Creation/Evolution Journal

A Further Examination of the Research of Walter Brown

A Further Examination of the Research of Walter Brown
Reviewed by
Jim Lippard

I am glad that Walter Brown took the time to write a response to my article (Lippard, 1989; Brown, 1989d). I believe that his response provides a good example of his research and debating methods. Brown has failed to address a number of my major criticisms, as I will show below.

The Out-of-Date Book

In Brown's general remarks, he complains that my comments were based upon "an outdated edition (1986) of The Scientific Case for Creation." In a later paragraph, he also states, "Since Lippard also gives the wrong publishing date for In the Beginning (1987 instead of 1986), I wonder if he actually has the book." An explanation is in order.

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When I first began corresponding with Brown, he sent me a version of his book (in January 1987) which I wrongly assumed was a prepublication copy. I noted in my bibliography that this was what I was working from, and the cover letter which accompanied it was reprinted in full in my article. This version of the "120 Categories of Evidence" included no mention of Setterfield or the speed-of-light decay. The fifth edition of his book (Brown, 1989c) discusses Setterfield in a section separate from Brown's "categories of evidence" (which now number 127). My remarks would have been accurate if I had simply praised Brown for not listing the speed-of-light decay in his categories of evidence rather than for not listing them in his book at all. On the other hand, I have no excuse for listing the wrong date of publication, since Brown stated it in the accompanying letter. Unfortunately, I mistakenly listed the year of the letter instead.

When I originally submitted my article to Creation/Evolution in December 1988, I simultaneously sent a copy to Brown. I specifically asked Brown if he had any corrections or suggestions to offer before publication, and he had none—he simply stated that he would respond if his rebuttal would be published by Creation/Evolution, unedited and combined with my article with his comments "point-by-point and side-by-side" with mine (Brown, 1989a). He did not inform me that a new edition of his book was available, though he states in his published response that "this latest edition was sent to Creation/Evolution when they notified me that they were considering printing Lippard's article." I am surprised that Brown did not have the courtesy to send me a copy as well—but not too surprised.

Brown also notes in his response that yet another edition of his book would be published in September 1989. When I wrote to ask for an advance copy, or at least an update to the version I have, Brown stated that no advance copies would be available and that he was completely sold out of his present edition. I have since purchased a copy of this latest edition.

But, by Brown's own claims, my reliance on the old edition should not have posed a problem. His response accepted only two of my criticisms—both of which he classified as "minor" and claimed to have already corrected independently.

Brown's Debate Contract

Brown says that his "contract" is a mere "statement of agreement" (I won't quibble over terminology) and asks, "What's wrong with that?" My main objection is to the odd credentials requirement. Brown states that I myself, a graduate student in philosophy, would be able to debate him only if I "team up with a scientist, a science professor, or a person with a Ph.D. in a technical field" (Brown, 1989d, p. 36). This requirement allows for someone with a Ph.D. in, say, computer science to debate Brown, while a holder of a master's degree in biology would not make the grade—even though the latter's degree would be more directly applicable to the subject at hand. Moreover, restricting the opposition to holders of doctorates minimizes the number of potential opponents, since such people are less likely to have the time or desire to debate Brown, who does not himself hold a degree in a field directly relevant to evolution (his Ph.D. is in mechanical engineering).

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The "Categories of Evidence"—Again

One of the criticisms of Brown's book in my original article was that his categorization scheme is bogus. In his rebuttal, Brown not only ignores the main substance of my criticism, he continues to refer to the fact that I have addressed "only parts of a small percentage" of his categories. It is worth taking a closer look at his categorization scheme. Of his 127 categories, twenty-six (20 percent) are alleged dating techniques which produce young ages for the earth and the universe; most of these are quite familiar to readers of this journal. A full thirty-two (another 25 percent) argue for the reality of the biblical flood and Noah's ark (eleven ark sightings, four flood-and-ark plausibility claims, and seventeen allegedly unexplainable geological features which Brown thinks a worldwide flood would explain). I believe that all of these categories—amounting to nearly half of Brown's book—may be quickly disposed of and, in fact, have already been soundly refuted in publications to which Brown should have easy access.

