Enigmatic KNM-ER 1470’s flat face finally confirmed.
Forty years ago Richard Leakey rocked the evolutionary world with his discovery of KNM-ER 1470 in the Koobi Fora fossil beds east of Kenya’s Lake Turkana. Though much was missing, the parts that were there looked remarkably human, which was a problem since Leakey believed KNM-ER 1470 was 2.9 million years old, much too old for such a human-looking face to appear in the evolutionary story. After much re-dating and re-evaluation, 1470 has lost about a million years of age but none of its mystery.
This week Leakey’s wife, Meave, and colleagues have published their analysis of three more pieces in the anthro-paleo-puzzle created by 1470. KNM-ER 1470 is currently dated at 2.03 million years of age.1 The fossil is best called “1470” for short, as names assigned to it, such as Homo rudolfensis and Homo habilis, tend to change depending on how several other fragmentary and distorted specimens are classified. But at least now the three skull fragments found by Meave Leakey’s team within six miles (and 250,000 years) of 1470’s resting place may provide some clues to its real identity.
The 1470 fossil lacks a lower jaw. It seems to have the protruding nasal bones and receding orbital bones typical of humans. Its cranial capacity2 of over 700 cc is in the same general range as Homo erectus, another Homo variety known primarily from Asian fossils and considered a direct ancestor of modern humans by evolutionists. Since the fossils generally identified as Homo habilis and Homo rudolfensis suffer from even greater distortions and fragmentation, 1470’s identification has been problematic. And the flatness of 1470’s, resembling that of modern humans, has been considered unconfirmed because there was only one small fractured juncture remaining between the bones of the upper jaw and cheek. Because of these difficulties, the flatness or protrusion of the lower face is subject to the judgment of the scientist reconstructing it. Meave says 1470 has “always been an enigma.”
Three fossils dug from Koobi Fora between 2007 and 2009 and dated 1.78 to 1.95 million years old, consisting of various portions of lower jawbones, match the curvature of 1470’s palate well-enough to be considered likely of the same species, Meave’s group reports. When the “bites” of the specimens are matched up, the resulting composite face is nice and flat, just like the Leakeys thought it was. Meave now says, “We know that flat face is real—it isn’t just an aberrant specimen.”
Furthermore, 1470 matches the new jaw pieces much better than it matches the best known Homo rudolfensis fossil. Homo habilis fossils are very distorted and fragmentary, but 1470 is significantly different from fossils lumped into that group too.3 Thanks to these differences, Meave says, “With these new fossils we can definitively say there are two groups of non-erectus fossils” at Turkana within the same time-frame, and possibly three. Some evolutionists are puzzled that multiple Homo species could co-exist, but because modern monkeys sometimes live in troops of at least two species, she believes the people may have simply gotten along instead of fighting and competing. (Of course we would point out that groups of human beings with anatomical differences are able to coexist and cooperate in the modern world; furthermore, the people who dispersed from the tower of Babel, for all their differences, were cooperating just fine before God confused their languages!)
Evolutionists are continually searching for the lines of evolutionary ascent between our supposed ape-like pre-chimp ancestor and modern humans. Convinced that Homo erectus evolved by about a million years ago to be humanity’s direct ancestor, they examine other fossils to determine whether those fossils were members of the line to modern humans or a parallel but extinguished evolutionary path.
While mixing and matching with the new fossils seems to confirm fossil KNM-ER 1470 had the flat-face of a human, nothing about the findings demonstrates humans evolved from ape-like ancestors. Just as Neanderthal and Homo erectus fossils appear to be varieties of human beings, so does 1470. 4
The million-year dates are based on the unverifiable assumptions by which radiometric data is interpreted. In fact, nothing about these findings indicates anything other than the confirmation that another variety of human being was among the people descended from those dispersed from the tower of Babel. Just more descendants of Adam and Eve, who were created by God about 6,000 years ago, in His image and distinct from apes, which He created the same day. See where fossils like this one fit in the biblical timeline at How Are Cavemen Different? When Did Cavemen Live? and Who Were Cavemen?
Curiosity’s landing inaugurates a new phase in the quest for alien life.
Curiosity has completed its 352-million-mile journey to Mars and successfully landed in Gale Crater. Its seven-minute descent was watched live around the world. Moments after touch down, amidst joyous uproar, someone at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) exclaimed, “Time to see where our curiosity will take us!”
