Was Lucy An Ape-man?
by John D. Morris, Ph.D.
"Lucy," consisting of a skeleton forty percent complete, was discovered in Ethiopia by Donald Johanson in 1974, and was dated at 3.2 million years of age. He calculated her to have stood about 3'6" tall, and to have weighed about 50 pounds. Certain features suggested to Johanson that it may have walked erect, and was therefore evolving into a human. In a recent interview, Johanson recollects, "I happened to glance over my right shoulder . . .and there on the surface of the ground was a little bit of an elbow, I recognized it immediately as belonging to a human ancestor."
Lest one get the impression that Johanson is blessed with an unusual gift of discernment, let me point out that many in the anthropological community have yet to be so convinced. Indeed, it is impossible to make snap judgments like this, while a number of sophisticated studies have shown that the austraiopithecines, in general, and "Lucy," in particular, were not ape-human intermediates, but rather, an extinct species of ape which probably spent most of its time in the trees.
Let us look at some of the specific features of "Lucy" which are important in this study. Everyone agrees that from the neck up, "Lucy" was gorilla-like. Her brain size was about one-fourth the size of a human brain; her jaw was "U"-shaped, typical of gorillas; her teeth were large, far larger than those in humans.
From the neck down, nearly every: feature was likewise non-human. Australopithecus fossils, including those which are thought to be much more recent and therefore should be more human-like, have long, curved fingers and long, curved toes—well adapted to swinging from tree limb to tree limb.
The features which suggest upright posture to Johanson are primarily the hip and knee joints, but numerous studies on the hip have shown otherwise. Oxnard, in his 1987 book, Fossils, Teeth and Sex (which contains an excellent summary of these various studies), claims that, "These fossils clearly differ more from both humans and African apes than do these living groups from each other. The australopithecines are unique" (p. 227). Evidently they could walk somewhat upright, as pygmy chimps do today, but not in the human manner at all. Furthermore, Johanson seldom reminds us that he found the knee joint—the strongest evidence for upright stance—in a location some two to three kilometers away, and in a layer of rock some 200 feet lower. Clearly, the knee does not belong with the rests, but even if they do go together, the knee is not diagnostically upright, and; points more specifically to tree-climbing abilities, according to Oxnard and other authorities.
Several investigators, including Richard Leakey, have now concluded that two or perhaps three species have been wrongly combined in "Lucy." She was not a human ancestor. At best, she was a form of extinct ape; at worst, she was a mosaic, yet she is still touted as the best "evidence" for human evolution.
As the eminent, evolutionary anthropologist David Pilbeam has stated, "Paleoanthropology reveals more about how humans view themselves than it does how humans came about." Unfortunately, many textbooks, as well as many museum exhibits, still portray the humanistic view of mankind, as well as the evolutionary view of mankind's origin, as if it were well supported by the data.
Addendum to BTG No. 11b Article
This article, published in November 1989 has come under criticism by certain evolutionists. At issue was the statement that "Furthermore, Johanson seldom reminds us that he found the knee joint—the strongest evidence for upright stance—in a location some two to three kilometers away, and in a layer of rock some 200 feet lower."
The statement was based on reports of Johnson’s public comments and the slides he used at the University of Missouri on November 20, 1986, (see ‘Bible-Science Newsletter", October 1987 pp 1-3), compared with a photo he published in his book Lucy: the Beginnings of Humankind (1981) page 157 and a National Geographic article in November 1985, page 593.
Evidently, there were two knee joints, found in different locations, and confusion between the two has led to numerous erroneous articles, of which mine was one. The article is included here as published for archival purposes, with this retraction of the sentence in question.
However, the point made in the very next sentence remains true, and that is the main point—"…even if they (i.e. the knee and the other bones) do go together", it does not demonstrate human ancestry. The most that could be claimed for Lucy is that she was a chimp-like primate, who spent most of her time in the trees, who perhaps walked a little more erect than other tree-dwelling primates when on the ground. I would be willing to concede this point.
Study of the tactics used in the decades-long harangue by evolutionists to re-establish the pedigree of Lucy’s knee is instructive. Evolutionists scour the creationist’s literature for any error, no matter how trivial. (Creationists are not infallible, and error does creep in, despite our best efforts.) These minor errors are trumpeted far-and-wide by self appointed evolutionary watchdogs, and used to claim that creationism is not credible, all the while ignoring much more significant misstatements or inappropriate museum displays, etc., by evolutionists.
An error in detailing Lucy’s knee does not change the fact that she was a tree-dwelling primate! Humans and apes are quite separate.
Discovery of the needle does not make the haystack disappear. A look at the big picture finds little evidence that can be used for macro-evolution, and much to support creation.
*Dr. John Morris is the President of ICR.
Cite this article: John D. Morris, Ph.D. 1989. Was Lucy An Ape-man?. Acts & Facts. 18 (11).