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Putting chimpanzees, ‘hominids’, and humans in their proper place

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Published: 18 July 2007 (GMT+10)

Photo sxc.hu

Gorilla

Fazale Rana, of Reasons to Believe (RTB), a ‘progressive creationist’ organization, recently wrote a blog article titled ‘Chimpanzee Behavior Supports RTB’s Model for Humanity’s Origin’.1 In it he discussed the implications of three evolutionary research papers dealing with chimpanzee cave use, rock hammers, and utilization of wooden ‘spears’ to kill bushbabies. He argued that chimpanzees demonstrate an intellectual and technological capacity that is very similar to Homo habilis, Homo erectus, and Neandertals. However, Rana commits three critical errors when assessing the evidence and claiming predictive success for the RTB human origins model:

  • uncritical acceptance of evolutionary claims, especially dates,
  • exaggeration of chimpanzee intelligence,
  • omission of significant qualitative differences between chimpanzees, Homo erectus, and Neandertals.

‘Hominids’, humans, and competing models

In the RTB model for human origins, specimens such as Homo habilis, Homo erectus, and Neandertals are considered to be:

  • non-human bipedal primates with limited emotional, intellectual, and technological capacity,
  • specially created before Adam and Eve, though not in the image of God,
  • morphologically and genetically distinct from modern humans (Homo sapiens).

In the young-earth creation model, Homo erectus and Neandertals are considered to be:

Homo habilis, on the other hand, is a very dubious ‘species’. Evolutionary anthropologist Milford Wolpoff referred to Homo habilis as a ‘garbage bag.’2 Evolutionists Tattersall and Schwartz have described ‘the status of H. habilis as an all-embracing “wastebasket” species into which a whole heterogeneous variety of fossils could be conveniently swept.’3 Evolutionists Wood and Collard recommend Homo habilis ‘be transferred to the genus Australopithecus’, due to the preponderance of ape-like features.4 Most creationists consider Homo habilis to be an invalid taxon all together, which is consistent with the views of the evolutionary anthropologists just mentioned.

Living in caves, spearing primates, and hammering nuts

Rana writes, ‘[N]ew field work indicates that these apes are even more remarkable than anyone could have known.’ Remove the evolutionary bias concerning the abilities of chimpanzees, and the facts are much less impressive. In one study, chimpanzees were observed entering and leaving caves, probably trying to beat the heat. A myriad of other animals use caves as temporary shelters to escape the elements. Bats, bears, crickets, foxes, pack rats, snakes, raccoons, moths, swallows, vultures, and groundhogs do the same.5

Another study revealed that chimps deliberately manufacture wooden ‘spears’ from tree branches to hunt bushbabies—see Primates spearing primates. Using these makeshift spears, the chimpanzees only recorded a paltry 5% success rate when hunting the smaller primates. New Caledonian crows fashion multiple designs of twigs to hunt insects. Woodpecker finches break off cactus needles to spear insects. Elephants deliberately manufacture different designs of twigs from tree branches to swat and kill flies.

Image istockphoto

Cave art

In the third study, researchers claimed to have discovered 4,300 year old rock hammers which were manufactured and used by chimpanzees to crack open nuts. However, no chimpanzee fossils were discovered in the area. These stone tools may or may not have been manufactured by chimpanzees. This is reminiscent of the of Australopithecus garhi. Evolutionary scientists claimed this ape-like creature used simple stone tools nearly three million years ago. However, there were no stone tools associated with the fossil fragments at all.6 The reference to tool use was merely inferred from markings on animal bones found elsewhere in the general vicinity. Regardless, chimpanzees are not the only animals to use rocks as tools. Various monkeys use rocks to crush fruits and nuts. Sea otters have been witnessed using rocks as anvils against which they smash open mollusk shells for meat.7

And like chimpanzees, a host of other animals, such as crows, elephants, dolphins, and whales, transmit this ‘culture’ and technological expertise to future generations. Despite overt evolutionary bias in so many of the studies, chimpanzees do not stand out in the animal world for their intellect and technological ingenuity.

Qualitative differences between chimpanzees, Homo erectus, and Neandertals

RTB identifies Homo erectus and Neanderthals as fairly advanced animals. However, renowned creation anthropologist, Marvin Lubenow, after many years of study, considers Homo erectus and Neandertals to be fully human. Creationist surgeon, Vij Sodera, believes the archaeological evidence clearly indicates a fully human intellect, emotional and spiritual capacity, and skeletal anatomy. There is strong evidence that Homo Erectus:

  • controlled the use of fire,
  • made a variety of hand axes and stone tools,
  • buried their dead,
  • had to have built rafts or boats to navigate between islands,
  • engaged in self-initiated art.8

Chimpanzees don’t control the use of fire, bury their dead, build rafts, or engage in self-initiated artwork (though, like some elephants, they can be taught crude techniques through countless hours of intense human instruction—see Jumbo Minds). They do manufacture crude rock tools, but even some evolutionists see an immense qualitative difference. Regarding Homo erectus, anthropologist Alan Thorne said ‘These hominids are doing things that are the hallmark of modern humans.’9 Milford Wolpoff of the University of Michigan is another well-known evolutionist who recognizes the humanity of Homo erectus. See Skull wars.

