth and the origin of life in relation to that?”
    Posted by Putney Swope

    Thank you for the civil tone of your post, and for intelligently raising some excellent points.

    Well, I don’t pretend to have all the answers to the points you raise—and indeed, I have mused over these kinds of questions too. However, I think science too often cheats itself by refusing to acknowledge that life has a spiritual aspect, as well as a material one. But, at least one branch of study within science (i.e., physics) seem to point to forces that lack a material cause. The spiritual essence is what allows us to differentiate the animate from the inanimate. For example, emotions can be distilled materially down to mere physical components of chemical changes/reactions in the brain. But, what differentiates a chemical reactions in the brain from, say, chemical reactions that produces oxidation? A fire (rapid oxidation) does not manifest a corresponding emotion—but it sure can evoke one from one’s brain. Ok, an awkward comparison perhaps, but one that still hints at the question: what is it that certain “je ne sais quoi” that imparts to us the status of being ALIVE, vis-a-vis a non-living object? It’s obvious to me that it isn’t simply chemical reactions exclusively. To me, the fact that we are able to ask such questions is indicative of something more than a mere random occurrence of nature.

    And, even if one chooses to rely on science alone, there are natural laws of science that the theory of evolution cannot overcome. For instance, matter tends to move from a state of order to a state of chaos, not vice-versa as required to bring about complex life forms.

    In short, although I do not have all the right answers—or even all the right questions—I do think that any valid approach to discovering the answers must include a holistic approach, which means it isn’t limited to merely one single discipline.

    Many may roll their eyes at this—actually, I was quite put-off initially too—but, here is a web page which I think offers an fairly objective, thought-provoking examination of these questions, without ruling out either science or spirit. At least give it a chance and check it out:

    http://www.allabouthistory.org/does-god-exist-scientifically-aah-a891.htm

    Be well sir!

  • Putney Swope

    Mark I’m not arguing with Todd. I’m trying to understand why a person who seems to have more of a background in science than me thinks about evolution the way he is.

    I don’t doubt evolution as a theory. However it is interesting how some species will evolve in a generation or two and some will take a millennium. I mentioned dogs because there are some theories that wolves became domesticated in a generation when they started to interact with humans. I find this fascinating. While it took humans tens of thousands of years to go from hunter gathers to being agrarian. As far as not believing in evolution, well I can’t really debate with people who hold the bible and God up as the other argument. I don’t think Todd is really saying it’s all God’s work, I may be wrong but he(Todd) seems to be asking if there is something else. I can’t imagine anyone with any science knowledge believing that the earth is only 5 or 6 thousand years old. That just does not make any sense.

    The spiritual idea is a human construct is it not?
    We do not know if an ant or a bee has any concept of this. They do not seem to show any evidence of it so if that’s the case than there is a pretty good chance that there is none. Why is it there for us and not the ant?

  • John

    Todd, with all do respect, I hear what you’re saying about science not having all the answers. However I still don’t follow how you suppose religion is a legitimate source to find answers. I don’t mean to offend you and I hope you understand that, but it seems to me your point of view is no more valid than elaborate imagination. I can follow with scientific knowledge. I can test it for my self. While in the other hand religion is pure hearsay. Nothing religion says is verifiable. It’s seem purely ego driven unsubstantiated reasoning. I cannot say this to a certainty but it seems to me the only people who find religion satisfying are people who require purpose to be defined for them.

    For the record, my father is a priest. I love him to death. I grew up in a very religious household. However at some point I started critically think and it wasn’t computing for me. I’ve consistently moved away from religion as I grew. I however have no regrets about my upbringing. But I cannot in good faith forward religious teaching to my children.

    It’s been interesting reading the correspondences; Not at all what I was hoping to find, but interesting none the less. However let’s try to be civil.

  • Mark

    Putney,

    I don’t doubt Todd is intelligent. However It’s not a mystery why Todd is the way he is. I think the person who mentioned how athletes perform ridiculous rituals in order to give them a sense of security and control is on to something. To some level we probably all do something similar but on different scales. The best athletes perform some kind of ridiculous ritual. It’s a mind trick to give them a sense of control. The fear of chaos is debilitating for some people, thus they compensate in other ways. Similarly for athletes who perform badly when their routine is interrupted. I like when my wife kisses me before I meet with a client. My mother hugged me everyday to assure I’d be well adjusted. She’s a great mother, but I think it did more for her than it did for me. We’re all flawed.