Trips into space do stir the curiosity and dreams of many, and for many reasons. The heavens do “declare the glory” (Psalm 19:1) of the God who created them, and we enjoy learning more about the worlds He made from up-close examinations of what’s “out there.” Unmanned missions are necessary preliminaries to future manned possibilities. And a voyage to another planet certainly gives sci-fi fans more “scope for imagination”!5
Igniting enthusiasm for a great American adventure in 1962, President John F. Kennedy said, “We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win.”6 And he added, “Space is there, and we're going to climb it, and the moon and the planets are there, and new hopes for knowledge and peace are there. And, therefore, as we set sail we ask God's blessing on the most hazardous and dangerous and greatest adventure on which man has ever embarked.”6 Phase one of that adventure reached fruition when the Apollo 11 astronauts left a plaque on the moon saying, “We came in peace for all mankind.”
But in a new economic era and a new millennium, why is NASA eager to spend so much on Mars? The patriotic race to the moon is over, many other programs suffer from budget cuts, and at a cost of two-and-a-half billion dollars (so far; possibly more if the mission is extended beyond two years). 7 Curiosity had to promise to more than satisfy our curiosity. Though this is the eighth successful landing on Mars, the massive one-ton rover carries the most sophisticated equipment yet deployed on the Red Planet. It required pinpoint engineering accuracy and automation and additional coordination to arrange surveillance from the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. That amazing technology and an army of support staff does not come cheap.
Politicians and the public must remain enthusiastic about potential benefits of space exploration in order for such far-reaching scientific endeavors to receive funding. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas), for instance, connected “NASA’s engineering superiority” to a guarantee of “new discoveries and new applications from all we learn.” To that end, NASA administrator Charles Bolden reminded cheering observers that the cost of Curiosity is equivalent to the cost of a movie ticket for each American, adding “And this is a movie I think people want to see.” (Many numbers are floating around the media, social and otherwise; I’ve personally heard estimates ranging from “half a cent” per person to $7 per taxpayer. But clearly the emphasis is to downplay the staggering sound of $2.5 billion.) As the Washington Post’s Marc Kaufman says in his video at www.washingtonpost.com, “NASA is pulling out all the stops to get people interested and excited in their 2.5 billion dollar mission.”
Why are “we” (virtually speaking, of course) back on Mars? To search for life? After all, the Viking missions in the 1970s found no evidence for life. (See News to Note, April 21, 2012 for another opinion about that!) The idea of sentient Martians was relegated to science fiction long ago. And the “Martian” meteorite in the 1990s, misinterpreted as showing evidence of fossilized bacteria (yet was used as a club against creationists), didn’t stand up to scientific scrutiny. 8 Of course, Curiosity isn’t technically looking “for life,” but rather for the building blocks of life and chemical evidence of life that might-have-been. So why is Curiosity on Mars? Well, it boils down to water.
Evolutionary scientists are generally convinced that where water was, given habitable conditions, life is likely to have evolved. Some minerals on Mars are suggestive of past exposure to water, and Gale Crater appears to contain an “alluvial fan” consistent with past shaping by water. Therefore, Curiosity is carrying a remote laboratory to examine the rock layers of Mount Sharp for their record of presumed billions of years of Martian history, chemically probing for carbon-based chemicals consistent with prior presence of life. As Mars Program scientist Michael Meyer explains, “The layers provide an opportunity to rove up the surface of Mount Sharp and come through time to see how the environments have changed.”
Creationist and evolutionary scientists alike are curious about the history of the moon, Mars, and other landmarks in space. The minerals of which a planet is composed may offer clues to its distant past, but those clues are interpreted in light of pre-existing assumptions about the past—the untestable, unobservable past. While the layers of sedimentary rock in Mount Sharp should provide a clue to the conditions under which they accumulated, those layers aren’t labeled with a timeline tagging their age. Conclusions about Mount Sharp’s timeline are made on the basis of assumptions about the past—assumptions that cannot be verified by science.
A person does not have to be an evolutionist to wonder if there were ever microbes on Mars. The Bible does not say whether God created life on other planets, but the Bible does tell us God created all life on earth during the first six days of Creation week, the same week in which He created the rest of the universe, about 6,000 years ago. Evolutionists generally believe that finding life’s chemical signatures on Mars would confirm life evolved there just as they believe it did on earth. However, no mechanism has ever been observed whereby life could randomly emerge from non-living elements. And if life were ever to be found on Mars, its presence would not prove how it got there. Assuming it was not a contaminant from earth, its existence would just be a testimony to the fact that God could create life any place He chose.
