14 Monkey Business
Bible and Science – Monkey Business
And God created…every living creature that moveth (Gen. 1:21).
Is man the product of specific creation or the result of a long evolutionary process whose direct lineage can be traced back to a branching from higher order primates? In other words, are we the descendents of monkeys,1 as popular science glossies seem to continually emphasize, or is there another explanation for our existence? In London, England, is one of the most famous Natural History Museums in the world and among its most illustrious exhibitions is the “Darwin Center” which houses many of the most important artifacts related to the theory of evolution. Centerpieces of this exhibit are the fossil and graphic displays related to the evolution of Homo sapiens2 (that’s us!) including the obligatory picture of the ascent of mankind from primitive ape-like creatures shown in the accompanying figure.3
Man’s supposed development
Modern man is the only living example of the animal family group known as Hominid.4 Homo sapiens have a number of features that distinguish them from their (hypothetical?) ape-like ancestors. These principal differences are: 1) Larger brain size – allowing the development of higher order reasoning powers; 2) Ability to walk erect – lengthening the foraging distances and providing the means for carrying burdens while mobil; and an 3) opposable thumb – permitting grasping and the capacity to use more complex implements (and weapons!).
The earliest form of such a creature is the genus called Australopithecus with a specific member of that group known as an australopithecine. This being is said to have appeared in Africa about 4 million years ago and was about 4 to 5 feet tall for the male, and somewhat smaller in stature for the female, with a brain capacity about one-third the size of modern Homo sapiens
With time this creature supposedly evolved to a taller stature and with an enlarged brain capacity. Along with these changes, the jaw and brow features also altered into the form more common in today’s human beings. The figure above depicts this so-called evolutionary progression. This illustration is replicated over and over again in one form or another in school textbooks and natural history museum exhibits.5
The most famous fossil find related to this genus has been dubbed Australopithecus afarensis and was found in Hadar, Ethiopia, in 1974, by the American anthropologists Donald Johanson and Tom Gray. This creature has become popularly known as “Lucy” since the fossil appears to be that of a young woman.6 “Lucy” is estimated to be anywhere from 3 to 3.6 million years old. It is from this fossil, and related finds, that the so-called origins of mankind out of Africa have been presumed.
A number of other later hominid fossils showing the progression of evolution presumably originating with Australopithecus afarensis have been identified. Indeed, fragments of hundreds of hominid fossils have been found at various places in Africa, Europe and Asia. These have been found over the span of the previous century, and include (among others): Homo habilis, Homo erectus (Peking Man), Java Man, Cro-Magnon Man, Neanderthal Man, Piltman Man, Nebraska Man and finally Homo sapiens. Each of these fossil remains supposedly brings us closer to ourselves. For example Peking man (Sinanthropus pekinensis) is thought to have lived between 600,000 and 400,000 years ago in what is now northern China. Cro-Magnons were prehistoric human beings who lived in Europe, Asia, and North Africa from about 40,000 to 10,000 years ago and thus presumably contemporary with the development of Homo Sapiens.
Is it evolution?
If you have been following me so far, the key idea is that over the past four million years modern man purportedly evolved from apes as a distinct branch of biological family know as hominids. A succession of fossils has been found dating from the time of “Lucy” that show hominid creatures getting taller with larger brain capacity and with aesthetic features that are less and less ape-like. Now the critical question to answer is this: Does the fossil data actually fit the Darwinian evolutionary model or is some other explanation possible? However, before we address this question completely we need to take a foray into considerations on how one should interpret scientific data.
Evaluating the evidence
Religious people often dismiss the fossil record with disdain, claiming that the age of fossils has been either fudged by scientists, or that they are the result of so-called “flood” geology, which occurred as a consequence of the deluge in the time of Noah. As for the former claim, while it is true that some individual scientists have been so anxious to prove the theory of evolution that they have tampered with the evidence, as in the case of Piltdown man,7 it is equally true that such false claims eventually get exposed. It is patently unfair to accuse scientists of deliberately fudging evidence. As a rule they are no better, or worse than people in any other profession at being honest (excluding possibly politicians!).
The scientific process is an extremely public venture and the findings of any researcher are subject to intense scrutiny by their peers. For all the fossil data that is currently available to be deliberately fudged to prove a theory such as evolution would involve the collusion of many thousands of scientists coming from many different disciplines and that is not likely. Moreover, since any scientist exposing such fraud would be highly honored there is a built in process of ongoing peer review, which makes it very difficult for scientists to get away with tampering in the long run.
Many scientists do accept God and reject evolution as the answer to our existence (while accepting evolution in limited circumstances). They do this not because they believe the data has been fudged, but because they don’t accept the Darwinist model for interpreting the data.
