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A Scientific Debate

Post of the Month: April 2003

by Floyd

Subject:    Re: John McCoy and "gullible evolutionists"
Date:       10 April 2003

J McCoy wrote in message news:<>...
> "Dana Tweedy" wrote in message news:<b72gjt$a98lr$>...
> > "J McCoy" wrote in message
> >
> > > You accept what you're told and
> > > never probe. Have you ever wished to actually physically handle
> > > "Lucy" and compare them with other skulls for yourself?
> >
> > I wouldn't mind holding the Hope Diamond either but it's not likely that's
> > going to happen. The specimen nicknamed "Lucy" is a valuable fossil, and
> > they don't let just anyone handle valuable fossils. You can, however, get
> > an exact replica, and handle them all you like.
> >
> > >Well, if some
> > > guy wants to do so, you have to sign a letter stating that you promise
> > > not to criticize "lucy". Is that right?
> >
> > No, it's not right. No scientist would ever accept such conditions.
> > "Lucy", and any other fossil, may be criticized by anyone who chooses to do
> > so. It's the Creationists who sign pledges not to criticize a literal
> > reading of the Bible. Any scientists with the proper credentials can
> > examine the "Lucy" specimens.
> Nope. If you want to examine Lucy you need to sign a statement.
> J McCoy

In order to get a fishing licence you need to sign a statement. In order to buy a used Volkswagen, you need to sign a statement.

It's true that direct access to the remains is restricted, and for precisely the reason Dana implied with the Hope Diamond analogy; each hominid fossil is unique in some way, and by their rarity, Australopithecus remains are more valuable than diamonds. However, the statement obviously has no provision that "you must not criticize Lucy," or there would be no debate over the nature of the remains. I can prove to you, beyond any doubt, that there is no such restriction against "criticizing Lucy" (if, by that, you mean disagreeing with the consensus view of her place in our phylogenetic tree). I have a number of references, both popular and technical, that display a wide variety of opinions about the relationship between "Lucy" and humans. The opinions range from claims that she was the "trunk of the family tree" (e.g. Johanson & Edey 1981) to claims that she is not an ancestor at all, but a mere side branch (Walker & Leakey 1978), and from claims that she got around pretty much exactly like we do (Lovejoy 1975) to claims that she spent a substantial portion of her life in the trees (Susman, Stern, and Jungers 1984). These are all people who have actually spent time analysing the remains.

If scientists were required to sign a statement to the effect that they had to support the consensus position about "Lucy," this diversity of opinions would not exist. Either that, or a considerable proportion of these researchers would have been sued for breach of contract. Since the latter has not happened, and the former is demonstrably counter to the evidence, no such statement exists; QED.

You may be thinking of this:

All members of the CRS are required to affirm acceptance of this Statement of Belief, and are thereby prohibited from publishing any evidence they find that is contrary to this statement. I know of no scientific journals or organisations that have similar requirements. If you have evidence of such, please let me know, and I will join you in repudiating that organisation or journal. Ideally, your evidence will be sufficiently detailed, so I can investigate the situation myself. Names and dates will be particularly appreciated. (Of course if you have no evidence that such a statement is required by any scientific organisation, I will understand that people sometimes make mistakes, and I'll graciously accept your apology for the misstatement and say no more about it.)


Johanson, D. and M. Edey
1981    Lucy: The Beginnings of Humankind. Warner Books, New York.

Walker, A.C., and R.E. Leakey.
1978    "The hominids of East Turkana." Scientific American, vol. 239, no. 2, pp. 54-66.

Lovejoy, C. O.
1975    "Biomechanical Perspectives on the Lower Limb of Early Hominids." Primate Functional Morphology and Evolution, R. H. Tuttle (ed.) pp. 291-326. Mouton, The Hague.

Susman, R. L., J. T. Stern, and W. L. Jungers.
1984    "Arboreality and Bipedality in the Hadar Hominids." Folia Primatologica V. 43, pp. 113-156. Krager AG, Basel, Switzerland.

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