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Sunday, January 2, 2011

Virchow, Rickets, Neandertal, and Homo Erectus

For the handful of people who might be interested. The material is excerpted from the first edition of Lubenow's Bones of Contention. Yes, it did take me a while to type up. If you find it interesting, reward Mr. Lubenow by buying a copy of his book, OK?

Italics are in the original. Typos were not, and any you see are my fault. Anything in bold reflects my emphasis.
When the first fossil human was discovered (the original Neandertal) several competent medical authorities stated that the peculiar apish shape of the bones was caused by rickets. In 1872, Rudolf Virchow published a carefully argued and factual diagnosis that the original Neandertal individual had been a normal human who suffered from rickets in childhood and arthritis in adulthood. Virchow's diagnosis has never been refuted. It was ignored in his day because by coincidence the Neandertal morphology was what evolutionists believed a transition between primates and humans would look like. Today, too Virchow's report is ignored. We assume that his medical knowledge was unsophisticated. Furthermore, rickets is relatively unknown, and Virchow is hardly a household name.

Rudolf Virchow (1821-1902) was professor of pathology at the University of Berlin. He was the first to recognize the cell as the basic unit for alteration in disease. He founded the science of cell pathology; he is known universally as the father of the science of pathology. His discoveries, among others, include embolism and leukemia. He redefined sarcoma and melanoma. His microscopic studies added tremendously to our knowledge of connective tissue, inflammation, and tumors. He cleared up the life cycle of the trichinae. His discoveries were important foundations for surgery and drug therapy.

A political activist, Virchow was a member of the Prussian National Assembly and the German Reichstag. Through his political influence he was a pioneer in public health, successfully fighting for better hospitals, schools, meat inspection, and sanitation procedures. "During the last third of the 19th Century, Virchow probably was the best-known medical man in the world." Nevertheless, despite all of this, Virchow was guilty of an unpardonable sin: He was quite skeptical of Darwin's theory of natural selection, feeling that it lacked sufficient demonstration.

Virchow was also an anthropologist. He was responsible for the emphasis in his day on laboratory research in anthropology, and was involved in anthropological field work in Germany and Greece. He was one of the founders of the German Anthropological Society, and of the Berlin Society for Anthropology, Ethnology, and Prehistory, the latter of which, from 1869 until his death, he served as president and editor of its journal. He was personally familiar with the original Neandertal fossils and expertly acquainted with the disease of rickets. This was the man who diagnosed the first Neandertal as a case of rickets.

Virchow was well acquainted with rickets because rickets was particularly common in the industrial parts of Europe in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The same industrial pollution that darkened the barks of the trees in England which in turn caused the ratios in the peppered moth population to change from light to dark (falsely claimed by evolutionists as an illustration of evolution in action) also obscured the sunlight in these industrial areas. The result was that many children, especially those having inferior diets, suffered from rickets.

The relationship between a sunless climate and a high incidence of rickets was well known by medical authorities in Virchow's time. However, a vitamin D deficiency as the cause of rickets was not identified until after World War I. Because rickets is clinically most active in humans between the ages of six and twenty-four months, vitamin D is now added to milk in most western countries. The result is that rickets is virtually unknown today in the United States. However, a friend of mine, born in a poor section of Boston in 1913, recalls rickets as being a rather common disease during his childhood years.

A more recent identification of fossil humans and rickets was made by Francis Ivanhoe in a paper in Nature. Ivanhoe said that "...every Neandertal child skull studied so far shows signs compatible with severe rickets." These include the child remains from Engis (Belgium), La Ferrassie (France), Gibraltar, Pech de l'Aze (France), La Quina (France), Starosel's (U.S.S.R.), and Subalyuk (Hungary). Less extreme cases are seen in the child remains from Teshik-Tash (U.S.S.R.), Shanidar (Iraq), and Egbert (Lebanon). The rickets skull morphology, seen in these children has carried over into the adult Neandertals and other fossil humans. The gross bowing of the long bones of the body, so typical of rickets, is seen in both Neandertal children and adults.

If a number of human fossil remains are compatible with the disease of rickets, it is fair to ask why this has not been generally recognized, especially in light of our advanced medical knowledge. First, it is because of our medical progress that the disease has been overlooked in fossil humans. Medically, we no longer think in terms of rickets. In the very countries where evolution is taught most extensively, rickets has been practically eliminated. In all of my life, I have seen only one person who, I suspect, has had rickets. Even a medical doctor, dealing with flesh-and-blood people, does not see the bones of his patients directly unless he takes x-rays. Hence, when we see pictures of the fossil bones of Neandertal or Homo erectus, we do not make the identification.

