Transitional tale told by toes (and metatarsals) is full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.
East African rock layers contemporaneous with “Lucy” have yielded eight bones from the front part of “somebody’s” foot. But what kind of a somebody? More like a “Tarzan” or a “Cheetah”? Perhaps something in between?
American and Ethiopian scientists dug up the bones about 30 miles north of Lucy’s dig site. They believe the full foot had an opposable great toe for grasping tree branches and no arch. However, they interpret some subtleties in the shape of the bones as evidence that the owner “walked on two legs—at least some of the time” although “instead of pushing off from the big toe like [a] modern human, it took off from the outside of its feet.”
“Lucy” (an extinct ape known as Australopithecus afarensis) is conventionally dated at 2.9–3.6 million years old. Argon-argon dating1 of the Burtele tuff, volcanic rock above which the new foot bones were found, produced a date of 3.4 million years, making them more or less contemporary with Lucy. Argon-argon dating, however, like other radiometric dating methods, depends on an assumption that the original amount of the measured isotope (argon-40, in this case) was zero. Yet excess argon-40 has been found in volcanic rocks bearing both “recent” and “old” dates,2 making all argon-argon and potassium-argon “dates” and the fossil “dates” determined from them questionable. Furthermore, argon-argon dates must be calibrated by comparison with “known” dates. Yet the “known” dates are only “known” from radiometric results subject to the same unverifiable assumptions.3 Thus, though Lucy and the “Burtele foot” probably came from the same region of the geologic column, the 3+ million year dates accorded them are derived from unverifiable circular reasoning and foundational assumptions that have been proven unreliable.
Lucy is thought by many evolutionists to have had an arched foot and bipedal gait. The Burtele foot is considered “less advanced” because it is well-suited for climbing trees. Actually, the Burtele bones resemble the foot of an ape thought by evolutionists to be a million years older, Ardipithecus ramidus (“Ardi”). However, there are no other bones to allow the foot’s owner to be identified as Ardi’s cousin. The degree to which Ardi’s gait could be considered bipedal is highly debatable (See Evaluating the Gait Analysis of Ardi.) The authors conclude the Burtele foot belonged to an ape able to effectively grab tree branches while being “at least facultatively bipedal, although it may have practiced bipedality in a novel fashion probably similar to Ar. ramidus [Ardi].”4 Of course, all that means this ape probably could, like the chimps we discussed last week,5 manage to walk upright when it really wanted to, though it was not anatomically designed to do so efficiently.
The Burtele foot also has much in common with gorilla feet. In fact, many comparisons made in the study and supplementary material published in Nature note the Burtele bones more closely resemble “humans and gorillas” than chimpanzees. For instance, the authors write, “Humans and gorillas have less curved phalanges [toes] than chimpanzees. The BRT-VP-2/73 phalanges [toes on the new fossil] are intermediate between the two groups.”6
When it comes right down to it, nobody gets famous for discovering an extinct ape’s foot. At least not without wedging that foot into the human evolutionary tree. And even though there is nothing inherently human about bipedality, the foot fossil from Burtele is headline fodder because its discoverers are convinced its owner shared not only Lucy’s world but also Lucy’s interest in experimenting with walking upright.
Author Bruce Latimer says, “This is just another window into solving the problem of how we got from a primitive foot to the modern human foot.” Evolutionist William Harcourt-Smith of New York City’s American Museum of Natural History explains that bipedalism “was a complicated affair and not just a ‘one-off’ occurrence.” (Incidentally, Harcourt-Smith is skeptical about the significance of the foot bone claimed as proof Lucy’s foot was arched. The bone, being from the lateral part of the foot, does not contribute significantly to the most important arch in the human foot.)7
Thus, evolutionists who will not allow a divine foot in the door of humanity’s history are happy to accord significance to an extinct ape that can get around on two feet when it wants to with the implication that slight flattening of bones on the side of foot is somehow an evolutionary step in the right direction. Yet analysis of these eight little bones repeatedly suggests they belonged to an extinct creature like the ape Ardi or a gorilla. Only evolutionary imagination gives this fossil a toe-hold in humanity’s history.
