The Institute for Creation Research is an organisation which spins science news to support the notion that the earth was created 6,000 years ago. As such, a lot of their articles evolves around trying to refute evolution. Which they just did. Again. They report on a surprising fossil finger and apparently this fossil disproves evolution
Ok, I joke.
The real story is that a fossil finger, dating to 1.42 million years ago, has been found with a styloid process. This allows the wrist and hand to lock together, meaning we have a more powerful grip. Such a grip comes in pretty handy (if you’ll pardon the pun) for making tools, but it isn’t necessary for doing so. We know our ancestors were making tools without a styloid process for more than a million years before it evolved.
Before this new fossil we thought the styloid process evolved around 800,000 years ago in Homo heidelbergensis and was inherited by all subsequent species of human, including both us and Neanderthals. The new fossil suggests it actually evolved earlier in Homo erectus, but the story nonetheless remains unchanged: early humans were making tools and developed a styloid process some time later to aid them.
It’s just a bit less later than we thought
But somehow Brian Thomas of the ICR seems to think this fossil disproves evolution. How did he reach that conclusion?
Well, he seems to be under the impression that the styloid process is actually a defining characteristic of modern humans. Never mind the fact that Neanderthals, Homo heidelbergensis (and now Homo erectus) have been found with it. No, it actually defines Homo sapiens. But since we’ve found a really old version of it, modern humans have been alive forever, unchanged and most certainly not evolving.
the most significant news from the latest hand-fossil find should be the simple fact that the oldest, widely recognized human hand bone shows no evolutionary change. This Kenyan fossil points to man originating…as man [ellipses in original, this description of them was not]
He seems to be basing this conclusion on a quote from the research paper, which notes that “in all ways, this bone resembles that of a modern human in overall proportions and morphology.” However, he misses the paragraph after next goes on to note that
[the styloid process is] short compared with modern humans, as are those of Late Pleistocene humans…[it also] falls within the observed ranges for modern humans and Neandertals, both of which overlap considerably [these ellipses are all mine]
In other words many different species have a similar bone. So it can’t be used to identify “man” and say “man” has existed as “man” for millions of years. It’s a bit like saying both the Ford Model T and a Ford Fiesta have wheels; therefore cars haven’t changed at all in decades.
If you were being generous to Brian, I suppose you could say he’s arguing (badly) that this fossil disproves evolution because it shows the styloid process hasn’t changed for millions of years. But actually that’s a statement which in no way challenges evolution. If a trait is beneficial then it would be stick around. That’s how natural selection works. And since using our hands is still useful we would expect it to remain all the way into modern humans.
So it seems Brian doesn’t understand how evolution works or what defines modern humans. But that’s not the most wrong he gets. No, he lists 8 ways in which the human hand has a “unique design”. This he lifted from the research into the new finger bone, but in the process he omitted a pretty important fact.
The first of Brian’s ways in which the human hand is uniquely designed is that we have “short fingers relative to thumb length” but in the original paper it notes that
Most noticeable are the short fingers (relative to thumb length) and a robust thumb metacarpal. Australopithecus afarensis, Australopithecus africanus, and Australopithecus sediba also have short fingers
The Australopithecines are believed to be the ape-like ancestors from which humans evolved. Most creationists would agree they’re very definitely not human. Yet their hand shares some of our “unique” characteristics. Clearly our hand is not as special as Brian thinks.
It would seem Brain doesn’t understand how to define a human or how evolution works or even what “unique” means. And this is despite the fact he is copying and pasting from an article that explains where he’s wrong sometimes in the sentence immediately after the one he copies. I don’t really want to libel, but from where I’m sitting it looks like the ICR is either borderline incompetent or outright deceptive. In either case, I don’t think this fossil disproves evolution.