A second reason why the rickets diagnosis has been ignored is easy to understand in retrospect. It is one thing to recognize a single specimen as being pathological, such as the original Neandertaler. However, when more Neandertals were discovered in Europe, and the Java and Peking remains were found in Asia, it would have been hard to think in terms of a worldwide pathology unless one also thought in terms of a worldwide cause for that pathology. It is more than coincidental that at the very time of these fossil discoveries, the Book of Genesis was coming under intensive attack, and the credibility of the creation and Flood accounts was being severely challenged. Hence, the one event that could explain a worldwide pathology--the Genesis Flood--was being discredited in intellectual circles. In light of that background it is understandable why the pathological condition of post-Flood humans came to be interpreted as a "normal" phase of human evolution.

The third reason why the rickets diagnosis was ignored has to do with the evolutionists' expectations of that day. For many years the Piltdown fraud was not recognized as such, because Piltdown Man was the type of fossil that evolutionists expected to find. In fact, the fraud was committed to advance a certain philosophical concept of human evolution. It was only when that particular philosophical concept became obsolete that the Piltdown fossils were studied more objectively and the fraud discovered. The Neandertals, Java Man, and Peking Man were also the kind of fossils evolutionists were looking for. By a unique coincidence, rickets gives to the skull and to the long bones of the body the superficial apish cast the evolutionists were expecting to find in the "missing link."

Because the human fossils are used today as evidence for human evolution, it is natural for us to assume that the concept of human evolution grew out of the fossil evidence. (That is how the scientific method says it should happen.) But such was not the case. When Charles Darwin published his famous Origin in 1859, he had been working on his theory for thirty years. (His grandfather, Erasmus Darwin, was also a well-known evolutionist.) Although Darwin did not directly address human evolution in the Origin, he clearly had humans in mind, as the last sentence of the Origin reveals. The original Neandertal fossils were found in 1856. While Darwin was undoubtedly aware of them, there is no evidence that he had ever seen the fossils when he published the Origin, or even when he published The Descent of Man in 1871.

In other words, the allegedly scientific concept of human evolution was well established before the relevant fossil evidence was discovered. Eugene Dubois was also thoroughly committed to human evolution before he went to Java to look for evidence. The human fossils, when discovered, were then used to try to prove human evolution, which had already been well developed on philosophical grounds. Thus, the human fossils were never evaluated in a neutral atmosphere to determine what they really were. It is a classic case of using ambiguous evidence to prove a preconceived idea.

Because the Neandertal and Homo erectus fossils were the type of thing that evolutionists were expecting to find, it has been relatively easy for them to explain the morphology of the Lower and Middle Pleistocene fossils as phases of human evolution. It has been harder for them to explain that same morphology in Upper Pleistocene fossils, because humans at that point were supposed to have a more modern appearance. This is the reason for the "Neandertal Problem." It is also the reason for a lesser known but more serious problem for evolutionists--the Upper Pleistocene Homo erectus-like fossils.

Recent fossil discoveries in Australia reveal a condition that defies evolution as an explanation. Two populations were living side by side in very recent times. One population had a very modern morphology, and the other had a Homo erectus-like morphology. The erectus-like fossils include the Mossgiel individual (discovered in 1960 and dated at about 6000 y.a.), the forty Kow Swamp individuals (first discovered in 1967 and dated at about 10, 000 y.a.), and the Cossack skeletal remains (discovered in 1972 and dated from just a few hundred years ago to about 6500 y.a.).

We can sense the evolutionists' bewilderment as they write about these fossils. Jeffrey Laitman (Mt. Sinai School of Medicine) mentions fossil authorities who speak of the "extreme disparities" found between these two groups. And Richard G. Klein declares that "the range of variation [between these two groups] is extraordinary..."

The range of explanations given for these two contemporaneous groups exceeds the range of variation in the fossils themselves. At the time the Kow Swamp report was published, an editorial in Nature suggested many possibilities for the erectus-like morphology: (1) These fossils could represent a small inbred community; (2) the thick bones of these fossils could be the result of differential survival--thicker bones would survive intact longer than thinner bones; (3) the thick cranial bones could be the result of a nutritional problem; (4) low-grade anemia; (5) genetic factors; (6) endocrinal factors; or (7) a pathological condition. The writer certainly covered all the bases. However, in doing so he gave away the store. The admission that one or more of these factors could produce a Homo erectus-like morphology is also an admission that the concept of human evolution is not needed to explain that morphology--which is what creationists have claimed all along. All of the explanations suggested in that editorial are non-evolutionary.

