Those Nasty Footprints are Still Causing Problems

The Laetoli G footprints have always been a problem for evolutionists. Reported in 1979 by Dr. Mary Leakey1, these fossil footprints were made in volcanic ash, and they have always seemed to be the kind of footprints you would expect from unshod modern humans. So what’s the problem? Well, according to scientifically irresponsible dating techniques, the ash is somewhere between 3.6 and 3.8 million years old. According to evolutionary assumptions, modern humans didn’t exist back then, so obviously, the tracks couldn’t have been made by modern humans.

The only thing that would make an evolutionist think that, however, is the supposed age of the ash. Indeed, Russell Tuttle of the University of Chicago has studied the footprints in detail. In a 1990 article, he said:

In discernible features, the Laetoli G prints are indistinguishable from those of habitually barefoot Homo sapiens…If the G footprints were not known to be so old, we would readily conclude that they were made by a member of our genus, Homo.2

So even though they are “indistinguishable” from modern human footprints, evolutionists say they clearly can’t have been made by modern humans, because they are simply too old.

Because of the supposed age of the prints, many evolutionists assume they were made by Australopithecus afarensis or a closely-related species, since A. afarensis is assumed to be the most “human like” animal living at the time. The problem is that even with the most modern analysis to date, this makes no sense.

In a recent PLoS ONE article3, David A. Raichlen and his colleagues show that the Laetoli footprints are exactly what you would expect for modern humans walking as modern humans walk. In their study, they built a sandy trackway and had eight subjects walk normally through it. They then had the subjects walk with a “bent-knee, bent-hip (BKBH) ape-like gait,” as would be expected for A. afarensis. They compared the subjects’ tracks to the Laetoli G footprints, and they found that the Laetoli G footprints were consistent with the footprints the subjects left while walking normally.

So the footprints are “indistinguishable” from modern human footprints, and they indicate that whatever left them walked with the same gait as modern humans. Thus, they are modern human footprints, right? Well, not according to the authors. They state:

While our results show that Laetoli hominins walked with human-like kinematics, we still cannot be sure of which hominin taxon made the footprints. Many researchers suggest that Australopithecus afarensis made the footprint trails [6], [7], [11], although this hypothesis is disputed by others based on differences between print morphology and fossilized foot remains [10], [38]. If Au. afarensis did make the Laetoli footprints, then our results support the hypothesis that this species walked with relatively human-like hip and knee extension [39], [40], and that kinematically human-like bipedalism is compatible with adaptations for arboreality found throughout the australopith skeleton.

In the end, then, it doesn’t really matter what the data say. One must simply force them into an evolutionary framework. The data say these are modern human footprints, but because evolutionary assumptions forbid modern humans to have existed when the footprints were supposedly formed, some other explanation must be given. Therefore, we must say that even though the prints do not match what you would expect from the fossilized foot remains4 of A. afarensis, and even though A. afarensis, has hands, feet, and shoulder joints that are well adapted to arboreality (life in the trees), it must have actually walked with the gait of a modern human. Either that, or some mystical, unknown “primitive” human that existed back then just happened to walk the same way that today’s humans walk.

Wow. I am glad I am not an evolutionist. I just don’t have that kind of faith!


1. Leakey, Mary, “Footprints in the Ashes of Time,” National Geographic, 155:446-57, 1979
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2. Tuttle, Russell, “The Pitted Pattern of Laetoli Feet,” Natural History 99:60-65, 1990 (quote is on page 64).
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3. Available online
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4. Harcourt-Smith WEH, “Did Australopithecus afarensis make the Laetoli footprint trail? New insights into an old problem,” American Journal of Physical Anthropology S40:116, 2005
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  1. Norwegian Shooter March 28, 2010 5:37 pm

    This is one of your most transparent logical fallacies:

    “So the footprints are “indistinguishable” from modern human footprints, and they indicate that whatever left them walked with the same gait as modern humans. Thus, they are modern human footprints, right?”

    That’s quite a “thus”! It’s the equivalent of: All men have blue eyes. Anne has blue eyes. Thus, Anne is a man. (men = modern humans, blue eyes = same gait as modern humans, Anne = Australopithecus)

    “The data say these are modern human footprints” Nothing you’ve cited here says that. You just placed that assertion in the mouths of evolutionists.

    The latest research, including the recent Ardipithecus data, suggest that bipedalism evolved in arboreal species still mainly living in trees, not savanna dwellers at a later date. Orangs are examples of arboreal species that don’t have the same gait as chimps and gorillas.

