Human evolution Intelligent Design Mind

Making human brain evolution look gradual by ignoring enough data…

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Bright Idea From U Wisconsin paleoanthropologist John Hawks:

Bernard Wood’s research group has a new paper on brain size evolution in hominins, led by Andrew Du in Proceedings of the Royal Society, Series B: “Pattern and process in hominin brain size evolution are scale-dependent”.

In this paper, I notice that the researchers have done a really weird thing: Their analyses include only hominin fossils before 500,000 years ago.

The specimens reflect every hominin species from Australopithecus afarensis up to “Homo heidelbergensis”. Modern humans and Neanderthals have been left out of the dataset—they don’t fall within the pre-500,000-year time range.

On the basis of this dataset, the authors conclude that the entire hominin lineage is compatible with a single pattern of gradual evolutionary increase over time.

Charts are offered by way of illustration.

There are two species entirely missing from the data examined by Du and colleagues. The fossil records of endocranial volume in Homo naledi and Homo floresiensis both date to the last 300,000 years. When you include them, they both reject the notion of gradual monotonic increase in brain size. More.

We are used to governments’ disappearing monster deficits (and, to be honest, in some cases, disappearing people) this way. It feels squishier when scientists do it. Unless, of course, evolutionary biology isn’t really a science anymore. More a form of Darwinian storytelling where the preferred narrative is chosen…

Also note bornagain77’s supplementary information below.

See also: John Hawks on human evolution: Free chapter from book on evolution from Princeton U

9 Replies to “Making human brain evolution look gradual by ignoring enough data…

  1. 1
    bornagain77 says:

    Of related note:

    If Modern Humans Are So Smart, Why Are Our Brains Shrinking? – January 20, 2011
    Excerpt: John Hawks is in the middle of explaining his research on human evolution when he drops a bombshell. Running down a list of changes that have occurred in our skeleton and skull since the Stone Age, the University of Wisconsin anthropologist nonchalantly adds, “And it’s also clear the brain has been shrinking.”
    “Shrinking?” I ask. “I thought it was getting larger.” The whole ascent-of-man thing.,,,
    He rattles off some dismaying numbers: Over the past 20,000 years, the average volume of the human male brain has decreased from 1,500 cubic centimeters to 1,350 cc, losing a chunk the size of a tennis ball. The female brain has shrunk by about the same proportion. “I’d call that major downsizing in an evolutionary eyeblink,” he says. “This happened in China, Europe, Africa—everywhere we look.”

    also see this study by John Hawks:

    New study suggests big bang theory of human evolution – January 10, 2000
    Two million years ago somewhere in Africa, a small group of individuals became separated from other australopithecines. This population bottleneck led to a series of sudden, interrelated changes—in body size, brain size, skeletal proportions, and behavior—that jump-started the evolution of our species.
    That is the conclusion of a new University of Michigan study published in the current (January 2000) issue of Molecular Biology and Evolution that analyzes a broad range of genetic, fossil, and archeological evidence to decipher the most likely scenario for the start of human evolution.,,,
    ,,, “The earliest H. sapiens remains differ significantly from australopithecines in both size and anatomical details,” notes Wolpoff. “Insofar as we can tell, these changes were sudden and not gradual.”

    A few more quotes:

    “Something extraordinary, if totally fortuitous, happened with the birth of our species….Homo sapiens is as distinctive an entity as exists on the face of the Earth, and should be dignified as such instead of being adulterated with every reasonably large-brained hominid fossil that happened to come along.”
    Anthropologist Ian Tattersall, The Fossil Trail: How We Know What We Think We Know about Human Evolution (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996), 246.
    (emeritus curator at the American Museum of Natural History)

    “A number of hominid crania are known from sites in eastern and southern Africa in the 400- to 200-thousand-year range, but none of them looks like a close antecedent of the anatomically distinctive Homo sapiens…Even allowing for the poor record we have of our close extinct kin, Homo sapiens appears as distinctive and unprecedented…there is certainly no evidence to support the notion that we gradually became who we inherently are over an extended period, in either the physical or the intellectual sense.”
    Dr. Ian Tattersall: – paleoanthropologist – emeritus curator of the American Museum of Natural History – (Masters of the Planet, 2012)

    Human Origins and the Fossil Record: What Does the Evidence Say? – Casey Luskin – July 2012
    Excerpt: Indeed, far from supplying “a nice clean example” of “gradualistic evolutionary change,” the record reveals a dramatic discontinuity between ape-like and human-like fossils. Human-like fossils appear abruptly in the record, without clear evolutionary precursors, making the case for human evolution based on fossils highly speculative.

