I’ve read this summary of Donald Johanson’s visit to the Houston Museum of Natural Science to see Lucy, the 3 million year old australopithecine ‘he found’ about 33 years ago.
Lucy is also known as AL 288-1 or Dinkenesh, in Amharic, which means “You are beautiful.” The fossils are on a very controversial tour to US museums. While visiting Lucy, Donald Johanson summarized the rifts in paleoanthropology, he says anthropologists may disagree over some aspects of human evolution, but there is broad agreement on the basic theory of where it all began,
“The one thing that all anthropologists have agreed on now is that the fossil record for humanity is so convincing, from the very earliest, very primitive stages, long before Lucy, going back as much as six million years in Africa, that this is really the cradle of humankind, Africa.”
He also commented on creationist thought and answered some questions from high students who caught him while he was there. Here’s a sound bite,
I don’t like to read too much into some quotes, but sometimes I really must, especially when Johanson put something like this out there,
“The Afar people who live there today know what these bones look like and sometimes when we come back to the field, they will take me by my hand and they will walk me and say ‘look what I found when I was herding my goats.’ And they know that you should never pick it up, because then you do not know where it is from.”
In my experience one should never come out with a quote like this because it undermines one’s authority and ownership to the research. What happens when the locals know you want fossils and displace or destroy them? If you think that doesn’t happen, think again. It does. What happens when locals know you want a hominin and bring it to you, destroying the context? The fossil becomes useless… Why then is Johanson’s name on the publications? I can’t believe Johanson is quoted saying something like that, because it brings up the idea that he may have allowed such exceptions!