Friday, March 5, 2010

Smithsonian, March 2010:

In an article about Ardipithecus ramidus, Ann Gibbons [good name for the author of an article on apes] states the well known fact that...“the gold standard for being a hominid was upright walking” Was is the key word since it is not universally accepted that Ardi was a hominid. She certainly seems to be based on the upright stance and her teeth, but maybe not. What interested me most was what I had not found in any article, the odd case of Oreopithicus. Oreopithicus was found some years ago and was a big shock. Clearly an ancient ape, it was bipedal. Supposedly impossible. As I recall, it was then argued that Oreopiticus was an exception that proofed the rule.*

The explanation I remember was that it was an island ape and island species are often peculiar in their adaptations, being much more extreme and varied than their mainland cousins. I looked up “Ardipithecus ramidus, bipedal, and Oreopithicus.” I found quite a few articles, the essence of which was that Oreopithicus bambolii might have been bipedal.

Either way, human evolution is far different than presumed. A recurring tale which goes back as far as Darwin. The assumptions made about our own evolution have proven wrong again and again. Lest any creationists take pride in this, let me remind them that it is Science, not superstition which has repeatedly found the errors and corrected. them.

For example, a species was once identified as Hesperopithecus was much debated about a century ago. It turned out that the supposed Nebraska Man, who had been identified by a single tooth, was a species of extinct pig. Oops! However, again I point out that the error was found and the correction made, by scientists. Science is such an amazingly useful tool because it is a tool which works. Again and again, it has shown itself to be self correcting. Exactly the opposite of the accusation made by creationists that science is just a another form of belief and has a dogma which may not be questioned. Science always questions, and is always open to new proof. It does require proof, which is consistently absent in the hearts and minds of creationists. Also in their arguments.

*We often hear the irrational and disturbing phrase “This is the exception which
proves the rule.” This makes no sense at all. I read somewhere that the original phrase was, “This is the exception which proofs the rule.” Proof is the old word for testing. Today it is remembered primarily as the identifier of the alcohol content of an intoxicating liquid, as in , 80 proof. Is the etymology actually “proofs” not “proves”? I don't know, but it makes sense and I like it, so I use it.

Final note: Interested in Nebraska Man? Try this address:

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