The authors of the Kow Swamp report, A.G. Thorne (Australian National University), and P.G. Macumber (Geological Survey of Victoria), give their nonevolutionary explanation. In a sure and confident manner they say that "...the Kow Swamp series represents an isolated and remnant population." But at the very time (1972) they were writing those words, the Cossack skeletal material, having that very same morphology, was being discovered on the west coast of Australia two thousand miles away. Hence, we are not dealing with an "isolated and remnant population." The authors of the Cossack article write that the Cossack discovery "...indicates that this morphology was not a regional variant but continental in distribution."

Many evolutionists have suggested that these diverse Australian populations are the result of two or even three migrations into Australia from elsewhere. However, this explanation does not solve the problem; it just pushes the problem back to the Asian land mass. Evolutionists date the first humans in Australia at a bit before 40, 000 y.a. Hence, even if these successive waves of migration were separated by as much as 20, 000 years, the differences in morphology cannot be ascribed to evolutionary processes. On the evolution time scale 20, 000 years is nothing. It just means that these two morphologically diverse groups, which may have been separated geographically, had been living as contemporaries on the Asian mainland. Hence, the dual migration hypothesis doesn't even address the real problem, let alone solve it.

The most common explanation (also a nonevolutionary one) for these Upper Pleistocene Homo erectus-like fossils is the idea of cranial deformation. The artificial deformation of bones is well known in human history. A classic example is the distortion of the feet of Chinese women caused by foot binding in childhood. In the Americas a common cause of skull deformation was the strapping of an infant to a cradle board. In South America Inca infants of noble birth would have their heads bound so as to give the heads a pointed shape. The purpose was to distinguish the nobility from the commoners.

Richard Klein suggests cranial deformation as a likely explanation for the Kow Swamp fossils. The Catalogue of Fossil Hominids also suggests this as a possibility for the skull of the Kow Swamp 2 individual.

As to the particular method of cranial deformation, Chris Stringer says that the practice of headbinding "...was certainly responsible for some of the peculiarities in cranial shape amongst the Kow Swamp people." Philip J. Jabgood (University of Sidney) suggests that the method used was one of repeated pressure tot he front and the back of the infant's cranium. He feels that this method, unlike binding, would allow for the degree of variable deformation that one sees between the Kow Swamp 5 and the Kow Swamp 2 individuals. Thorne, while acknowledging the possibility of cranial deformation, likewise sees no evidence of long-term binding in these fossils.

Freedman and Lofgren, describing the Cossack cranium, say that it is very similar to the Kow Swamp crania but very different from other recent Western Australian skulls. They further state that the differences in the fossils do not appear to be due to artificial cranial deformation.

To use cranial deformation as the explanation for the large number of Upper Pleistocene Homo erectus-type fossils seems contrived. That explanation is never given for fossils of similar morphology in the Lower and Middle Pleistocene. Why is it valid for one geologic period and not for the others? Nor is that explanation given for the Neandertal and archaic Homo Sapiens fossils possessing a similar morphology. If cranial deformation can produce that morphology, then evolution is not needed. It is time to inform the evolutionist that he can't have it both ways. It is only the pressure of evolution that spawns ideas which are without one shred of factual evidence.

Textbook illustrations of valid cases of artificial cranial deformation are quite different from the typical Homo erectus morphology. I have seen many museum specimens of artificial cranial deformation, and they, too, are very different from a Homo erectus morphology. In fact, it is hard to imagine a method of artificial cranial deformation that would result in an erectus-like skull. No type of cranial deformation could produce the thick cranial walls that are so typical of erectus-like individuals.

It is surprising how unscientific evolutionists can be when their theory is under stress. There is no excuse for ignoring the large body of evidence of rickets as the more probable explanation for the morphology of many fossil humans. Rickets could also explain why fossil populations existed simultaneously who had different morphologies because of different diets and climate conditions. It is time to go back to the future--back to Virchow.
Personally, I don't find it surprising at all that evolutionists can be unscientific. Scientists in general can be remarkably herd-like in their thinking. With evolutionists, the lengths to which they will go to defend their ideas are nothing short of astonishing. You will get whiplash watching them change the standards by which they evaluate evidence and arguments. They will argue vehemently with one another over the most basic of issues--does the fossil record indicate long periods of stasis punctuated by sudden, rapid change or continual slow, gradual change?--and then deny to the public that any significant issues are still being debated. One day, the radiometric dates are absolute. The next day, those "obviously anomalous" radiometric dates are the result of environmental contamination. All in all, they are the most classic
heads-I-win-tails-you-lose group of folks I have ever seen.

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