Lucy: Evolutionary Myth Making

December 8, 2010 (David Cloud, Fundamental Baptist Information Service, P.O. Box 610368, Port Huron, MI 48061, 866-295-4143,; for instructions about subscribing and unsubscribing or changing addresses, see the information paragraph at the end of the article)

One of the most widely used icons of evolution is Lucy, the name given to a fossilized ape of the australopithecine class that is supposed to be millions of years old and is alleged to be a missing link between apes and man.

The actual fossils were shown at the
Lucy Legacy exhibit in Seattle, which I visited in March 2009. They announced this as “the key piece in evolution’s puzzle.” What they did not say is that the supposed indisputable evidence that this fossil is “proto-human” is non-existent.

Lucy was a tiny creature standing about 43 inches high. The skeleton itself is less than 40% complete and is entirely missing the foot bones, though other bones representing
Australopithecus exist.

The bones were found in 1974 in northern Ethiopia by Donald Johanson and his colleagues. The first bone discovered was a knee joint, which Johanson first considered to be that of a monkey, but upon further consideration announced that it was that of a
hominid. “He thereupon declared on the spot that he had discovered a three million year old human ancestor” (Gish, Evolution: The Fossils Still Say No, p. 241).

They named the fragmentary skeleton “Lucy” after playing the Beatles song “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” repeatedly at the camp rock & roll party the night of the discovery. John Lennon’s 1971 song “Imagine” would have been more suitable, as Johanson and crew were living out the vain Darwinian dream that there is no God, no heaven or hell, only blind evolution. In the chorus, Lennon sang, “You may say that I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one/ And some day I hope you’ll join us/ And the world will be as one.” Evolutionary scientists are at the forefront of pushing this dream of a world united in a damnable myth, and it is a fulfillment of Bible prophecy (e.g., Psalm 2; 2 Timothy 3:1-5; 2 Peter 2:1-2; 3:2-4).

After Johanson announced to the world that he had discovered a new “missing link,” he was showered with international attention and more. “The National Geographic Society promised funds and assigned a photographer to Johanson’s expedition. Money came from several sources. Johanson’s future was secure” (Gish,
The Fossils Still Say No, p. 243).

Donald Johanson and Tim White and company believed they had found the original stem that led to the other
Australopithecus types and eventually man himself. Thus, they gave it a name Australopithecus afarensis to distinguish it from other forms of Australopithecus. There is no consensus on this, though.

“Johanson and White have thus boldly concluded that their Australopithecus afarensis is a ‘stem’ species: that it is the common ancestor on the one hand of Homo (giving rise to the sequence Homo habilis -- Homo erectus -- Homo sapiens), and on the other had of Australopithecus africanus, which they view as having given rise subsequently to Australopithecus robustus (including A. boisei). This scheme has not gone uncriticized. One claim is that Johnason was right the first time and that more than one species occurs at Hadar. Another is that the whole assemblage is not separable from Australopithecus africanus” (Niles Eldredge and Ian Tattersall, The Myths of Human Evolution, p. 117).

Though all evolutionists admit that the creature had an ape’s head and brain and ape-like arms, hands, and feet, and no speech capacity, it is alleged by many that it walked uprightly, which was “the first step toward becoming human.”

There is wide disagreement even on this point, though. While Lucy’s founder Donald Johanson strongly argues that Lucy walked bipedially, it must be recalled that Johanson has too much of a personal stake in the matter to be unbiased. He became famous simply on the basis of being the discoverer of the Lucy bones. Dr. Duane Gish observes that Johanson “is one of those once obscure anthropologists who have become famous overnight following extravagant and sensational claims concerning the discovery of fossil remains of alleged human ancestors” (
The Fossils Still Say No, p. 241).

Johanson’s view has been strongly contested by other scientists.

Dr. Solly Zuckerman, for many years the head of the Department of Anatomy of the University of Birmingham in England and a scientific adviser to the highest level of the British government, said of the
Australopithecus family that “THEY ARE JUST APES” (Roger Lewin, Bones of Contention, p. 164). Zuckerman studied the fossils of this creature for 15 years in minute detail with a team of scientists. They compared every important detail of Australopithecus fossils with the bones of hundreds of humans and apes. For example, they compared the pelvic bones of Australopithecus with those of more than 70 humans, 94 great apes, and many others of monkeys and baboons. Zuckerman concluded that Australopithecus did not walk erect. He said,

“For my own part, the anatomical basis for the claim that the australopithecines walked and ran upright like man is so much more flimsy than the evidence which points to the conclusion that their gait was some variant of what one sees in subhuman Primates, that it remains unacceptable” (Beyond the Ivory Tower, p. 93).

