Bones of Contention V: Dr. Wood Weighs in on the Homo naledi Mystery

Two years ago the South African palaeoanthropologist, Dr. Lee Berger, announced that possible ancient hominin remains had been discovered in an isolated chamber deep in a South African cave system.  He assembled a group of scholars and cavers to enter the chamber and retrieve what he hoped would be a new set of ancient hominin remains.   The entire expedition was undertaken with cameras rolling and live-tweeted around the world.  To everyone’s surprise, the remote chamber contained not just the remains of one unfortunate individual but thousands of bones.

A schematic of the cave in which the bones were found. Credit: National Geographic and Lee Berger

A schematic of the cave in which the bones were found. Credit: National Geographic and Lee Berger

To date, over 1550 bones and bone fragments have been recovered and brought out of the cave in what has been described as just a fraction of the total number of bones in the cave.   One year later a team of anthropologists reported their first set of findings in two highly publicized papers open to the world to see.  What they concluded is that the bones represent at least 15 individuals from children to adults.  Because only hominin bones were found and in such a remote location they concluded that these bodies were deposited there on purpose.  The bones themselves exhibit a mixture of characteristics that similar and very different to humans and they considered the bones to be members of a new species, Homo naledi, indicative of a distant cousin of modern humans.

In addition to the descriptions of this new species, National Geographic published an article and NOVA produced a two-hour special on the findings.  All of this press brought human origins again to the forefront of the public consciousness.  Intense interest in these enigmatic fossils and their remote location raised many questions, many of which remain unanswered.

Some of the fossil bones from the rising star cave in South Africa that have been named Homo naledi. Photo: John Hawks - co-author of the paper reporting the result of research on these bones.

Some of the fossil bones from the rising star cave in South Africa that have been named Homo naledi. Photo: John Hawks – co-author of the paper reporting the result of research on these bones.

Soon after the revelation of these new fossils, I wrote several articles (Bone of Contention series) in which I speculated how Christians might respond to these fossils and then I examined the responses that three different young earth creationist’ organizations eventually did make to these fossils.

Those responses were fascinating and reflective of the truly unusual features of the fossils and the geological context in which they are found.  Below is the “scorecard” I produced comparing the responses.Homo-naledi-fossils-YEC-scorecard

As you can see there was rampant disagreement about how to interpret these fossils. Each of the three YEC organizations presented very different views to their followers creating some confusion.  After all, all three believe that there is no ancestral connection between humans and other primates and so the fossils must represent either human beings or some ape.  If the physical differences between humans and apes are clear, why then have YEC had so much difficultly assigning fossils to one or the other?

A fourth significant YEC voice has now chimed in on the Homo naledi humanity question.

From the moment the fossils were discovered I knew there was one young earth creationist who would be fascinated by them and would keen on taking a closer look.  That is Dr. Todd Wood. I described Dr. Wood in a previous post but we could call him a maverick or freelance young earth creationist for our purposes here.   As I expected, Dr. Wood expressed – on his blog – his intense interest in these fossils soon after Berger’s publications brought them to the public’s attention.

Like other YECs, Dr. Wood recognizes a separate ancestry of humans and other primates and thus has no expectation that intermediate forms should be found.  But unlike other YECS, he didn’t immediately pronounce judgement on these fossils claiming them to be Ape or Human but rather made an appeal for patience and close study of the fossils. He said he would examine the fossils, write-up his findings and have them reviewed by his peers before publishing his conclusions about the nature of these fossils.

True to his word, he followed through on the process and this past week he finally made his finding public.  As it turns out several other independent-minded YECs had also took up the task of examining the published data on Homo naledi and they also wrote papers about these fossils.  The three papers were collected and published together in the same issue of a small journal called the Journal of Creation Theology and Science.

What did these authors conclude? 

All three authors come to same conclusion:  the 15 individuals, referred to as Homo naledi, discovered deep in a South African cave complex were descendants of Adam and Eve and lived after the Noahic human bottleneck. They are the remains of members of a populations that underwent a long-range dispersal event following the separation of peoples at the Tower of Babel.  Bottleneck and found effects resulted in some divergence of bone characters from most other humans but they are human nonetheless.

So with these three new YEC articles I can expand my Homo naledi creationist’ scorecard.

Homo-naledi-Scorecard-creationism

A schematic of the cave in which the bones were found. Credit: National Geographic and Lee Berger

Ape, Human or Fraud: Interpretive discord abounds

I could dwell on the fascinating discord among young earth creationists with respect to the origins and spiritual status of the bodies found in this cave.  What do these differences tell us about how difficult it is to tell species apart and how it can be so difficult if there is a clear break between humans and animals?  But I don’t think that is a useful direction to explore here because the difficulties that YECs have had in identifying fossils can be explained more simply than problems with understanding speciation.  I think this is mostly a case of poor scholarship rather than the data themselves.

The three articles just published are far superior to any analyses undertaken by the three big creationists’ organizations (AiG, ICR and CMI).   Dr. Wise assesses the geological context of the fossils and finds that the general conclusions that Dr. Berger’s team make sense except, of course, the possible age of the fossils.  Furthermore, Dr. Wise believes that Dr. Burger’s team is probably right that this site was used as a disposal site for bodies, likely a form of burial.