Regarding Neandertals, several of the world’s foremost evolutionary authorities agree that they were human.

  • Erik Trinkaus said, ‘Detailed comparisons of Neandertal skeletal remains with those of modern humans have shown that there is nothing in Neandertal anatomy that conclusively indicates locomotor, manipulative, intellectual or linguistic abilities inferior to those of modern humans.’10
  • Another evolutionary anthropologist, Zilhao, stated, ‘ … the differences between Neandertals and modern humans may be much less than had been previously thought, suggesting that human cognition and symbolic thinking may date back to before the two sub-species split around 400,000 years ago.’11
  • Speaking about their capacity for language, evolutionists Trinkaus and Shipman said, ‘ … Many anthropologists came to believe that Neandertals could have spoken any modern human language, whatever their accent may have been.’12
  • Richard Klein, in his book The human career, wrote, ‘Behaviourly, the neanderthals were strikingly modern.’13

There is strong evidence that Neandertals:

  • controlled the use of fire,
  • made a variety of hand axes and stone tools,
  • made long, sophisticated hunting spears,
  • buried their dead with flowers, animal bones, and jewelry,
  • made musical instruments out of animal bones,
  • engaged in self-initiated art,14
  • built huts out of animal skins,
  • cared for their sick.15

Chimpanzees don’t control the use of fire, make sophisticated stone tools, craft aerodynamic hunting spears capable of killing large prey, bury their dead with flowers and symbolic trinkets, make musical instruments, engage in self-initiated art, build huts out of animal skins, or show long term care for their sick.

The totality of the evidence reveals a significant chasm between chimpanzees, Homo erectus, and Neandertals. Chimpanzees are grossly inferior in their intellectual, technological and spiritual capacity when compared to Homo erectus, Neandertals and modern humans.

RTB cannot accept the full humanity of Homo erectus and Neandertals due to its uncritical acceptance of evolutionary dates for these fossils and their associated artifacts.

Putting modern ‘stone age’ tribes to the test

How do some extremely ‘primitive’ modern humans stack up against Homo erectus and Neandertals? Here are just two examples. The Sentinelese tribe16,17 near India:

  • lacks the skill to make fire,
  • doesn’t wear clothes,
  • hunts and gathers,
  • lacks agriculture,
  • builds simple huts,
  • lacks the vocabulary to describe a number greater than 2.

The Yanomamo Indians18 of Venezuela:

  • don’t bury their dead,
  • don’t make metal,
  • haven’t invented the wheel,
  • possess a numerical system of 1,2, and more than 2.

In numerous traits, these modern humans are no more advanced than Homo erectus and/or Neandertals. In some cases, they could even be classified as less advanced in their intellectual and spiritual capacities. Yet, no one would question their full humanity. Though seemingly ‘primitive’ in a number of areas, they likely possess a superb intellectual mastery of such disciplines as botany, animal behavior, geography and ecology. They also demonstrate elaborate spiritual beliefs and practices.

Prior commitment to secular dating methods

RTB cannot accept the full humanity of Homo erectus and Neandertals due to its uncritical acceptance of evolutionary dates for these fossils and their associated artifacts. To accept their humanity would place the special creation of Adam and Eve close to two million years ago which would totally destroy any credibility of the Genesis chronogeneaologies (even with many supposed gaps inserted into the genealogies).19

On the other hand, the young earth creation model accepts the full humanity of Homo erectus and Neandertals, which is consistent with the fossil evidence, but posits that the secular dating of these fossils is invalid.

Stretching the dates for humanity’s origin

Over the years, RTB has continued to stretch the dates of Adam and Eve’s supernatural creation. A targeted search on their website reveals their date for humanity’s special creation has moved from 10,000 to 25,000 years ago,20 to 10,000 to 35,000 years ago,21 to 10,000 to 60,000 years ago,22 and now between 10,000 and 100,000 years ago.23 . An older article even sets extreme limits of 6,000 and 50,000 years ago.21 These adjustments represent much more than just simple fine-tuning. These are increasingly significant revisions that demonstrate just how susceptible their model is to the latest anthropological dig.

Young-earth creationists, being true to the Bible’s chronology, only have to question the dating of the fossils and the evidence falls into place: there are human fossils and there are ape fossils and a big gap in between. And there is a good scientific basis for being extremely skeptical of the ‘dating’ of the fossils. See The pigs took it all, for example.

Conclusions

In claiming, contrary to the weight of evidence, that Neandertals and Homo erectus are non-human, RTB plays right into the hands of those evolutionists who want to emphasize any perceived ‘ape’ traits in these fossils to make a case for them being intermediate between the apes and modern humans, See: The non-transitions in human evolution on evolutionists terms.

