What about ourselves? What can we infer from the evidence regarding the origin of human beings? Evolutionists now give us two choices.15 Either human beings are the result of time, chance, and a ceaseless struggle for survival, or else we began as “a hopeful monster whose star was a bit more benevolent than most.” According to creationists, the evidence suggests, instead, that we are here by the plan, purpose, and special creative acts of God.
I’ve mentioned being part of a television program on creation-evolution produced by the secular Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC).16 The program opened with a medieval princess wandering in a castle garden, apparently looking for something. Then the camera panned over to a rock ledge around a pond. There it was, big bulging eyes and all: a frog. Right before our incredulous eyes, the princess leaned over and kissed the frog. Stars sparkled across the TV screen, then a handsome prince appeared. As the prince and princess embraced, the narrator stepped into the scene with this introduction: If you believe a frog turns into a prince instantly, that’s a fairy tale; if you believe a frog turns into a prince in 300 million years, that’s evolution.
When I believed and taught evolution, I would not have put it that way, or course. But as I look back, I realize that story reflects what I really was teaching. According to evolution, if you simply wait long enough, time, chance, and struggle (mutation and selection) will gradually turn some amphibians, like that frog, into reptiles, mammals, apes, and finally man, like that prince.
Scientists can understand how a “machine” with as many complex and interdependent parts as a human being could be put together by intelligent creative design. Could chance and struggle over vast amounts of time do the same thing without any outside help and no planning ahead? Nothing in our scientific experience suggests time and chance have that kind of creative ability, although much of our common experience demonstrates that time and chance can destroy design! To convince scientists and skeptics, then, clearly the burden of proof lies with the evolutionist to find a series of fossils suggesting the change from frog to prince, or at least ape to man.
The first fossils proposed as links between apes and mankind were the “cave men” called Neanderthals. Neanderthal was originally portrayed as a “beetle-browed, barrel-chested, bow-legged brute” (a suitable ancestor for a mugger, if nothing else!) The creationists in those days responded, “Hey, wait a minute. Neanderthals are just plain people, some of whom suffered bone diseases.” The first Neanderthals discovered came from harsh inland environments in Europe, where they could easily have (like many of our own American-plains Indians) suffered skeletal abnormalities, especially from lack of iodine in the diet and shortage of sun-induced vitamin D necessary for calcium absorption during the long winters.
Neanderthals from the Palestine area do not show the more stooped and massive features. The brain volume of Neanderthals is slightly larger than the average brain volume of people today, and Neanderthal peoples had a well-developed culture, art, and religion. Nowadays, evolutionists agree completely with creationists: Neanderthals were just plain people, no more different from people living today than one living nation is different from another. What were the “cave men”? Just people who lived in caves. (And at today’s housing prices, that may once again be a good idea!)
There’s a secular museum in Germany where the curator dressed the wax model of a Neanderthal Man in a business suit and tie. His reason? He said it was time to quit deceiving the public. Neanderthals were just plain people. Indeed, scientists now classify Neanderthals as Homo sapiens, the same scientific name given to you and me.
Tragically, Neanderthals have not been the only people once considered subhuman “missing links.” In an article reprinted in Natural History as part of an issue on the history of evolutionary thought, there’s a short but very sad article by Henry Fairfield Osborn.17 Osborn says that a hypothetical unbiased zoologist from Mars would classify people into several distinct genera and many species. Thus, said Osborn, Negroes would be classified as a separate species, not yet evolved to full human stature. “The standard of intelligence of the average adult Negro,” wrote Osborn as a so-called fact of evolution, “is similar to that of the eleven-year-old youth of the species Homo sapiens [which, for Osborn, meant Caucasians only].” Osborn was a leading evolutionist of the 1920’s, and it is easy to see how his kind of evolutionary thinking (rejected by modern evolutionists) helped to pave the way for Hitler’s Nazi racism in the ’30’s and ’40’s. (See also Gould, on the false science of “craniometry” and its terrible applications.)18
The Australian Aborigines were also once treated as subhuman evolutionary links. The natives of Tasmania were deliberately slaughtered by settlers who justified themselves by saying it was okay to kill wild dogs as farm pests, so why not other non-humans? As her dying wish, the last surviving Tasmanian, Truganini, asked that she be buried with her “people,” not embalmed as a museum specimen. She died, was embalmed, and preserved as an evolutionary link. (Warning: few Christians stood against this horror, perhaps because many churches had already accepted evolution into their thinking.)