Dr. Wood and J. O’Micks used a variety of statistical measures of the bones present in the cave to conclude that, though sometimes unusual, the bones represent individuals that are members of an ancient Homo lineage rather than an ape lineage.

These results place them in company with the initial assessment made by only one other Creationist’s organization: Creation Ministries International.   It places them in direct conflict with Answers in Genesis which proclaimed these bones to be from a lineage of extinct apes with no ancestral connection with modern humans.  It also rejects the conclusions of ICR which played the fraud card and claimed that the bones were a mixture of human and ape because the researchers had purposely mixed the two because of their desire to find a missing link fossil between humans and apes.

Wood, Wise and O’Micks don’t directly address their YEC colleagues but they don’t have to. They simply present a cogent argument based on the data.  It is clear they have read and analyzed all the data available to them.  No one has to fully agree with their conclusions to recognize that they clearly demonstrate that ICRs claims of fraud are nonsense.   It is also clear that Answers in Genesis made a premature decision based on a very cursory examination of the data and must have ignored much of the data to come to the decision that these were just apes with no souls.

Dr. Woods article in particular is an exceptional read because he lays out very clearly the challenges that this set of strange fossils presents not just for young earth creationists but for all Christians. These fossils present many mysteries and we should not expect that the answers will be easy.

A bit of speculation about future directions of the YEC response to Homo naledi

If I might be permitted to speculate a bit about the reactions to the Homo naledi fossils.  My gut feeling is that Answers in Genesis recognized right away that this fossil find could not be ignored and was important.  They could see that there was no report of any cultural artifacts were the bones were found and some of the bones are less human than they are chimp-like.  If these were humans there are so many questions about how they got there, when and why they are so different that calling them apes seemed to solve.  Ken Ham is very confident and always wants AiG to have answers to every question that his audience will ask.  They needed to say something quickly. After all, they always say that humans are so clearly different than any animal that it would sound awkward if they said that they needed time to decide what the fossils represent.

They took the easy way out and proclaimed them to be nothing more than apes that had become lost in a cave.  I expect they hoped that by jumping on the story early that other YEC organizations would simply follow suit and – as I predicted in my first post – that it would be tempting to call these bones just apes but to do so was fraught was danger. The reason being that, there are more bones to be recovered in the cave and more bones in nearby caves.  What if stone tools are found? What if it becomes even more apparent that fire was needed to find the back of this cave? What if more chambers are found that look like bones were intentionally disposed in are found?  All of these findings would make it   more difficult to argue that these bones represent an ancient ape.  It is apparent to me that the AiG team really didn’t read or understand the original papers before they wrote their response because they ignore many indications that this is just what they will be faced with in the future as work continues at this site for decades to come.

Now we see that the Dr. Wise has carefully thought through the evidence and considers the burial hypothesis to be very possible.  If this is correct, it will challenge AiG to re-evaluate because AiG would not say that apes used an artificial light source to reach the cave and bury their dead.  Combined with the Dr. Wood and O’Micks articles show that most of the bones have a greater affinity to modern humans than they do any living ape lineage.

What will AiG do?  Presently nothing because H. naledi is not in the news. But even more spectacular findings and revelations from this cave system are sure – by Bergers team’s admission – to come and AiG and other YEC organizations are going to pressed to respond because many Christians will come to them for answers.   Will they revise their first admittedly preliminary assessment?  I think they will if they take these new papers seriously – and they should!  But it’s anyone’s guess. They could easily dig in their heels deny the new evidence and accuse other creationists of compromising.

Stay tuned for future developments.

Comments

  1. I would have thought that AiG would say they were humans simply because claiming the fossils are of apes raises the awkward question of how they got in the cave to begin with, especially in such numbers, given how difficult it was for people to get to the Dinaledi cavern. Chimps are not exactly known as great potholers.
    Also, in the third last paragraph, did you get humans and apes mixed up in regards to it becoming more and more difficult to argue that the bones are of human lineage rather than ape?

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    • Probably not worded the best but I did mean it will be harder to argue they are ape rather than human. I will rework. Right now, AiG sees a lack of cultural items associated with the bones and there are some clearly ape-like features and the very small brains that suggest ape not human in their minds. But if you think about what could be found in the cave you will realize that there is a much greater chance that fire, stone tools, more evidence of burial, etc.. will all point to more human-like conclusions so they put themselves in a positions of having to revise their conclusions in the future.

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  2. wowfunny251 says:

    Homo Naledi only presents a problem for YEC’s because of their view on “kinds”. If you allow a “kind” to be narrower, more like a species. It isn’t implausible that God created several species of extinct bipedal primates including Homo Naledi. As an OEC, I don’t see how Naledi really “improves” the case for human evolution. It’s just another hominid fossil that makes the picture even more complicated. In my view, the various Australopithecines, Paranthropus, Habilis, Erectus, Neanderthals, and Idaltu were all special creations.

