Creationist goes to museum, ignores most of what they see

Creationist goes to museum, ignores most of what they see. Instead they throw out generic talking points rather than engaging with the evidence


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The Natural History Museum in London contains the best human evolution exhibit in the UK. Except for the one in Liverpool I helped put together, of course.

Sadly creationists are more interested in the London exhibit than mine. Creation Ministries International recently published an article debunking it.

Or at least, that’s what they claimed to do. In reality most of the article was spent throwing out generic creationist talking points rather than dealing with the actual exhibit.

To me, this highlights an unwillingness to have an actual conversation. They’re more concerned with throwing out soundbitees than engaging with the evidence presented in the exhibit.

No transitional forms

The first part of the article is the only part that really addresses the museum exhibit. Even then, it’s more generic creationist fluff than actual dissection of the display.

It all revolves around that classic creationist claim of “there are no transitional fossils”. The author notes how the museum display features just two groups: humans and Australopiths. There’s no “bridge” between them.

Also significant is that the chart [in the museum] contains just two main groups, one identified as ‘humans’ and other as ‘australopithecines’—with nothing bridging them. . . Since ‘australopithecine’ means ‘southern ape’ one might reasonably conclude that all these different ‘species’ (collectively known as ‘hominins’) should be classified as either ‘apes’ or ‘humans’, with no clear examples of ‘ape-men’.

But this argument only makes sense if you equate Australopithecus with ape. Otherwise they might become a candidate for that missing bridge. Fortunatley, the author can equate the two because . . . the technical name for them means ape?

It also talks about them being southern, as the first examples were found in South Africa. However, it turns out that most of them actually lived in east Africa. Clearly latin names from the 1920s aren’t the best source of scientific information.

Indeed, when you look at the fossils themselves (rather than dismissing them out of hand) numerous “bridge” traits show up. They clearly aren’t just apes. I’ve talked about a lot of them before. But rather than repeating myself, I’m just going to post this rather nice graph that highlights just how neatly they fit between apes and humans.

The X axis is face size, from chimp-like (left) to human-like (right). The Y axis is brain size, from chimp-like (bottom) to human-like (top)

The X axis is face size, from chimp-like (left) to human-like (right). The Y axis is brain size, from chimp-like (bottom) to human-like (top)

80% chimp

And with that the discussion of the museum exhibit comes to a close. Now we’re onto random stuff the author saw in the giftshop.

A book on sale in the museum’s shop is titled, 99% Ape: How Evolution Adds Up, and argues that our DNA differs from that of chimpanzees by only 1% . . . In fact, the figure of 99% similarity is very outdated and many evolutionists would agree that it is far lower than this—perhaps no higher than 81%. 

Just like how the author refuses to engage with the museum exhibit, they don’t seem to engage with this book either. There’s no evidence they read any of the book beyond the title.

Perhaps if they had, they may well have found out just what the science actually says. Instead they’re off parroting more creationist talking points; this time about how human and chimp DNA isn’t actually that similar. The ultimate source for this is a creationist genetics paper I’ve mentioned before.

The big issue with this paper is how little detail it gives about the methodology. There’s no real way of knowing if the results are meaningful because we can’t tell how they were obtained.

And it seems like they may have been obtained in a very sketchy way.

Attempts to repeat the methods of this paper have revealed it has two pretty massive flaws. The first being that the version of the software used in his analysis has a bug if you enter in the data all in one go. Which the researcher did. This bug lowers the number of results returned, making the similarity seem far smaller than it should be. Although the researcher has since corrected for this, they continue to fall victim to the second flaw: using the wrong parameters.

A section of the chimp and human genomes compared. The creationist mistakes have been stripped away in this effort. As a result they’re 95% of identical, not 80%. The handful of differences between the two are highlighted.

Generic creationist claim #4567

At this point any pretence of examining the museum exhibit are abandoned as the author just moves onto a generic creationist claim. That radiometric dating doesn’t work.

The example in question isn’t even related to palaeoanthropology, being a random case of different dating methods producing different results.