In 1912, speculation about man’s ancestry shifted to Piltdown Man, dignified by the scientific name Eoanthropus dawsoni. Almost everyone knows that Piltdown Man turned out to be a deliberate hoax. But Piltdown Man wasn’t shown to be a hoax until the 1950’s. For over 40 years, the subtle message of the textbooks was clear: you can believe in creation if you want to, but the facts are all on the side of evolution. The facts, in this case, turned out to be a bit of ape jaw and human skull stained to make them look older.
One mystery is who perpetrated the Piltdown hoax, but the real mystery is why did anyone believe it? It was not a particularly clever hoax. As Gould19 points out, when people looked at the teeth with the right hypothesis in mind, “the evidences of artificial abrasion [filing] immediately sprang to the eye. Indeed so obvious did they seem it may well be asked—how was it that they had escaped notice before?” The age-stain was better done, but the imported mammalian fossils and hand-crafted tools were again obvious frauds. People wanted to believe in evolution, so they were able to see what they wanted to believe (a “people problem” that can only be solved by honestly looking at alternate sides of an issue).
Sometimes people ask me how virtually all the evolutionists in the world could be so wrong about such an important issue as human origins. Answer: it wouldn’t be the first time. Science is a human endeavor, and human beings make mistakes. Evolution goes far beyond the limits of science, and is even more easily influenced by human bias. I know that both intellectually and personally since I once accepted the evolutionary bias and its view of the evidence.
The “human factor” in the study of human origins is apparent in the multiple and varied interpretations of Java and Peking Man (“Homo erectus”) recounted in a very readable, yet thoroughly documented, book by Marvin Lubenow, Bones of Contention.20
Joining Neanderthals, Blacks, Aborigines, and Piltdown Man as proposed witnesses for human evolution at the famous Scopes trial in 1925 was Nebraska Man. Nebraska Man was dignified by the scientific name Hesperopithecus haroldcookii, but he was never known by anything but a tooth. By imagination, the tooth was put in a skull, the skull was put on a skeleton, and the skeleton was given flesh, hair, and a family! Fig. 28 includes a picture of Nebraska Man redrawn from a London newspaper published during the year of the Scopes trial.
Two years later, Nebraska Man was back to being just a tooth. The tooth was found in the real skull, attached to the real skeleton. It turned out not to be the tooth of man’s ape-like ancestor, but the tooth of an extinct pig!
Most evolutionists have long since learned not to make so much of a tooth. Yet it was not until 1979 that Ramapithecus—“reconstructed as a biped on the basis of teeth and jaws alone”—was dropped as a “false start of the human parade” (Zihlman and Lowenstein21). That didn’t stop Elwyn Simons22 from suggesting that Aegyptopithecus is a “nasty little thing” whose social behavior and family life—conjured up largely from eye sockets and the canine teeth of the males—are supposed to make it a kind of psychological ancestor of man!
The Australian National Museum in Sydney has apparently found a solution to the problem of evolutionary links still missing between apes and man. In June of 1993, we were greeted by a display describing five kinds of apes: lemurs, orangs, gorillas, chimps, and man. No need to look for links between apes and mankind if human beings are still apes! One display, described nursing behavior in various apes, including people. Another showed that man and chimps are the only apes that murder their own kind. A third pictured love-making among people and other apes. The text mentioned that some apes were monogamous, others polygamous or promiscuous, and that some men were like gorillas, others like chimps, etc. It was a truly inspiring and edifying display! Most evolutionists, of course, would be just as disgusted by the displays as would anyone else with a respect for science (or for common sense).