Dating probably about right
We will expand on this idea below, but first let us consider another scenario sometimes accepted by religious people who deny all forms of evolution; they insist on a “young earth – young universe” model and suggest all geology is due to the flood at the time of Noah. We will come to the Biblical flood in a later chapter where it will be treated in detail, but for now it should suffice to point out two things that make it nearly impossible for the flood to have been responsible for all the geologic dating anomalies. First, there is the question of layering; a vast universal flood would have produced only one great layer of sedimentary debris and not the multiple layers attributed to the various geological eras.H..8
Secondly, fossil dating has also been corroborated, where possible, with radioactive carbon and potassium decay analysis. Unless the laws of physics were very different in the past than they are today, the radioactive decay technique should be accepted as definitive (naturally within the limits of error analysis).9 Hence I will stipulate that (generally) the fossil dating is genuine and the problem of whether or not it upholds the Darwinist theory of evolution lies elsewhere. Where can that be?
Bible an example of right data but many wrong conclusions
We don’t have to look very far to cite an example where data is absolutely correct yet the interpretation of that data is treated according to very different (and often conflicting) models by various groups of people. The prime, most dramatic, example is the Holy Bible. Perhaps as much as 80% of the people on this planet either are ignorant of its existence or consider it of no consequence. Some people think only the Old Testament is important while others just study the New Testament. Of those who accept the whole Bible there are myriad views on how to interpret its writings in terms of a consistent model of first principles that make one wise unto salvation (II Tim. 3:15). Standard reference sources cite that there are over 4,200 religious type organizations that exist in the world today.10 Does that make the information contained in the Bible invalid or does it speak of the fallibility of human interpretation?
While it is obvious that there is a diversity of opinion in the exact model for interpreting the Bible, nevertheless it is unlikely that any serious Christian would doubt the correctness of the information contained within its pages. Likewise, the fossil data may be absolutely correct and yet the Darwinist model worthless. Hence let’s examine if the evolutionists have treated their data correctly. Let’s look at some of the issues concerned in data analysis.
Some cautionary considerations
There are problems in treating data that have nothing whatsoever to do with the validity of the information that has been observed. First, is the possibility that one has extrapolated the data beyond the range of applicability. The second risk is that not all the information necessary to interpret the model is sufficiently available at the time, such that later observations make the original concepts invalid. There are famous examples of this in the realm of physical science, which are widely known and should give us pause in trying to interpret the fossil evidence solely on the basis of one model, i.e. Darwinist evolution.
An example of the former problem of faulty extrapolation was the case of trying to interpret cosmic behavior solely on the basis of Newtonian mechanics. This lead to severe problems when trying to understand the behavior of bodies moving at extremely high velocities or in the presence of high gravitational fields. In such cases, Newton’s laws broke down and it was eventually realized that Newtonian mechanics was a limiting case (and only exactly correct) for low speeds and for small gravitational interactions. It took Einstein to realize this, and get physics out of the conundrum that had happened at the end of the nineteenth century, by his creation of the special and general theories of relativity. This is a case lesson highlighting the danger of extrapolating a model beyond the range of applicability.
Another caution deals with trying to make a model fit even if all the information is not yet known. A particularly startling example of this was the result of the famous Michelson-Morley experiment.11 In the 19th century scientists thought of light as being wave-like in nature, i.e. different colors of light had different frequencies and wavelengths. The periodicity of waves is seen readily if we drop a pebble into a pond; the water will ripple out from the center of impact in a wave-like motion. The water serves as the medium for carrying out the periodic undulations that have been set in motion by the pebble hitting the surface of the pond. Similarly, sound is a wave-like entity that is transmitted by the ripples (actually periodic pressure variations) set in motion in air. In spite of science fiction movies, there is no sound of explosions in the vacuum of space, because there is no medium to carry the pressure variations.
What about light? If light is a wave it has to have something to wave in! Hence a physical model was constructed that assumed that the vacuum of free space was filled with a mysterious medium called ether or aether (British spelling) and this was the medium that allowed sunlight and starlight to reach earth. The Michelson-Morley experiment proved that this was absolutely wrong; their result showed unambiguously that there was no ether. This result, and others like it from the physical sciences proves the second caution, namely, a model must stand the test of critical experiments. Now what about the evolution of man from apes?
Flawed evidence for evolution
Often cited as proof of man’s evolutionary descent from apes, is the fact that approximately 95% of the genetic structure of humans is identical to that found in other higher primates. However, it doesn’t take much deliberation to find the fault in this logic. The fact that 95% (for sake of argument) of a Cadillac might be the same as a Chevy doesn’t prove that there were no automobile designers working for Cadillac. All it proves is that the designers worked with common elements to come up with an entirely different car. Similarly, the overlap in DNA structure between man and ape can be just as well explained by design variation. The Bible says, speaking of the creation of animals: But God gives it a body as he has determined, and to each kind of seed he gives its own body. All flesh is not the same: Men have one kind of flesh, animals have another, birds another and fish another (I Cor. 15: 38-39). The ape may share genetic structure with humans, but it is still a distinctly different species and I doubt even the most ardent evolutionist would want a blood transfusion from an ape (its blood is totally incompatible). This is a case where evolutionists have jumped to a conclusion that can easily be explained by another model, i.e. specific creation.