  • Brett

    Putney,
    Perhaps the wolf to dog phenomenon is a “nurture” interaction with nature. Humans participated by being very deliberately involved in the selective breeding process; and, most assuredly, they implemented some behavior-shaping techniques for the dogs along the way, as well. Humans did not have a benevolent, omnipotent being helping us out…just a thought…

  • http://www.cgWerks.com/apologetics/ SteveW928

    @ Mark (October 7th, 2009 at 11:24 am EDT) -

    “… but the process which is evolution is verifiable fact.”

    The process might be fact, the conclusion you’re drawing from it is not. Please stop shifting the definition of terms mid-thought.

    “Science simply is just competition for him.”

    Science is not competition for Christians; arguably, we discovered it (cf. M. B. Foster or Stanley Jaki’s work on the history of science). Science is only possible within certain worldviews…. in the West, we kind of take this for granted, as we’re enjoying the underpinnings of Christianity. Now, bad science IS competition for Christians AND all clear thinkers of the world.

    “However, your arguments are ages old.”

    Spoken like a true Renaissance man. Yea, Aristotle, Plato, Augustine, Aquinas, Copernicus, Descartes, Kant, Galileo, Bacon, Locke, Newton, all idiots. Behold the wonder of modern thinkers like Mark.

    “There was a time when your people thought the same about the “theory” that the earth is not the center of the universe. substitute any now universally accepted scientific fact and your people opposed it at some point.”

    Sorry, this is an utterly ridiculous statement. Might I suggest, Denis Danielson “Book of the Cosmos” or Lindberg and Numbers’s “God & Nature” to give you a bit of background… or at least read Danielson’s essay “Copernicus and the Tale of the Pale Blue Dot”
    http://faculty.arts.ubc.ca/ddaniels/docs/bluedot.RTF

  • Edosa

    My general observation on the arguments so far.

    ‘Evolution’ is the ‘best’ explanation by a sizeable majority in some disciplines of how humans and animals came about. It is not fact, because its foundation is based on conjectures which cannot be proven. The so-called millions of data which ‘support’ ‘evolution’ are subject to various interpretations.

    Just to note one or two things:

    It is the bible that first mentioned that the whole land-mass of the earth were once joined, and was separated, before science caught up to the idea. It is the bible that first mentioned invisible pillars holding the planets, before science caught up with the idea of gravity. It is the bible that first mentioned that the whole earth is spherical or round before science ‘discovered’ it.

    We hear some scientist argue time and time again that the church, in the middle ages, said the earth was flat. I am glad it is the ‘church’, because the church are collection of people, with certain beliefs. But the bible is not the church. It did not say the earth is flat, but round or spherical.

    Religion, particularly Christianity provides the best explanation to our existence. Science attempts to explain it for the present, and only in the domain of the physical. But religion explains it, in relation to both the physical and spiritual. I’ll rather take the risk of knowing myself in both domains.

  • Putney Swope

    Edosa I’m sure those dinosaurs from 150 million years ago were all ears to the bible. How is it that a document that was written by men from about five thousand years is the be all and end all. How about all those people who were around before langauge developed enough to write down these stories and myths?

    While we are at it what about the Neanderthals? They are not mentioned in the bible.

  • David Kriebel

    I hate to interrupt the evolutionism-creationism debate, but I’d like to get back to Ardi for a moment….

    To me there are issues in how this find has been reconstructed. The feet are not in the least typical of bipedalism, and the pelvis appears to have both primitive and more modern features. This is reminding me of Piltdown Man. I am certainly not accusing the researchers of creating a hoax, but I also think building an explanation on such mixed features is premature. Nor does the explanation make sense. Why would an arboreal species need to come down from the trees to mate or collect food, and if such a thing was necessary, why don’t we see changes in the foot reflecting it, such as is seen in Lucy? A sample size of 1 cannot be used to describe a population, much less build an explanation. This is one of the maddening aspects of paleoanthropology, so perhaps it is natural that researchers want to reach beyond the material in front of them to conjure all sorts of speculations. But trumpeting this find as overturning evolutionary theory seems quite premature. I would welcome any reply that addresses my concerns and offers correction, if I’m in error. Thanks!