Not even Curiosity’s $2.5 billion dollar price tag can explain life without God.
Genetic evidence found for another variety of “archaic” human.
Analysis of genomes from three African tribes has tripled the African genomic database and discovered a few surprises. Since the Human Genome Project first sequenced the human genome, efforts have been underway to study human diversity and map populations. Most of those sequenced have had European or Asian ethnicity. With this expanded database, University of Pennsylvania geneticist Sarah Tishkoff has discovered evidence for a previously unidentified “archaic” human population.
Tishkoff conducted the study in order “to reconstruct modern human evolutionary history and identify loci that have shaped hunter-gatherer adaptation.”9 The genomes of five members each from three tribes—two click-language tribes from East Africa’s Tanzania and a tribe of West African Pygmies—were compared to the six previously sequenced African genomes and to the rest of the human database. Evolutionists believe Africa is “the ancestral homeland of all humans”9 on the basis of their interpretations about presumed ape-like ancestral fossils and anthropological analyses of languages and tools, but they have not had much African genomic data to support or refute their beliefs. Tishkoff writes, “Despite the important role that African populations have played in human evolutionary history, they remain one of the most understudied groups in human genomics.”9
The new genomes show an extremely high level of diversity, more than seen so far in other ethnic groups. Tishkoff reports the ancestors of these people apparently inter-mixed with “species of hominins that have gone extinct.” Without fossil corroboration, the researchers do not speculate on the appearance of these previously unidentified “archaic hominins.” They consider this interbreeding comparable to the previously discovered evidence for Neanderthal and Denisovan infusion into the modern human genome. Therefore, Joshua Akey, whose University of Washington laboratory discovered the unusual DNA said, “We’re calling this a Neanderthal sibling species in Africa,” even though the DNA does not resemble Neanderthal DNA.10 Additionally, Tishkoff discovered various genetic markers associated with variation in immunity, metabolism, the senses of smell and taste, and wound healing. She also found a number of genetic variants associated with low stature among the Pygmies, with genetic evidence for altered pituitary gland function. (The pituitary is known as the “master gland,” and it is the most important regulator of growth.)
Despite the evolutionary spin put on these results, what these genetic sequences really demonstrate is variety among human beings. All people are descended from Adam and Eve through Noah’s family. This is not therefore interbreeding among “evolutionary cousins”10 but just intermixing among humans. When the rebellious people of the post-Flood world dispersed from the Tower of Babel, they were already related. We surmise from fossil evidence of varieties of humans (such as Homo erectus and Homo neanderthalensis) preserved during the Ice Age that there were groups of people who eventually died out. Therefore, it is also not a shock to discover the genetic evidence of yet another variety of extinct human beings. Nothing about this study proves human evolution happened, but the results are consistent with the biblical history of humanity after the Flood.
Face to philtrum: the ballet behind your beautiful smile
Two of the images seen in the video, “How a face forms in the womb.” In the first image, the structures that ultimately fuse to form the face are partially rotated toward their final position. The dent below your nose is seen as on opening in the central portion of this embryonic face. When you watch the video depicting the entire sequence, you will see that these structures begin in much more out-turned positions. By watching the video several times and focusing your attention on specific landmarks (the eyes, the nose, etc.) each time, you will be able to visualize the process by which God shaped your own face. (Images and video from the BBC ScienceOnEden TV series Inside the Human Body can be viewed in their entirety at www.newscientist.com)
Last summer, the BBC host of Inside the Human Body was feeding the public some fishy fables11 about human evolutionary origins. Part of his “evidence” was this compelling time-lapse video showing the development of the human face between 1 and 3 months post-conception. Now New Scientist TV has posted the video along with a bit more information about the graphic artistry behind its production.
Combining information from a number of sources, artists produced a series of virtual sculptures and then matched them point-for-point and structure-for-structure. As graphic researcher David Barker explains, that was really difficult since a number of the anatomical structures were completely unformed for much of the time covered in the video. “It was a nightmare for structures like the nose and palate, which didn't exist for most of the animation,” he says. “Their formation is a complicated ballet of growth and fusion of moving plates of tissue.” Three major facial components must form separately and then with precision timing rotate and fuse at the philtrum, the little indentation between your nose and lip.