Brown's response to this point completely ignores my criticism of his bogus classification scheme which counts individual ark sightings as separate "categories." Instead, he argues against only my objections to certain categories which I claimed did not meet all three of his criteria for inclusion in his list: (a) being scientific, (b) opposing evolution, and (c) supporting creation. He objects to my classification of one point (an argument from design) as "philosophical" rather than "scientific" (though he then brings up an admittedly philosophical argument from his book), defends his category arguing against Lamarckism, and objects to my description of one category as "simply argu[ing] for the possibility of special creation. "

On the last point, I accept Brown's criticism regarding category sixteen (formerly category fifteen), which I stated "simply argue[d] for the possibility of special creation" (Lippard, 1989, p. 24). Brown has, as he demonstrates, made the much stronger claim that some evidence actually favors a common designer over a common ancestor. I will not address the claim itself here, except to note that I do not find convergent evolution—similar environmental challenges producing similar solutions in creatures with different underlying structures—to be particularly surprising. Brown should also note that there is strong evidence favoring common ancestry over common design (for example, Max, 1986).

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On the other points, I reject Brown's arguments. He maintains that the sonar of marine mammals, the radar of the bat, the flight of the hummingbird, the bombardier beetle, and other examples point to the existence of a designer. This is simply the standard philosophical argument from design. On the other hand, within his argument Brown does make the scientific claim that "the many components of each complex system could not have evolved in stages without placing a selective disadvantage on the animal." But he offers no argument in support of this claim, and there are reasons to doubt it—at least in the case of the bombardier beetle (Weber, 1981a, 1981b). Further, many cases of bad design can be adduced against his argument—such as python and whale vestigial hips, the panda's thumb, and the kiwi's egg (see, for example, Gould, 1980).

As Brown himself admits, his argument about evolution implying the randomness of thoughts is philosophical and therefore does not meet his criteria for being included among the "127 Points." Since philosophy is my area of specialty, I will address this argument shortly.

Regarding my objection to an argument against Lamarckism as a category of evidence against evolution, Brown responded by citing an editorial in the January 12, 1989, issue of Nature which discusses several recent papers defending some "neo-Lamarckian" mechanisms in bacteria. Brown sees this as evidence that "modern evolutionists, frustrated at not being able to find some mechanisms for macroevolution, are considering Lamarckian concepts" (Brown, 1989d, pp. 36-37). Thus, Brown sees his category not as attacking a straw man but as a position still being used by evolutionists today. But what Brown's category actually says is: "Acquired characteristics cannot be inherited. For example, the large muscles acquired by a man in a weight lifting program cannot be inherited by his child." This is a straw man. No scientist would defend Brown's example or anything like it. And while the neo-Lamarckian mechanism described in Nature is quite controversial and under attack by scientists (see the papers cited in the editorial), Brown's point offers no evidence against it. This category is not evidence against evolution, as I maintained in my original article.

Random Thoughts

Brown's admittedly philosophical argument is:

If life is ultimately the result of random chance, then so is thought. Your thoughts—including what you are thinking right now—would, in the final analysis, be a consequence of a long series of accidents. Therefore, your thoughts would have no validity, including your thought that life is a result of chance or natural processes. By destroying the validity of ideas, evolution undercuts even the idea of evolution.

[Brown, 1989c, 1989d]

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As a first objection, this argument conveniently ignores theistic or directed evolution, in which either the ultimate source of thought, the mechanisms which brought it about, or both are the result of God's plan rather than "random chance." This alone is sufficient to eliminate this as an argument against evolution—at best, it is an argument against atheism. Yet, even at this it fails because at least one of its premises is false and its conclusion does not follow from its premises. Evolution does not postulate that thought arises from chance alone but with the help of natural selection, which is not at all a chance process. The mechanisms which themselves produce thought do not do so by random means, though it is quite probable that the brain makes use of some random processes. Hidden within this argument is the unstated premise that any structure created by random processes cannot make valid inferences. This is a highly implausible premise. It seems quite clear that an appropriate structure, whatever its origin, is capable of producing valid conclusions from correct premises.

Walter Brown and Barry Setterfield

In my previous article, I noted that Brown was quoted in the Australian creationist journal Ex Nihilo as having called Barry Setterfield's work on speed-of-light decay "virtually unassailable." Brown claims that he never made the comment and that, to his knowledge, he has never been quoted in Ex Nihilo. He further asks, "Who is the source of Lippard's 'Ex Nihilo, 1984,' reference?"