Zuckerman’s research also found that the foramen magnum (the aperture at the base of the skull through which the brain is attached to the spinal cord) is located in an apelike position, which is behind the center of the skull, rather than in a human position, which is at the center of the skull so that the head balances on the spinal column.

“... we found that the condylar position index in the australopithecine skull was very much closer to the ranges we found for apes than in three human types we also studied. This seemed to us to dispose of the claim that the australopithecine skull was balanced as in a human as opposed to an ape skeleton” (Beyond the Ivory Tower, p. 79).

Zuckerman’s minute study of the sagittal crests in the australopithecines (something that apes have on the top of their skulls but humans do not have), comparing them with about 800 skulls of apes, also demonstrated that the
Australopithecines did not walk uprightly.

“... we concluded that the existence of sagittal crests in the australopithecines implied that they had carried their heads like apes and not like man” (Beyond the Ivory Tower, p. 85).

Zuckerman also debunked another line of “proof” behind the theory that the australopithecines were missing links. This is based on the idea that the type of wear on the premolar and molar teeth follow the human pattern. Supposedly, apes are unable to grind their molars like man, but Zuckerman’s extensive research disproved this. After examining the teeth on about 100 gorilla, chimpanzee and human skulls, Zuckerman said,

“Our observations showed that the order in which the facets of wear on the cusps of practically no difference in the order of coalescence of the facets of dental wear in apes and man, and particularly in the wear of the molar and premolar teeth. If, therefore, the pattern of wear in man is due to his ability to grind his molar and premolar teeth, it followed that the ape must be able to do the same...” (Beyond the Ivory Tower, p. 87).

Zuckerman’s detail scientific research into
Australopithecus, the largest and most serious project of its nature ever conducted, was largely rejected by paleoanthropologists. And this is because his conclusions did not fit their pet theories. He observed:

“Where I went wrong was in supposing that, in the field of anatomy I am talking about, facts such as we have been collecting could stem a tide of opinion based on ex cathedra statement. ... The unscientific and doctrinaire character of the whole of this field of study is well epitomized in the observation of an enthusiastic supporter of the convention australopithecine wisdom [Bernard G. Campbell], who in a recent note supporting this school of thought writes: ‘Scientific discoveries and hypotheses must arise from some element of inspiration, and their value is not diminished because they are unverifiable’” (Beyond the Ivory Tower, p. 94).

Zuckerman’s team was not working on the so-called
Australopithecus afarensis (Lucy) but on fossils of other types of Australopithecus, but as we will see, others have reached the same conclusion for Australopithecus afarensis.

Zuckerman was basically excommunicated by the paleoanthropological community for his conclusions, but this is not because he has been scientifically disproved but because he veered from the party line.

Zuckerman was far the only evolutionary scientist to conclude that
Australopithecus did not walk uprightly in a human fashion.

In 1973 Richard Leakey wrote, “... a marked dissimilarity appears at the necks of the shafts, just below the ball-and-socket joints with the pelvis. The more ovoid, less robust shaft neck of
Australopithecus implies that the latter, though capable of walking upright, did so only for short periods” (National Geographic, June 1973).

In 1976, Charles Oxnard, professor of anatomy and human biology and a leading expert on australopithecine fossils, wrote that the pelvis and ankle bone of
Australopithecus indicate that it “was far from being able to walk upright in the human sense. ... it is very unlikely that Australopithecus occupied a position on the evolutionary line leading to man” (Scientific American, Feb. 1976).

In 1982, Bill Jungers at the Stony Brook Institute in New York “argued that
Lucy’s legs were too short, in relation to her arms, for her species to have achieved a fully modern adaptation to bipedalism” (Lucy’s Child, p. 194).

In 1983, Randy Susman and Jack Stern, also of Stony Brook, concluded that Lucy and her kin spent most of their time climbing trees. They “detailed more than two dozen separate anatomical traits suggesting that the species was a less efficient biped than modern humans” (
Lucy’s Child, p. 194). They described Lucy’s hands and feet as being long and curved, typical of a tree-dwelling ape, even more highly curved than a chimpanzee (Milton, Shattering the Myths, p. 207).

That year Susman and Sterm reported in the
American Journal of Physical Anthropology:

“The fact that the anterior portion of the iliac blade faces laterally in humans but not in chimpanzees is obvious. The marked resemblance of AL 288-1 [Lucy] to the chimpanzee is equally obvious” (J. T. Stern and R. L. Susman, American Journal of Physical Anthropology, 80:279, 1983).