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    • The thing is, the reason we’ve found most of these fossils is because we were looking for them. And the reason we were looking for them is that the theory of evolution predicts that the gradual speciation of humans and chimpanzees from a common ancestor would have produced other species with intermediate features. Furthermore, it predicts that we should encounter these species in the same part of the world where Homo sapiens first emerged — in Africa — and not in, say, Australia or Greenland.

      Creationists can explain these hominids as special creations or varieties of ape, but there is nothing in the creationist paradigm (“theory” is too generous a word) that would have predicted these discoveries. There’s a reason groups like AiG treat each new scientific discovery not as validation of the efforts of scientists or as a new step forward in human knowledge, but as a bothersome datum that must be explained away.

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      • Well put about there being nothing in the creationist’ paradigm that predicts these things. The geological context of these finds is incredibly difficult to explain withing a young Earth and requires some really unlikely scenarios. And why are the fossils in these strange locations always so weird. Why didn’t some modern looking people manage to be the ones that dispersed quickly from Babel and become the ones that got lost in a cave? Its always the individuals that were weird that somehow were preserved.

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      • wowfunny251 says:

        Actually, progressive creationism WOULD predict that we would find hominid-like fossils. We already have the data that most species that have ever existed are now extinct. So, among all the living and extinct species God created, the odds are that at least a few of those species are more similar to humans anatomically than chimpanzees are is quite high. And given the fact that the earth’s environments change over time, those species existing in geologically recent history is also likely.

        As for the location of the fossils, I don’t buy that modern humans originated in east africa. Besides the fact that Genesis 2 gives clear geographical markers for the location of Eden and put it east of Israel, in the persian gulf region. Evidence for modern human behavior appears virtually simultaneously in Europe, Australia, Asia, and Africa ~45,000 years ago. The only exception is a few sites in the capes of south africa that date to 90,000 – 60,000 years old (the fact that these sites stick out like a sore thumb among other reasons justify suspicion as to the dates on these south african sites).

        And from an evolutionary perspective, Neanderthals or Denisovans (neither of whom lived in Africa) could just as easily have given rise to humans as the near-AMH found in Africa 200,000 – 73,000 years ago. Meaning even in an evolutionary perspective, modern humans supposedly originating in Africa would just be a coincidence with the oldest hominid fossils we have (Sahelanthropus, Ardipithecus, Afarensis) being found in Africa. Because well prior to modern humans you have a large number of Hominids living outside of Africa. Darwin simply assumed that hominid fossils would be found where the great apes are today, Asia and Africa. And it so happens that the earliest hominids are African. You could make the same arguement if they happened to be in Asia instead.

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    • Wowfunny251…So in your view God deliberately created several different hominids that appear to have intermediate features and make it appear that earlier primates evolved into humans, plus put them in geologic horizons that further reinforced the idea? Wow that’s funny.

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      • wowfunny251 says:

        God created several species with more human-like anatomical characteristics than chimpanzees (again, this should be expected by chance alone because most things that have ever lived are now extinct). This is no more evolution than the spork is evolution. It’s a combination of two different design plans.

        As is usual, creatures resembling modern-day creatures will of course tend to be created closer to the present than the past because the earth’s environments and ecosystems were obviously more like today the closer to today you are. For example, 70 million years ago the earth was more suitable to dinosaurs and less suitable to large land mammals and whales.

        It really only appears to be evolution if you are reading the fossil record with Darwinian theory in mind. Looking into the fossil record and seeing evidence of different eras with different creatures living in them (and the creatures, on average, looking more and more like modern creatures the closer to the present you get) would not normally invoke thoughts of evolution IMO. Just God creating different things over vast amounts of time.

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        • Wowfunny251, You are doing a extreme amount of rationalizing to avoid facing what extensive evidence shows: namely, that species change with time, that is, they evolve. It is well supported not just by the fossil record, but also genetics, population biology, and more. No, it is not “expected” that God would directly create a lot of species and at times that just happened to make it looked like they evolved. Who but you expects this? Indeed, if your position is so sensible, why is it so rare, even among theistic earth scientists? Are the rest of us all blind or stupid?

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          • wowfunny251 says:

            I don’t at all see my reasoning as “forced”. The conclusion follows naturally from the premises.

            You say it is implausible that God “just happened to make it looked like they evolved”, but as I explained, this is clearly expected from the data. The earth had many different environments that gradually progressed towards modern day, and God created organisms designed to live in those environments. As such, the average phenotype of the ecosystems will look more and more like modern-day the closer we get to modern day. What is forced about that? How else would you expect God to create? (And again, we also expect some organisms to “cluster” together in terms of anatomy, because there simply is no reason for God to make every lifeform equally different from one-another)

            You said “Indeed, if your position is so sensible, why is it so rare, even among theistic earth scientists? Are the rest of us all blind or stupid?”

            I could answer this in detail and pull out a bunch of psychological reasons people take the beliefs they do, but I am not going to do that. Instead, I will point out that I don’t care, neither should anyone else and it does not objectively matter. Appealing to the number of people who believe a thing to prove or disprove that thing is a blatant appeal to popularity (also mixed with a bit of appeal to authority). Who/how many people believe a thing has absolutely no bearing on whether that thing is true.