Commenting on the formation, rotation, and fusion involved in producing an ordinary human face from the rather wall-eyed form shown at the beginning of the video, evolutionist Michael Mosley has written, “The way this happens only really makes sense when you realise that, strange though it may sound, we are actually descended from fish. The early human embryo looks very similar to the embryo of any other mammal, bird or amphibian - all of which have evolved from fish.”12 His comments reflect an interpretation based on his worldview, which attempts to explain how this scenario of embryonic development could sensibly develop without a Creator. However, the genetic information in a fish is insufficient to form anything but a fish, so it is Dr. Mosley’s explanation that does not make sense.
The brief description provided with the video as now posted on the New Scientist website actually refrains from making the evolutionary claims that accompanied last year’s airing. As we enjoy watching the ballet orchestrated by our divine Designer who—according to Psalm 139:14–17 formed each of us in our mother’s womb, seeing all our parts when they were yet unformed—we really should be reminded of His purposeful design. Most fishes’ eyes remain on the sides of their heads—well-suited for their lifestyles. Flatfish eyes, as we recently discussed,13 move into positions suited for their lifestyles. Our common Designer uses common designs to accomplish a variety of purposes.
Human eyes, along with the rest of the human face, only end up in the proper positions by initially forming in the unusual but necessary positions where we see them on the video and then rolling and twisting into place. God as a precision engineer has arranged for the parts to influence each other and have sufficient space to take shape and then—with precise timing—to fold and fuse. Cleft lip and palate and a number of other birth defects can occur when there is an error in this process.
These images were originally used by the BBC host Dr. Mosley last year to resurrect Ernst Haekel’s discredited ideas of embryonic recapitulation—the embryo rehearsing its evolutionary past in the womb. These video images differ from Haekel’s in that they have not been altered to deceptively become an evolutionary proof. It is unfortunate that evolutionists such as Mosley, however, persist in applying an evolutionary interpretation to even unadulterated images. We must remember that the embryonic development being depicted reveals what actually occurs and is observable whereas the evolutionary interpretations often applied to them represent an imagination-based attempt to explain life without God.
Be sure to read more about the details of this embryonic ballet orchestrated by God, who sees us as fully human even while we are yet unformed, at Vestigial hiccups, folding fish-eyes, and other fables: Our fishy forebears . . . again!
How did we get so smart?
Noticing the improving intellectual reputation of ancient people like Neanderthals, it’s worth recalling how a person’s worldview colors his interpretation of information about human origins. Smithsonian.com’s review article about evolution of the human mind illustrates this truth.
Abstract thinking is required to produce artwork, tools with multiple components, and complex animal traps. The Smithsonian‘s author recalls the dark ages of evolutionary anthropology when evolutionary scientists believed human ancestors had to progress through 150,000 or so years of evolution in Africa before “modern cognition” finally evolved in Europe 40,000 years ago. Increasingly impressive archaeological discoveries associated with “non-modern” humans in both Africa and Europe, however, have challenged that view. So evolutionary anthropologists have decided that mental evolution began earlier and proceeded more rapidly than previously thought. A somewhat rehabilitated image of our “primitive cousins” has emerged among evolutionists. As an archaeological note in this week’s Nature notes, “Modern human behavior underlying cultural innovations such as language and art might have begun in southern Africa thousands of years earlier than assumed. Evidence of symbolic behavior, such as shell beads, appeared at least 80,000 years ago in southern Africa.”14 After all, Smithsonian archaeologist Alison Brooks reasons, “It’s hard enough to tell what the cognitive abilities are of somebody who’s standing in front of you. So it’s really hard to tell for someone who’s been dead for half a million years or a quarter million years.”
Ironically, Arizona State paleoanthropologist Curtis Marean notes, “It always made sense that the origins of modern human behavior, the full assembly of modern uniqueness, had to occur at the origin point of the lineage.” He believes symbolic and abstract thinking and the language it makes possible rapidly opened up the world to human trade and settlement. If only Marean and those that share his evolutionary worldview would accept God’s account of human origins, they would see this statement is indeed true. The origin point, however, was the creation of Adam about 6,000 years ago.