What about gaps in the fossil data? It has yet to be proved that there were links between the various hominid groups that are found in the fossil record and the mechanism that caused hominids to branch from apes is not known. Instead of believing what I just wrote let’s get this directly from an evolutionist source: “All modern humans share a distinctive skull anatomy that includes such features as a protruding chin, a vertical forehead unadorned with brow ridges, a high rounded braincase of thin bone, and small teeth. The origin of this unique physical type is an unresolved question in paleoanthropology.”12 More recently another evolutionist describing how modern humans originated wrote: “The arrival of an early simian in Africa was a lucky event, but it’s the reason we are here and able to talk about it…the higher primate linkage owes its amazing evolutionary journey to the fact that a primitive simian dropped, purely by chance, into the unoccupied verdant paradise of Africa.”13 The tendency of evolutionists to use the words “luck,” “chance,” “accident,” or similar vocabulary sometimes makes me wonder if they are discussing science or the lottery!
Evolution of man assumed, not proven
In sum, the fossil data has not established that the various hominid fossils found so far are linked. That supposed linkage is completely a result of believing in advance the Darwinist model and is not conclusively based on experimental evidence. It is a perfect case of extrapolating data to force fit a model without considering other alternatives. The various hominid groups starting from the genus Australopithecus through Neanderthal, Cro-Magnon and to Homo sapiens could just as well fit the model of a series of unrelated independent creation events. We saw earlier that in dealing with lower life forms a comprehensive look at the data has lead many scientists to believe “it is no gradual story that our discoveries reveal”.14 It appears that the same holds true for higher life forms except evolutionists appear to be unable to let go of the gradual model that is so entrenched in classical Darwinism.
Next time you see a figure (as depicted in this article) on the ascent of man from apes, please remember it is merely a model based on the Darwinist assumption of gradual modification supposedly leading to higher and more adaptive life forms. If modern humans are the higher life form that is the result of evolutionary progression then why is the ape still with us and where are all those other hominid species that supposedly preceded modern humans?
By John C. Bilello, Ann Arbor, Michigan
1 Actually human beings, along with apes, monkeys, lemurs, and tarsiers, make up the order of mammals called primates with the great ape considered to be man’s closest evolutionary ancestor.
2 Homo sapiens from the latin means: “wise human being”.
3 This figure is a computer graphic representation of a display panel in the Darwin Center, Natural History Museum, London, UK made by the author. You can find out more about this museum by going to its website: http://www.nhm.ac.uk/science/
4 Hominids are a biological family of mammals, which includes humans, extinct humanlike beings, and the great apes including: chimpanzees, gorillas and orangutans. (Definition from The Free Encyclopedia© at wikipedia.org). On the other hand, the World Book Encyclopedia© definition is narrower: “Hominids are distinguished from apes mainly by mode of locomotion. While apes predominantly use all four limbs to move along the ground, hominids have developed upright bipedal walking.”
5 Many scientists once thought that the earliest direct ancestor of human beings was a creature called Ramapithecus. This creature lived from 8 million to 14 million years ago. During the late 1900’s, however, discoveries of Ramapithecus fossils suggested the creature was an ancestor of the orangutan, a kind of ape. (World Book Multimedia Encyclopaedia, Electronic Edition © 2001, Article contributed by Bernard G. Campbell, University of California, Los Angeles.)
6 The skeleton, which is nearly 40% complete, was named “Lucy” because the anthropologists that found it, D. Johanson and T. Gray, were listening to the Beatles song Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds at the time of the discovery. Since this find, approximately 300 additional partial skeletons of the species afarensis have been dug up in Africa.
7 As discussed in an earlier chapter – “Piltdown man” was the tampered remains of a skeleton, made to look like a supposed missing link between Homo sapiens and apes, dug up in 1911 at Piltdown (near Sussex, UK) and later found to be a hoax in 1953. Piltdown Man is not to be confused with Piltman Man, this latter is an actual fossil.
8 The author is familiar with so-called “Flood Geology” of J. C. Whitcomb and H. M. Morris and doesn’t buy it. I find their work just plain poor science. (See for example: John C. Whitcomb, The Genesis Flood: The Biblical Record and its Scientific Implications, P&R Publishing, (1960). Other books on this subject include: John D. Morris, Noah’s Ark and the Ararat Adventure, Master Books, (1988). This author claims dinosaurs and human beings shared the earth at the same time 4500 years ago!)
9 In an earlier chapter, we presented arguments both from current observations of the universe, and from the Holy Scriptures, that attest to the constancy of the physical laws that govern our existence.
10 See – http://www.adherents.com/
11 Michelson, A. A. and Morley, E. W. “On the Relative Motion of the Earth and the Luminiferous Ether.” Amer. J. Sci. 34, 333-345, 1887 and “On the Relative Motion of the Earth and the Luminiferous Aether.” Philos. Mag. 24, 449-463, 1887.
12 Copied from a display on the “Origins of Modern Humans” by the author some 20 years ago at theAmerican Museum of Natural History, New York.
13 Quoted from an article discussing the findings of the anthropologist, Dr. Beard, in the 22nd May 2004 issue of New Scientist, entitled “Out of Asia”, by Richard Hollingham, pp. 36-39.
14 The Book of Life, editor Stephen Jay Gould, W. Norton & Co, NY, (1993), pp. 56-57.