Showing posts from May, 2017

Is Graecopithecus a hominin?

I've gotten a few questions about this Graecopithecus, so I guess I should weigh in with some kind of opinion.  The problem is that there isn't much to have an opinion on.

The Graecopithecus fossils in question are a jaw from Greece and a tooth from Bulgaria, shown above.  The fossils have been known for decades, but the new study from Jochen Fuss and colleagues applies micro-CT to the teeth and attempts to draw from that a classification of the fossil.  As far as I can tell (and remember I'm not a paleoanthropologist), this is a pretty neat way to get information out of a pretty uninformative fossil.  Based on the shape of the roots of the teeth, Fuss and colleagues propose that Graecopithecus may have been or definitely was a hominin.  Their certainty on this point varies in different locations in the paper, suggesting that reviewers made them tone it down.

As you can see in the photo above, the jaw is kind of a mess.  The teeth are extremely worn, so all the useful inf…

Origins 2017 Registration now open!

Registration is now available for Origins 2017, the annual conference of the Creation Biology Society and the Creation Geology Society.  The conference will be July 19-22 at San Diego Christian College.

Click here to register!
Feedback? Email me at toddcharleswood [at] gmail [dot] com. If you enjoyed this article, please consider a contribution to Core Academy of Science. Thank you.

The Darrow Statue and the Friendly Atheist

Well, this was predictable.

I recently griped about the preposterously one-sided portrayal of Dayton in an article in the Chattanooga Times-Free Press. The article's author seems to go out of his way to find the most outrageous voice in the county to present as "opposition" to the statue of Clarence Darrow coming to the courthouse lawn. No voices from Rhea County were presented for balance or difference of opinion.  It's just the county vs. the humanists.  Our local TV station WRCB had a similar article, but they talked to the local Historical Society president Ralph Green for a different view.  They still portrayed this statue as "causing controversy," but I have to give them credit for at least talking to someone else in Rhea County.

I saw Ralph at a banquet last week, and I asked him about the article and the statue.  He told me there were a few people who were not really happy about the statue, but June Griffin is the only one making a fuss.  Again, my …

Bucking the Trend: The Brain and Date of Homo naledi

There's a famous diagram going around that purportedly demonstrates continuous human evolution from nonhuman ancestors. It apparently was popularized by Nick Matzke back when the Panda's Thumb blog was still posting pretty regular content.  See his original post here.  In a followup on his website, he cautions that his data should be used wisely, or as he says, "don't be naive when you use the data."

Despite his reasonable warning, I've always felt that the diagram was misused in the zeal to refute creationists, primarily by ignoring phylogeny.  Despite some paleontologists' preference for the march-of-progress view of human evolution, the more realistic and biological view is one of a branching tree (or better, as Lee Berger describes it, a braided stream).  It seemed like too many people were using that diagram to emphasize a simplistic view of gradualistic emergence of modern humanity.  For example, the diagram includes the "robust australopithec…

Homo naledi is not a mix of two different species

One of the odder reactions to Homo naledi when it was announced back in 2015 was the notion that there was more than one hominin species in the Dinaledi chamber.  I saw that idea hinted at in a Newsweek editorial from Jeffrey Schwartz, and it was later picked up by others including a few creationists.  The skeleton in that photo above is actually a composite probably made from multiple individuals.  How can we be sure that they all belong to the same species?  Now that we have fossils from the Lesedi chamber, let's revisit that claim.

I originally said it was incredibly unlikely to be more than one species for statistical reasons.  I posted this comment on a private group on Facebook, and I thought it might help explain why the "multiple species" idea doesn't work:
I think it has not been "dealt with" in any formal way, mostly because there is no merit to the claim since it's very unlikely. Actually, we might "calculate" a rough probability. L…

Discoveries in the Lesedi Chamber and the Date of Homo naledi


OK, now that I got that off my chest, here is a brief summary of the new Homo naledi findings.  This is less exciting than the original find, since I knew from the book what was coming.  Nevertheless, it's extremely satisfying to finally get the technical details.  They do not disappoint.

First up, we have the paper describing the date of Homo naledi.  They used uranium series dating, electron spin resonance, radon loss, uranium-thorium dating of flowstone, and paleomagnetic dating to arrive at a conventional date of 250,000 years old for the remains of Homo naledi.  This is considerably more detail than what was described in the leaked book chapter, which may well account for the delay of the book.  Actually, this seems like more than we usually get in a fossil dating paper, but honestly, this work is way outside of my expertise so I really can't say much more.  The date is definitely much younger than "early Homo," which is conventionally dated to around …

Zondervan's Dictionary of Christianity and Science

Zondervan's new Dictionary of Christianity and Science, which contains contributions from different perspectives, was just published last week.  I had heard that the book was coming from one of the contributors, but he didn't really know anything about the content of the book.  Now that I have my copy in the mail, I've been able to look through it, so let me make some observations. To be perfectly clear, I have not read this book entirely.  It's 700 pages.  So my comments are on the structure, design, and spot-checks of various articles that interest me.

Before we begin, a few introductory comments: The Dictionary is edited by Paul Copan, Tremper Longman, Christopher Reese, and Michael Strauss. Copan is a philosopher, Longman an Old Testament scholar, Reese a theologian, and Strauss a scientist.  The front cover depicts the book as "The definitive reference for the intersection of Christian faith and contemporary science."  The editors' "Introductio…

Is Genesis History? Student and Educator Conference

One of my big events this summer is the Is Genesis History? Student and Educator Conference in Nashville on June 19-23. I'll be speaking along with other scholars featured in the movie Is Genesis History? It's a five-day conference intelligently designed for students and educators to get a better understanding of the latest creationist research. Registration is now available at their website. As usual, I'll be speaking on creationist biology and human origins. I hope to see you there!

Feedback? Email me at toddcharleswood [at] gmail [dot] com. If you enjoyed this article, please consider a contribution to Core Academy of Science. Thank you.

Scopes Trial News

We are approaching the 100th anniversary of the Scopes trial in just eight short years, and it'll be here before you know it. For now, there's a surprising amount of things going on lately in Rhea County (site of the Scopes Trial) that I'd like people to take note of.

The Rhea County Historical and Genealogical Society sponsored a special meeting on January 15 to discuss restoration and promotion of the Rhea County Courthouse. I attended the meeting, and you can read all the details at the Rhea Review. Basically, we talked about needed repairs for the courthouse, what we might do with the courthouse if the county builds a new Justice Center, and ways to promote the courthouse. There were some interesting ideas presented, and state representative Ron Travis reported that he had met with the governor and asked for money to replace the roof on the courthouse. So I was delighted to see the latest headline from this weekend's Herald-News:

In case you're wondering, that…

The Ark and Evolution Money

Answers magazine has two very helpful articles in its most recent issue, one of which you can read for free today.

In the first article, Andrew Snelling addresses the claims that the remains of Noah's Ark might be found on modern Mt. Ararat (a volcano known as Agri Dagh). I have addressed this issue in a previous blog post, where I was pretty firm in my understanding that the Ark will not and can not be found on Agri Dagh. I said that modern Mt. Ararat is a post-Flood volcano that has erupted many times since the Flood.  Andrew Snelling makes the same points but far more diplomatically and with much greater geological knowledge and detail. He still reaches the right conclusion:
Mount Ararat was thus not built under water. The volcanic eruptions that spread lava across the Erzurum-Kars Plateau and then built Mount Ararat began after the Flood deposited all the ocean sediments. That means the ocean waters had already retreated from off eastern Turkey (and Noah’s Ark had landed) befo…