Young-earth creationists are vindicated in their stand of relying upon a straightforward understanding of the Genesis account as the only sure foundation for a human origins model. All dates, fossil interpretations, and paleontological evidence should be filtered through the biblical lens, not the other way around. In fact, that is the only way to provide a sound basis for interpreting the evidence and reaching the correct conclusions.

Adam did not walk on a graveyard of the bones of countless dead animals (the remnants of millions of years of struggle), and certainly not on the bones of any ‘spiritless’ humanoid predecessors.24 This is the unfortunate view being propagated by RTB, which seriously undermines the reality of the Fall (Genesis 3) that ushered death and suffering into God’s ‘very good’ creation—thus explaining the need for Jesus’ physical death and resurrection.25

In summary:

  • chimpanzees are no more intelligent than many other birds and mammals,
  • Homo erectus and Neandertals demonstrate a far more advanced spiritual, emotional, intellectual, and technological capacity than chimpanzees,
  • Homo erectus and Neandertals overlap in many, specific anthropological criteria with modern humans,
  • Because of its acceptance of secular dating, RTB is unable to accept the evidence for the full humanity of Homo erectus and Neandertals without seriously undermining the historical reliability of the Genesis chronogeneaologies

Related Articles

Further Reading

References

  1. Rana, Fazale. Chimpanzee Behavior Supports RTB’s Model for Human Origins, reasons.org/tnrtb/, 07 June 2007. Return to Text.
  2. Wolpoff, M.H., Paleoanthropology, Second Edition, McGraw-Hill, Boston, p. 358, 1999. Return to Text.
  3. Tattersall, I. and Schwartz, J.H., Extinct Humans, Westview press, New York, p. 111, 2001. Return to Text.
  4. Wood, B. and Collard, M., The human genus, Science 284:70, 1999. Return to Text.
  5. Journey into Amazing Caves, www.amazingcaves.com/learn_ecology.html. Return to Text.
  6. Sodera, Vij. One small speck to man, Vij Sodera Production, p. 333, 2003. Return to Text.
  7. The Otter Project, www.otterproject.org/site/pp.asp?c=8pIKIYMIG&b=33672. Return to Text.
  8. The widely-held assumption that the ‘characteristic features’ of the ‘modern’ human mind first evolved between 50,000 and 40,000 years ago needs to be pushed back much earlier, according to Lawrence Barham, of the University of Liverpool. Dr. Barham told the British Association for the Advancement of Science that accumulating evidence of early art-which he says indicates symbolic thought and language-points to the evolution of ‘modern’ mental capacities at least 100,000 years before the earliest accepted date. And with the discovery of mixed paints found at the Two Rivers cave complex in Zambia, he even suggests that the ancestors of modern human beings may have been practising art up to 300,000 years ago. See Creation 29(2):10–11, Focus item ‘Ancient man had modern mind.’ Return to Text.
  9. Thorne, A., as quoted by Tim Thwaites, Ancient Mariners, New Scientist. p. 6. 14 March 1998. Return to Text.
  10. Trinkaus, E., Natural History, vol. 87, p. 10, 1978. Return to Text.
  11. How modern were European Neandertals? www.physorg.com/news75734944.html. Physorg.com, 25 August 2006. Return to Text.
  12. Trinkaus, E. and Shipman, P., The Neandertals—changing the image of mankind, Alfred A. Knopf, New York, p. 391, 1993. Return to Text.
  13. Klein, R., The Human Career, Chicago University Press, p. 407. 1981. Return to Text.
  14. See ref. 8 and news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/ nature/3256228.stm. Return to Text.
  15. Alper, J., Rethinking Neanderthals, Smithsonian.com, www.smithsonianmagazine.com/issues/2003/ june/neanderthals.php?page=1. p. 4, June 2003 issue. Return to Text.
  16. Survival comes first for the last Stone Age tribe world, observer.guardian.co.uk/world/story/0,,1708016,00.html, Guardian Unlimited. 12 February 2006. Return to Text.
  17. www.answers.com/topic/sentinelese. Return to Text.
  18. indian-cultures.com/Cultures/yanomamo.html. Return to Text.
  19. There are no gaps. See: Sarfati, J., Biblical chronogenealogies, Journal of Creation 17(3):14–18,2003. Return to Text.
  20. Ross, H., Reasons to Believe Web Page, Genesis One, Dinosaurs, and Cavemen, 20 May 1998. Return to Text.
  21. Ross, H., Reasons to Believe Web Page, Facts & Faith 1989 Volume 3, No. 1 Spring. Return to Text.
  22. Ross, H., Reasons to Believe Web Page, Genesis One, Dinosaurs, and Cavemen, 26 June 2002. Return to Text.
  23. Ross, H., Creation as Science. Navpress. 2006. p. 151–2. Return to Text.
  24. See: Wieland, C., Is cruelty normal? Creation 16(3):19–21, 1994. Return to Text.
  25. Sarfati, J., The Fall: a cosmic catastrophe, Journal of Creation 19(3):60–64, 2005. Return to Text.

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