What they don’t tell people, however, is that different radioactive ‘dating methods’ can lead to very different conclusions about the age of the samples being tested. For example, some wood was found buried in basalt rock in the Crinum coal mine in Australia. The wood was ‘dated’ by the radiocarbon method and yielded a result of around 45,000 years. The basalt was ‘dated’ by the Potassium-Argon method and yielded a result of 45,000,000 years

It’s such a generic claim that it’s got its own spot on creationist bingo. Hopefully, this fact serves to highlight just how disinterested this author seems to be with having an actual conversation.

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13 thoughts on “Creationist goes to museum, ignores most of what they see”

  1. Paul Braterman says:

    The wood/basalt mismatch claim is in one of Snelling’s ICR articles: http://www.icr.org/article/basalt-fossilized-wood/ and, as you say, one example of an oft-repeated claim. Wonderful, however, that all the “discordant” 14C dates are over 30,000 years before present, and thus easily explainable by contamination or by in situ nuclear reactions involving endogenous 14N. It has been known since I believe the 1930s that even ancient coal contains detectable amounts of 14C, unless completely graphitised in which case it does not.

    But I wonder why the creationist even bothered to visit the museum at all

    1. Adam Benton says:

      Oh boy; that Snelling paper is real cargo-cult stuff. Check out the pictures of the actual wood they were testing. He’s clearly seen that scientific papers will include a scale; but clearly doesn’t fully understand the concept. So he’s stuck a pen in them instead.

  2. Charles A. Bishop says:

    It these people had no influence we could safely ignore them. But because unfortunately they do influence many uneducated people their anti evolutionary opinions must constantly be challenged and shown to be wrong in widely publicized places.

    1. Adam Benton says:

      Perhaps more distressing is the veneer of credibility they have. I know many people who don’t believe in the YEC worldview; but still think there’s some genuine debate there. Or that their ideas are at least worthy of consideration. I write these sorts of posts to hopefully demonstrate how just without merit they are; and how they don’t warrant a legitimate discussion at all.

  3. Ashley Haworth-roberts says:

    By the way, your photo at the top was not taken at the Natural History Museum – but at the ‘Creation Museum’ in Kentucky.

    1. Adam Benton says:

      Yes it is. If the author can mention a real museum and ignore the stuff in it, I can reference a fake museum and ignore it too.

  4. Eoliths - Brett Martin says:

    Ignoring the evidence isn’t science at all! Your 200,000 year out of Africa scheme is flawed by the fact that an AMH skeleton was found in Ipswich under deposits dated to at least 450,000 bp, besides other cherry picking.

    1. Paul Braterman says:

      I assume that by AMH you mean anatomically modern human. Do you have a link or reference to where this claim is made? At the moment, all I know is that someone called Eoliths – Brett Martin has made this claim.

      I have seen stranger claims, including human footprints in coal. I collect such examples, and would like to add to this one to my collection.

  5. RBH says:

    I rather like Nick Matzke’s analysis of skull size here nd also here.

    1. RBH says:

      Oops. That last URL is here.

    2. Adam Benton says:

      The strength of the evidence for human evolution is that you can draw this sort of “transitional chart” for almost any feature. Hell, even stone tools can be slotted nicely like that. Everything points towards the fact that humans evolved.

  6. Anonymous says:

    You guys should do an article on the complexity of a single cell, and how scientists that are not afraid to go where ALL of the evidence points, and that is, to a creator. Also, how is it that every dinosaur fossil that has been tested has soft tissue? That’s not possible if they were millions of years old. Why do scientists get railroaded for simply going where the evidence points? Be intellectually honest….if we evolved from monkeys, then why are there still monkeys? We would see evolution all over the place, but we don’t. You have to have a lot of faith to believe a “theory” wouldn’t you say?

    1. Adam Benton says:

      None of these are new questions and have all been dealt with thoroughly before. But rather than simply throwing a bunch of copy&paste at you, I’m curious. Which of those arguments do you find personally most convincing, and why?

Leave your filthy monkey comments here.

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