Johnson, Gish and Lucy.

Glenn Morton (
Wed, 12 Mar 1997 21:19:36 -0600

A few weeks ago we were talking about Phillip Johnson and I made the
statement that he does not get his facts correct and uses out dated
material. His treatment of fossil man in Darwin on Trial is quite short but
very, very outdated. He writes:

"That there might be no reliable fossil evidence of human
evolution is out of the question.
"A prestigious outsider, however, has proposed the
unthinkable. Solly Zuckerman, one of Britain's most influential
scientists and a leading primate expert, is a good scientific
materialist who regards the evolution of man from apes as self-
evident, but who also regards much of the fossil evidence as
poppycock. Zuckerman subjected the Australopithecines to years
of intricate 'biometric' testing,and concluded that 'the
anatomical basis for the claim that [they] walked and ran upright
like man is so much more flimsy than the evidence which points to
the conclusion that their gait was some variant of what one sees
in subhuman Primates, that it remains unacceptable.'
"Zuckerman's judgement of the professional standards of
physical anthropology was not a generous one: he compared it to
parapsychology and remarked that the record of reckless
speculation in human origins 'is so astonishing that it is
legitimate to aske whether much science is yet to be found in
this field at all.' The anthropologists not surprisingly
resented that judgment, which would have left them with no
fossils and no professional standing. Wilfred Le Gros Clark
performed a rival study that came to more acceptable conclusions,
and the consensus of the experts, meaning those who had the most
to lose, was that Zuckerman was a curmudgeon with no real feel
for the subject. The biometric issues are technical, but the real
dispute was a conflict of priorities." Darwin on Trial, 1993, p. 84

[an aside: Notice that those who agree with Johnson are those who are judged
"prestigious," but those who are against Johnson's view are
described as resentful people who don't really pay attention to
the evidence. He also praises the outsider, which is what he is to science
as I am an outsider to the Law. The reality is that outsiders seldom know
the data
of a field and thus are ineffective critics. This can be seen in Johnson, in
1993, using an extremely outdated study made prior to some of the most important
finds concerning australopithecine locomotion.]

Zuckerman wrote in 1970 long before the 1973 discovery of the 40% complete
Australopithecine skeleton known as Lucy. Johnson does not mention Lucy in
the body of his book, only mentioning it in his research notes at the back.
This australopithecine was eventually shown to be able to walk upright. But
the major point is that at the time of Zuckerman's study there was no
skelton of an Australopithecine. Johanson and Edey note:

"'Second,' I would say, 'is her completeness. Until Lucy was found, there
just weren't any very old skeletons. The oldest was one of those
neanderthalers I spoke of a little while ago. It is about seventy-five
thousand years old." Yes, there are odler hominid fossils, but they are all
fragments. Everything that has been reconstructed from them has had to be done
by matching up those little pieces--a tooth here, a bit of jaw there, maybe a
compelte skull from somewhere else, plus a leg bone from some other
place.~Donald Johanson and Maitland Edey, "Lucy", (New York: Simon and
Shuster, 1981), p. 22

The lack of a skeleton for Zuckerman's study reduces confidence in his
conclusions as the new data is incorporated into the body of scientific
knowledge. Of course, Phil doesn't tell his readers in the body of his book
about such things.

The australopithecine ability to walk was further supported by the 1976
discovery of footprints in a 3.8 million year old ash bed at Laetoli,
Tanzania. Wills states:
"More hominid footprints were quickly found nearby, extending in a line
for some 10 meters. So far as could be seen, they were identical to those of
modern humans, fully plantigrade, made by hominids who left a firm heel print
and pushed off at each stride from the ball of the foot. The tracks of at
least two hominids were preserved. One, possibly a child, had walked a little
to the left of a much larger hominid. The larger tracks, perhaps made by a
male, were the same size as those of a modern human. And Mary Leakey claimed
that a third, perhaps a female, had followed the male and playfully placed her
feet in the larger footprints. There has been much argument about this,
particularly about the possibility that the apparent doubling had been
acccidentally produced in the course of the excavations."~Christopher Wills,
The Runaway Brain, (New York: Harper Collins, 1993), p. 123

Phillip Johnson makes NO mention of these footprints that I have been able
to find.

The question I have, is where did Johnson get the idea for this approach to
anthro in his book? I think I found the answer the other day. Arthur wrote:

"Lucy is a standard component of Gish's debates. He has
been repeating the same story about her since at least 1981.
Gish's motive is to show that Lucy was not a transitional form
between humans and apes, but just an ape that could not walk
upright. After discussing Lucy briefly, he cites scientist Lord
Solly Zuckerman, who Gish claims did a thorough and careful 15-
year study of the Australopithecines with the conclusion that
these creatures did not walk upright. Gish clearly implies that
Zuckerman examined the Lucy skeleton itself. However, Gish has
repeatedly been told in many debates over the years that this is
false. Zuckerman never saw Lucy, and his conclusion on
Australopithecines was made at least three years before Lucy was
even discovered. Furthermore, Zuckerman didn't work with any of
the original Australopithecine fossils. His conclusions were
based on a cast of one half of the pelvis of a single
specimen."~Joyce Arthur, "Creationism: Bad Science or Immoral
Pseudoscience?" Skeptic 4:4(1996):88-93, p. 89

I can not find in writing that Gish implies Zuckerman examined Lucy, but
Gish does cite Zuckerman a lot. The citation of Zuckerman is not a useful
thing because it is so outdated. Johnson, in his technical notes
acknowledges that Zuckerman wrote before Lucy, but he never mentions that
the subsequent discoveries destroy Zuckerman's conclusions about the ability
of australopithecines to walk. This type of argumentation leaves lots to be
desired. Johnson claims expertise in analysing argumentation, He writes:

"I am not a scientist but an academic lawyer by profession, with a specialty
in analyzing the logic of arguments and identifying the assumptions that lie
behind those arguments." Darwin on Trial, 1993, p.13

It would seem that a person who claims to be able to analyze argumentation,
such as Johnson, would realize that all good argumentation is based upon
good facts first and foremost.


Foundation, Fall and Flood