            Conclusions should only be drawn from reasoning from the data, how many people agree with the conclusion should not have any bearing on a conclusion.

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            • The problem is that the paeleontological record shows organisms changing over time even when the environments do not significantly change. You are also leaving out the overwhelming majority of evidence for evolution, such as bio-geographical distribution, genetic analysis and nested hierarchies. While evolution explains all of these at once, divine creation has to list them all as individual coincidences.

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            • Wowfunny, we are not just talking about say 90% or even 99% of average people who reject something, but that over 99.99% of those scientists most most knowledgeable about the most relevant evidence that reject your position. I think that is meaningful relevant, and something you ought to give more thought to. It’s not just “psychological”. think the only way you could account for that massive rejection is that almost all earth and life scientists were blind, stupid, or hopelessly biased, and that would be horrendously insulting. I still say what you are doing is major rationalization, and it’s totally unnecessary. Why would God create millions of separate species over long periods of time, when we have massive evidence that they can evolve through natural processes (mutation and natural selection, etc). Moreover, you seem to be suggesting God creates new species every time environments change. But environments change all the time. Are you saying God been directly creating new species even in historic times? What evidence do you have for this? If he hasn’t, why did he stop?

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              • wowfunny251 says:

                It’s an appeal to authority and popularity no matter how you slice it. Conclusions should always be drawn from reasoning from the data, It doesn’t matter if every other person on the planet disagrees or agrees. Simply increasing the numbers means nothing. Truth isn’t a democracy. It is absolutely horrible for truth-seeking to base your opinions on what the consensus is and ignoring your own logic/reasoning. I do not (nor should anyone else) base my beliefs on any kind of consensus, period.

                “Why would God create millions of separate species over long periods of time, when we have massive evidence that they can evolve through natural processes (mutation and natural selection, etc)”

                Because those natural processes are inherently limited, being mindless and random. What we have observed in nature is birds slightly changing beak-sizes/shapes, deformations, increase or decrease in a skin-pigment, etc. We have observed nothing like a chimp and a human diverging, or a donkey diverging from a horse.

                “Moreover, you seem to be suggesting God creates new species every time environments change. But environments change all the time. Are you saying God been directly creating new species even in historic times? What evidence do you have for this? If he hasn’t, why did he stop?”

                Because creation was finished and very good, “on the seventh day, God rested from all his works” it became suitable for human life/civilization. There is no more divine creation. It’s time for humans to operate in the world within it’s set laws, without God acting outside them regularly to create anew. I’m really not seeing the issue here.

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                • Wowfunny, As you know, I did not base my argument on popularity alone or even as the major aspect; I cited several major areas of evidence that support evolution. But again, unless we are all blind or stupid, it makes no sense that virtually all scientists (theistic and otherwise) reject your position. Even tho you are not a YEC, that you like many of them depict evolution as “random” shows how profoundly you misunderstand the process. As the term implies, natural selection is a selective process, not a totally random one. And it has been supported by many experiments observations from population biology. You say we don’t observe organisms changing in major ways, yet we do – in the fossil record, which again, you seem unable to face. Your comments about God no longer creating new species to let them adapt to the environment seems to be suggesting God stopped caring about his creation. So when did the 7th day begin, geologically, and why would God condemn all creatures to suffer without being able to adapt to new environments, if he did it in the past? Why do you have trouble with the idea of God allowing species to adapt, rather than having to continuall create new species? Even Genesis says that God commanded the sea and land to bring forth creatures, which implies an indirect process (ie evolution) rather than direct, fiat creation. You talked about new species being created as environments changed. Are you saying the existing species in the past were also left to the wayside, rather than being able to adapt in any major way? For all these reasons and others your position baffles me. By the way, may I ask how much if any field or lab work you have done, or do you consider that irrelevant too?

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                • “It’s an appeal to authority and popularity no matter how you slice it. Conclusions should always be drawn from reasoning from the data, It doesn’t matter if every other person on the planet disagrees or agrees.”
                  Scientific consensus does not mean scientists stand around agreeing with each other. It means that the overwhelming majority of studies and experiments all point to the same thing. The scientists agreeing with each other is the side-effect of the consensus, not the consensus itself.

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                  • Good points megasolipist. Another thing. Appeals to authority are mainly problems if they are the sole basis of an argument, or if the authorities cited are dubious or not experts in the subject at hand. However, when they are, then there is nothing wrong with citing in addition to the reasons and evidence relating to their conclusions. Wowfunny, unless you’ve done a lot of personal field or lab work, how do you form your scientific conclusions if not at least in part on relying on the people who have? Why should you trust your own unusual interpretations of the evidence (if you are even familiar with most of it) more than thousands of others who have studied it more directly and thoroughly? If your higher authority is your particular interpretation of Genesis, which even many believers have divergent views on, and many consider mainly a religious rather than scientific book, then if anyone is making a dubious appeal to authority, it’s not scientists.

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  3. Hi Joel,

    According to Wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Homo_naledi#Opinions), I get the impression that mainstream scientists also have a fairly diverse set of opinions on Homo naledi — it seems that some anthropologists are sceptical of the deliberate burial hypothesis and there are even a few who, like ICR, also doubt that they represent a single species.