But evolutionary thinkers still cannot wrap their minds around the idea that people appeared on the earth with fully mature mental abilities. Gradual is their key word. Because they believe that the archaeological record seems to indicate a “gradual accumulation of new and more sophisticated behaviors,” evolutionary anthropologists believe the mental abilities to support those behaviors had to evolve. Yet they note large gaps in this archaeological record across which it is difficult to discern whether mental evolution was gradual or punctuated by leaps and losses. For instance, the symbolic behavior in southern Africa, mentioned in Nature this week, “seemingly disappeared and did not return until roughly 20,000 years ago.”14
But from a biblical point of view, we know the human brain did not have to evolve; therefore, the appearance of “primitives” whose use of shell beads is recorded at one place in the geologic record and of other “primitives” whose skill at engraving designs on bones is recorded elsewhere does not represent a gap in the evolutionary record at all, but only cultural diversity over a span of several centuries. 15
The key to correctly understanding and interpreting human origins and history is, however, the Bible. The dates cited in paleoanthropology are based on unverifiable assumptions, such as those underlying the interpretation of radiometric data. Biblical history explains that God created two humans, Adam and Eve, about 6,000 years ago as fully mature people. Made in the image of God, they were able to communicate using language and to think abstractly. Biblical history (Genesis chapter 4) records their descendants soon were adept at making musical instruments, metal-working, and animal husbandry. The mental ability to do these things did not have to evolve. Ultimately, any archaeological record of man’s earliest history was forever lost in the global Flood.
Noah’s descendants dispersed from the tower of Babel with their confusing array of languages and spread out in a world offering the post-Flood challenge of the Ice Age (which was triggered by the Flood16). People classified as Homo erectus and Neanderthal were some of the humans who spread out into the world after Babel during the Ice Age. And the apparent “primitiveness” of the tools and artifacts left by such people is easily understood when we recall they were separated from the larger body of humans by the confusion of languages. They had to re-develop many of the skills needed to advance technologically. Just as modern engineers suddenly thrust into a wilderness without their accustomed tools and co-workers would not build the Mars explorer, Curiosity, overnight, so these people had to deal with life’s challenges, building new civilizations from the ground up.
The reliable eyewitness account in the Bible can guide us to correctly interpret what we see in ancient human history. The presumption that evolution must have happened, that humans must have gradually evolved from lower creatures over tens and hundreds of thousands of years is a belief superimposed as an article of faith on the world of anthropology and paleontology by evolutionary thinkers.
A full-size replica of Noah’s Ark is now open to the public in the Netherlands. Unable to make it to the Olympics due to the time required to meet all fire safety codes on the wooden ship, this Noah’s Ark nevertheless impresses those able to visit it with its enormity. Stocked with animal models, the Ark would have accommodated up to 3,000 people had it been able to make the trip to the Thames River. The 450-foot long replica was constructed by Dutch creationist and millionaire building contractor Johan Huibers. Docked at Dordrecht in the southern Netherlands, its enormity is a reminder of the global Flood and of Noah’s faithfulness to obey God by building the Ark and preaching God’s warning of the coming judgment.
Spectacular spiders dominate the scene now at New York’s American Museum of Natural History, beginning with the new inflatable spider over the door. As you enjoy the close-up photos at arstechnica.com remember that despite evolutionary claims to the contrary, spiders did not evolve 300 million years ago. God created them along with all things about 6,000 years ago, and fossilized spiders resemble modern ones of the same kind. We cannot know for certain how many kinds of spiders God originally created, but the 43,000 species of spiders known today are all varieties descended from them. Read more about the development of defense and attack structures, such as spiders’ paralyzing venom, at Fossilized Spiders Found in China, News to Note, January 21, 2012, News to Note, May 28, 2011, News to Note, April 30, 2011.
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!
Help keep these daily articles coming. Support AiG.
“Is creation a viable model of origins in today’s modern scientific era?” This DVD features Bill Nye and Ken Ham debating one of the biggest questions concerning the scientific community today.
Answers magazine is the Bible-affirming, creation-based magazine from Answers in Genesis. In it you will find fascinating content and stunning photographs that present creation and worldview articles along with relevant cultural topics. Each quarterly issue includes a detachable chart, a pullout children’s magazine, a unique animal highlight, excellent layman and semi-technical articles, plus bonus content. Why wait? Subscribe today and get a FREE DVD download!