A complete citation was given in the bibliography to my article. The quotation was from a page of quotations entitled "Update: On what's being said about Barry Setterfield's work on the speed of light" on page forty-six of Ex Nihilo, volume six, number four. The portion relevant to Brown reads:

"The theoretical derivation of the same cosec 2 decay function as the computer curve, but this time from electromagnetic theory alone, makes the whole proposition of c decay virtually unassailable."

At about the same time that this issue of Ex Nihilo was published, Brown was director of the Midwest Center of the Institute for Creation Research in Wheaton, Illinois—a suburb of Chicago (Schadewald, 1983, p. 29). Thus, there is little question that we are talking about the same Walter Brown. After reading Brown's rebuttal in Creation/Evolution, I sent him a letter dated June 19, 1989, in which I enclosed a photocopy of the relevant page from Ex Nihilo and suggested that if the quote was misattributed or otherwise in error Brown should notify the journal of that fact. Brown's remarkable response was:

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You suggested that I write Ex Nihilo about the incorrect quote. I learned some years ago that I did not have the time to contact and attempt to get retractions every time I am misquoted. Distortions of my statements, which are usually made by evolutionists, are made too frequently. [Brown, 1989b]

I responded to this letter on July 27, asking Brown for elaboration on precisely what was "incorrect" about the quote and offering to write to Ex Nihilo on his behalf if he was really too busy to set his fellow creationists straight. I further asked if perhaps he might have made such a statement in one of the "detailed, face-to-face discussions" he said he had with Settertield in 1984 (Brown, 1989d, p. 39). Brown has failed to respond to this and followup letters sent on August 19, September 14, and November 13 repeating these and other questions.

Recently, however, Ken Smith (1989) informed me that the above quotation from Brown appears in its entirety in The Velocity of Light and the Age of the Universe, a technical monograph by Barry Setterfield (1983, p. 172). 1 have verified this by obtaining a copy of the relevant page. So, the quote predates Brown's 1984 discussions but not his "letter to Setterfield in 1981 " (Brown, 1989d, p. 39). Since Brown was in contact with Setterfield, it stands to reason that Brown was aware of this publication, yet apparently he did not complain to Setterfield about being misquoted when he met with him in 1984.

Brown claims that he has "always tried to carefully point out that [Setterfield's work] may turn out to be wrong" (Brown, 1989d, p. 39). Why, if this is so, is there not a word of skepticism to be found in the coverage of Setterfield in his book (Brown, 1989c, pp. 89-92)? Not a single critique of Setterfield is mentioned. It is clear both from his book and his rebuttal that Brown still uncritically supports Setterfield, based upon the results of Brown's own "very time-consuming computer simulation technique" and the fact that "statisticians in various countries have reached similar conclusions" (Brown, 1989d, p. 39). Unfortunately, Brown gives us no citations for his work nor that of these unnamed statisticians. He also criticizes Gerald Aardsma's debunking on the basis of its statistical weighting procedure. Unfortunately, he fails to address a far more significant problem pointed out in Aardsma's article: that Setterfield uses erroneous values for two of the earliest data points—measurements from seventeenth-century data of Roemer and Cassini. This and other problems are dealt with in more detail in yet other debunkings of Setterfield by two of his fellow creationists, in articles in the Creation Research Society Quarterly (Aardsma, 1988; Humphreys, 1988). Does Brown's analysis take into consideration corrected values for the Roemer and Cassini points? If not, his alleged result supporting Setterfield is meaningless. Brown has failed to respond to my inquiries about this issue.

It should also be noted, as Aardsma does (1988, p. 39), that if "atomic time" and "dynamic time" are diverging, as Barry Setterfield claims, then the radiocarbon date for the Dead Sea Scrolls of 20 BCE, plus or minus two hundred years, indicates an actual date of about 800 CE, contrary to paleographic and archaeological evidence that strongly supports the radiocarbon date.

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More Speed-of-Light Decay

In his rebuttal in Creation/Evolution, Brown goes on to cite more evidence which he claims supports speed-of-light decay. The first is an article by a Soviet cosmologist (Troitskii, 1987), whom Brown says "has concluded, independently of Setterfield, that the velocity of light was ten billion times faster at time zero" (Brown, 1989d, p. 40). Actually, Troitskii does not conclude this; rather, he proposes a model (which he claims is, at least in principle, testable by experiment) that involves a decrease in the speed of light. Troitskii also suggests that events are compressed in the past, so everything went faster—including evolution (Troitskii, 1987, p. 408). This paper reminded me of an Egyptian mathematician's model which maps the universe into a hollow earth and applies the same inversion to the laws of physics (Gardner, 1988, pp. 356-358).

