How To Handle Embarrassing Evidence

Although the professional creationist ranks among the most deplorably ignorant or loathsomely dishonest specimens of humanity, one must acknowledge that he not only survives, he flourishes. The creationist is a highly successful parasite, and is unquestionably deleterious to our progress. As with any other pestilence, there is much to be gained by studying the creationist’s ways.

That is why we’re going to examine another article from the creation scientists at the Institute for Creation Research (ICR). They’re described in the Cast of Characters section of our Intro page. Today’s article is Which Came First–the Spear or its Thrower?, by Brian Thomas, described at the end as: “Science Writer at the Institute for Creation Research.”

From start to finish — from the bizarre title to the utterly predictable conclusion — the article seems hopelessly foolish, like all the rest of ICR’s works; but if we look a little deeper, as we did in How To Write a Creation Science Paper, we can gain some insight into the creationist mind.

Brian starts out — and this is typical — by referring to research done by real scientists. The bold font was added by us for emphasis:

Scientists age-dated a cache of stone-tipped throwing spears unearthed from Ethiopia’s Gademotta Formation at 280,000 years old. This find appears to pierce the conventional story of human evolution — a narrative about modern man evolving from some pre-human type only 200,000 years ago. How will this date discrepancy be resolved?

According to their technical report in the online journal PLoS ONE researchers found “composite projectile weapons,” among the 226 artifacts they examined. Ancients sculpted spear tips from nearby obsidian deposits, shaped sticks into throwing spears, then affixed the obsidian tips onto them.

He’s talking about this: Earliest Stone-Tipped Projectiles from the Ethiopian Rift Date to >279,000 Years Ago. The abstract says:

Composite projectile technologies are considered indicative of complex behavior and pivotal to the successful spread of Homo sapiens. Direct evidence for such projectiles is thus far unknown from >80,000 years ago. Data from velocity-dependent microfracture features, diagnostic damage patterns, and artifact shape reported here indicate that pointed stone artifacts from Ethiopia were used as projectile weapons (in the form of hafted javelin tips) as early as >279,000 years ago. In combination with the existing archaeological, fossil and genetic evidence, these data isolate eastern Africa as a source of modern cultures and biology.

Interesting find. You can read the whole paper online without a subscription, but we’ll stay with ICR. Focusing on the reported age of the discovery, ICR says:

Apes don’t form assembly lines or engineer tools — humans do — and yet no humans were supposed to have existed at that supposed time.

Yes, so it has been believed, based on evidence previously unearthed. But maybe men did exist somewhat earlier. ICR doesn’t like that. They discuss an opinion offered by another article, that perhaps a pre-human ape-like ancestor made and used the tools. ICR immediately dismisses that possibility:

First, if some kind of pre-human was smart enough and able enough to manufacture and successfully use these projectiles, then what is left to intellectually distinguish these supposed pre-humans from true humans — descendants of Adam and Noah?

For a creation scientist, who insists that man was deliberately created with the unique ability to know and worship his creator, that’s a powerful objection. Then ICR mentions evidence that the spear tips were intended to be thrown, not merely used for thrusting, and they declare:

Apes don’t throw spears, and this kind of elegant throwing — the same basic action as pitching a baseball — requires a distinctly human anatomy. What then is left to physically distinguish these ancient spear throwers from being grouped within the category of fully real people?

Maybe nothing, because it’s possible that the spear-makers could have been human. But ICR rejects that. Why? Here’s their reasoning:

The other option would require an embarrassing wholesale rewrite of the story of human evolution found in textbooks throughout the world. Fully modern man — as human-like in intelligence and frame as anyone alivetoday — might have evolved 80,000 years before evolutionary dogma’s 200,000-year mark of man’s supposed emergence.

Ah, yes — “evolutionary dogma.” Creationists always think in terms of age-old, unchanging dogma, so they imagine that we do too. But what if it turns out that the textbooks have to be revised? These things have happened before, and we know they’ll happen again. Scientists keep doing research and expanding our knowledge. That’s why new editions of standard texts are routinely published. Educated people know that scientific knowledge isn’t inviolate, like scripture; but that concept leaves ICR aghast — such a thing is inconceivable to them.

