Discovery Institute: Casey Luskin and Lucy

A MOST REVEALING article has been posted on the blog of the neo-theocrats at the Discovery Institute’s Center for Science and Culture (a/k/a the Discoveroids). It’s by Casey Luskin, our favorite. The article is: My Pilgrimage to Lucy’s Holy Relics Fails to Inspire Faith in Darwinism.

First, observe the wording in the title of Casey’s article, which indicates his mindset: “Pilgrimage,” “Holy Relics,” “Faith in Darwinism.” Those sarcastic terms could easily be recycled into an article title by a follower of Wahhabism regarding a visit to the Vatican.

Probably without intending it, Casey has provided us with what appears to be a glimpse into the functioning of a creationist brain when confronted with evidence of evolution. Bear in mind that we don’t know Casey; nor do we know anyone who does know him. We’re not making judgments about Casey as a person. It’s possible that he’s a decent chap. What we’re doing here is commenting about his article. Here are some excerpts, with bold added by us:

A couple weeks ago, the Seattle Times printed an article titled, “Few lining up to see famous fossil at Pacific Science Center,” noting the poor public attendance of the exhibit showing the bones of the famous hominid fossil “Lucy” here in Seattle. Having studied about Lucy and other fossils supposedly documenting human evolution for many years, I was already planning on attending the exhibit. The whole experience seeing Lucy was enlightening, though probably not in the way its creators intended. In short, I left the exhibit struck by the paucity of actual hard evidence for human evolution from ape-like species, and the amount of subjective, contradictory interpretation that goes into fossil hominid reconstructions.

Casey’s attitude about the Lucy exhibit is what we’d expect of a moon-landing denialist who visited Cape Canaveral. Let’s read on:

Not only was I underwhelmed by the incompleteness of Lucy’s skeleton, but I was also struck by admissions at the exhibit that, in my mind, cast serious doubt on whether we know for certain that Lucy’s bones are from a single individual from a single species.

Casey was “underwhelmed.” Okay. For those who want some information about Lucy that hasn’t been filtered through Casey, this is a good place to start: Lucy (Australopithecus), which says:

Over the three weeks, several hundred pieces or fragments of bone were found, with no duplication, confirming their original speculation that they were from the one skeleton. As the team analyzed the fossil further, they calculated that an amazing 40% of a hominin skeleton had been recovered, an astounding accomplishment in the world of anthropology.

Let’s return to Casey’s article. After raising the familiar, un-evidenced, creationist doubts about the integrity of the Lucy fossil, and failing to mention that we now have more fossils of Australopithecus afarensis than Lucy, including one more complete than Lucy, Selam (Australopithecus), he says:

Regardless, seeing the broken scraps of old Lucy laid out under the protective glass, with full skeletal and full-flesh reconstructions of Lucy abounding throughout the exhibit, I could not help but recall the words of the famed physical anthropologist Earnest A. Hooton, who in 1931 wisely counseled that “alleged restorations of ancient types of man have very little, if any, scientific value and are likely only to mislead the public.”

Brilliant rebuttal! Casey quotes someone who said something in 1931 that was derisive about “alleged restorations.” (Note that Lucy was found in 1974.) We should also inform you a bit about Earnest Albert Hooton, “the famed physical anthropologist” who is quoted with favor by Casey. According to Wikipedia:

He used comparative anatomy to divide humanity up into races — in Hooton’s case, this involved describing the morphological characteristics of different ‘primary races’ and the various ‘subtypes’. In 1926, the American Association of Physical Anthropology and the National Research Council organized a Committee on the Negro, which focused on the anatomy of blacks. … Ten years later, the group published findings in the American Journal of Physical Anthropology to “prove that the negro race is phylogenetically a closer approach to primitive man than the white race.” Perhaps more than any scientist of his time, Hooton did more to establish racial stereotypes about black athleticism and black criminality from an anthropological framework.

But let’s overlook that embarrassing authority whose words Casey “could not help but recall,” and continue with Casey’s article. He describes his doubts that Lucy walked upright, despite the evidence of almost half of her pelvis that is part of the skeleton. Casey’s doubts are because there is evidence that Lucy may also have knuckle-walked. We don’t see this as a problem — especially as Lucy is regarded as a transitional form between modern humans and our ape-ancestors. Indeed, it’s pretty much what one would expect.

But Casey isn’t happy. We assume that like all creationists, he wants fossils to be either fully ape or fully human, with nothing in between. He says:

The only reason to discard Lucy’s clear anatomical evidence that she climbed trees and knuckle-walked is the Darwinist preference for her to be a fully-bipedal ape that was on her way toward evolving into a human being.

No, that’s not the “only reason.” There’s also that pelvis, and a foot from another Australopithecus fossil. But let’s skip a lot of Casey’s personal speculations and get to his concluding paragraph:

Whether you’re a true believer in Lucy’s status as a transitional form, or an apostate who suspects that her story and reconstruction could be largely myth, the Lucy exhibit at the Pacific Science Center is worth visiting (after all, even atheists visit holy relics due to their literary and cultural significance). So go see the exhibit, keep an open mind, and come to your own conclusions. Just be forewarned that regardless of what you believe, you’re likely to walk away from Lucy feeling underwhelmed at the incompleteness of the fossil and the lack of clarity in the case for human evolution.

In other words, Casey left the exhibit as a creationist, just as he was when he entered. Ooops! That was insensitive. We meant to say that he left as an “intelligent design advocate.” There, that’s better.

Copyright © 2009. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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7 responses to “Discovery Institute: Casey Luskin and Lucy

  1. He’s just especially sore because the IDEA clubs have been a dismal failure.

  2. It’s difficult to imagine a college kid thinking it’s cool to join a campus creationist club. It’s certainly not where one would go to meet girls.

  3. It’s certainly not where one would go to meet girls.

    Perhaps you’ve answered your own question.


  4. I’ve heard there is something called a ‘circle j**k’. Would Casey have any IDEA about that?

  5. Tundra Boy says: “I’ve heard there is something called a ‘circle j**k’.”

    Yes, I’ll bet you have. But where you come from, it’s better known as the Arctic circle j**k.

  6. Brilliant pull on the Hooton! You’ve nailed what’s wrong with the mindset of those who go into any topic listening only to the evidence that supports their ideas.

    I’ve met Casey; he seems civil enough.

  7. SteveN says: “Brilliant pull on the Hooton!”

    Thanks. I plan to haul it out again, whenever they use the “Darwin was racist” line.