Brown's second reference is to T. C. Van Flandern's claim that the gravitational constant is decreasing (Van Flandern, 1981, 1984). Van Flandern himself carefully words his conclusion to say, "The tentative conclusion . . . is that the universal gravitational constant G seems to be decreasing with time" (1984, p. 627; emphasis added ). And based upon the work of other scientists, this tentative conclusion appears to be incorrect. In the same book in which Van Flandern's article appears, there is a paper that casts doubt on Van Flandern's conclusion by citing others who found no variation in G (Vellot, 1984). Brown does not cite this paper. And in another study, Hellings and his colleagues found no variation in G within smaller limits than those given by Van Flandern (Hellings et al., 1983). There are difficult problems in measuring G (see Will, 1988, pp. 160-180, for details along with commentary on Van Flandern), but at present the weight of the evidence does not support Van Flandern. (Ken Smith discusses Barry Setterfield's use of Van Flandern and cites additional criticisms on p. 26 of his unpublished manuscript.)

Finally, Brown claims that quasars are evidence for the nonconstancy of c and cites a paper from a British popular electronics magazine that claims radio signals have been sent at speeds faster than light (Pappas and Obolensky, 1988). Regarding the first claim, Brown says, "Several years ago this was thought to be simply a relativistic effect that occurs when the jets are aimed at the earth" (Brown, 1989d, p. 40). According to Tom LeCompte, a physicist at Northwestern University, this is still thought to be the case. In response to Brown's claim that "it is simply too improbable that so many random jets would be moving toward the earth," LeCompte offers the following analogy: "Imagine a forest populated with people carrying flashlights. You might wonder why every flashlight you see is pointing towards you. It's only because if it was pointed in another direction, you wouldn't see it" (LeCompte, 1989).

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Regarding the faster-than-light radio signals, LeCompte suggested that the result might be explained by crosstalk but said that he would like to see the experiment repeated. A problem with the faster-than-light conclusions is that it requires abandoning special relativity, while recent experiments at Stanford and CERN have verified SR predictions to one part in one hundred billion. If, as Pappas and Obolensky claim, the speed of light can be exceeded by a factor between two and one hundred, these SR predictions should likewise have been off by a factor between two and one hundred.

Dating Techniques

In Brown's first paragraphs regarding speed-of-light decay, he claims that "most scientific dating techniques indicate that the earth, the solar system, and the universe are young—possibly less than ten thousand years old" (Brown, 1989d, p. 38) and notes that his book lists twenty-four of them (the new edition has twenty-six). And just what are these "scientific dating techniques"? Why, the same old tired, invalid creationist arguments readers of this journal are probably quite familiar with. I will present a few examples to illustrate.

Brown's category seventy-six states:

The rate at which elements such as copper, gold, tin, lead, silicon, mercury, uranium, and nickel are entering the oceans is very rapid when compared with the small quantities of these elements already in the oceans. There is no known means by which large amounts of these elements can precipitate out of the oceans. Therefore, the oceans must be very much younger than a million years.

Brown is referring to the residence times of these elements, which range from 2,000 years for lead to 560,000 years for gold (Miller, 1984, p. 46). Brown doesn't mention that other elements have much higher and lower residence times—for example, one hundred to two hundred years for aluminum, titanium, and iron, and 2 million to 260 million years for silver, potassium, magnesium, and sodium. This wide diversity of times shows that the use of residence times of various elements in the oceans is not a reliable dating method. Furthermore, Brown's statement, "There is no known means by which large amounts of these elements can precipitate out of the oceans," is simply false. Nickel, for example, may be taken up by ion exchange into clay minerals, substitutes for magnesium in crystal lattices, and forms insoluble hydroxides in alkaline solutions (Dutch, 1982, p. 30). These elements are also absorbed by plants and animals, collect on the ocean floor, and are subducted into the mantle of the earth at various locations (Miller, 1984, p. 47; Strahler, 1987, pp. 144, 149; Van Till et al., 1988, pp. 83-91).