Modern speculation on mankind’s ancestry centers on a group of fossils called Australopithecus. In the public mind, these fossils are associated especially with the work in Africa of the Leakey family and of Donald Johanson and his famous specimen, “Lucy” (Fig. 29).
The name Australopithecus means “southern ape,” and it seems that apes are just what they are. Johanson likes to point out that where he finds his australopithecine bones, he finds many of the regular African animals (rhinos, boas, hippos, monkeys, etc.), but never apes. Could it be that apes are exactly what he has been finding all along? Its features are clearly ape-like—except that some claim Lucy and other australopithecines walked upright.
But how crucial to the definition of man is relatively upright posture? Vincent Sarich at the University of California in Berkeley and Adrienne Zihlman say that if you want something that walks upright, consider the living pygmy chimpanzee, Pan paniscus. This rare, rain-forest chimpanzee is only slightly shorter than the average chimpanzee, but it spends a fair amount of time walking upright. (I’ve watched them in the San Diego Zoo.) Since all the other features of the australopithecines are so apelike, perhaps Johanson and the Leakeys have discovered the ancestor of the living pygmy chimpanzee!
But did the australopithecines indeed walk upright? In the American Biology Teacher, Charles Oxnard23 says:
In one sense you may think there is no problem. For most anthropologists are agreed that the gracile australopithecines … are on the main human lineage …. This is the view that is presented in almost all textbooks; I expect that it has been your teaching in the classroom; and it is widely broadcast in such publications as the “Time-Life Series” and the beautiful [television] story of “The Ascent of Man.” However, anatomical features in some of these fossils provide a warning against a too-ready acceptance of this story ….
As part of his warning, Oxnard reminds his readers of gross errors once made in the cases of Piltdown Man and Nebraska Man.
Oxnard then proceeds to examine the evidence. And he’s well qualified to do so as Professor of Anatomy at the University of Southern California. He points out first that anatomical relationships cannot be simply established by subjective opinion. Viewed one way, for example, the pelvic bones of australopithecines seem to be intermediate between man and ape. But merely viewing the bones from a different angle makes the specimen seem as far distant from man as the other apes are. “Yet another view,” says Oxnard, “might suggest that the fossil arose from the African apes via modern humans!”—in other words, that humans were the missing link between the apes and the australopithecines!
Because he is so sensitive to the serious problems of subjective interpretations, Oxnard then goes on to describe in fascinating detail a computer technique called “multivariate analysis.” He goes into both its practical and its theoretic applications and reaches two conclusions.
First, his scientific conclusion: if the australopithecines walked upright, it was not in the human manner. If their posture resembled that of any living creature, it was most likely the orangutan. Oxnard also reaches a second conclusion for educators: “Be critical.” That is, examine all the relevant evidence. Look at it from different viewpoints. That’s really the only way we can protect ourselves against bias in science or any other human endeavor: a willingness to constantly check assumptions and to listen respectfully to the views of others. I trust that’s what we’re doing in this book, and I wish students around the world had the same freedom to explore both sides of the creation-evolution issue.
Louis Leakey started the modern interest in australopithecines (and captured the attention of National Geographic) way back in 1959 with his “ape man,” Zinjanthropus. Zinjanthropus has since been reclassified as Australopithecus bosei, and it is now considered grossly apelike, an extinct ape really not related to man at all.
In fact, it was not the skeletal features that attracted attention to the Leakey finds in the first place. It was tools. As I said at the beginning of this book, every scientist can recognize evidence of creation. Tools imply a tool maker. Since the tools were found with Australopithecus, Louis Leakey assumed that that creature had made the tools. Thirteen years later, Richard Leakey found beneath the bones his father had unearthed “bones virtually indistinguishable from those of modern man.” Perhaps that solved the tool-maker mystery. At the time, Richard Leakey said his discovery shattered standard beliefs in evolution.
