The evolutionist claim that Homo floresiensis represents a separate species to modern-day man continues to retreat in the face of increasing objections. The Times Online, the Internet edition of The Times and The Sunday Times newspapers, summarised the latest developments on the subject in these terms:
“A find heralded as the greatest discovery in anthropology for a century has degenerated into one of its greatest rows.” 1
The development that fuelled the flames was the way that other experts have supported the views of Indonesian scientists who object to H. floresiensis being depicted as a separate species from Homo sapiens. Heading the list of these are the Australian scientists Dr. Maciej Henneberg and Dr. Alan Thorne, and researchers from Chicago’s Field Museum in America.
The new objections, like those of the Indonesian scientists, stress that Flores Man may have suffered from the neurological disease known as microcephaly. One important piece of support for this view came from Professor Maciej Henneberg, an anatomist and expert palaeopathologist of 32 years’ standing. Henneberg, head of the Department of Anatomical Sciences, the University of Adelaide, Australia, first examined the Flores Man skull measurements published on the Nature magazine website. At that point another skull with a similar structure came to the scientist’s mind. The skull in question was a 4,000-year-old Homo sapiens specimen unearthed on the island of Crete. This skull, belonging to a H. sapiens individual, possessed rather small dimensions, and scientists examining it had already described it in terms of microcephaly.
As a result of statistical comparisons he performed on 15 skull measurements, the Australian scientist revealed that there was “no significant difference” between the two. Henneberg, whose objections were reported in the well-known US journal Science2, concluded that the Flores Man skull measurements stemmed from microcephaly. The researcher also noted that Flores Man’s facial anatomy was within H. sapiens limits.
Another study by Henneberg that revealed striking results regarding Flores Man was his calculations regarding a forearm (radius) bone found in a cave. From the length of the bone, determined as 210 mm (8.3 inches), Henneberg calculated that its owner would have been between 151 and 162 cm (4.9 – 5.3ft) tall. These figures were rather greater than the 1 metre (3ft) attributed to Flores Man, and were within bounds considered normal for present-day human beings. Henneberg announced the conclusion he had reached as a result of these analyses:
“Until more skeletons of the purported ‘new species’ are discovered, I will maintain that a well-known pathological condition was responsible for the peculiar appearance of the skeleton.” 3
Another eminent human evolution researcher, the anthropologist Dr. Alan Thorne from the Australian National University, stated that the Flores Man finding merely showed that “no one would have predicted that something like that was out there,” and noted that it was stretching the facts to claim that H. floresiensis represented a separate species. 4
Robert Martin, a primatologist from Chicago’s Field Museum, and the archaeologist James Phillips made the following statement in support of the microcephaly theory with regard to Flores Man’s small brain volume:
“The lone skull came from a woman who had microcephaly, a rare disorder that causes a tiny head and brain. Microcephaly causes the face to grow at a normal rate, but not the head. People wind up with a sloping forehead and no chin — just like Hobbit.” 5 (Hobbit: The nickname given to Flores Man taken from the film The Lord of the Rings.)
In the face of these objections, the groundlessness of the description of Flores Man as a separate species from H. sapiens was once again revealed. Henneberg’s analyses were certainly largely responsible for this: given that the 4,000-year-old H. sapiens individual was announced to have suffered from microcephaly, why should Flores Man, with identical skull measurements, be described as a different species?
Perhaps the most striking interpretation of this debate over Flores Man came from Robert Matthews, an experienced science writer for the British newspaper The Sunday Telegraph. Supporting the microcephaly view, Matthews criticised the desire to describe Flores Man as a separate species, and cited the Nebraska Man affair, one of the greatest scandals in the history of paleoanthropology, in revealing how baseless that desire was. Under the headline “Big Claims, meagre evidence; welcome to palaeontology,” Matthews wrote:
“Another week, and another spat between scientists over some old bones and claims to have found yet another new, further, different species of human. This time the controversy centres on the discovery of 18,000 year old bones belonging to a 3ft-tall type of human on Flores island in Indonesia.
… the scientists who dug them up had a paper in the journal Nature, declared them to be a new species of human, and given them a fancy-sounding Latin name: Homo floresiensis.
Then, in time-honoured tradition, other scientists lined up to dismiss the claim as premature. One leading expert on palaeoanatomy told the rival journal Science that the 18,000 year-old grapefruit-sized skull was similar to a skull found on Crete belonging to a 4,000 year-old specimen of boring old Homo sapiens with secondary microcephaly, a condition characterised by an abnormally small skull.
… Secondary microcephaly has a host of causes, from viral infection during pregnancy to injury or malnutrition shortly after birth. The specimens were found in an cave on an island. Who is to say that the island hadn”t been swept by an viral epidemic 18,000 years ago that had caused an outbreak of the condition? Or perhaps the occupants had fallen prey to it elsewhere in the Indonesian archipelago, and been banished to Flores because of their odd appearance.
