One thing that one finds if one reads enough science articles and interviews with evolutionists, is they are constantly ‘surprised’ at what they actually find in the fossil and genetic record of life on earth. Why they are constantly surprised, if their theory is as well established as they claim, is almost never discussed. One recent surprise has to do with the well known ‘Laetoli footprints’. The footprints themselves aren’t new, having been found some 30 years ago. The prints were apparently laid down in fresh volcanic ash, and are claimed to be some 3.6 million years old.
Because they are dated to this time, it has long been presumed they were produced by Australopithecus afarensis, a species thought to be both bipedal, and ancestral to human beings. Because A. afarensis was thought to be one of our earliest ancestors, historically near to the last common ancestor between the great apes and humans (some 4-6 million year ago) it was presumed that this hominid was still somewhat, if not significantly arboreal (tree dwelling) in their habits. And the skeletons of A. aferensis fit this understanding – their fingers, toes, and shoulder blades all indicate they were comfortable in trees, similar to other great apes.
With that understanding in mind, researchers developed a test to see how advanced the gait of the creature that produced the Laetoli footprints was – did it have a crouched ape-like gait, or an easy upright stride as modern humans do? To find out they devised a rather straight-forward test:
To resolve this, Raichlen and his colleagues devised the first biomechanical experiment explicitly designed to address this question. The team built a sand trackway in Raichlen’s motion capture lab at the UA and filmed human subjects walking across the sand. The subjects walked both with normal, erect human gaits and then with crouched, chimpanzee-like gaits. Three-dimensional models of the footprints were collected by biological anthropologist Adam Gordon using equipment brought from his Primate Evolutionary Morphology Laboratory at the University at Albany.
The results of this test are where the ‘surprise’ comes in:
“Based on previous analyses of the skeletons of Australopithecus afarensis, we expected that the Laetoli footprints would resemble those of someone walking with a bent knee, bent hip gait typical of chimpanzees, and not the striding gait normally used by modern humans,” Raichlen said. “But to our surprise, the Laetoli footprints fall completely within the range of normal human footprints.”
Now when a prediction is made, or a certain outcome is expected based on a hypothesis, science generally requires that an outcome that differs from what is expected should cause us to modify the hypothesis. In this case the idea that what produced the footprints was a semi-arboreal, primitive hominid should change when we discover that the footprints were produced instead by something that created, “a remarkably even depth at the toe and heel, just like those of modern humans.” Perhaps what produced these footprints was not a primitive, ape-like hominid, but in fact something very similar to ‘modern humans’?
Of course this is too obvious for these researchers:
“What is fascinating about this study is that it suggests that, at a time when our ancestors had an anatomy well-suited to spending a significant amount of time in the trees, they had already developed a highly efficient, modern human-like mode of bipedalism,” said Adam Gordon.
“The fossil record indicates that our ancestors did not make a full-time commitment to leaving the trees and walking on the ground until well over a million years after these (Laetoli) prints were made. The fact that partially tree-dwelling animals, like Lucy, had such a remarkably modern gait is a testament to the importance of energetic efficiency in moving around on two legs,” Gordon said.”
Or, if one wanted to actually go where the evidence is leading, simply consider the idea that there was something much more like a modern human walking around at the time the footprints were made?