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The Headstrong Homo erectus Error IN Natural History Magazine

The February 2004 edition of the magazine Natural History carried an article called “Headstrong Hominids.” Based on a new book (1) by the anatomist Noel T. Boaz and the anthropologist Russell L. Ciochon, the article dealt with the cranial vault thickness of fossils that became known as Java Man and Peking Man and were later added to the Homo erectus category. The cranial thickness of the H. erectus skull fossils discovered in Asia was much greater than that of specimens found in other regions of the world. Boaz and Ciochon sought to explain this from an evolutionist perspective, suggesting this might have been to do with sexual selectionism, according to which cranial thickness might have developed as a result of male aggressiveness as they fought to obtain females. According to this claim, H. erectus males fought over females and concentrated on the head as a target area. The conclusion drawn from this tall tale is that the skull evolved as a kind of protective helmet.

It needs to be made clear that this claim is utterly fantastic, even by evolutionist standards. The way that H. erectus is regarded as a crude and primitive ancestor of man in the alleged human evolution is based solely on evolutionist preconceptions. The true nature of H. erectus and the unfounded selectionist outlook at the basis of Boaz and Ciochon”s tale are set out below.

Homo erectus: A Fictitious Category

In the article the cranial vault thickness is described as a diagnostic character distinguishing H. erectus from H. Sapiens. The cranial vault thickness of H. erectus is indeed a fact, but interpreting this feature as a diagnostic character is based on prejudice and lack of information. One important study to reveal this was performed by the Australian palaeo-anthropologist Peter Brown of New England University in Armidale, Australia. Brown compared the skulls of H. erectus and H. Sapiens at seven anatomical points and concluded that cranial vault thickness could not be interpreted as a diagnostic character for H. erectus. The article “Cranial-vault thickness in Asian Homo erectus and H. Sapiens,” which explained the study, begins:

Nearly every introductory and advanced text written on human evolution in the last four decades lists thickened cranial-vault bone as one of the features distinguishing Homo erectus from H. Sapiens and other hominids. However, data has rarely been presented in support of this statement and it remains unclear whether the distinction that is being drawn is relative, absolute, or restricted to a specific part of the neurocranium. (2)

Previous studies comparing the cranial vault thickness of H. erectus and H. Sapiens skulls used only thin-walled European skull specimens representing H. Sapiens. This prevented any realistic comparison and produced a deceptive picture in terms of the difference in cranial vault thickness between H. erectus and H. Sapiens. In his comparison, Brown did not limit himself to European specimens but included specimens from four different H. Sapiens populations from different regions of the world (Romano-British, southern Chinese, living and recently dead Australian aborigines, and Australian aborigines who lived between 10,000 and 30,000 years ago). After performing various anatomical measurements on the H. Sapiens populations and Asian H. erectus skulls, the researcher compared the H. Sapiens populations both with each other and with H. erectus, and reported the conclusions he reached:

I suspect that there are several reasons why thickened cranial-vault bone has persisted as one of the diagnostic characteristic of H. erectus in almost every text describing the evolution of our lineage. Most importantly vault thickness in relatively thin walled European crania has been considered the norm for modern Homo sapiens …. Until recently little comparative data on geographic, sex-based and secular variation was available …. Now that comparable data is available it appears clear that if H. Sapiens includes all the people alive in the world today, their ancestors in the Late Pleistocene and “archaic” H. Sapiens like Dali and Xujiayao then vault thickness can not be used to distinguish H. erectus from H. Sapiens. (3) (our emphasis)

This wide-ranging study by Brown clearly revealed the error in regarding cranial vault thickness as a distinctive feature of H. erectus. On the other hand, cranial thickness is not the only feature portrayed, with an “exaggerated” interpretation, as a distinctive feature of H. erectus by evolutionists. According to evolutionists, the transition towards a relatively small brain (although the average brain volume of modern man is 1400cc, that of H. erectus varies between 900 and 1200 cc), a backward-sloping forehead and thick eyebrow bones are all features that distinguish H. erectus from H. Sapiens. The fact is, however, that these features can all easily be found in modern-day human races. For example, the brow ridges of Aborogines, or native Australians (H. Sapiens) are much more protuberant than those of other races. Many people today have brain volumes within the range for H. erectus. This shows that the differences between H. Sapiens and H. erectus are small ones that can be dealt with at the racial level. Indeed, the evolutionist palaeo-anthropologist Richard Leakey admitted this:

One would also see differences: in the shape of the skull, in the degree of protrusion of the face, the robustness of the brows and so on. These differences are probably no more pronounced than we see today between the separate geographical races of modern humans. Such biological variation arises when populations are geographically separated from each other for significant lengths of time. (4)

In addition, the H. erectus and H. Sapiens skeletons are identical (the term Homo erectus means “upright walking human being”). For instance, the skeleton shown in the picture to the side is that of a 120 cm tall H. erectus child established to have lived 1.65 million years ago. The American palaeo-anthropologist Alan Walker said that he doubted that “the average pathologist could tell the difference between the fossil skeleton and that of a modern human.”