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In category ninety-two, Brown claims that the sun is shrinking at a constant rate and that it cannot be more than a million years old. In support, he cites three sources (Dunham et al., 1980; Gribbin and Sattaur, 1984; Lubkin, 1979). Unfortunately, two of his sources are out of date and the third supplies evidence that undercuts Brown's claim. From the very beginning, the claim of a shrinking sun was disputed by contrary evidence (for example, LaBonte and Howard, 1981; Parkinson et al., 1980; Shapiro, 1980; Stephenson, 1982). It now appears that the sun oscillates on about an eighty-year cycle (Gilliland, 1981; Parkinson et al., 1980; Parkinson, 1983). It should be noted that several of the authors of one of the papers Brown cites (Dunham et al., 1980) recently concluded that "the solar radius changes are not secular (monotonic and uniform)" and that "the Mercury transit data convincingly disproved the existence of large secular changes in the solar radius" (Sofia et al., 1983, p. 525). More recently, the claim has again been made that the sun was once significantly larger than it is now, specifically during the seventeenth century (Ribes et al., 1987), but this study failed to account for certain systematic instrumental effects which invalidate the claim (O'Dell and Van Heiden, 1987). Measurements of the solar radius, contrary to Brown, are not a reliable measurement of the sun's age. (See also chapter three of Van Till et al., 1988, pp. 47-65, for a description of creationists' use of the "shrinking sun" claim and the evidence against it, including a note on p. 51 that a 1984 paper by Claus Frohlich and John Eddy reported an increase in the solar diameter between 1967 and 1980. The chapter comments specifically on Brown and was originally published in the September 1986 Journal of the American Scientific Affiliation, so Brown should have been aware of its existence.)

Some other bogus dating methods Brown lists are the decay of the earth's magnetic field (for the flaws in this method, see Dalrymple, 1983; Strahler, 1987, pp. 150-155) and the quantity of interplanetary dust in the solar system and on the earth and moon (for flaws, see Dutch, 1982; Strahler, 1987, pp. 143-145; Van Till et al., 1988, pp. 67-82). These account for another five of Brown's categories: seventy-eight, seventy-nine, eighty-two, eighty-nine, and ninety.

Two- to Twenty-Celled Life Forms

Regarding my comments on category eighteen of his book, Brown seems to have missed the point I was trying to make. He argues that neither Mesozoa nor colonial forms of life could be intermediat, e between unicellular and multicellular life forms. But my point was simply that there are forms of life with between two and twenty cells, and some of them are described in the very book Brown cited claiming that there aren't. Two examples were given in my original article. Strictly speaking, Brown's claim in his book that "there are no forms of animal life with 2, 3, 4 . . . or even 20 cells" (emphasis added) is correct because his qualifier restricts the claim to the animal kingdom. But, as I noted in my original article, this is misleading because there seems to be no reason to make such a restriction when looking at the possible evolutionary origins of multicellular life.

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In response to my criticism of Brown's position on Archaeopteryx, he states that he "never said that Archaeopteryx was a hoax" (Brown, 1989d, p. 42). No, he didn't come right out and say that it was a hoax; he merely implied it by stating that "a strong case can be made that . . . the imprint of the feather was added after the fossils were discovered" (Brown, 1986, p. 23). Brown defends his approval of the hoax hypothesis by asserting that "as of 1986, at least, [Hoyle et al.] were making a good case" (Brown, 1989d, p. 42). Others dispute that they ever had a good case. Halstead (1987) describes it with such comments as "contains demonstrable falsehoods," "absurdity is piled on absurdity," "willful ignorance," "patently ludicrous," and "displays utter contempt for minimal standards of scholarship." Kemp (1986) states that Hoyle and his colleagues "exhibit a staggering ignorance about the nature of fossils and fossilization processes" (see also Charig et al., 1986; Gould, 1987; Whybrow, 1986.) But Brown's comment implies that he now no longer thinks the hoax hypothesis is a good one. So has he removed it from his book? No. The hoax hypothesis is still presented in Brown's book, and not a single anti-hoax article is cited (Brown, 1989c, pp. 35-36). Furthermore, the book still maintains that "only two [Archaeopteryx] fossils have clearly visible feathers" (Brown, 1989c, p. 35), despite the fact that Brown knows there is now another specimen with clear feather impressions.

Regarding Brown's other argument (that Protoavis destroys the status of Archaeopteryx as a transitional fossil): while Protoavis, if a bird, would probably eliminate Archaeopteryx as an ancestor to modern birds, the identification of Protoavis as a primitive bird is not yet generally accepted (Gee, 1988).