Russell Tuttle of the University of Chicago reached the same conclusion as Jungers, Susman, and Sterm. He pointed to the “curved fingers and toes” as an “apelike adaptation for grasping tree branches.”

In 1983, a conference was held at the Institute of Human Origins at Berkeley to discuss the issue of Lucy’s bipedalism. Russell Tuttle argued that the Laetoli footprints could not have been by Lucy-type creature because its long, curved toes and other features would have left a different sort of print (
Lucy’s Child, p. 196). Randy Susman emphasized that the creature’s “strong, curved, apelike finger bones,” and its “long arms relative to its legs” speak of tree living. Jack Stern used features of the hip, knee, ankle, and pelvis as evidence for his view that the creature did not walk in a human fashion.

In 1984, Charles Oxnard concluded that australopithecine was definitely not a missing link. “... the australopithecines known over the last few decades from Olduvai and Sterkfontein, Kromdrai, and Makapans-gat, are now IRREVOCABLY REMOVED FROM A PLACE IN THE EVOLUTION OF HUMAN BIPEDALISM, possibly from a place in a group of any closer to humans than the African apes and certainly from a place in the direct human lineage. All this should make us wonder about the unusual presentation of human evolution in introductory textbooks, in encyclopedias and in popular publications” (
The Order of Man: A Biomathematical Anatomy of the Primates, p. 332).

In 1987, Oxnard did an extensive computer analysis of the existing bones of
Australopithecus and concluded that it walked like an ape, not a man.

In 1993, Christine Tardieu, an anthropologist in Paris, reported that Lucy’s “locking mechanism was not developed.” Humans have a locking mechanism in the knees that allow us to stand upright comfortably for long periods of time. Lucy didn’t have that, so she certainly didn’t stand around nonchalantly like she is depicted in the museums.

In 1994, J.T. Stern, Jr., told the 63rd Annual Meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists that he believes that
A. afarensis “walked funny, not like humans” (Gish, p. 257).

The Journal of Human Evolution reported that a biochemical study of the hip and thigh of the Australopithecus had concluded that it did not walk uprightly (Christine Berge, Journal Human Evolution, 1994, pp. 259-273).

In 1995,
Science News reported that a partial skeleton of an A. africanus had been found “whose ‘apelike’ body was capable of only limited two-legged walking” (Gish, p. 257). This was found in Sterkfontein, where the original Australopithecus africanus was discovered. The pelvis was “generally ape-like in shape.”

In 2000,
Nature magazine reported, “Regardless of the status of Lucy’s knee joint, new evidence has come forth that Lucy has the morphology of a knuckle-walker” (Richmand and Strait, “Evidence that Humans Evolved from Knuckle-Walking Ancestor,” Nature).

In 2000,
Science magazine reported the same thing, that Lucy “has the morphology that was classic for knuckle walkers” (E. Stokstad, “Hominid Ancestors May Have Knuckle Walked”). Stokstad says, “I walked over to the cabinet, pulled out Lucy, and shazam! -- she had the morphology that was classic for knuckle walkers.”

In 2007, anthropologists at the Tel Aviv University, said that they have disproved the theory that Lucy is a common ancestor of humans and great apes. “The specific structure found in Lucy also appears in a species called
Australopithecus robustus. Prof. Yoel Rak and colleagues at the Sackler School of Medicine’s department of anatomy and anthropology wrote, ‘The presence of the morphology in both the latter and Australopithecus afarensis and its absence in modern humans cast doubt on the role of [Lucy] as a common ancestor.’ ... Rak and colleagues studied 146 mature primate bone specimens, including those from modern humans, gorillas, chimpanzees and orangutans and found that the “ramus element” of the mandible connecting the lower jaw to the skull is like that of the robust forms, therefore eliminating the possibility that Lucy and her kind are Man’s direct ancestors” (Dave Scot, “Icon of Evolution ‘Lucy’ Bites the Dust,” Uncommon Descent, April 26, 2007).

In 2009, after anthropologists gathered at the Institute of Human Origins in New York to discuss Lucy, a report in the
New York Times made the following interesting conclusion:

“The debate over whether the primate Lucy actually stood up on two feet three million years ago and walked--thus becoming one of mankind’s most important ancestors--has evolved into two interpretive viewpoints, three family trees, spats over four scientific techniques and too many personality clashes to count. ... The long and short of it is, according to a participant, that bipedality lies in the eye of the beholder” (“Did Lucy Actually Stand on Her Own Two Feet?” (New York Times, Aug. 29, 2009).

