Re: fossil foot bones

the skeptic (
Sat, 14 Oct 95 15:50:45 CDT

In article <45jk3s$>
"James C. Ohman, Ph.D." <> writes:

>Patently false. Please refer to Latimer and Lovejoy (1990, AJPA
>82:125-134). This work has never been refuted. And your unpublished
>work that you mentioned in an earlier post does not count since it has
>never been peer-reviewed. Therefore Australopithecus afarensis must be
>viewed as NOT possessing a grasping foot.
Perhaps it would be logical to view a.afarensis as "NOT possessing a grasping
foot." The fact that Lovejoy and Latimer have come to this conclusion based on
the evidence to date and their paper has been peer viewed does not mean that it
is fact or written in stone. Scientific theory is based on the potential for
falsifiability (if that is even a word!). It scares me when I see scientists
use that sort of 'scientism' authority to make their point.
I am not refuting Lovejoy and Latimer, nor am I agreeing necessarily. That is
not the point. The point is, that as a scientist, you have a responsibility
to avoid using this sort of 'scientism' to support your contentions.

>Clarke and Tobias (1995, Science 269:529-541) claim "grasping" ability
>for the hallux in Stw 573. The did NOT, however, directly compare these
>specimens to either the work of Latimer and Lovejoy, nor even the
>specimens from Hadar. The have also not yet made Stw 573, nor even casts
>of Stw 573, available for comparison. Therefore, the jury remains out on
>Stw 573. However, the the small amount of divergence pictured in Clarke
>and Tobias' figure is clearly NOT ape-like, and they conveniently did NOT
>illustrate an ape in this figure.

If Clarke and Tobias did not compare Stw 573 to any of the other specimens of
Latimer and Lovejoy or anybody else for that matter, then why is Lovejoy arguin
g about the report by Clarke and Tobias on the Sterkfontein fossil? Lovejoy
is saying that the bones are similar to many other a.afarensis fossils so
I would certainly hope that he has not made that statement without examining
the specimen or a cast of it. Also, there are a lot of other respected
scientists who have a different view than that of Lovejoy. Randall Susman
believes that australopithecines of the era (3.5 mya) walked on the ground but
occasionally climbed in trees. Even Johanson admits that he can see no reason
why Lucy's pals wouldn't have occasionally climbed trees.
All of these people are fine and respected scientists but I doubt that any of
them would insist that a.afarensis must be viewed as "NOT" possessing a
grasping foot. They would each argue their point by reason, not by authority.
This debate over whether or not afarensis was arboreal and terrestrial, only
terrestrial or a tiny bit arboreal and mostly terrestrial will rage on among
open minded and respected anthropologists and anatomists, etc. Personally,
it makes more sense that the australopithicenes didn't one day hop out of the
trees and never look back. The jury is out on bipedalism and while Lovejoy
may have the most commonly known view on how and why it developed, there are
a great many anthropologists who disagree with Lovejoy. I think that even
Lovejoy would never say that everybody has to agree with him because he has
been peer reviewed. Sheesh! In fact, I would posit that the majority cons-
ensus on bipedalism among anthropologists diverges (pun intended) from the
Lovejoy theory.