This study’s significance arises from the evolutionary assertion that learning to walk upright was associated with becoming human. Biblically we know God created animals (including apes) and humans as separate creations on the 6th day of Creation week. Humans were made in the image of God with unique mental and spiritual attributes. And while our Common Designer gave us certain similar physical features, He also created apes and humans with many distinct differences. Nothing in the fossil record or genetics confirms humans evolved from ape-like ancestors. Humanity’s ancestors were Adam and Eve, created by God about 6,000 years ago fully able to walk on their own two feet.
NOTE: in a few weeks, an expanded "Lucy" exhibit inside the Creation Museum will open. It will show that this creature was not transitional between humans and an ape-like ancestor in the evolution story.
Promethean hypothesis picks up steam from residual cooking fire.
South African archaeological spelunking has confirmed “cavemen” knew how to keep the home-fires burning. High-tech “microstratigraphic” analysis of sediment excavated 30 meters inside the cave entrance provided “unambiguous evidence in the form of burned bone and ashed plant remains that burning events took place in Wonderwerk Cave during the early Acheulean [Homo erectus] occupation, approximately 1.0 Ma,”8 write the investigators in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
“We collect an intact block of material, something the size of a milk container where everything is preserved in its original shape,” says co-author Paul Goldberg. “We can pick out a block of this stuff . . . dry it, soak it in polyester or epoxy resin and turn it into a rock, essentially. Once we do that, we can slice it just like geologists do, mount it on a slide and then look at it under the microscope.”
This archaeological confirmation of an ancient cooking fire comes on the heels of a recent study9 asserting the small teeth of Homo erectus were “adapted to a diet of cooked food”8 and supporting—according to evolutionists—primatologist Richard Wrangham’s “cooking hypothesis.” The title of Wrangham’s book, Catching Fire: How Cooking Made Us Human, sums up his contention that learning to control fire and cook food was the secret to humanity’s evolutionary success. (See News to Note, August 27, 2011 for a discussion of these culinary ramifications.)
“It [cooking food] gave extra energy, used for evolutionary success; reduced feeding time, freeing men to hunt; lowered weaning time, creating bigger families; allowed brain size to increase; gave us our shortfaced, flat-bellied anatomy; enabled the sexual division of labour,” says Wrangham. “It was so important that it likely drove the evolution of our genus Homo. Basically, if the cooking hypothesis is right it turned us from advanced ape to early human.”
The researchers, like Wrangham, believe “the ability to control fire was a crucial turning point in human evolution”8 and that the ability to cook had to be in the hominin skill set by 1.9 million years ago, the time evolutionists claim Homo erectus evolved. These findings are the “earliest” known evidence of controlled use of fire and therefore are assumed to support these Promethean concepts of human evolution. (For readers rusty on their classical mythology, Prometheus was the Greek Titan credited in Greek mythology and the plays of Aeschylus and Shelley with giving mankind the gift of fire.)
The researchers have ruled out wildfire, convinced the fire was a controlled fire fed by plant material and that debris was not washed or blown in. Goldberg believes “it was unlikely there was any vegetation of wood or wood-like material that would have been there [30 meters inside] to burn on the spot – you can exclude local burning of material by natural causes. These ashes are really quite delicate, so they can't have been transported by wind or water, they would have never survived as intact pieces. It [the fire] has to be something local, right there on the spot.”
They also found “pot-lid flakes [of iron] (some refittable to the original slabs)”10 of ironstone rock above the cave. Humans must have brought these pieces of iron into the cave, according to Goldberg.11 The fractures found in these iron artifacts can be duplicated by experimentally heating iron to over 500 degrees Celsius, again suggesting that iron and fire were used by the occupants, possibly for cooking.
The million-year date ascribed to the burned debris was obtained by integrating paleomagnetic data and cosmogenic isotopic (26Al/10Be) ratios measured outside the cave in recent years.12 The latter measurements are based on decay of beryllium-10 and aluminum-26 isotopes formed in sand exposed to cosmic radiation. Magnetic field reversals are thought to affect the rate of isotope formation, allowing magnetic and isotope data to be integrated. (Decreased magnetic field intensity during reversal would allow more cosmic rays to reach earth causing an increase in isotope production.)
Paleomagnetic reversals are conventionally thought to indicate long ages based on the assumed long age of the earth. Creationist physicist Dr. Russ Humphreys has proposed, however, that convection currents in the core of the earth—affected by Flood-associated tectonic shifts—reversed earth’s magnetic field every few weeks during the global Flood.13 Subsequent research has documented analogous rapid magnetic field reversals in thin layers of cooled lava.14 Thus paleomagnetic dating is unreliable because magnetic reversals can occur rapidly and likely did so during the global Flood.