    • jlwile March 28, 2010 9:33 pm

      Add logic to the list of things you don’t seem to understand but still try to comment on! The list is growing longer and longer…

      What I stated is certainly not the equivalent of “All men have blue eyes. Anne has blue eyes. Thus, Anne is a man.” This, of course, is because it is well known that both men and women have blue eyes. The human footprint, however, is unique. There is no animal (alive or in the fossil record) that has a footprint like it. Thus, when a footprint is found that is “indistinguishable” from modern human footprints, it indicates a modern human.

      Of course the data I have cited clearly say these are modern footprints. That’s why Tuttle says they are “indistinguishable” from modern human footprints, and the new research shows they were made by something with a modern human gait. You can ignore these data if you wish, but you can’t claim to be acting scientifically. You are simply trying to preserve your desperate faith.

      “The latest research, including the recent Ardipithecus data, suggest that bipedalism evolved in arboreal species still mainly living in trees, not savanna dwellers at a later date.” Of course, that’s not what these data show. What these data show is that some mystical, unknown creature had modern human feet and a modern human gait roughly 3.7 million years ago (if you believe in such a scientifically irresponsible age for the ash). This, of course, is not what is seen in the fossil record that is supposedly from that time. But that’s okay…go ahead and believe in some mystical creature that is somehow “transitional” between ape and modern human but has fully modern feet and a fully modern gait. You clearly believe in a lot of things that are MUCH crazier than that!

  2. Norwegian Shooter March 29, 2010 12:31 pm

    Your idea of DATA is so messed up. DATUM, maybe, but DATA, no way. I can’t access either the Tuttle (full text Natural History starts in May, 1990, doh!) or Harcourt-Smith (AJPA only citations, but the Supplement doesn’t even have citations) papers. So I can’t evaluate your claims from these papers.

    But I know that cherry-picking the “indistinguishable” line is not DATA. And besides, the paper doesn’t equate “indistinguishable” with actual. That is your misinterpretation.

    Why don’t you quote the whole conclusion from this paper? Or acknowledge there have been thousands of articles on the subject of hominin bipedalism since 1990. Or state the scientific consensus is bipedalism originated before the first Homo species. For instance, the conclusion from the PLoS ONE article:

    These results provide us with the earliest direct evidence of kinematically human-like bipedalism currently known, and show that extended limb bipedalism evolved long before the appearance of the genus Homo. Since extended-limb bipedalism is more energetically economical than ape-like bipedalism, energy expenditure was likely an important selection pressure on hominin bipeds by 3.6 Ma.

    I’ll tell you why, because they violate your BELIEF in a young earth. You need to seriously distort a sentence here and there (calling this DATUM earlier was generous)to rationalize your CRAZY belief system.

    • jlwile March 29, 2010 3:19 pm

      I am sure my idea of data is messed up to you, since you spend so little time actually looking at data, you don’t really know what it is. You should spend some time in the library if you really want to learn. Besides, your other “evaluations” of my claims have been so laughable that the only benefit they provide is comic relief.

      Once again, you really need to learn how to read. The word “indistinguishable” means “Impossible to differentiate or tell apart.” Thus, the footprints are the SAME as modern humans. Indeed, Tuttle admits that the ONLY reason they are not classified that way is because of the scientifically irresponsible age assigned to the ash. .

      I don’t state the whole conclusion from this paper because it is not necessary. I have summarized the paper properly. Besides, I provide the entire link to show that my summary is proper. You just don’t like what the data presented in the paper say, so you are trying to deflect to me. As anyone can see, I don’t distort any sentences. It makes you FEEL better to CLAIM that I do, since the results of this paper are so troubling to your preconceived notions. However, as the paper clearly shows, I have not distorted anything. You are the one who has to distort the data to make them fit into your preconceived notions. I know it drives you crazy to realize this, but be a man and face up to it. Admitting that you have a problem is half the battle…

  3. Norwegian Shooter March 29, 2010 11:21 pm

    Thought of you while reading Sean Carroll, another excellent science blogger:

    Of course there might be some people who refuse to accept those assumptions, and become believers in astrology or creationism or radical epistemological skepticism or what have you. We can’t persuade those people that they’re wrong by using the standards of conventional science, because they don’t accept those standards (even when they say they do). Nevertheless, we science-lovers can get on with our lives, pleased that we have a system that works by our lights, and in particular one that is pragmatically successful at helping us deal with the world we live in.

  4. Ben Michael Fournier March 30, 2010 6:38 am

    Wow, if that quote of Sean Carroll shows anything it’s that people of like mind are experts at casting insults and projecting their opinions better than Demosthenes could project his voice.

    • jlwile March 30, 2010 3:09 pm

      Well said, Ben. Of course, it shouldn’t surprise you. Shooter has demonstrated that he has no ability to back up his arguments, so what else does he have? That’s why it’s so fun to have him post. It reminds us how desperate one must be in order to believe in materialistic evolution.