    Any thoughts on this?

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    • No doubt, if anything thinks they can explain the origin of these fossils completely then they probably haven’t looked at all what is known right now. Deliberate burial was a conclusion the authors drew in which they admitted they could come up with no better explanation. Of those that think it is unlikely no one has come up with a better hypothesis. So there is a diversity of opinion but only because there is no clear evidence pointing to a specific origin of these fossils. However, those that doubt that bones are a single species have yet published anything to support their claims and they are in a minority. The diversity of opinion among mainstream scientists is over a different set of questions than those that creationists are interested in so they are hard to compare. Creationists are most interested in only one question: are they human or not? Most anthropologists would not consider them modern human but they may argue about how human they are but they have a different definition of what it means to be human in many cases so their diversity of opinion doesn’t get creationists off the hook for also have diverse opinions when the latter expect there to be a clear distinction between human and ape when others are not expecting such a clear distinction.

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      • Natural Historian, I am sorry if my last comments appeared to be disagreeing with yours. I largely agree with you. I also have not had time to read all the mainstream writings on H Naledi finds. Has anyone explored the possibilities that 1. There may have been wider or alternate entrances to the past, and 2. Perhaps a population was living in the cave, or at least going there occasionally for protection from the elements or enemies, and then during a heavy rain, were trapped and drowned in the cave?

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        • The team of investigators there have done extensive geological analysis of the cave and it appears very unlikely there was any other entrance and if there were, possibly from below or way in the back, the route to the chamber from those possible entrances would have been even more difficult. Very unlikely they were seeking protections since this is so far back and is only reached after traveling through many other chambers. They would have no need to travel so far back. Also, no evidence so far of occupation, just bodies. A new excavation just wrapped up yesterday. It has been revealed that several more bodies have been found and that bones are found down passages more than 30 meters from the original finds and some are articulated which would not be expected had they washed to these various positions in the cave. I think everyone is perplexed. There is no obvious explanation for how these bones came to be where they are and in the positions they are in.

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    • Natural historian, there is a big difference between having legitimate scientific debate about the status of certain hominid fossils, and doing what YECs do, which is insist that they must all be pigeon-holed as “100% ape” or “100% human.” Of course the fact that YECs can’t agree on which are which confirms that many of the fossils have intermediate features or features of both, but they can’t afford to frankly admit that.

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  4. There’s also a new, brief, Wood blog post on Homo naledi also dated 16 May:
    http://toddcwood.blogspot.co.uk/2016/05/lets-talk-about-homo-naledi.html
    He does not say a huge amount. The key text appears to be:
    “So what does all of this mean? It means that Homo naledi is weird. I do happen to think there is more than enough evidence from the burial alone to argue that it was human, but I can also understand why there would be disagreement. The body form of Homo naledi really is different from modern humans and Neandertals, and that is often judged to be a big deal by lots of creationists.”

    Incidentally, as his blog invites, I have emailed him – flagging this post. I did not copy Joel in – as that might have looked as though we were acting in collusion in same way.

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    • Ironically, in the Oct. 2017 ICR publication Acts & Facts, Tim Clarey states that the H naledi remains “are certainly not human.” Meanwhile another ICR on-line article (#8962) by Frank Sherwin says essentially the opposite -that they are “likely just another human variety”.

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  5. This exact same scenario played out with the discovery of Au. sediba. Wood claimed it was human, whilst AiG did not. Interestingly, the back and forth over the issue took place within the AiG research journal.

    Wood published his paper in it:
    https://answersingenesis.org/creation-science/baraminology/homo-habilis-homo-rudolfensis-and-australopithecus-sediba/

    And AiG published a reply:
    https://answersingenesis.org/creation-science/baraminology/homo-habilis-homo-rudolfensis-australopithecus-sediba-discussion/

    Could this provide the template for the ongoing discussion over H. naledi?

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    • The AiG responses are very predictable. They end up appealing to particular morpholgoical features and deeming them too different and they refer to other hominids as species and accuse Wood of wanting there to be speciation among humans as their is in other “kinds” and Wood makes no such argument though that points is one that any YEC needs to think about given how easily they think species can be formed.
      In the end AiG always sticks with whatever they have said before. I am having trouble thinking of any times they have changed their mind about anything. Homo naledi will be a big challenge to them as this fossil site is going to become far too famous to ignore when more bones are pulled from more chambers and the inevitable onslaught of papers begin to flow.

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      • You’re right that most of the response revolves around cherry picking different features. But there are also several borderline conspiracy theories about the features themselves. That the data Wood is using is suspicious because it came from evolutionists.

        To me this raises the question: do you think there is some sort of analysis Wood could perform they couldn’t dismiss off hand?

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        • Based on how poorly their first response was written it is evident that they didn’t carefully read the article and had probably made up their minds well before looking closely at the data. This is the problem I wrote about regarding not going to scientific meetings and engaging in science. They aren’t even aware of what they don’t know at times. They have created a culture in which their followers believe that science – but only some parts of it – is a massive conspiracy and they believe it themselves so when Wood uses methods employed by those scientists without enough reservations they really believe they can’t trust the data. I remember sitting down for a conversation with strong YEC follower once and before I said anything I was told that I couldn’t use any scientific evidence in our discussion because he couldn’t allow himself to listen to the tools of the devil. Needless to say that was a bit of a conversation stopper. Once one goes to the conspiracy card, it is very very difficult to have any meaningful discussion. It happens all the time on FB and discussion boards and I don’t now what can be done about it other than just plug away and try to develop personal relationships which will allow for real dialogue.