New research continues to reveal that the line drawn between H. erectus and H. Sapiens is an artificial one devoid of any scientific foundation. The efforts to portray H. erectus as a separate species are now being increasingly questioned, and there are even efforts to do away with this concept completely.

One conference which openly revealed that “Homo erectus did not exist as a separate species” was held at the Senckenberg Institute in Germany. Pat Shipman summarises this conference in an article published in American Scientist magazine:

… [M]ost of the participants at the Senckenberg conference got drawn into a flaming debate over the taxonomic status of Homo erectus started by Milford Wolpoff of the University of Michigan, Alan Thorne of the University of Canberra and their colleagues. They argued forcefully that Homo erectus had no validity as a species and should be eliminated altogether. All members of the genus Homo, from about 2 million years ago to the present, were one highly variable, widely spread species, Homo sapiens, with no natural breaks or subdivisions. The subject of the conference, Homo erectus, didn”t exist. It was a radical suggestion. (5) (our emphasis)

As we have seen, there are no objective criteria for regarding H. erectus as distinct from H. Sapiens. Researchers who accept evolution as a dogma right from the very outset produced H. erectus as an artificial category in the light of their need to demonstrate gradual development in the human fossil record and regarded it as different to H. Sapiens. This dogmatic prejudice in Natural History and other evolutionist publications in depicting H. erectus as a separate species stems from their refusal to give way in the face of the facts that show that the difference exists on the racial level. In fact, H. erectus is an ancient human race.

Boaz and Ciochon”s hypothesis: a fantastical tale of selectionism

Selectionism is an evolutionist perspective that can be summed up as stating that “the slightest difference in form must have a particular selective cause for its existence.” According to this, the so-called evolutionary history of every living thing is based on advantages that the living thing”s structure might have brought about. For example, there are three different scenarios regarding the benefits that H. erectus” protruding eyebrow bones might have imparted. These are the claims that these bones evolved for resistance to the masticatory pressure set up by the jaw muscles (6), for protection against solar rays (7) or to prevent the hair impeding vision (8). According to these claims, H. erectus” eyebrow bones were favoured by natural selection during the so-called process of evolution because of these benefits they provided.

None of these explanations is anything more than a just-so story, and all are totally unscientific. That is because each one is based not on scientific evidence, but on their proponents” interpretations of the bones in question, themselves based solely on imagination. These have no more scientific worth than fairy tales and constitute no evidence whatsoever. Henry Gee, editor of Nature magazine, said this about such forms of explanation:

… “our noses were made to carry spectacles, so we have spectacles.” Yet evolutionary biologists do much the same thing when they interpret any structure in terms of adaptation to current utility while failing to acknowledge that current utility need tell us nothing about how a structure evolved, or indeed how the evolutionary history of a structure might itself have influenced the shape and properties of that structure. (9)

Boaz and Ciochon”s theses about the cranial vault thickness of H. erectus were also produced in the light of this perspective, but also constitute no evidence and are mere selectionist just-so stories.

Starting from the assumption that cranial vault thickness is an adaptation that must inevitably have provided an evolutionary advantage, the researchers invent a totally imaginary benefit and base their evolutionary claims upon it.

There is no limit to the scenarios that can be produced in this way about the cranial vault thickness of H. erectus. Anyone can come up with an imaginary advantage and construct an evolutionary hypothesis upon that. For example, one might imagine that the cranial vault thickness of H. erectus evolved in such a way as to provide it with an advantage in collecting fruit from trees. According to this hypothesis, the cranial vault thickness of H. erectus might have evolved as a result of its hitting its head against trees to cause the fruit to fall off. Those with thick skulls might have caused more fruit to fall off and thus acquired a nutritional advantage in the struggle for survival! However, such scenarios go no further than being imaginary speculation and constitute no scientific evidence for evolutionist claims. As is very clear from the scenarios about the eyebrow bones, selectionist accounts are rather like a game invented to allow evolutionists to give unrestricted scope to their imaginations.