This next excerpt is very revealing, so pay attention. ICR says:

In the past, secular researchers resolved similar dating discrepancies simply by re-dating the discovery site either repeating the same or using a different dating method to end up with new dates that agree with the evolutionary narrative. Thus, some future report stating that the Gademotta Formation [where the obsidian artifacts were recovered] is actually younger than 280,000 years old would come as no surprise.

BWAHAHAHAHAHA! The first thing a creationist thinks of is lying to protect the revealed perfection of his dogma! That’s what they do — so they think that’s what scientists do too.

The article finishes, as they all do, with the predictable creationist solution to every evidentiary problem:

Toss out the evolutionary age assignment. One is then left with fully human spear-making hunters who were doing their best to equip themselves after the great Flood and migrated from the ark’s Middle Eastern landing site south to Africa.

That’s ICR’s advice. Scientists don’t have to be embarrassed by surprising new evidence, which may require revising earlier evolutionary timelines. If they were to conduct their affairs as creationists do, then they could present their findings as evidence of Noah’s Ark. Creation science solves all problems!

Copyright © 2013. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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15 responses to “How To Handle Embarrassing Evidence

  1. Our Curmudgeon suggests

    Scientists don’t have to be embarrassed by surprising new evidence, which may require revising earlier evolutionary timelines. If they were to conduct their affairs as creationists do, then they could present their findings as evidence of Noah’s Ark.

    Not quite, IMHO. If scientists were actually to “conduct their affairs as creationists do”, then they would not have any findings at all to present!

    And, as I think on it, if there were no legitimate scientific publications for Creationists to misrepresent, distort, misunderstand and mine for misquotations, I’m not really sure what ‘findings’ they would have. What on earth is Ann Gauger ever going to find solely within the confines of her green-screen ‘lab’?

  2. The Wikipedia article on human evolution says that Homo sapiens dates from around 250,000 years ago. I guess the rewrite of the evolutionary dogma is already in progress. And then one must mention that documentary movie, “One Million Years B. C.”

  3. ” the most deplorably ignorant or loathsomely dishonest specimens of humanity”
    Very much yes. A serious question: is this even a dichotomy? Isn’t creationist loathsome dishonestly exactly that they deep in their creacrappy hearts want to remain deplorably ignorant?

    “Apes ….. engineer tools”
    Except that they totally do.

    http://mappingignorance.org/2013/03/21/chimpanzees-know-which-tool-will-be-effective/

    So what is so problematic with the image of near-humans designing spears? The basic assumption of Brian Thomas is that only fully modern homo sapiens has the intellectual skills to do this. I don’t see why this would be the case.
    What this archeological finding has shown is not so much that homo sapiens is older than we assumed (but perhaps there is fossil and genetical evidence for it) but that human like beings developed intellectual skills at a somewhat earlier stage than we assumed. As long it’s after the human line split from the chimps line there isn’t a problem for Evolution Theory.

  4. I noticed that they didn’t touch the “280,000 years” part. What happened to the “We were all perfectly formed in God’s image only 6000 years ago”?

  5. Homo erectus is about 1.9 million years old. Before that, Homo ergaster. Homo habilis (Handy man, a known tool user) is a bit older. Homo gautengensis, also a known tool user.

    Phony problem, start to finish.

    – Diogenes

  6. Eddie Janssen

    “One is then left with fully human spear-making hunters who were doing their best to equip themselves after the great Flood and migrated from the ark’s Middle Eastern landing site south to Africa.”

    They must have traveled through Egypt. I don’t know if the paid a visit to Faraoh Teti’s court and the piramids.

