Evolution Part 8 – Humans, Apes and Missing links

If you pick up an introductory biology text, read the popular science magazines or visit your local museum of natural history you would think that not only is human evolution a done deal but we have our non-human ancestors lined up from almost the split from the ape linages to ourselves without a single gap. What you will not find is that all the hominid fossils we have would fit into a college students trunk or at the very least a small coat closet. There just are not that many hominid fossils and the ones that we have are incomplete and not in very good shape. Not to mention the million year gaps between fossils.

What I would like to do in this post is to look at some of the fossil finds as well as some of the frauds that have been foisted on the public and the scientific community. Finally I will look at the major differences between humans and all other animals that have ever walked the earth. But before that I would make one thing clear. Christians do a disservice to our cause when we take the tact that evolutionists say we are descended from either apes or monkeys. I can find nowhere where any reputable scientist has ever written that humans are descended from either. What they do say is that some time in the far distant past, about 4 to 5 million years ago the hominid line diverged from the line that produced the apes, some would say 7 million years.

When anthropology professor Ronald Wetherington testifies before the Texas State Board of Education in 2009 concerning human evolution, he testified that human evolution “arguably the most complete sequence of fossil succession of any mammal in the world. No gaps. No lack of transitional fossils… So when people talk about the lack of transitional fossils or gaps in the fossil record, it absolutely is not true. And is not true specifically for our own species.”[1] So was Dr. Wetherington telling the truth? According to evolutionary thought the answer is yes. However, what gets left out is how large are the gaps between fossils and how most of the finds are only partial skulls which are disputed by various authorities as to how they fall in the whole evolutionary scheme of thing.  These gaps in almost every instance are in the million year or more range. And no complete early ancestor of human skeleton has ever been found. What has been found is highly fragmented more a jigsaw puzzle than a fossil and subject to the finder’s interpretation as to how the pieces fit together.

I do not think any of the people involved in the study of human origins intentionally is misleading. But their worldview causes them to fit their finds into a Darwinian framework cause them to make choices that support evolution. The layperson is given the idea that all paleontologists and anthropologists are in lockstep agreement when the fact is there is much agreement where to place hominid fossils. I have found not one fossil in the so called human line that all agree belongs to human ancestors.

I would agree with Dr. Wetherington that he is most likely correct as to the hominid line being the most complete of all mammalian lines. Unfortunately this speaks more to the complete lack of transitional fossils for all other species rather than the completeness of the hominid line.

Before I move on I would like to mention one additional disconnect I found when researching this post. Wikipedia seems to be to source of first and last resort for too many when researching anything these days. When one looks at the article on human evolution, found here http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Human_evolution, you would be hard pressed to see any disagreement with Dr. Wetherington’s testimony. The human linage is lined up in neat order and not a discouraging word is to be found. However, when one clicks on the link for a specific fossil something different emerges. One finds that the fossil is incomplete, often only a partial skull and that there is disagreement as whether or not the particular fossil fits in the hominid linage. One example is Sahelanthropus tchadensis more commonly referred to as Toumaï (“hope of life”) here is the link http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sahelanthropus_tchadensis. Toumaï is supposed to be humanities original ancestor yet we do not have enough of the skeleton to determine if Toumaï is ape or hominid, bipedal or not. If the first in line is uncertain then do we really have a line at all?

Let’s take a look at Lucy. Lucy is the rock star of hominid fossils. She made the covers of all the popular science magazines, had books written about her and TV specials. Artist’s renderings show a complete animal which for the most part looks very ape like and not very human like. In fact it is not until one digs deeper that we find out that the Lucy find is only about 40% complete. The find was spread out over a hill side and the bones were in fragments. There is no way one can be sure the bone fragments were from one individual or even from the same species. The picture[i] to the left is from Wikipedia showing the bone fragments that were discovered. As we can see there is much more missing from the find than we are led to believe from the popular press. The skull is almost completely missing. Lucy is another fossil where there is a lot of disagreement on if Lucy belongs in the human line. In fact some would place all Australopithecus afarensis, of which Lucy is an example, outside of the line of descent foe humans. Some argue that all Australopithecus species lie outside of the human line. You can find a Wikipedia article on Lucy here, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lucy_(Australopithecus). Were Lucy just an exception to the completeness of hominid fossils that would one thing but Lucy is one of the most complete if not the most complete early hominid fossil ever found. All the rest are partial skulls and in some instances other bones, typically leg or arm bones. And as was the case with Lucy these finds are highly fragmented. Oh, one final bit of information, from Australopithecus to Homo Erectus is a little over a million year gap. So much for a complete linage with no gaps. As for Homo Erectus, you could dress him up in modern cloths and he could probably walk through a crowd unnoticed. Erectus fits within the normal human variation.

