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Redating Leakey’s Ethiopian human finds: more problems for compromise

by , CMI–Australia

18 February 2005

In mid-2003 we published an article on the finding of specimens named Homo sapiens idàltu near Herto, Ethiopia—see Ethiopian ‘earliest humans’ find—pointing out how these finds were a serious blow to long-age compromise on Genesis history.

As the main species name given to these fossils indicates, they were clearly human, in both our opinion and that of the bulk of the secular science community. The fact that they shared some so-called ‘primitive’ characteristics with e.g. Homo erectus and/or Neandertal (and/or ‘archaic sapiens’) specimens only confirmed our view that all of these so-called ‘earlier’ types are part of the same biological species. Simply put, they are all people, pure and simple, exhibiting a minor range of bony variation. The bottom line is that the Herto finds were classified in our species, with ample justification.

As we pointed out in that article, the finds presented a problem for progressive creationism/Rossism1 (so-called ‘old-earth creationism’). That is because their position of reinterpreting the Bible is in large part driven by their acceptance of secular dating methods, not the biblical text itself. But these Herto bones were ‘dated’ at 160,000 years. Rossism tries to put across the notion that it takes Genesis as literal history, in particular, that all modern people were descended from a literal Adam. And even Rossists will not try to stretch the biblical chronogenealogies beyond (an already unbelievable) 60,000 years at worst.

So the Herto humans could not be descendants of Adam in the Rossist scheme, hence they have to be ‘explained away’ as human-like, but somehow spiritless. (Never mind that there are fossils and artifacts dated by evolutionists as much older than 60,000 years which give evidence of culture, long ocean voyages requiring complex seafaring/navigation skills, abstract thought as in religious ideas of an afterlife, trade and technology such as superglue.)

Now a ‘redating’ of some other Ethiopian human skulls,2 found decades ago, has brought the media spotlight once again onto this glaring inconsistency.  In 1967, the famous Richard Leakey found two Homo sapiens specimens (Homo sapiens is the species term applied to humans today) at Kibish in Ethiopia, near where the Omo river used to run into Lake Turkana.3 One was labeled as Omo I, and was the skull (minus face) and parts of the arms, legs, feet and pelvis. Omo II was the back of a skull. Arguments have long raged about their ‘ages’, especially since Omo I was ‘essentially modern Homo sapiens’ while Omo II ‘appeared to be more primitive’.4 Now a team of researchers has gone back to the site, and in addition to finding some more bone fitting one of the existing Omo I bones, have performed an intensive regional dating analysis. The new radiometric dates5 for both specimens, which they claim are ‘very secure’, are 195,000 years.

Once again, we have modern human bones at an age way too old for Adam. Last time, in the case of the Herto skulls, the few ‘primitive features’, even though the skulls were overwhelmingly ‘modern’, gave the only straws onto which long-age–compromisers6 could even attempt to clutch (see this exchange). But in the case of the Omo I specimen, the only ‘primitive features’ are on the other specimen. As far as the evidence is concerned, there is no reason to doubt that Omo I is Homo sapiens, period, and the only reason why anyone would want to turn these specimens into some sort of nonhuman creature would be a desperate attempt to reconcile the irreconcilable: modern dating methods and the biblical history of mankind.

And what about the ‘primitive features’ of the other specimen, Omo II? Well, evolutionists themselves agree overwhelmingly that this is also Homo sapiens, though less ‘modern’. The fact that they are living at the same ‘age’ geologically7 gives very welcome support to our contention that when one finds these ‘primitive’ features in a human skull, it does not indicate that the skull is ‘earlier’ than one without these features. Instead, they are a part of the range of variation within the human gene pool after Babel.

References and notes

  1. After the most influential proponent of such views, astronomer Dr Hugh Ross, who heads the organisation Reasons to Believe. Return to text.
  2. McDougall, I., Brown, F.H. & Fleagle, J.G., Stratigraphic placement and age of modern humans from Kibish, Ethiopia, Nature 433(7027):733–736, 17 February 2005. Return to text.
  3. It now does so some 100 km (60 miles) south of Kibish. Return to text.
  4. Frank Brown, geologist and dean of the College of Mines and Earth Sciences at the University of Utah, quoted in  ‘The oldest Homo sapiens’, www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2005-02/uou-toh021105.php, 16 Feb 2005. Return to text.
  5. They used a technique called argon-argon (40Ar/39Ar) dating. Return to text.
  6. I use this term advisedly, and without rancour.  It stands overwhelmingly justified and documented as appropriate in my colleague Dr Jonathan Sarfati’s classic Refuting Compromise. Return to text.
  7. Remember that the ‘ages’ came from dating nearby volcanic structures and correlating these with the geology of the area of the find.  The fact that we don’t accept the absolute value of the radiometric age (see our Radiometric Dating Q&A for the scientific reasons for this) does not alter the fact that they are located such as to be the same age.   And the main point is that Ross regularly defends the reliability of radiometric dating, so he is hoist by his own petard. Return to text.

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