Furthermore, many factors can affect the geochemical cycling of these isotopes, including altered production rate due to magnetic reversals and other causes, changes in atmospheric circulation of the isotopes, and changes in precipitation.15 Thus these dating methods, singly and together, suffer from the usual problems with unverifiable assumptions that haunt other radiometric dating methods. In particular, the global Flood very likely affected the calibration of at least one of the parameters in a dramatic way for which observable geology has provided an analogous model. Without the million-year date, these findings become merely confirmation that early humans knew how to cook.
Homo erectus was fully human and, like Neanderthals and early modern humans, had smaller teeth than apes’ teeth. Intelligent descendants of people scattered from the tower of Babel, they would all know how to cook. There is no proof cooking enabled “hominins” to evolve bigger, better brains. Brain size is not linked to human intelligence, so the fact that Homo erectus had cranial capacity on the small end of human average and Neanderthals had cranial capacity on the large end fails to show an ascending human evolutionary path. Nothing in the study supports the concept of human evolution from brutish or ape-like ancestors.
On the other hand, the historical accounts in the Bible shed light on the post-Flood Ice Age and the dispersion of Noah’s descendants from Babel, showing how human fossils like Homo erectus fit the biblical picture. Homo erectus, Neanderthals, and Denisovans appear in the Pleistocene rock layers as do extinct Ice Age animals. While Genesis does not offer the details of the post-Flood climate change, the natural result of the global Flood was the Ice Age that affected so much of our world for hundreds of years. People migrating from Babel had to cope with those climate changes and probably used caves for shelter and to bury their dead.
Homo erectus fossils, with “large brow ridges, small chins, and receding foreheads”16 along with their characteristic tools are preserved near Babel in the Lower and Middle Pleistocene layers of East Africa and Central Asia. Homo erectus fossils also appear farther from Babel in Upper Pleistocene layers along with other varieties of people, such as Neanderthals and the very short Homo floresiensis of Indonesia. Yet the fossil record does not preserve further record of these members of the human race after the Ice Age, suggesting they ultimately succumbed. Without DNA from Homo erectus we cannot document whether they live on in modern humans as do Neanderthals, but there is no reason to doubt their humanity or their intelligence—or to suppose they were evolving quasi-humans whose humanity depended on newly acquired culinary skills.
BioLogos begs pastors to build their churches on a “BioLogos narrative” of compromise instead of the unchanging Word of God.
Cloaked in anonymity, 60 “participants” gathered themselves into the BioLogos fold for a midweek education at the “Theology of Celebration” conference in New York City. Forty-one pastors and parachurch leaders were among those who came to hear an all-star line-up of church academics enlighten them on “concerns for the church—especially for young people who feel torn between science and the Bible.”
Exhorted to save their churches by compromising on the foundational truths of Scripture, “participants seemed particularly appreciative of . . . an elegant overview of evidence for evolution.” To explain disturbing Barna statistics—that over half of U.S. Protestant pastors believe creation took place in six ordinary days and that less than twenty percent are theistic evolutionists—BioLogos leaders denigrated “young earth creationism” as the product of “less formal, grassroots educational initiatives, often centered on homeschooling.”
“We have arguments, but they have a narrative,” said Pastor Tim Keller, speaking for the BioLogos position. Encouraging church leaders to tell a better story than either young earth creationists or “atheistic evolutionists,” Keller said developing a BioLogos narrative is “the job of pastors.”
While we are extraordinarily concerned about the exodus of young people from Christian churches, statistics such as those presented in the book Already Gone reveal the problem is the churches’ failure to provide answers explaining the truth and relevance of the Bible. Christian doctrines are all rooted in the early chapters of Genesis. God’s eyewitness account of His perfect Creation, the rebellion of the first Adam resulting in death and suffering, and the promise of the coming Christ all appear in the first three chapters of the Bible.
When people are told to reinterpret Genesis chapters 1–2 “as the inauguration of the earth as God’s temple,” as one speaker at the conference did, the coming of Christ as the “Last Adam” (1 Corinthians 15:45) to be cursed on the Cross for our sins loses its theological moorings. What death did Christ come to conquer if not the death that began with the sin of man?