On the other hand, the proposal of such a thesis concerning the cranial thickness of H. erectus is the product of a faulty analysis one might describe as phrenological. Phrenology is the study of the shape of the human skull in such a way as to draw conclusions about specific character features and mental abilities. It was developed by the German physiologist Franz Joseph Gall in the 1800s, but has since been completely invalidated by modern-day neurology and physical anthropology. Looking at cranial thickness and suggesting that H. erectus males engaged in such crude and aggressive behaviour as fighting one another to mate with females and tried to crush each others” heads during these clashes is just as unscientific as phrenology. If anything primitive needs to be revealed this needs to be sought not in the bones of H. erectus but in the outlook of evolutionists themselves.

The Source of the Imagination Overdose: The Darwinist World View

Darwinists believe that there is a constant state of conflict in nature and that this plays a major role in so-called evolutionary development. According to this, man is both the product of such a process and an ordinary species of animal constituting an element of it. Evolutionists, who look at and interpret nature in this way, are greatly influenced by this perspective in their so-called scientific hypotheses. They regard even the slightest anatomical difference as an adaptation that must have provided an advantage in natural selection and generally seek to account for this in terms of scenarios of conflict between individuals. The reason why Boaz and Ciochon thought of H. erectus males hitting each other on the head when they looked at their cranial thickness lies in their mistaken view of nature.

For example, the researchers seek support for their thesis in Canadian bighorn sheep, which butt their heads together at speeds of up to 20 mph. They offer the distorted message that Canadian bighorn sheep engage in this potentially very dangerous behaviour in order to obtain the opportunity to mate, in which case H. erectus may have done the same thing. It is true that bloody fighting does sometimes take place in nature between males in competition over females. However, competition over females is not always resolved by fighting. The male bowerbird, for instance, prepares a nest to attract a mate, decks it out in various colours and decorates it with flowers. Females visiting these nests mate with males in the nests they like.

Darwinists ignore such examples, and look for the origins of man in head-butting sheep and prefer, in their own interests, to portray our so-called ancestors as aggressive individuals who had no compunctions over harming one another.

The extent to which this Darwinist perspective poses a danger to society is evident. If a society”s scientists interpret conflict between human beings as a natural phenomenon and a dynamic of progress, then all environments of conflict and enmity that may arise in that society are thus justified, and people are thus encouraged to oppress others to the extent of their powers. This leads to an anarchic situation that endangers the authority of the state as well as the safety of the individual and of property. It is no coincidence that the leaders of Nazism, fascism and communism, the bloodiest ideologies in history, should have openly expressed their admiration of Darwin. (For further details, see Harun Yahya, The Disasters Darwinism Brought to Humanity)


As J.S. Jones writes in Nature magazine that, “Paleoanthropolog[y] must now be the only science in which it is still possible to become famous just by having an opinion.”(10) It appears that Natural History is seeking to enhance its prestige by carrying every thesis of every “famous” scientist who invents a story and turns it into a book. We call upon the Natural History management to cease portraying imaginary tales as if they were scientific fact solely because these happen to coincide with their own world view.

1 “Dragon Bone Hill: An Ice-Age Saga of Homo erectus“, Oxford University Press, February 2004. Boaz is a professor of anatomy at the Ross University School of Medicine; in the Commonwealth of Dominica. Ciochon is a professor of anthropology at the University of Iowa.
2 Peter Brown, “Cranial-vault thickness in Asian Homo erectus and Homo sapiens“, in: Franzen, J.L., ed., 100 Years of Pithecanthropus: The Homo erectus Problem, Courier Forschungs Institut Senckenberg 171, pp. 33-45, 1994; John Woodmorappe, “How different is the cranial-vault thickness of Homo erectus from modern man?”
3 Peter Brown, Ibid, pp. 43-44
4 Richard Leakey, The Making of Mankind, London: Sphere Books, 1981, p. 62.
5 Pat Shipman, “Doubting Dmanisi”, American Scientist, November- December 2000, vol: 88 no:6, p. 491
6 M. Russell 1985. The supraorbital torus: “a most remarkable peculiarity. Current Anthropology 26:337-360
7 Barton C. H. 1895. Outlines of Australian Physiography. Maryborough, Queensland, Australia: Alston and Company.
8 Krantz G. 1973. “Cranial hair and brow ridges”. Mankind 9:109-111
9 Henry Gee, “In Search Of Deep Time: Beyond the Fossil Record to a New History of Life“, The Free Press, A Division fo Simon & Schuster, Inc., 1999, p 103
10 J. S. Jones, “A Thousand and One Eves,” Nature, vol. 345 (May 31, 1990), p. 395

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