Did We Evolve From Apes?

February 28, 2017

Summary: The recent discovery of Homo Naledi has summoned culture to re-evaluate what it means to be human. Yet, in keeping with predictions issued one year ago through BFM, Homo Naledi has only further confused evolutionary paradigms. What does this mean for the broader field? Find out in this article. And click here to subscribe to our future blog posts. 

Discovery of Homo Naledi

 

In a September 2015 issue of National Geographic, executive editor for science, Jamie Shreeve, wrote the following words: “Scientists have discovered a new species of human ancestor deep in a South African cave, adding a baffling new branch to the family tree.” [1]

 

The discovery was thought to be part of the shared ancestral story of apes and human beings. Though the placement of the fossils initially rendered any age-estimate uncertain, the discovery was nonetheless, published ahead of schedule. Surprisingly, no collective voice of caution from the scientific community seemed able to slow down the untimely announcement. For the writer of the article spoke eagerly of the new finding, calling it “…one of the greatest fossil discoveries of the past half century.” [2] 

 

For these and other reasons, the story calls to mind a similar discovery made in 1924 by Raymond Dart. Heralded at the time as one of the most important fossil finds of it’s day, it received great acclaim as a sound advance for the theory of evolution. It was immediately announced as an intermediate link between apes and human beings. Thus, for a time, it enjoyed wide-spread success amongst the broader scientific community.

 

But by 1973, South African geologist, T.C. Partridge had successfully debunked the hastily dated and published finding. For he showed that the cave within which the skull was found could be no more than 0.75 million years old [3]. This meant that the skull could not be a missing link between apes and human beings. (It was far too young) Instead, it would more properly belong to some previously unknown species of ape—one which had long ago gone extinct. 

 

Sadly, Partridge’s pronouncement scarcely succeeded in straightening accounts for any great length of time. For a new generation of scientists later reclassified Dart’s work once again as “evidence for evolution” [4]. Thus despite all those who previously wondered whether the skull was related to human beings at all, the discovery has now once again mysteriously rejoined our “common ancestral tree.” When faced with such persistence (and if we are honest, stubbornness), it is difficult to resist from asking the question: What will it take for the evolutionist to reconsider his views? 

 

Challenging Conventional Views

 

Recently, I challenged a young college student at a local fitness club with that very line of questioning. I asked him to consider the evidence for God’s existence. He answered by declaring: “What about the cave men!”

 

The young man’s reply immediately demonstrated his high regard for fossil evidence of human evolution. He clearly viewed the list of popular proofs as an impressive exhibit—one which was impossible to contest. Yet he also seemed ignorant of the many scientists who have publicly aired their doubts on the soundness of evolutionary belief. It is a surprising backdrop to one of the most famous stories in history—one which is being told by the “patron protectors” of the theory themselves. 

 

Andrew Hill, for example, to name only one such proponent, is a well known educator at an ivy league school. As Professor of Paleoanthropology at Yale University, one might imagine Hill’s views would temper the recent exuberance of National Geographic. For in an issue of one of the most prestigious science periodicals in print today, Hill dryly commented on the sensational nature of fossil reporting, stating: “Every new fossil hominid specimen is [always] the [‘most important ever found’] and solves all known…problems…” [5] 

 

But Hill’s skepticism is really only the beginning. There are others telling doubts of an even more radical kind. Richard Leakey, for example, another leading evolutionary proponent, has written extensively on our current theory of origins. Describing the differences between skulls of missing links and those of modern men, he wrote the following surprising admission: “These differences are probably no more pronounced than we see today between the separate geographical races of modern humans.” [6]

 

For this reason, I gathered that the young man who stood before me had never been made aware of these disturbing irresolutions. Nor could he have known about the history of these problems, that they have always haunted evolutionists, including Leakey’s predecessors. For in perhaps one of the most startling early admissions to date, Earnest Hooton of Harvard University once wrote: “[One] can with equal facility model on a Neanderthaloid skull the features of a chimpanzee or the ligaments of a philosopher.” [7]

 

Hooton then went on to conclude his revealing critique of evolutionary belief by issuing a rarely contemplated warning. He claimed that any 3D models of missing links would have “...very little if any scientific value…” and would be “…likely to mislead the public.” [8]

 

It is important to note that none of these statements comes from the pen of a Christian philosopher. Instead, the majority of them are taken from scientific publications, written by insiders, professionally credentialed, and in most cases, peer-reviewed. These are the honest wrestlings of men, committed to evolution, yet troubled by the evidence they see. Indeed, their words seem to concur with the late D.M.S Watson who admitted that he did not hold to evolution because it could be “…proved by logically coherent evidence to be true.” [9]

 

Evolutionary Hoaxes

 

Yet, much to my dismay, the young man refused to listen. For his professors, it seemed, had successfully justified his atheism. He therefore chose to overlook my warnings regarding the entire field of research, not just rejecting my reasoning, but my mention of it’s hoaxes. These were cooked up by the scientists themselves. Each of them was motivated by success in their respective areas of research. For this reason, Mary Leakey once warned her newly arrived paleoanthropologist, Jonathan Kalb: “Don’t trust anyone—not even your best friends.” [10]

 

Truth, as they say, is often stranger than fiction. Apparently, the field of paleoanthropology is no exception. Indeed, one need not turn to the chronicles of Indiana Jones to find stories of ancient digs sites filled with intrigue and marvelous suspense. The mysterious account of “Piltdown man” will certainly suffice for that. The discovery was made by Charles Dawson in 1915. Yet despite it’s early success, it later went on to became the subject of extraordinary duress, as in just 29 years, the entire find was shown to be nothing but a fraud. [11]

 

But by a long-shot, the most disturbing trend amongst paleoanthropologist's is the way in which evidence against the theory of evolution is often handled. Facts and clues overturning the theory are frequently ignored and at times, deliberately misreported. The most noteworthy of these was the discovery of a human elbow bone found in 1965 in northern Kenya. Appallingly, it was described at the time, not as a human elbow bone, but as the “oldest fossil hominid ever found.” [12]

 

Listen to how W.W. Howells, one of the discoverers of the find, commented on the data in 1981. He wrote, “The…fragment, with a date of about 4.4 million years could not be distinguished from homo sapiens [humans]…” [13] Thus in his own report, Howells expressly admitted that the elbow bone was “indistinguishable” from those of modern humans. Yet the discovery team chose to classify the find as belonging to some form of ancient ape. Why?

