Too many of us today are still under the impression that evidence for human Evolution from hominid ancestors is dug up whole; that is, a good number of us think that the “evidence”—say, for a skull, or cranium—is displayed in the same general condition as when it was unearthed. Especially with regards to the fossil record concerning human Evolution this is never the case. In the photo above you see over 300 fragments that were put together to “form the skull” of Homo rudolfensis in the center. We do not have to think long to realize that when we allow for glue, clay, silicon, and the human imagination, we can create reconstructions that look very real, but hardly alone indicative of accuracy. Here, another example:
The Truth about the Origin of Man still being our goal, I mention this here because this “problem of assembly” has not been discussed often enough in the literature, and its implications have a direct bearing on our inquiry as to the antiquity of Man in his present state.
Indeed, a fear of some kind has apparently gripped anti-Evolutionists and Evolutionists alike. Perhaps for fear of being labeled ignorant, or being too put off by the mathematical and conceptual intricacies involved in defending the position, none of them wants to walk up to the Leakeys and their clones and tell them that they have not found anything of value to science whatsoever.
When it comes to the considering of archaeological finds we must, then, indict science for concentrating too heavily on the intricacies of detail at the expense of common sense, basic logic, and understanding the rules of cause and effect. Instead of taking the evidence for what it is, much is read into it, in effort to have it fit a pre-set scheme, a theory. This process is, by analogy, no different than learning about alternative mathematics, or space-time calculus, but forgetting how to add and subtract, or even worse, changing the rules of addition and subtraction when the new theory seems to contradict it. Common sense tells me if you give me a bag of odd pieces of bone, and allow me the option of using other materials to form the missing pieces and adjust existing ones, then I can create you whatever I envision. Logic tells me that if you have some pieces of a race of pre-human creatures, you should be able to find a plethora of them; it is highly unlikely we found the last one before the species’ extinction. And, cause and effect tells me that we tend to find only what we look for.
So as we start this section, I think it imperative that we keep an eye out for over-zealousness with regards to the fossil evidence for human Evolution, “macroevolution,” that is, where the claim is that we have descended from “lower” creatures. The opposite theory would hold, let us state for clarity, that human beings have always been human beings: while humans may have changed some incidental traits (hair color, eyes, build, etc.), due perhaps to some type of, as they say, “microevolution,” this alteration itself is indicative of only genetic dispersal and environmental factors among our species; none of this is a sufficient condition to indicate our descent from any other creature.
Continuing our survey, we are now at about the second or third step up in the artist’s illustration below, the most recent Australopithecus.
The Taung Baby and Australopithecus Africanus
The last consensus australopithecine we will discuss is Australopithecus africanus, first discovered in 1924 by Raymond Dart and colleagues in southern Africa. Subsequent finds have been made in the same general area in 1936, 1948, 1992, and 1999. Luckily, we can take a look at much of the evidence from the digs. Here are the fossils of the first and most famous africanus specimen, also known as the “Taung Child” or Taung Baby“:
Note that these are reassembled actual fossils. The fact that this partial skull is thought to have belonged to a child is noteworthy:
“The teeth of this skull showed it to be from an infant about 5 or 6 years old [it is now believed that australopithecines matured faster than humans, and that the Taung child was about 3” (ibid.).
This is important because in all appearances the Taung kid looks like the skull of a baby ape of some kind. We read that Australopithecines, we know now, “mature faster than humans.” How can we know this? Without knowing the full stature of a mature example, without having a long series of bones at various stages of growth, by what miracle do we confirm such speculation?
Interesting, too, is that because of “a hole” found in a piece of the skull (I have not been able to see this actual hole clearly anywhere yet…) there has been much scurrying as to how this juvenile died, occupying much government-funded science time. Oh yes, the result of this soap opera: in all seriousness theories have been put forth (by crackerjack scientists) that it was killed by a giant cat or maybe a bird; this latter article also makes the suggestion that the Taung africanus specimen shows all the marks of a “baboon killed by an eagle” (ibid.)
Here are some comparison collages I’ve made to illustrate the simian characteristics of this Taung baby:
This above is three views of the reconstructed Taung Baby, and a comparison view of a baby chimpanzee. This is a reconstruction and not the actual skull face, the brown represents the fossil after its “assembly” (note the cracks are not present), the white, scientists’ further addenda. Were we to adjust for proper angle, the extant parts of the inset top left would differ from the chimp in mainly two characteristics. One is the brow ridge line. This is of little import because the chimp’s construction actually looks more advanced. The second is the shape of the canines, which would not be fully developed, or could have decayed.
We are not trying here to say or imply that this africanus is a chimpanzee. The comparison allows us to see just what else, however, other than a proto-human, this creature might be. Below, I give another collage in illustration:
Let us not oversimplify this. There are differences in dentition, mandible set, cranium shape, thickness, and position, and many other factors that need to be taken into consideration when comparing simian and hominid skulls. But even in this picture, which also shows how small the actual skull is, we can see nevertheless a strong resemblance to another member of the ape family, in this case an adolescent orangutan. Differences in ages, wear and tear on the parts, ravages of time…when all these things are considered, and we account for variations of skull types as we would for any species, we must consider what evidence, other than the actual “face,” makes this being a proto-human.
“Dart claimed that the Taung Child was bipedal due to the position of the foramen magnum, which was pointed downward and nearly at the central balance point of the skull. In addition, the canine teeth were relatively short. In both of these traits, the Taung child was much more like a human than an ape” (source).
The teeth being short, as we have said, can be accounted for by the age of the ape. It is not born with long incisors and canines. Also, the base of the skull where the foramen magnum would be is simply too incomplete to be conclusive evidence of an upright posture. There is even some question as to the foramen magnum‘s being an indicator of upright stature at all.
Here are the best of the rest of the important fossils associated with this species. Most were found by Robert Broom in the period 1936-1947 at Sterkfontein in South Africa:
The two views of the top skull in this trio, I believe named “Mrs. Ples,” was discovered in 1947. Notice the band of material which goes around the skull. This is filler, man-made stuff, and could conceivably push the cranium in any desired position. The next one down came from Broom’s work in 1936, third from the top reconstructions of reconstructions, the two at the bottom, from 1947. Compare the actual find of this lower duo, in black and white on the right, and the reconstructed model on the left. We have created just about everything, even its lower jaw and teeth.
As it turns out, the Taung Baby has now been “firmly established” as part of the ape family, and not of the hominid line (last paragraph). At least some of science is agreed that these creatures in this africanus line are, like the other australopithecines, ape and not Man. As usual, though, this does not stop the Artist Conceptions from being generated. Oh yes, we have ideas about what it looked like, actually, several.
I wanted to get into what science considers the true hominid line today, but doesn’t look like we’ll get there. We have established enough for my conscience at least that the entire Australopithecus line, called “our remotest ancestors,” are really nothing of the kind. If anything, they seem to show how long apes have been apes. In some sense this is why they are classified as an entirely separate genus. They exist at all with mention of the Origin of Man still because for the Evolutionary system to work, we need to have come from some other type of creature, and these scraps of conjecture often fit the bill.
We have already seen that so far science has just been monkeying around with us. Let’s see if the discoveries from more recent times are offered with a greater degree of seriousness.