    Later Hominins: The Australopithecine Gap – Casey Luskin – August 2012
    Excerpt: Paleoanthropologist Leslie Aiello, who served as head of the anthropology department at University College London, states that when it comes to locomotion, “australopithecines are like apes, and the Homo group are like humans. Something major occurred when Homo evolved, and it wasn’t just in the brain.” The “something major” that occurred was the abrupt appearance of the human body plan — without direct evolutionary precursors in the fossil record.

    Review of “Contested Bones – 2018” (Part 1 – Prologue and Chapter 1 “Power of the Paradigm”) – video
    12:37 minute Quote: “In 1965, natural history painter Rudolph Zallinger created the most famous icon of evolution – the “March of Progress.” The illustration was a foldout in the Time-Life Nature Library book, “Early Man”.2 It portrays a series of alleged ape-like ancestors that become progressively more human as they march across the page. Interestingly, the figure’s caption cautioned readers that the artistic representations were based upon “fragmentary fossil evidence.”,,, The book freely confesses: “Although protoapes and apes were quadrupedal, all are shown here standing for the purpose of comparison.”,,, the transitional forms existed primarily in the artist’s mind.,, most people ignored the fine print.”
    16:43 minute Quote: “The power of the (ape to man) graphic has been strongly reinforced by sporadic headlines proclaiming important new fossil evidence,,, Very few people are aware that virtually every “ape-man” bone has been contested by experts in the field.”

    One final note: Dr. Giem is up to part 4 in his series reviewing John Sanford’s new book “Contested Bones – 2018”. The book “Contested Bones” (by Christopher Rupe and John Sanford) is the result of four years of intense research into the primary scientific literature concerning those bones that are thought to represent transitional forms between ape and man. This book’s title reflects the surprising reality that all the famous “hominin” bones continue to be fiercely contested today—even within the field of paleoanthropology.

    “Contested Bones” review by Paul Giem – video playlist

  2. 2 says:

    Is there a developmental path from ape to human capabilities?

    Many triggers have been hypothesized: “bipedalism due to climate change”, “aquatic ape hair loss”, “killer ape”, “increased brain size due to better nutrition or fire or language”, etc. However, none of this stands up to scrutiny. Bipedalism is common in animals including birds, lizards, rodents and more, yet none of these shows superior intelligence. Venturing into new habitats due or not to climate change is very common for most animal families, yet despite dramatically different lifestyles, members of the same family are more or less equally endowed. The naturally hairless and the language-rich species are not known for superior intelligence. Finally, better nutrition leads invariably to larger populations and sometimes to larger body sizes (within limits), but never to human-level intelligence. And while larger body size generally comes with increased cranial capacity (used as a proxy for intelligence of the fossilized) the relationship between cranial capacity and actual intelligence is tentative at best, especially when comparing across animal families.

  3. 3
    bornagain77 says:

    It is also interesting to note the jaw dropping complexity of the human brain that Darwinists try to attribute the origin of to mindless processes:

    The Human Brain Is ‘Beyond Belief’ by Jeffrey P. Tomkins, Ph.D. * – 2017
    Excerpt: The human brain,, is an engineering marvel that evokes comments from researchers like “beyond anything they’d imagined, almost to the point of being beyond belief”1 and “a world we had never imagined.”2,,,
    Perfect Optimization
    The scientists found that at multiple hierarchical levels in the whole brain, nerve cell clusters (ganglion), and even at the individual cell level, the positioning of neural units achieved a goal that human engineers strive for but find difficult to achieve—the perfect minimizing of connection costs among all the system’s components.,,,
    Vast Computational Power
    Researchers discovered that a single synapse is like a computer’s microprocessor containing both memory-storage and information-processing features.,,, Just one synapse alone can contain about 1,000 molecular-scale microprocessor units acting in a quantum computing environment. An average healthy human brain contains some 200 billion nerve cells connected to one another through hundreds of trillions of synapses. To put this in perspective, one of the researchers revealed that the study’s results showed a single human brain has more information processing units than all the computers, routers, and Internet connections on Earth.1,,,
    Phenomenal Processing Speed
    the processing speed of the brain had been greatly underrated. In a new research study, scientists found the brain is 10 times more active than previously believed.6,7,,,
    The large number of dendritic spikes also means the brain has more than 100 times the computational capabilities than was previously believed.,,,
    Petabyte-Level Memory Capacity
    Our new measurements of the brain’s memory capacity increase conservative estimates by a factor of 10 to at least a petabyte, in the same ballpark as the World Wide Web.9,,,
    Optimal Energy Efficiency
    Stanford scientist who is helping develop computer brains for robots calculated that a computer processor functioning with the computational capacity of the human brain would require at least 10 megawatts to operate properly. This is comparable to the output of a small hydroelectric power plant. As amazing as it may seem, the human brain requires only about 10 watts to function.11 ,,,
    Multidimensional Processing
    It is as if the brain reacts to a stimulus by building then razing a tower of multi-dimensional blocks, starting with rods (1D), then planks (2D), then cubes (3D), and then more complex geometries with 4D, 5D, etc. The progression of activity through the brain resembles a multi-dimensional sandcastle that materializes out of the sand and then disintegrates.13
    He also said:
    We found a world that we had never imagined. There are tens of millions of these objects even in a small speck of the brain, up through seven dimensions. In some networks, we even found structures with up to eleven dimensions.13,,,
    Biophoton Brain Communication
    Neurons contain many light-sensitive molecules such as porphyrin rings, flavinic, pyridinic rings, lipid chromophores, and aromatic amino acids. Even the mitochondria machines that produce energy inside cells contain several different light-responsive molecules called chromophores. This research suggests that light channeled by filamentous cellular structures called microtubules plays an important role in helping to coordinate activities in different regions of the brain.,,,