 

For the simple reason that the notion of modern humans living before “missing links” would overturn the theory of evolution. Therefore, the implications of the data would harm the intent of the research. So the find was reinterpreted to fit the favored theory.

 

Creation or Evolution?

 

Sadly, the young man who stood before me simply chose to turn tail and walk away. No amount of urging on my part seemed sufficient to deter him. Yet little could he imagine that my Christian view of origins was actually quite safe from any argument for evolution. For in fact, no naturalistic theory of human beginnings has been shown to be equal to the task of ousting God.

 

In the first chapter of Genesis, the sacred writer declares: “So God created man in his own image…” (Gen 1:27: ESV). To date, no fossil evidence has ever been uncovered which has soundly vanquished the force of these solemn words. In fact, the evidence, time and again, has refuted evolution. It has shown the relatively weak brandish of proofs which are propping the theorem erect. For as one well-known science magazine stated some years ago: “The entire hominid collection known today would barely cover a billiard table.” [14]

 

Perhaps this is why late science journalist, Constance Holden, likened the task of sorting evolutionary evidence to “…reconstructing the plot of War and Peace with 13 randomly selected pages.” [15] Though the pool of evidence has certainly grown since the time the above comments were published, the situation can hardly be said to be much better today. In fact, vast division still remains as to whether or not science can offer us a single, orderly account of evolution. Given such a problem, one cannot help but wonder why the theory persists in spite of the many challenges it faces. 

 

Concluding On The Matter

 

Hence, in closing, here is a list of eight questions which no evolutionist to date has ever been able to adequately address. They were collected not by a Christian critic of evolution, but by well-known evolutionary proponent, Carl Zimmer. Zimmer asks: “(1) Who was the first hominid? (2) Why do we walk upright? (3) Why are our brains so big? (4) When did we first use tools? (5) How did we get modern minds? (6) Why did we outlive our relatives? (7) What genes make us human? (8) Have we stopped evolving?” [16]

 

In light of such questions, it is my view that unless modern science can present a reasonable resolution to these troubling issues, naturalists and evolutionists should be more open-minded to the possibility that their views may in fact be incorrect. Perhaps given the current state of affairs, atheists could begin to give thought to other alternative world-views. For as Malcolm Muggeridge in his well-read book The End of Christendom suggested, the entire theory of evolution may itself be on the endangered species list. He wrote:

 

“I myself am convinced that the theory of evolution, especially to the extent to which it has been applied, will be one of the greatest jokes in the history books of the future. Posterity will marvel that so very flimsy and dubious an hypothesis could be accepted with the incredible credulity it has.” [17] Given what we have seen, isn’t it time we reopened our discussion of origins to include religious or even supernatural possibilities? You answer the question.

 

--------------------------------------

End Notes:

[1]. Jamie Shreeve, “This Face Changes the Human Story. But How?” National Geographic; 10 September 2015: National Gegraphic.com.

[2]. ibid.

[3]. T.C. Partridge, “Geomorphological Dating of Cave Openings at Makapansgat, Sterkfontein, Swartkrans, and Taung,” Nature 246; 9 November 1973: 75-79.

[4]. Marvin L. Lubenow; “Look Aren’t Everything,” Bones of Contention; Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2004, ch. 5.

[5]. Andrew Hill, “The Gift of Taungs,” review of Hominid Evolution, edited by D.V. Tobias, Nature 323; 18 September 1986: 209; brackets mine.

[6]. The Making of Mankind, London: Sphere Books, 1981, p. 62.

[7]. Earnest Hooton; “Up From the Ape,” Macmillan; Seventh Printing edition; 1 January 1958: 332; brackets mine.

[8]. ibid.

[9]. D.M.S. Watson, "Adaptation", Nature, no. 124, p. 233.

[10]. Marvin L. Lubenow; “Human Evolution; A House of Cards,” Bones of Contention; Section II, Baker Books; 2004.

[11]. Jerald Lowenstein, Theya Mollenson, and Sherwood Washburn, “Piltdown Jaw Confirmed as Orang,” Nature 299 (23 September 2982): 294.

[12]. Bryan Patterson, Anna K. Behrensmeyer, and William D. Sill, “Geology and Fuana of a New Pliocene Locality in North-western Kenya,” Nature 226 (6 June 1970): 928-21.

[13]. Howells, “Homo Erectus in human descent: ideas and problems,” University of Toronto Press. Toronto. 1981: 79-80; brackets mine.

[14]. “Whatever Happened to Zinjanthropus?” NewScientist (26 March 1981): 802.

[15]. Constance Holden, “The Politics of Paleoanthropology,” Science 213 (14 August 1981): 737.

[16]. Carl Zimmer, “Great Mysteries of Human Evolution,” Discover (September 2003): 33-34.

[17]. Deceit, p. 164, The End of Christendom (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1980, sp. 43.)

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