Nor is it inconceivable that those with secondary microcephaly could survive and even breed: the condition is not ineluctably linked to low intelligence. Indeed, neither is small brain size per se: the most important factor is the amount of grey matter. As this is not preserved in fossil remains, we have no idea whether those “hobbits” were bright, stupid or indifferent. What is clear is that palaeontologists are worryingly keen to base big claims on decidedly meagre evidence. It is a penchant that has not served them well in the past. In 1922, the American fossil expert Henry Fairfield Osborn made headlines by announcing the discovery of what he declared to be the first anthropoid ape ever found in America, which he named Hesperopithecus (“Ape from the Land of the Evening Sun”).
The distinguished anatomist Professor Grafton Elliot Smith of London University went further, insisting that Hesperopithecus was nothing less than “the earliest and most primitive member of the human family yet discovered”. And what was the basis of these dramatic claims ? A single fossilised tooth found in Nebraska.
Prof Smith”s response to those doubting the wisdom of relying on so little evidence was remarkably similar to that now being wheeled out by the discoverers of the Hobbit-Men of Flores: “One would regard so momentous a conclusion with suspicion”, Prof Smith opined, “if it were not for the fact that the American savants” authority in such matters is unquestionable”.
Such bluster did not deter the American Museum of Natural History from searching for more evidence. It duly turned up in Nebraska, and revealed “Hesperopithecus” to be nothing more than an extinct pig. Prof Smith later distinguished himself by creating the popular image of Neanderthals as knuckle-grazing morons, while backing claims that skull fragments found in England in 1912 belonged to the earliest-known ancestor of H. sapiens. It later emerged that Smith”s “typical” Neanderthal was actually a decidedly atypical male forced to stoop by severe arthritis. As for the skull fragments, they came from a quarry in Sussex known as Piltdown; need one say more.
None of this appears to have dulled the enthusiasm of palaeontologists for dangling ever more “species” off the family tree of mankind. All one needs is some unusual bone fragments plus a decent Latin dictionary and a place in palaeontological history is assured.
It all appears to hang on whether or not the bone fragments are deemed so “unusual” that they lie outside the limits of any known species. One shudders to think what conclusion palaeontologists would reach if presented with the bones of a modern-day pygmy and a Texan oilman.” 6
The fact revealed by both the latest scientific developments regarding Flores Man and by Matthews’ warning lesson from history is this: Evolutionist scientists and media share a great desire to describe and report newly discovered fossils as new species. As a result, just about every fossil discovery is announced to the accompaniment of a huge media furore and sensationalism, although these claims are then silently refuted in the period that follows.
These words by Robert Locke, executive editor for the magazine Discovering Archaeology, regarding research in the field of palaeoanthropology are like a description of the uncertainty and fanatical propaganda that pervade studies in this sphere:
“Perhaps no area of science is more contentious than the search for human origins. Elite paleontologists disagree over even the most basic outlines of the human family tree. New branches grow amid great fanfare, only to wither and die in the face of new fossil finds.” 7
However, the imaginary scenario of human evolution, maintained by means of propaganda, demagogy, distortion and even falsehood, is condemned to be eliminated in the face of modern scientific findings. That is because concrete scientific discoveries reveal that life is too complex to have emerged by chance, and that the mechanisms of random mutation and natural selection cannot account for the existence of the genetic information in species’ DNA. The claims of evolution in that regard are left with no foundation in the face of discoveries made on an almost daily basis. It is therefore inevitable that the endeavours of those who imagine that recounting imaginary tales regarding the past based on similarities between bones is science will end in failure.
Man is a being created by God, together with all his flawless systems. This is revealed by God in the Qur’an:
He Who has created all things in the best possible way. He commenced the creation of man from clay; then produced his seed from an extract of base fluid; then formed him and breathed His Spirit into him and gave you hearing, sight and hearts. What little thanks you show! (Qur’an, 32: 7-9)
1) Nigel Hawkes, “Kidnap marks the latest chapter in Hobbit’s story,” Times Online, December 4, 2004; online at: http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,3-1386936,00.htm l
2) Michael Balter, “Skeptics Question Whether Flores Hominid Is a New Species,” Science, Vol 306, Issue 5699, 1116 , November 12, 2004
3) Maciej Henneberg, “Why The ‘Hobbitt’ May Not Be a New Species of Humans;” online at: http://www.thinkinganglicans.org.uk/archives/000884.html
4) Heather Catchpole, “Tiny Human a Big Evolutionary Tale,” October 27, 2004; online at: http://dsc.discovery.com/news/afp/20041025/tinyhuman.html
5) Jim Ritter, “Experts here knock claim of new “Hobbit” species,” Chicago Sun-Times, November 16, 2004; online at: http://www.suntimes.com/output/news/cst-nws-human16.html
6) Robert Matthews, “Big claims, meagre evidence; welcome to palaeontology,” The Telegraph, December 8, 2004; online at: http://gardening.telegraph.co.uk/connected/main.jhtml?xml=/connected/2004/12/08/ecrqed08.xml
7) Robert Locke, “Family Fights,” Discovering Archaeology, July/August 1999, pp. 36-39