    Dave

  • Kula Dhad

    I saw most of the show on discovery I have a few questions about the skeleton reconstruction. First how do we know how the hip bones and thigh bone connected if the connection piece is missing. That seems to be an important aspect for determining whether or not Ardi was truly bipedal or if the foot bones have been placed wrong (like in the case of the first neanderthal fossil). Second how do we know the shape of the spinal cord with only two pieces that are not even adjacent to each other. There are so many missing pieces from this skeleton (top photo) that it is hard to imagine the nice drawing below that then shows all of the nonexistent bones in their proper place. I would apreciate a serious response to these questions. Thanks

  • Jay

    “score one for evolution, take that Creationism”
    Michael

    Actually its the opposite.. deduct about 20pts from evolution.

    Evolutionists have finally out smarted themselves.. So now scientists do not believe we evolved from apes? Wow, what a schocker! The best part of it all is rather than just admit there wrong, they are trying to down play the whole thing by saying we evolved from ardi. lol

    Oh and Todd your the man! :)

  • MIchael

    “Actually its the opposite.. deduct about 20pts from evolution.

    Evolutionists have finally out smarted themselves.. So now scientists do not believe we evolved from apes? Wow, what a schocker! The best part of it all is rather than just admit there wrong, they are trying to down play the whole thing by saying we evolved from ardi. lol

    Oh and Todd your the man! :)

    Funny yet you, todd, or anyone of our creationist poster has yet to proved any proof to support them. therefore if evolution has some holes in it and you throw the whole idea out in favor of something that is supported by nothing is truly sad.

    therefore creationism has no proof, cannot be tested, can only explains thing in faith based terms, than if we investigate it as you do evolution there is absolutely no way to support it.

    Unless everything people make up is therefore true cause we believe it, (santa, easter bunny, vampires,werewolfs, dragons, cyclops,zeus, and those natural events like earth quakes, or floods must be from Poseidon and lightning from Zeus.

    Again score one for scientic research and furthing the study of evolution and until creationism present PROOF to support it than you have nothing. Again until creationism presents proof to support it you got nothing.

    I believe doesn’t cut it, nor the bible

    great job for some on here trying to explain reason, theories, and evidences to some that seemed to wish to refuse it in place of something that requires none.

  • http://www.cw3solutions.com Trey

    I think this was a very well written, respectful, and detailed piece. As the scientist who were interviewed last night said, this discovery brings about many more questions, and by no means rules out creationism, or proves evolution.

    It does however give us a more detailed fossil record of our existence. Individuals I feel do not look at all sides objectively, and thats what science is all about. Objectivity is the key, and the scientist who worked with ARDI knew the importance of this, and welcomed it.

  • Jay

    Michael

    I never mentioned creationism other than quoting you. So it’s funny to me that the first thing you do is bash it. The bottom line is we will probably never know all the answers while we are on this earth. It’s like trying to explain how a motor works to an ant “impossible”.

    The amazing thing to me is if you look back at all of the great civilizations on this earth, Egyptian, Roman etc. They all thought they “figured it out” had all the answers. Well what history has proven is than “man” does not know it all, we have been wrong every other time we have thought we figured out the origin of live and there has probably been thousands!

    Yes I believe in God, that we were created to be on this earth for a reason. That life is precious and fragile, that it’s not an accident. But I am not here to preach, all I can do is share what I have experienced in my life. Jesus is real, and when you experience his love it puts everything else into prospective :) take care

  • james

    I think most {not all} the above discussions are a little strange. First of all, neither Lucy and Ardi proves anything except that they existed. they don’t prove or disprove evolution or creation, what they do is suggest a steady progression toward homo like animals. in fact creatures like Lucy and Ardi may have created pressure and struggle on other homos toward our accent without bestowing any genetic material at all. In any case perhaps both camps should consider what AI computer programmers are doing, setting up a system for self-learning software to grow toward intelligence and making small changes along the way. At some point it is hoped that AI will expand when a critical mass is achieved and the final push will give the Ai the “image of man” having free will and the ethics to use it wisely. My advice to the creationist is to allow your theory’s to grow with current knowledge and the evolutionist to read what Stephen
    Hawking says about his belief in god.
    Thanks
    James

  • http://www.cgWerks.com/apologetics/ SteveW928

    Here is one commentary on the find from a progressive creation perspective:
    http://reasons.edgeboss.net/download/reasons/newsflash/20091005-FR.mp3

    As noted in the the podcast, this brings into question the origins of bipedalism (woodland rather than open savannah). While this and having to redraw the ‘tree’ proves nothing, it does show that this isn’t all ‘well understood’ and ‘set in stone’ as some think.

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