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          • I think you’re right in that perosnal relationships can help deal with this. It’s a lot harder to demonise someone and pass them off as doing the devil’s work once you actually get to know them. This makes me somewhat saddened by the way many scientists refuse to engage with creationists. I understand not wanting to lend them legitimacy; but surely it also reinforces science as the “other” to be fought.

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      • A pertinent quote from AiG’s discussion of A. sediba, discussing Wood’s analysis:

        “Historically, we creationists have rather made a laughingstock of ourselves among evolutionists in claiming that we can tell the difference between human and nonhuman fossils (Foley 2008), and this paper does nothing to reverse that situation.”

        Couldn’t have said it better myself.

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  6. I am not a YEC but a theistic evolutionist. Please keep in mind YEC views do not speak for a large number of theists. Unfortunately, young earth creationists have hijacked the evangelical movement-to which I am a member. Good science should not be influenced by one’s theological or political leanings. If it is, then it isn’t good science. For some, this becomes a very personal issue. Some members of my own family, including my wife, find my interest in evolution to be a serious insult to God, a detriment to my faith as well as my standing within the family. With all that said-science just rocks.

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  7. Just a note. Dr. Wood has responded to some of the responses to this article on his blog. I can’t say I disagree with anything he says. He makes some pretty good points. https://toddcwood.blogspot.com/2016/05/homo-naledi-feedback.html

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    • i’m afraid that I don’t see much difference here between the enlightened oec or the Neanderthal yec. You say yec’s don’t trust evolutionary scientists, they are the big buggaboos. On this post, it seems like all the oec seem to think that yec’s are the big buggaboos. What’s the difference? Is one side brilliant and the other side metally deficienct (you can choose which one you belong to)? I have no doubt the aig people have a bunker mentality, but what else do you expect? There certainly is no significant movement among evolutionists to dialogue with them, regardless of their prejudices? Do you know of any mainstream evolutionary journals looking to print and respond to yec viewpoints? So they hunker down and function on whatever donations they can get to do science, with no recourse to the billions that the govt. hands out to secular organizations, universities, etc. because they can’t do ANYTHING that might be seen as endorsing the slightest religious view.
      And I think it’s a bit disingenuous to pretend the only people disagreeing with you are the dudes and dudesses over at aig. (There are thousands of scientists, by the way, who are creationists, not just the ten or whatever at aig) You’ve got the discovery institute rejecting Darwinian evolution. You’ve even got athiests rejecting Darwinian evolution. I just don’t want you people, and I am only thinking of your interests here, please believe me, thinking that the only obstacle to complete acceptance of your evolutionary beliefs are a few people over at AIG. This post serves no purpose whatsoever if all it ends up doing is belittling other believers, many of whom I am sure are just as intelligent and honest as you are. Or do you think differently? For those of you here who are Christian, why don’t you move on to “committed Christian Living” or “doctrines of God” or “charity among the poor”? Just posting here and backslapping yourselves because other Christians apparently aren’t as enlightened as you is shameful behavior. Or perhaps I am wrong. Just how is the body of Christ edified by what you are doing? And what part of what you are doing touches on anything salvific? Just wondering.

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      • Chuck,
        Speaking for myself, the vast majority of my ministry time as a pastor is in proclamation and discipleship. But as someone dearly in love with the Truth as found in the redeemer, (Jesus Christ, the way the truth and life) I also dearly love the truth revealed about God the Creator from the creation he made. Science is the means of discovering the truth about the creation and, thus, the glory of the Creator, and I don’t believe the facts of Science and Scripture are contradictory. They’re complementary, and if the manner of them being complementary isn’t entirely clear all the time it’s not an indictment of the facts. Instead, it means we still have more to learn. And God knows there’s more to learn than we can ever comprehend.

        And there’s nothing wrong with disagreeing about these things. Christians have been doing that for centuries.

        By the way, the whole point of Joel’s posts, as I see it, is to point out that while people may differ on interpretation, they are not entitled to their own “facts.” It’s the shoddy and inconsistent use of facts that Joel tries to point out. Pointing to Dr. Wood as a scientist with integrity is a way of saying that Dr. Wood recognizes that differing interpretations all have deal with facts and not explain the facts away as fraud (ICR) or unworthy of serious consideration because they are from secular scientists (AIG).