Actually, fossil discoveries have been shattering standard beliefs in evolution with monotonous regularity. Each in its day was hailed as “scientific proof that human beings evolved from apelike animals, yet all the candidates once proposed as our evolutionary ancestors have been knocked off the list. The cover story in Time magazine for March 14, 1994, assumes that evolution is an absolute fact,24 but it summarizes what is really the evaporating case for human evolution with these dramatic words:
Yet despite more than a century of digging, the fossil record remains maddeningly sparse. With so few clues, even a single bone that doesn’t fit into the picture can upset everything. Virtually every major discovery has put deep cracks in the conventional wisdom and forced scientists to concoct new theories, amid furious debate. [Empahsis added.]
It’s sad that human evolution is still taught as “fact” to school children, college students, and the general public, when “virtually every major discovery” has discredited the so-called evidence and disproved the theory. Even sadder, scientists who know the evidence and are “forced to concoct new theories” are only concocting new theories of how human evolution occurred, unwilling to ask whether evolution occurred and to work on the truly new, non-evolutionary theories that the evidence demands.
The australopithecines could not have been our ancestors, of course, if people were walking around before Lucy and her kin were fossilized—and there is evidence to suggest just that. Fossils of ordinary people in mid-Tertiary rock were found in Castenidolo, Italy, back in the late 1800’s, and the evolutionist Sir Arthur Keith recognized that accepting these “pre-ape” finds would shatter his belief in evolution (or at least its scientific support). Oxnard25 and Lubenow26 call attention to the Kanapoi hominid, a human upper arm bone found in rock strata in Africa laid down before those that entomb the australopithecine remains.
Then there’s the footprint evidence. Actually, we have many features in common with the apes (as a trip to the zoo will verify), and it should not be surprising that some bones would be difficult to classify. But apes and human beings have quite different footprints. The apes have essentially “four hands,” with an opposable big toe that makes their footprint quite different from ours. They also have a gait that’s quite different and a tendency to drop to all fours and “knuckle walk.”
In National Geographic27 and Science News,28 Mary Leakey describes a trail of man-like prints in volcanic ash near Laetoli in east Africa. Fig. 30, redrawn from the former, shows Mary Leakey’s concept of how the prints were formed and preserved and the kind of foot that made them. If you examine the article, you’ll find that the foot looks pretty much like yours or mine.
In the center of the National Geographic article is a two-page fold out. Elephants, giraffes, guinea hens, and acacia trees dot the scene. Except for the volcano, it looks as if it could have been taken from a Tarzan movie. Then across the center is a line of very human-like tracks. You might be surprised, however, at what the artist put in the tracks. An artist had to do it, by the way, since we have no foot bones connected to leg bones, etc., to tell us what really made the tracks. Perhaps the most logical inference from these observations is that people made them. The stride is quite short, but perhaps the person was small or just very cautious about walking across the damp volcanic ash.
Most evolutionists, however, forbid themselves to believe that these tracks could be made by people, because they don’t believe people evolved until later. The Kanapoi hominid, however, suggests that people might very well have been around to make these prints. And living not far from that site in Africa today are people (the Pygmies) not much taller as adults than the Laetoli print-makers.
Understanding the serious implications of the Laetoli finds, one scientist looked almost desperately for evidence that some animal, and not man, may have made those prints. He even had a dancing bear jump up and down in mud, hoping those tracks would resemble the Laetoli prints! His conclusion? It was impossible to tell the Laetoli tracks from ordinary human footprints. As an evolutionist, he used such adjectives as “shocking,” “disturbing,” and “upsetting” to describe his results, since none of the popular evolutionary “links,” including Lucy, could be man’s ancestor, if people were already walking around before these so-called ancestors were fossilized. To the creationist, the evidence simply confirms that people have always been people, and apes always apes, as far back as the evidence goes.
Help keep these daily articles coming. Support AiG.