Brown also refers to "the scarcity, or perhaps complete absence, of transitional forms in the fossil record" (Brown, 1989d, pp. 41-42). Apparently, he is unfamiliar with sizeable lists of transitional forms, such as those in Cuffey (1972).

Human Evolution

I accept Brown's correction to my statement of his position that "fossils of early humans are either apes or modern humans. " (His position is that "alleged human ancestors were either apes, humans, or hoaxes.")

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Regarding Charles Oxnard's studies of australopithecines, Brown's response ignores a significant portion of my comment—that these studies did not take into account Donald Johanson's "Lucy" find or any examples of Australopithecus afarensis. To Brown's credit, he has changed the latest edition of his book to make note of this fact in a single sentence of a footnote (Brown, 1989c, p. 39). However, because his main text is still quite misleading and because the footnotes and references are all listed together in one large section following his "categories of evidence," most of his readers are likely to miss the clarification.

Citing Oxnard in support of the claim that no australopithecines are in the human lineage is extremely misleading, because Oxnard himself states that Australopithecus afarensis is probably in the human lineage. He states that, if scientists will use the term australopithecine (which has indeed become the case) for finds at East Turkana, Laetoli, and the Afar Valley (for example, Australopithecus afarensis in the latter two locations), "the new usage of the term will be for these other fossils labeled 'Homo?' in figure 18" (Oxnard, 1979, p. 274). But Brown, who cites this very paper, makes the misleading maneuver of summarizing Oxnard by stating, "Detailed computer studies of the Australopithecines have conclusively shown that they are not intermediate between man and living apes. . . . The Australopithecines are a type of extinct ape" (Brown, 1986, p. 4; 1989c, p. 6; 1989d, p. 43; the new version of the book removes the word conclusively).

Brown should also be aware that, contrary to the view I expressed in my original article, Oxnard says that Ramapithecus may well be a human ancestor, based upon the same sorts of studies that led him to reject a role of some australopithecines in the human lineage (Wu and Oxnard, 1983).

Brown goes on to argue against the bipedalism of Australopithecus afarensis in two ways: first, he notes that "Lucy's alleged knee joint implies that she could walk upright. That does not mean she did"; and, second, he claims that Donald Johanson, Lucy's discoverer, made "quite an admission" when he stated that he did not find the knee joint anywhere near the rest of the skeleton. As part of this second argument, Brown also maintains that "Johanson needs to clarify or deny this in writing. None of his published writings do."

I'll take up the latter point first. As Donald Johanson wrote to me in 1989, "If Mr. Brown would use his library card, he would be able to read in Lucy: The Beginnings of Humankind, published in 1981, details of these two discoveries; and, in the American Journal of Physical Anthropology, April 1982, Vol. 57, no. 4, he would be able to see a complete bibliography of all publications up to that point, concerning the stratigraphic positions and the evolutionary interpretations of the discoveries." Brown should read Johanson's writings before making sweeping claims about what they do or don't say. The time and location of discovery of the first knee joint and of Lucy are quite clearly described in chapters seven and eight of Johanson and Edley's 1981 book. The knee joint, which Johanson discovered during his first expedition to Hadar in November 1973, has never been claimed as that of Lucy. Tom Willis (1987), who appears to have been the first to report Johanson's alleged misinterpretation of the 1973 knee joint, claims that when Johanson was asked, "Why are you so sure [the knee joint] belonged to Lucy?" he answered, "Anatomical similarity."

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I suspect that the question Johanson was really answering (or thought he was answering) was how he knew the knee joint belonged to the same species as Lucy. On the other hand, enough of the proximal tibia and distal femur were preserved in Lucy to indicate that the anatomy of the knee joint region was identical to this earlier discovery. Furthermore, another Australopithecus afarensis knee joint was discovered at the "First Family" locality at Hadar, situated stratigraphically between Lucy and the original find. All of this is plainly described in the book. Unfortunately, Brown's erroneous implication of wrongdoings by Johanson appears to have been added to the creationist arsenal (for example, Morris, 1989). The same argument was put forth by Michael Girouard of the Institute for Creation Research at a conference in Tucson on December 1, 1989. 1 informed Girouard that the argument was mistaken and supplied him with a copy of my letter from Johanson.