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        • And thus dear pastor, we end up on the same street. I am utterly amazed, on this site, that christians are not only psychic, but have no qualms about insulting other believers. Perhaps you aren’t either. I can’t tell. I don’t care what Joel or anyones complaints are about yec,aig,icr, etc. There is a way to do it and a way not to. Apparently, i can only assume by your post, that you are aware of what they are thinking. Apparently they are not capable of good science or honesty. So we have a bunch of imcompetent, devious, liars. Now of course, those exact words weren’t used. But follow the road where it leads.
          And i have no problem with people disagreeing. I enjoy a good debate as well as the next. And i don’t need to impugn the character of my opponent in order to have one. You’ll forgive me if, you being a pastor and such, that i am a bit surprised that you seem to care more about respect for science than you do respect for fellow christians. Or am i wrong. Perhaps i misread you. Or perhaps you misread me. I’m not a big fan of discussions that devolve into christians insulting christians, no matter the topic. I just don’t enjoy the innuendos and the insults, flung out continously at people who don’t agree with a certain paradigm. Doesn’t fit my comfort zone. But it’s what you will find just about on every blog site. I expect it from the world. But not from christians. At least I shouldn’t. I wonder what unbelievers think when they find a site where “christians” are blogging and just typing away with insults hurled at other christians. How wonderful. Makes me want to celebrate. How about you?

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      • Chuck,
        I think some (certainly not all) people who disagree with the content of Joel’s posts feel personally insulted rather than intellectually challenged. And then it goes downhill from there.

        Quoting you: “I am a bit surprised that you seem to care more about respect for science than you do respect for fellow Christians.”
        Should I feel insulted by this? I don’t. The thing that bugs me most with your statement is that you’ve pitted respect for Christians against respect for science. There’s no need for that. Let’s do both. And lets not go any further down the road than we need to with insinuations, as you did with “exact words” like “imcompetent [sic] devious, liars” that weren’t actually used (at least by me).

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      • Chuck, your above posts seem totally out of line here and don’t seem to reflect what you are ostensibly responding to in any way. In principle, you are completely right that conversations that are filled with insults have no place here (or anywhere), but in practice you have not really addressed what is generally a fair critique in the above comments and blog post, instead making a caricature out of the discussion. If you want to respond to the actual content and explain how it is wrong, then great, but what you have actually put forward seems to lower the tone instead of raising it. Also note that Joel has responded approvingly to what another creationist (Todd Wood) has written on the same topic; clearly it is not about attacking the other camp but is instead about criticizing the response of those creationist groups who have failed to approach the topic with the kind of diligence that would seem to be demanded by intellectual integrity. To be fair, it’s also about showcasing the kind of confusion caused in creationist circles by any evidence that seems to fit clearly in an evolutionary paradigm…

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        • I assume you meant lower even still when you said lower. And again, someone using caricature on a blog site filled with them. I merely try to encourage people to exchange ideas without insinuating that your “opponent” is somehow defective intellectually, as you will often notice when YEC is thrown in with a point to imply, by usage, that said view must therefore be defective, as you yourself did when you implied creationists “circles” (nice one) try to cause confusion (showcasing) when they can’t deal with the matter at hand. You’re quite good with your insults, but take your intellectual snobbery somewhere else. Besides, Wow and I have been trying to decide what the word “day” means. Leave it alone and move on. Try your game somewhere else.

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      • 1. Please quote (particularly in the main text of the blog) where it is insinuated that an “opponent” (is this word used?) is intellectually defective. I have never actually seen such a charge by the author of this blog, and I have generally considered this to be a major positive for this site. If you can establish this, I will of course agree that it is uncalled for. If, on the other hand, this is what you think is being insinuated whenever errors and problems (even habitual ones) with the creationist paradigm or with particular organizations or individuals are being pointed out, then you have blatantly confused critique with ad hominem and should probably avoid debates in general for your own peace of mind. Personally, I would never want to go near a contentious issue if every time my point was criticized I thought I was being insulted. Chuck, the blog posts here contain actual arguments, feel free to actually address them instead of posting indignation at the expense of substance. Substance would be here defined as an actual rejoinder to the arguments found above and it would give people something to work with. Your feelings are taken into account, but if we can’t manage to connect them to something tangible in the post you are responding to, we can’t share in your feelings and they become less than helpful.

        2. “Circles” is not a pejorative in any context, so I’m not sure just how much of a “nice one” that really was. “Showcasing” is also not a pejorative.

        3. I quite clearly didn’t say that creationist circles try to cause confusion. My sentence structure was clear enough: I stated that evidence like this tends to cause confusion in creationist circles (yes, circles is still a neutral word here). Do I need to back this up? Not really, that was the point of the post above, and given that all of the major creationist organization came to contrary conclusions, it seems that little more needs to be said. To avoid misunderstandings this time around, perhaps reread what I say just to make sure you have not discovered a new insult where none was intended – you seem to be discovering them far faster than they are actually being produced.

        4. “You are quite good with your insults”. Fascinating; I can’t locate a single insult in my post. For most of us, constructive criticism and insult are two very different things and have very different characteristics. That said, maybe avoiding insults is what leads to the (insulting by the way;-) charge of intellectual snobbery? Not sure, but if so, please let me know which you would prefer. I thought you preferred discussions with less insults so I feel like this could lead to mixed signals…

        5. I didn’t mention the word “day” and I’m not sure what it has to do with this. I’ll let you know if I develop a special concern with this word. Otherwise, good luck for your discussion with Wow.

