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Creation Science Fiction™

Exposing The Lies One Layer At A Time

No, A Modern Human Knee Was Not Found In Layers Older Than Lucy

I've seen some recent videos and memes by some confused creationists where they try to make the case that the knee discovered by Donald Johanson back in 1973, the year before he discovered Lucy, was a "modern human knee" and therefore an out of place fossil. The misunderstanding stems from a 1997 NOVA Documentary titled "In Search Of Human Origins Part One: The Story Of Lucy." Here is part of the transcript that talks about the discovery of the knee:

DON JOHANSON: It looked vaguely human, but how could that be? I needed an expert opinion. Owen Lovejoy is an anatomist, part-time forensic scientist and an expert on animal locomotion. If anyone could tell me what sort of creature that knee belonged to, he could.

OWEN LOVEJOY: When Don brought the Hadar knee back from Ethiopia, he brought it over to my house and laid it out on the living room carpet, and I knew instantly, that was a human knee.

DON JOHANSON: My suspicions were confirmed. As Lovejoy pointed out, the joint had all the hallmarks of a creature that moved around on two legs, not on all fours. Walking upright is something that only humans can do. And it needs a special kind of knee joint, one that can be locked straight. A chimp gets around on all fours. If it tries to walk upright, it's knee joint doesn't lock. It's forced to walk with a bent leg and that's tiring. This mysterious fossil really perplexed us. What was a modern-looking human knee doing among fossils that were millions of years old.

I can see how a creationist might become confused, but the knee is and has always been attributed to the species Australopithecus afarensis, and never as Homo sapiens. It's scientific name is AL 129-1, and while Owen Lovejoy said it looked like a human knee, that doesn't mean it belongs to any species of human, let alone Homo sapiens.  If you ask him, or any other paleoanthropologist today, what species the AL 129-1 knee belongs to they will tell you Australopithecus afarensis. 

It should also be noted that Donald Johanson mentioned the term "part human" in that documentary when referring to ancestors we know all classify as Australopithecus.  Here is an example:

DON JOHANSON: "In the distant past, we shared a common ancestor with these chimps, so our earliest ancestor must have been part ape, part human."

When talking about the knee, he was describing the "human" part of a transitional species that had features of both earlier apes and humans. He also says:

DON JOHANSON: The knee was over three million years old, one of the oldest human fossils ever found. I felt sure we were onto something completely new, yet the knee posed troubling questions. What sort of ancient creature would have a modern knee?

Poor choice of words by Johanson?  Maybe, but we now regularly call all direct and closely related human ancestors hominins and that term was not commonly used back then. The documentary was about the earliest humans and the term was thrown around loosely, but that does not mean the AL 129-1 knee came from our species or from any human species.  The meme is wrong and the creationist videos made "exposing" this as an out of place fossil are just silly.



References: In Search Of Human Origins Part 1: The Story Of Lucy


Australopithecus afarensisAL 129-1

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