In response to the first point, there is more evidence than a knee joint supporting bipedalism in Australopithecus afarensis; the top end of a thigh bone found by Dr. Tim White and Professor Desmond Clark (Johanson, 1989) and the footprints at Laetoli are but two other examples.

Brown has failed to respond to much of my criticism on the subject of Lucy's bipedality. He cites two articles in support of a claim implying that Lucy swung from trees instead of walking upright, but both articles explicitly state that she was bipedal. His claim that Lucy did not walk upright "in a human manner" is likewise misleading, as even Jungers allows for bipedality. At a meeting on the subject of Lucy's bipedality which occurred subsequent to the articles Brown cites (and which included their authors), all participants agreed that "fossils and footprints indicate that by 3.5 million years ago our ancestors walked on two legs rather than four" (Lewin, 1983, p. 700). Further, the authors of the articles Brown draws on for support agreed that the bipedal footprints at Laetoli were, or could have been, formed by Australopithecus afarensis (Lewin, 1983, p. 702).

Brown's rebuttal excerpts the section on Lucy from the more up-to-date version of his book, and it continues to make the same misleading statements (Brown, 1989c, pp. 5-6; 1989d, p. 43). Brown tries to use the controversy over the nature of Lucy's bipedality to show that Lucy was not bipedal at all and not a human ancestor—positions that those on all sides of the controversy would not endorse.

Brown quotes from William Fix to argue that skull ER 1470, even if dated at 1.8 million years, eliminates Australopithecus africanus as a human ancestor. But the latest evidence puts Australopithecus africanus at 2.8 to 2.2 million years ago (Delson, 1987, p. 654), and most (but not all) anthropologists put it in the human lineage (Simons, 1989, p. 1344).

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Regarding my criticism of his descriptions of Java Man, Brown has no response. Regarding Peking Man, Brown cites Boule and Vallois (1957), claiming that they "at least acknowledge the possibility that Peking 'men' were just apes that were hunted by true man" (Brown, 1989d, p. 45). It is true that they acknowledge something to that effect, but not that Peking Man was just an ape; instead, they explicitly state, "Morphologically, there is not the slightest doubt [as to the place of Pithecanthropus and Sinanthropus in the hierarchy of the primates]. Sinanthropus confirms and completes the proof that these are creatures with physical characters intermediate between the group of Anthropoid Apes and the group of Hominians" (Boule and Vallois, 1957, p. 142). They also state that "those who believe in the simian character of Pithecanthropus really look upon it as an Ape superior to all living Apes, while those who believe in its human character regard it as inferior to all known Men, living or fossil" (p. 124).

If Brown really thinks that the evidence on Peking Man favors the creationist view, I suggest that he read C. Loring Brace's 1986 article on the pithecanthropines.

Out-of-Order Fossils and Artifacts

I am glad that Brown has removed Oreopithecus and the Moab skeleton from his book. Unfortunately, he goes on to state that he still thinks the evidence is in favor of the Castenedolo and Calaveras being genuine "out-of-order" skeletons. Brown notes that Sir Arthur Keith, describing the Castenedolo skeletons, concludes without argument that they were intrusively buried. Keith writes that Castenedolo "may be dismissed; the unfossilized condition of the remains and other circumstances make us certain we are here dealing with intruded burials" (1925, p. 340). Unfortunately, Keith does not say what these "other circumstances" are. However, another source which Brown has already cited answers the question. In Boule and Vallois's Fossil Men, some of these circumstances are described: the skeletons were found in a marine deposit, and all fossils in the deposit—with the exception of the skeletons—were scattered and impregnated with salt (1957, pp. 106-107). Ernest Conrad's article on out-of-order fossils further points out that collagen analysis and radiocarbon tests show the skeletons to be of recent origin—Holocene, not Pliocene (1982, p. 16).

Regarding the Calaveras skull, I am pleased to note that Brown's new book at least mentions the hoax hypothesis and cites some articles defending it (Brown, 1989c, p. 40). Brown should note that in addition to the evidence I previously described, Conrad points out that flourine analysis on the skull also indicates a recent origin (1982, pp. 17-18). Furthermore, R. E. Taylor, director of the Radiocarbon Laboratory at the University of California at Riverside, has informed me that radiocarbon dating shows the age of a bone associated with the Calaveras skull to be 740 (plus or minus 210) years old (Taylor, 1989; publication forthcoming). Dr. Taylor also brought to my attention a recent article giving an overview of the skull's history (Dexter, 1986).

