June 15, 2003
Mr. Lippard has informed us (see his letter) of another inaccuracy in the Dennis Petersen book, "Unlocking the Mysteries of Creation," which he claims is common to many other creationist publications. The claim is that the knee of "Lucy" was found 2.5 Kilometers away and 70 meters deeper than the rest of the skeleton.
Bypassing all the "who-said-what-and-when-they-said-it," a quick summary of the issue is as follows. Reading from a letter by Donald Johanson, http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/knee-joint/johanson1.html, it is clear that Donald Johanson did not find the knee of "Lucy" at all. He found the knee of another Australopithecine.
Dr. Johanson's letter includes these paragraphs:
In November 1973, during my first major expedition to Hadar, I found a perfectly preserved knee joint (minus the kneecap) at a locality numbered A.L. 128/129. All detailed anatomical analyses and biomechanical considerations of this joint indicate that the hominid possessing it, Australopithecus afarensis, was fully capable of upright bipedal posture and gait.
In 1974, "Lucy" was found in locality A.L. 288, situated some 2-1/2 km northeast of the knee joint locality. "Lucy" preserves a proximal tibia, as well as enough of distal femur, to indicate that the anatomy of this skeleton in the knee joint region was identical to that of the 1973 discovery. Hence, "Lucy" was also capable of fully upright bipedal posture and gait, as her hip and ankle joints also indicate. Stratigraphically, these two discoveries are separated by nearly 70 meters.
Thus the dispute is not whether bones 2.5 Kilometers away and 70 Meters deeper can be considered one individual. That is not the claim. The claim is that "Lucy" preserves a proximal tibia, as well as enough of distal femur, to indicate that the anatomy of this skeleton in the knee joint region was identical to that of the 1973 discovery."
That is a claim that needs to be evaluated. I can see how Johanson would be upset if people are made to think he was trying to put such distant bones together. But there is still a controversy and it cannot be dismissed by simply pointing out the the wrong question was being asked.