        6. I’m not playing a game so far as I can see, so no, I think I won’t be taking any game elsewhere. And exactly what did you mean by this? Can you clarify? What should I read into this statement? Is something being insinuated? What?

        Thanks for your time Chuck, and hoping you can offer some constructive criticism about the blog at some point.

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        • I’ll reply as I recall.
          1) the reference to day was about the exchange that Wow and I were having. Had nothing to do directly with you. I think we’ve moved on. When two people can’t agree on what the word “day” means, well, that greatly reduces fruitful dialogue.
          2) If you are not a Christian, then little of what I have said applies to you. If you’re not, then you owe no undue respect to Christians. If you are, as some here claim to be, then you DO owe respect to fellow believers. I’m not saying you have to agree with them, but you are commanded to respect them.
          3) I’ve taught science, logic, (and as a creationist), theology and apologetics. I can get a good feel for people. Granted, it’s very hard from a post. One can’t see expressions or hear tonal inflections, so words have to do. I won’t hesitate to admit I tend to get a little sardonic when someone or something I care about is attacked. I know. I know. No one’s “officially” attacked anyone. But the insinuations are there.
          4) Exactly WHO do you expect to actually “debate” here? Creationists? Why would they. From what is said about them here, I can’t blame them.
          5) Look, let’s digest a little Schlafer and Feyerband here. All humans interpret everything, and I mean everything, through their own paradigm. Their worldview. Evolutionists will interpret and attempt to synthesize everything they learn about science through the evolutionist paradigm. No exceptions allowed. Creationists do the same thing. No condemnation here. That’s just being human. So no one on this site, including me, is processing information objectively. Not one single person. You want to debate that, let me know. That’s why a little slack and compassion is helpful towards a party that disagrees with you. That is, if you want to dialogue. I haven’t seen any debating here ( ‘cept for Wow and I). It seems more like a creationists internet group-bully site.
          6) I don’t care about evolution, or who believes it. I don’t believe it because I don’t think it is a very scientific hypothesis, which is all it is, quite contrary to the “it’s a fact” chant. It doesn’t even qualify as a theory. Not observable. Not repeatable. Not falsifiable. Just a hypothesis. For now. It will remain the primary scientific paradigm until a crisis occurs (already started with ID). Change often takes time (just ask Ptolemy, Newton, Einstein et. al.) But it will. As one evolutionist stated a decade or two ago, “in fifty years Darwinian evolution will be seen as the greatest scientific hoax ever known”. And that’s from an atheistic evolutionist. Ironic, isn’t it. The Titanic is slowly sinking and most of the passengers are seated and waiting for dinner. But as I said, believe what you will. No one changes their mind until they want to. And then only when brutally forced to. Just keep back slapping one another and enjoy the party. When you “demean” (my new word) creationists, I’ll be nearby. And if you’re a Christian, you’ll get a rebuke. If you aren’t, you probably understood very little of what I just said. I’m sure you are a kind and compassionate individual. Little of what I have posted here has anything to do with you personally. Still, I am kind of sad that Wow and I couldn’t agree on what a “day” was. It could’ve opened so many doors. Be safe. I wish you well.

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          • Chuck, I find it ironic that you wrote (referring to evolution) “…contrary to the “it’s a fact” chant. It doesn’t even qualify as a theory. Not observable. Not repeatable. Not falsifiable.” Well, some chants are true and some are not. Lots of evidence indicates that it’s your three chants’ that are unfounded. Speciation has been observed even in historic times, and larger patterns of change (in many lines) is well observed (if indirectly) in the fossil record.
            Assertions that species don’t change beyond narrow limits is contradicted by what we know of genetics and the fossil record. Evolution is also falsifiable. For example, it would be effectively refuted if we found say, large modern mammals anywhere in the Precambrian, Paleozoic, or early Mesozoic. But nothing like that has been reliably documented. Every alleged OOP (out of place) find of any significance has been refuted, and I don’t know of any that any major group currently supports. YECism is also falsifiable, and has been well falsified in multiple ways. One is by the robust evidence of several independent dating methods. Another is fossil succession, which has no plausible YEC explanation. Hydrologic sorting, ecological zonation, and differential escape abilities (the 3 ways YECs try to explain it) fail miserably on close analysis, and often predict geologic and paleontological patterns entirely opposite those found. In case you want to quibble about the accuracy of radiometric dating, even ICR’s RATE project authors admitted that far too much radiometric decay is recorded in the geologic record to be compatible with YECism. The only way they could account for it was by appealing to ad-hoc, extra-Biblical miracles to vastly accelerate decay rates, then invoke more ad-hoc miracles to protect the earth and living things from the massive heat that acceleration would create. But with that approach any contrary evidence, no matter how robust and thoroughly contrary to one’s view, can be dismissed, making “scientific creationism” anything but scientific. Moreover, why would God accelerate decay rates (and in ways that match the sloping patterns in the rock record?) when the major effects would be to make the earth look old and melt the earth, or require his intervention to undo the first miracle? Does that make a shred of sense?

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  8. A YEC blogger changes his mind about Homo naledi to a slightly less far-fetched conclusion (‘post-flood human being’):
    http://blog.drwile.com/?p=14749#comments

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