And how can pastors who preach that God’s Word cannot be trusted in Genesis expect young people to trust Jesus Christ—who Himself proclaimed those Genesis truths. After all, Jesus is quoted affirming both the creation of the first man and woman at the beginning and the Flood of Noah. Jesus also warned, “For if you believed Moses, you would believe Me; for he wrote about Me. But if you do not believe his writing, how will you believe My words?” (John 5:46)
Many in the church are “wowed” by the rhetoric that science has proven molecules-to-man evolution occurred over millions of years. They fail to grasp the galactic difference between observational science and origins science. The scientific method requires hypotheses be subjected to repeatable observable testing. Evolutionary and long-age conclusions exist in the realm of origins science and are based on unverifiable assumptions about the past. Observational science, not origins science, is the basis for the wonderful medical and technological discoveries that bless our lives. There is no conflict between observational science and the Bible.
Instead of helping Christians understand the worldview-based character of origins science, however, BioLogos—in the words of its founder Dr. Francis Collins—offers “a comfortable synthesis of what science teaches us about the natural world and what faith teaches us about God.”17 Thus, the BioLogos position ranks opinions of fallible human beings above God’s Word. “Comfortable,” Collins says, but a comfortable compromise that erodes the power of God’s Word and—in the words of Jesus Christ—makes “the word of God of no effect” (Mark 7:13).
So rather than accepting invitations to a BioLogos conference about the “Theology of Celebration” on the condition they can remain anonymous, church leaders eager to strengthen their churches might consider offering biblically sound answers echoing Christ, the true Head of the Church, “in whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Colossians 2:3). As Creator (Colossians 1:16), Christ has spoken authoritatively about when and how He created all things. And while pondering whether to travel the middle ground of compromise recommended by BioLogos, perhaps pastors should also consider Christ’s warning to a compromised, self-deluded church:
I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth. Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked (Revelation 3:15-17, KJV).
Are animals as smart as some say?
“There’s an arms race to identify the most clever animals,” says animal psychologist Lars Chittka. “But what are we trying to demonstrate?” Birds make tools and seem to plan for the future and even to sense the motives of other birds. Animals like border collies seem to have a sense of purpose and to know how to work for their shepherds. Two recent Royal Society meetings explored what we really know about the cognitive abilities of animals—or more like what we think we know.
Humans have probably been anthropomorphizing for millennia, projecting our own feelings and thoughts into our favorite animals, as well as marveling at the brilliance of some animals. But Darwin asserted in The Descent of Man, “The difference in mind between man and the higher animals . . . is one of degree and not kind.” Evolutionists who claim humans evolved from ape-like ancestors assume language and bigger, better brains gradually evolved, making humans just a higher animal.
Even though Royal Society meetings about animal “minds” did nothing to express disbelief in evolution, scientists did call into question some of the more recent claims to animal brilliance. The tale of the empathetic rats18 able to feel one another’s pain drew a “blistering critique” in a talk entitled “Animals Aren’t People.” Domesticated dogs are acknowledged to “be very good at understanding us . . . But we don’t know whether that’s real ‘understanding’ or not,” said James Thom of Cambridge during a subsequent LiveChat about animal cleverness.19 Even chimps, the scientists suspect, are not so altruistic as recently thought, despite their supposed status as “close human relatives.” (The group examined a study in which chimps appeared to make choices designed to give extra treats to a fellow chimp and concluded the altruistic chimps possibly just liked the sound of crinkly treat wrappers.)
The scientists at the meetings focused on the need to search for alternative explanations for apparent animal cognition. Many derided the increasing popularity of “exaggerated interpretations of animal behavior.” For instance, a study of blue jays prone to bury and re-bury their food stashes found the birds tend to respond to stress by re-burying their food. The presence of other birds, instead of prompting jays to think about the plans of other birds (as some assert), simply creates stress, probably due to previous experiences of being robbed. Furthermore, forgetfulness—not recalling some cache locations—also causes stress when food seems to be missing, leading to an instinctive tendency to re-cache what they can find.
Yet even amid these voices of reason questioning the notion that rat empathy is an evolutionary homolog for social behavior, the “evolutionary history [with] the unique expansion of the prefrontal cortex”19 remains the popular ruling principle to explain animal and human behavior.