    If you truly believe that astonishingly level of complexity in the human brain can be the result of mindless, ‘random’, processes you have basically lost your mind:

    It’s Really Not Rocket Science – Granville Sewell – November 16, 2015
    Excerpt: “It is not enough to say that design is a more likely scenario to explain a world full of well-designed things. It strikes me as urgent to insist that you not allow your mind to surrender the absolute clarity that all complex and magnificent things were made that way. Once you allow the intellect to consider that an elaborate organism with trillions of microscopic interactive components can be an accident… you have essentially “lost your mind.””
    Jay Homnick – American Spectator 2005

  4. 4
    asauber says:

    Venturing into new habitats due or not to climate change

    I hate to be a nit-picker, but venturing into new habitats could be due to a change in the weather. A few hot summers or cold winters could do it.


  5. 5
    polistra says:

    Cutting the data set and reconstructing a linear graph is always one of the dangers of poor science.

    My dad was always telling parables to develop good scientific thinking. His parable on this subject was: “An anthropologist decided that all Quechua Indians walked single file… Well, at least the one he saw did.”

  6. 6
    asauber says:

    See, I’m even falling into the mental quicksand of equating climate with temperature.

    A few dry or wet or windy or calm (or other things) seasons could do it, too.


  7. 7
    mahuna says:

    From the link to “Human brain evolution looks gradual. If you ignore enough data.”

    “the strange assumption that a gradual monotonic increase is an appropriate model across many species that are not a single ancestor-descendant lineage. I think that what looks like a “fit” is actually just an illustration of how weak the data are.”

    The fossil species used to make the cute graph aren’t related to each other. Each is an isolated datum that appeared POOF! and then disappeared POOF! with no connection established between them, other than that the fossils “look kinda human”.

    Some decades ago now I saw a science special on TV in which a female anthropologist mentioned the CRITICAL importance of the appearance (without predecessors POOF!) of a large hole in the skulls of modern humans. The large hole allows a large vein (artery?) to FLOOD human brains with blood. And this vast volume of blood is necessary/critical to the operation of LARGE brains in humans. The lady said she made this brilliant leap whilst talking with a car mechanic about her broken auto. The grimy blue collar guy sagely observed that the size/power of your car engine is CRITICALLY limited by the size/efficiency of your RADIATOR. The lady’s radiator had failed causing a general failure of the car’s engine. She realized the same would be true for large brains in inadequately cooled skulls.

    Chimps and gorillas (and the Ourang-Outang)do NOT have any such entry hole and so CANNOT be the base model from which humans were constructed. If you stick a larger brain into a gorilla’s skull, the lack of adequate COOLING will cause the large brain to malfunction.

    So FIRST ya gotta have a Modern Skull. THEN you can increase the size (and complexity) of the brain encased therein. It will NEVER work the other way round.

  8. 8 says:


    venturing into new habitats could be due to a change in the weather.

    What’s your point?

    My point is that new habitats do not change the organism much, not that venturing doesn’t happen:

    “Venturing into new habitats due or not to climate change is very common for most animal families, yet despite dramatically different lifestyles, members of the same family are more or less equally endowed.”

  9. 9
    asauber says:


    My point is that climate doesn’t do ANYTHING. It can’t. It’s a way of looking at statistics. I’ve been trying for years to correct the mistaken notion that there is a climate system out there, lurking indetectably, that makes bad things happen. There isn’t.


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