Monday, September 12, 2011

About those new sediba papers

I read the new Au. sediba papers over the weekend, and I'm really excited to see so much in-depth analysis being published in such a timely manner. To recap: Last year, I was in the midst of preparing a paper on human baraminology when a description of a newly discovered hominin fossil was published. That fossil was dubbed Australopithecus sediba. I halted work on my paper while I added that fossil to my analysis, and much to my surprise, it consistently grouped with members of Homo rather than australopiths. Of course, other creationists weighed in with their rather strong opinions that sediba was just another ape fossil. When my paper appeared claiming that sediba was human, some creationists felt I had erred in my analysis. Responses ranged from accusing me of recklessness and arrogance to this baffling assertion in the Answers Research Journal:
Let me point out that we creationists can tell, merely from reading our Bible, that some fossils are human and some are not; we do not need statistical analysis to confirm this.
Right.

My response to these critics appeared in the first issue of the new Journal of Creation Theology and Science. Briefly, I argued that there was no theological reason to object to sediba's humanity and that criticisms against my work were not convincing. Meanwhile, I busied myself with analyzing additional information from the original paper describing sediba, but my results were inconclusive.

Now with these new papers, I can further that analysis. I'm eager to see whether these new data support or contradict my original findings. Longtime readers know what that means: I'll be withholding my judgment on the new information until I've had time to analyze it. Sorry. I'm reminded of a few verses from Proverbs:
A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion.

If one gives an answer before he hears, it is his folly and shame. (Pr 18:2, 13)
A few final words: Whether or not sediba was human is a matter of some debate among creationists right now, but it is also a matter of fact not interpretation. Whether or not sediba was human depends not at all on my understanding of Scripture or my worldview. Perhaps even more importantly, it's not really all that important either. I suppose if we cannot resolve the question, that would be quite important, but if it's human it's human, and if it's not it's not. I'm far more concerned with HOW creationists conduct this debate and analyze data. Will we settle for emotional kneejerks and childish apologetics platitudes, or will we demand a deeper understanding of the meaning of these australopith fossils?

I think you can guess what I'll be shooting for.

Feedback? Email me at toddcharleswood [at] gmail [dot] com.