Human beings were created in the image of God. And while many animals are endowed with remarkable and interesting abilities, human beings possess not only the ability to express and understand original abstract thoughts through language but also the ability to know their Creator. And while man shares certain common designs with some animals, humans have unique attributes that enable us to communicate with God and with each other. Evolutionary thinking pretends we humans are just animals and not accountable to God or responsible to acknowledge Jesus Christ as Creator and Redeemer. But fooling ourselves with assumptions from secular science will never get us “off the hook” with God.
Popular blogger says of Jesus: “The cross itself was not the point.”
A British-born writer and prominent blogger, whose views tend to straddle a curious fence between conservative and liberal, is featured in Newsweek’s cover story “Forget the Church, Follow Jesus” (see cover, right) diagnosing the crisis in the Christian church. Andrew Sullivan, who lives with his “husband” in Massachusetts, combines truth and error and leaves Jesus Christ resembling Buddha more than the Christ of the Scriptures.
By citing the reprehensible actions of many who have misused and misinterpreted the Bible throughout history to gain power and persecute others, Sullivan offers the reactionary solution that Christians should be apolitical. He says “the issues that Christianity obsesses over today” are absent from “the original New Testament.” Indeed, he says those issues would “baffle Jesus of Nazareth.” Sullivan, however, considers the “original New Testament” to be only the quotations Thomas Jefferson selected for his personal collection of Christ’s sayings. Sullivan claims the rest of the New Testament was a compilation of fallible recollections and misinterpretations recorded by people who didn’t understand anything Jesus had taught them in the first place.
Does Sullivan include the Old Testament in his “pro-Jesus” anti-biblical assertions? Well, he definitely sets aside biblical young-earth creationism as being among those doctrines that would “baffle” Jesus. He writes, “Still others insist that the earth is merely 6,000 years old—something we now know by the light of reason and science is simply untrue.” As we’ve already mentioned in today’s column, observational science has done no such thing. And as we’ve also already discussed today, Jesus’ own words—which Sullivan claims to revere—confirm the Creation and the Flood described in Genesis 1–11.
Sullivan does acknowledge that many have turned from “organized Christianity” to “embrace materialistic self-help” or atheism, seeing those choices as inadequate and destructive. And he recognizes “The thirst for God is still there. How could it not be, when the profoundest human questions—Why does the universe exist rather than nothing? How did humanity come to be on this remote blue speck of a planet? What happens to us after death?—remain as pressing and mysterious as they’ve always been?” But what does Sullivan suggest to satisfy our thirst for God? He exhorts Christians to follow the example of Christ and St. Francis of Assisi by living lives of selfless surrender, to gain a “vision of holiness” and to “truly transcend our world and be with God.” Sullivan tells his readers, “The cross itself was not the point.”
Sullivan is the one who misses the point. He misses the point of Christ’s death on the Cross because he rejects the overwhelming majority of the inspired Word of God. The need for Christ’s sacrificial death on the Cross is rooted in the corruption of man as recorded in Genesis 3. Christ died for man’s sin, but Sullivan’s Christ apparently never heard of guilt or judgment. Jesus Christ—whose example we are indeed to follow—told us He came to seek and to save the lost, to give His life a ransom for many. The concept of being lost, the fact that humanity needs to be ransomed, is explained in the fall of Adam, the rebellion of the first man that brought death into the world.
Sullivan denies the authority of the Bible even as he offers his own diagnosis of the church’s problems. Sullivan himself is a practicing homosexual involved in a same-sex “marriage,” so it is not surprising that he finds much of the Bible offensive. Jesus Himself explained in John 3:19 that men love darkness rather than light because their deeds are evil. Sullivan mixes truth and error in many ways, such as suggesting the followers of Christ misunderstood His teachings—which they at times did initially—and ignores the promise of Christ in John 16 that the Holy Spirit would guide the Gospel writers to understand all truth correctly.
While there is much that is wrong in the church today, the cure is not to reject the foundational truths of the Word of God and just distill some out-of-context words of Christ into a personally appealing but powerless message. Christians who read Sullivan’s popular blog need to be very careful not to drink in the political rhetoric that might appeal to them and ignorantly imbibe the dangerous errors souring the mix.
Remember, if you see a news story that might merit some attention, let us know about it! (Note: if the story originates from the Associated Press, Fox News, MSNBC, the New York Times, or another major national media outlet, we will most likely have already heard about it.) And thanks to all of our readers who have submitted great news tips to us. If you didn’t catch last week’s News to Note, why not take a look at it now? See you next week!
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