So what if the bones are fragmented, they can only fit one way, right? Not quite. How fossils are put together depends a lot on how the person doing the fitting believes they should fit. Take a trip back with me to when I was a kid first interested in fossils and dinosaurs. One of my favorites was the brontosaur. For the picky ones out there, yes I know that brontosaur is no longer acceptable but bear with me. Every natural history museum that had a brontosaur skeleton on display had the legs out to the side as they are in modern lizards and reptiles such as crocodilians. The thinking then was that all dinosaurs were slow moving lizards and the bones should be displayed that way. Over time scientists have come to believe that dinosaurs were faster moving and should be displayed like other heavy modern animals with the legs under the body. Now the funny thing is that the curators were able to put the legs in either position and felt that at the time each was correct. That is the problem with disarticulated bones. There is not necessarily only one way they go together. A lot depends on how the person doing the display feel the bones fit.

One last item on the human family tree. Not very long ago paleoanthropologist thought that Neanderthal was a dead end on the human linage. A failed evolutionary experiment. Now the rage is that we are walking around with Neanderthal DNA in our genome. It is my understanding that one definition, in fact the definition most use, for species is animals that can interbreed and product fertile offspring. If we do indeed have Neanderthal DNS then rather than a human offshoot Neanderthal is the same species. Who knows how this will be resolved if ever.

This post only touches the surface of the problems with the fossil record. The record is woefully incomplete and there is disagreement over the fossil we have. Depending on whom you ask any one of the so called hominid fossils either are human ancestors or fall outside the human line. For those of you interested in a look at the problems with human evolution I recommend Science and Human Origins by Ann Gaugar, Douglas Ax and Casey Luskin. You can also check out Reasons to Believe site for articles on human origins at www.reasons.org. or you can wade through the various links in Wikipedia and find similar information. It will take some digging.

We see how incomplete the fossil record is regarding human evolution. Next time I will look at how humans differ from all other animals on the earth.

Have a blessed day,

David


[1] Science and Human Origins, Gaugar, Ann, Douglas Ax and Casey Luskin, 2012 Discovery Institute Press, p45


[i] Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2 or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation; with no Invariant Sections, no Front-Cover Texts, and no Back-Cover Texts. A copy of the license is included in the section entitled GNU Free Documentation License.

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About dwwork

The name of this blog is taken from 1 Peter 3:13 - “always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience. This verse became special to me over ten years ago when I was asked to teach an adult Sunday school class on Christian apologetics. This interest grew over the years to the point that I took some graduate level classes in apologetics. I think the best way to be prepared to give and answer to everyone who asks is to know scripture. It is my hope that through these short devotionals the reader will become more familiar with each verse. I have tried when possible to make them personal hoping in some small way to show that God’s word written over two thousand years ago is still relevant today. In the writing of these short devotionals I have been able to better understand how God’s word impacts my life. It is my hope that you too will come closer to our Lord Jesus and develop a closer relationship with Him. Finally, if the reader finds anything in conflict with scripture please let me know. God’s word is the final authority always overrules anything I might write. David
This entry was posted in Apologetics, Comentary, Evolution and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Evolution Part 8 – Humans, Apes and Missing links

  1. John Paine says:

    David, the link for RTB should be Reasons.org

    Thanks for taking up the topic again! I always enjoy your posts. I wish I could be that prolific.

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