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Brown cites William Fix in support of the claim that the Swanscombe, Steinheim, and Fontechevade skulls are evidence that "modern-type humans" were in existence long before Neandertal. There is some controversy over the place of Neandertal in evolution. Some recent reinterpretations of South African fossils, new dates on Middle East remains, and genetic studies on mitochondrial DNA lend credence to the possibility of Neandertal being a separate species (Homo neanderthalensis) not ancestral to modern Homo sapiens, suggesting that Fix is correct (Zegura, 1989). Is this really Brown's position? Most creationists insist that Neandertal was a fully modern human (for example, Gish, 1985, p. 204; Morris, 1985, pp. 175-176). This evidence suggests, quite to the contrary, that Neandertal was a species separate from modern humans.

On the other hand, the Steinheim fossil, while apparently more modern than Neandertal in some respects, looks less advanced in others. Swanscombe and Steinheim, which predate Neandertal, are still considered by many to be intermediate between Homo erectus and Homo sapiens. The two Fontechevade skull fragments, which do not predate Neandertal but are contemporary with early Neandertal, are significant because one of them (Fontechevade I) is a forehead fragment lacking a brow ridge. Unfortunately, the fragment is of the skull of an immature individual of perhaps ten years old or less, and Neandertal children did not always possess brow ridges. A study of the other fragment, Fontechevade II, found many features similar to Neandertal and also to the earlier Steinheim (see Jurmain, Nelson, and Turnbaugh, 1987, pp. 414-417 and 424-425).

Regarding Carl Baugh's hammer, I am happy to say that Dr. R. E. Taylor of the Riverside Radiocarbon Laboratory of the University of California has offered to date the hammer and negotiations with Baugh are presently underway (with Brown as his adviser).

Noah's Ark

Brown's response to my criticisms of his Noah's ark categories is by far the weakest part of his rebuttal. He does not even attempt a defense. The fact is that the total verifiable evidence for the existence of Noah's ark in Brown's eleven "categories" of sightings comes to nil. I pointed out that one story in particular (category 101) originated as an April Fool's joke, yet Brown still lists it in his book without critical comment (Brown, 1989c, p. 20).

According to Brown, "Some writers that Lippard referenced have learned from Ark hunters which stories are false. These are the accounts that they enjoy attacking. Another tactic of theirs is to show contradictions between the false reports and those that appear very credible" (Brown, 1989d, p. 47). In my article, I pointed out that all versions of the story Brown lists in category ninety-four contradict other stories that he also lists. Furthermore, nearly every story of Brown's is debunked by the sources I cited. Brown says, "I believe there is archaeological evidence that Noah's ark exists" (Brown, 1989d, p. 47). What is this evidence?

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Brown concludes in his response that I have "taken almost three years to search out what [I feel] are the weakest of the 120 categories of evidence." As I noted in my original article, the points I addressed therein were simply a selection intended to give the flavor of Brown's work. There was no attempt to find the "weakest" of his points. Indeed, if Brown considers these points to be the weaker perhaps he would accept the following counterproposal to his perennial "writt debate" challenge: why doesn't he choose what he considers to be one of the strongest of his points to be debated in detail?

Brown concludes his rebuttal with the hope that he and I can agree that "scientific creationism" should be matched up to evolution in the classroom. I have no objection to all of the scientific evidence being discussed, but I strenuously object to the inclusion in the curriculum of unfounded arguments and misleading claims such as those I have pointed out in Brown's work. I hope that Arizona's students will not be subjected to such creationist distortion as a result of Walter Brown's position on the state Board of Education's Essential Skills Committee for Science (Lessner, 1989).

Brown likes to ask rhetorical questions, such as "Shouldn't we teach all the evidence?" (Brown, 1989d, p. 45) and "Why, then, should one side of this question be suppressed?" (p. 46). But as I have pointed out, Brown's own book repeatedly ignores contrary evidence and misleads his readers. If Brown is sincere about wanting the evidence to be presented fairly and completely, he should begin by practicing what he preaches.


I am grateful to Robert P. J. Day of the Department of Computer Science at the University of Manitoba, physicist Tom LeCompte of Northwestern University, and anthropologist Stephen L. Zegura of the University of Arizona for assistance in the preparation of this article.

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