Thus, there is no consensus even among the evolutionists themselves that Lucy walked uprightly, and there is strong evidence that she did not. It is probable that she typically walked on all fours like an ape, while walking upright for short distances. One day in Kathmandu, Nepal, in 2008, I saw a rhesus macaque monkey walk about 100 feet on his back legs. Apes can walk upright, but they aren’t designed to do it comfortably and naturally like a man does; they are more comfortable climbing trees.

When it comes to Lucy’s hands, all authorities agree that they were ape-like, and as for her feet, Dr. Randall Susman and Dr. Jack Stern of the State University of New York at Stony Brook, described them as “showing a retention of grasping tendencies with long and curved digits” (
New York Times, Aug. 29, 2009). That sounds like an ape to me.

Dr. Stern concluded that everything about Lucy, from her fingertips to her toes, suggests that “our ancestors, after they diverged from apes, inhabited the trees three to four million years ago.” If our “ancestors” supposedly diverged from apes, why did they still have an ape-brain, an ape-body, and still live in trees? Why not admit that the evidence shows that Lucy was an ape and that an ape has always been an ape and humans have always been humans? The reason is that most evolutionary scientists approach this subject from a naturalistic bias, and no amount of evidence will make them believe in divine creation and submit to the authority of the Bible.

Doctoring the evidence

Owen Lovejoy, who has been at the forefront of supporting Lucy’s founders’ view that the creature walked upright, even reconstructed Lucy’s pelvis to fit this theory.

In the 1994 PBS Nova Series “In Search of Human Origins,” episode one, Lovejoy said that he knew that Lucy’s pelvis was “wrong” and that it needed modifying. He theorizes that some animal stepped on it in the distant past and crushed it into the wrong shape. He therefore took a power saw to a cast of the fossil to “fix it”! I am not kidding. Of course, Lovejoy is convinced that he was merely returning it to its original and proper shape, but he has no evidence for this other than his own assumptions.

Lucy Art: Perpetrating a myth

Artistic reconstructions typically depict Lucy with
human hands, walking uprightly in a purely human manner on human feet, and typically with human-proportion arms and legs. This is true for the models and drawings that I have seen personally at the Museum of Natural History in New York City, the American Museum of Natural Sciences in Washington D.C., the Field Museum in Chicago, Yale University’s Peabody Museum, the Seattle Science Center, the Museum of Man in San Diego, and Michigan State University Ann Arbor. You can also find drawings of Lucy in science textbooks that depict her walking uprightly with human hands and feet. An example is Life: The Science of Biology by Purves, Orians, and Heller, 1992, p. 604. These reconstructions are not scientific; they are brainwashing tools.

Sadly, they are used to educate children. For example, at its website, San Diego’s Museum of Man says that it is targeting “audiences of sixth and seventh graders in 500 schools county-wide.” This is not education; it is propaganda; it is myth-making.

Dr. David Menton complained to the St. Louis Zoo about their Lucy exhibit, but his protests were rebuffed. Menton, who has a Ph.D. in cell biology from Brown University, said, “I think the zoo owes it to all the people who helped pay for that exhibit to give (Lucy) an honest presentation.” But Bruce Carr, the zoo’s director of education, said they had no plans to change the exhibit. “What we look at is the overall exhibit and the impression it creates. We think that the overall impression this exhibit creates is correct” (
Creation Ex Nihilo, Volume 19 Number 1, Dec 1996 - Feb. 1997). This is a powerful admission. The overall impression that this Lucy model creates is that Australopithecus was an ape-man, a creature that had some ape-like features but walked erect like a man and had human hands and feet. This is a false impression that is contradicted by the evidence, but it is exactly the impression that they desire to give.

After examining the available data on
Australopithecus and devoting 29 pages of his book to this discussion, Dr. Duane Gish concluded:

“It seems that the multitude of data on the mode of locomotion, the pattern of tooth development, the structure of the incus, the structure of the labyrinth of the ear, the relatively long and powerfully built forearms and short, robust hindlimbs with their long curved fingers and long curved toes, the overall structure of the feet, the ape-sized brains, and the very apelike jaws, teeth, face, and skulls of the australopithecines establishes beyond reasonable doubt that these creatures were simply apes. They were apes that were uniquely different than any ape now living, but nevertheless, just apes, in no way related to the ancestry of man” (Evolution: The Fossils Still Say No, p. 262).


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