  7. While these projectile points are significantly older than the oldest known fossils of H. sapiens sapiens (which date to ca. 190,000 years ago), they are younger than quite a few fossils of “archaic Homo sapiens” (e.g. H. heidelbergensis by a couple of hundred thousand years. That is, they are the same age as fossils that young-earth creationists already consider to be “descendants of Adam and Eve,” and considered by paleoanthropologists of being able to make rather sophisticated stone tools. It’s not clear yet whether they require increasing the age of H. sapiens sapiens by ca. 50%, or upping slightly our concept of what the “archaics” were capable of.

  8. Another key feature of creationist “thought” as mentioned above is creationists can’t conceive of other hominids existing. To them it’s black and white, there are humans and “apes” by which they mean chimps, gorillas, etc. They can’t understand or accept Homo Habilis, Ergaster, Erectus, et al existed as tool users before H. Sapiens existed. Or even more baffling to them that several different species of Homos existed at the same time.

    Given their worldview of course creationists think an exciting new discovery is a weapon to use against evil secular science.

  9. SC: “Although the professional creationist ranks among the most deplorably ignorant or loathsomely dishonest specimens of humanity, one must acknowledge that he not only survives, he flourishes.”

    Which makes perfect sense even disregarding the fact that he exploits the desperate wishful thinking of his fans. It’s a Catch-22 of all science that, the more evidence there is, the more opportunity for a pseudoscience peddler to take some out of context to promote unreasonable doubt.

    Professional creationists are the kings of all pseudoscience. Peddlers of any pseudoscience mine any evidence that seems – to casual observers at least – to support their predetermined conclusion, and ignore any inconvenient evidence. Unfortunately in “creationism” those predetermined conclusions came in hopelessly mutually contradictory versions. In what has become one of the best examples of “preadaptation,” one “species” of creationist shrewdly discovered the very fit meme of “don’t ask, don’t tell what happened when, just spin unreasonable doubt of evolution and let the audience fill the blanks with whatever makes them feel good.” Soon afterwards – 1987 to be exact – “cdesign proponentsts” marked the origin of the “central pseudoscience,” which you know better as ID.

  10. “They can’t understand or accept Homo Habilis, Ergaster, Erectus, et al existed as tool users before H. Sapiens existed.”
    Worse – they can’t even agree which ones were human beings and which ones were apes.

  11. Richard Olson

    Humans had extraordinary tool expertise provided by God for the Ark construction project. That particular expertise was only exceeded by the engineering genius God bestowed at the same time. Alas, all this advanced scientific and technical expertise completely disappeared from human memory following The Flood.

    In the years following the flood event the Earth was repopulated with primitive ignorant inbred offspring of Noah’s children. These poor bastards had to begin acquiring basic knowledge and skills from square one, because for some reason God didn’t choose to make them as intellectually sophisticated as their pre-Flood forbearers. Not to worry; all part of The Plan.

  12. Part of the loathsome behaviour you allude to is YECs frequently censoring and banning those who can debunk their claims scientifically. Some well-informed people can only embrace YEC-ism (if that’s a barrier to them embracing Christianity and if they only encounter YEC Christians who appear to ‘demand’ this stance) by an act of faith – rather than being intellectually persuaded by any slick-sounding apologetics. But – if they are exposed to too much debunking before arriving at a ‘decision’ – they may become unable to exercise enough faith and ‘unreachable’. Thus the more ‘dangerous’ sceptics must be REMOVED from YEC blogs and websites.
    Eye on the ICR (naturally) and Bruce Gerencser have also tackled the Thomas article. Meanwhile this YEC seems largely to have been ignored by other bloggers:
    http://crev.info/2013/11/javelin-upsets-early-man-timeline/

  13. “The category of fully real people.” Now that is a chilling phrase.

  14. Scientists keep doing research and expanding our knowledge. That’s why new editions of standard texts are routinely published. Educated people know that scientific knowledge isn’t inviolate, like scripture; but that concept leaves ICR aghast — such a thing is inconceivable to them.

    “Like all weak men he laid an exaggerated stress on not changing one’s mind.” (Somerset Maugham, Of Human Bondage)