Refuting Evolution 2—Chapter 12
A sequel to Refuting Evolution that refutes the latest arguments to support evolution (as presented by PBS and Scientific American).
Argument: Evolution of mankind
Evolutionists say, ‘The unique characteristics of the human species can easily be explained.’
First published in Refuting Evolution 2, Chapter 12
PBS 6—‘The Mind’s Big Bang’—attempts to explain the biggest difference between humans and animals: our mind, including the advantages of language. However, it makes hardly any attempt to prove evolution; rather, it assumes it, and makes up stories to explain the differences given this assumption. PBS 1 had already paved the way with misleading arguments about apemen and DNA similarity.
Have humans evolved from ape-like creatures?
The similarity between apes and humans is one of evolutionists’ favorite arguments for common descent based on common appearance. The PBS series shouts ‘yes’ in answer to the question, ‘Have humans evolved from ape-like creatures?’ and episode 1 showed a number of fossils of alleged apemen for cumulative effect. But this was very deceptive—some of the alleged apemen it showed are not even accepted by evolutionists as genuine intermediates anymore. For example, it showed an old photograph of Louis Leakey with Zinjanthropus (now Paranthropus) boisei or ‘Nutcracker Man,’ sometimes called a robust australopithecine. But this was long ago relegated to a side branch on man’s alleged evolutionary tree.
PBS 1 also claimed that the DNA of chimps and humans was ‘98 percent’ similar, and said it’s ‘only a couple of spelling errors.’ While the 98 percent is debatable,1 claiming a ‘couple’ of differences is outright deception—humans have 3 billion ‘letters’ (base pairs) of DNA information in each cell, so a two percent difference is actually 60 million ‘spelling errors’! Of course, this is not ‘error’ but twenty 500-page books worth of new information that needs to be explained by mutation and selection. Even if we grant 10 million years to the evolutionists, population genetics studies show that animals with human-like generation times of about 20 years could accumulate only about 1,700 mutations—not 60 million—in their genomes in that time frame.2
Missing links found?
Donald Johanson, the discoverer of the alleged missing link ‘Lucy,’ was featured on PBS 2 titled ‘Great Transformations.’ Supposedly, humans are part of evolution, despite our unique abilities to design and create works of art. Allegedly, about 7 million years ago, our ancestors swung down from the trees and became bipedal. Then they could gather and carry food, and this food could be higher in energy. This fed bigger brains, which in turn helped food to be gathered more efficiently, in a positive feedback. But Johanson said that there are still differences in the skeletons of chimps and humans, e.g., differently shaped pelvises, different angles where the spine meets the skull, and the way we walk with our knees together while apes walk with their legs far apart.
But PBS offered little actual evidence. The fossil record is full of holes, and ‘missing link’ claims become boring after a while because they are so often discredited.3 The nearest thing to ‘evidence’ was Liza Shapiro, University of Texas, showing how flexible the lemur’s spine was. The lemur can move on all fours, but leap upright. But this doesn’t show how a quadruped can make all the transformations needed to turn it into a proper biped.
Scientific American also asserts that we have found a series of hominid fossils that link humans to an ape-like ancestor:
The historical nature of macroevolutionary study involves inference from fossils and DNA rather than direct observation … . For instance, evolution implies that between the earliest-known ancestors of humans (roughly five million years old) and the appearance of anatomically modern humans (about 100,000 years ago), one should find a succession of hominid creatures with features progressively less ape-like and more modern, which is indeed what the fossil record shows. [SA 80]
Scientific American also makes this amazing claim:
Perhaps 20 or more hominids (not all of them our ancestors) fill the gap between Lucy the australopithecine and modern humans. [SA 83]
How could these alleged ‘20 or more hominids’ fill the gap if they are ‘not all our ancestors’? That is, they have fallen out of the gap and into a side alley.
The ‘links’ are still missing!
The apemen fossils are often based on fragmentary remains, and this is true of the latest of a long series of ‘missing link claims,’ Ardipithecus ramidus kadabba. But when more bones are excavated, the specimens are found to be either man or non-man (e.g., australopithecine).
Even if there were such a chain of similar creatures, common appearance does not prove common origin. But the claim is groundless, anyway. What the fossil record shows in reality, even granted the evolutionary ‘dating’ methods, is that this alleged clear-cut progression exists only in the minds of evolutionary popularists. Marvin Lubenow shows that the various alleged ‘apemen’ do not form a smooth sequence in evolutionary ‘ages,’ but overlap considerably.4 For example, the timespan of Homo sapiens fossils contains the timespan of the fossils of Homo erectus, supposedly our ancestor. Also, when the various fossils are analyzed in depth, they turn out not to be transitional or even mosaic. The morphology overlaps too—the analysis of a number of characteristics indicates that Homo ergaster, H. erectus, H. neanderthalensis as well as H. heidelbergensis, were most likely ‘racial’ variants of modern man, while H. habilis and another specimen called H. rudolfensis were just types of australopithecines.5 In fact, H. habilis is now regarded as an invalid name, probably caused by assigning fragments of australopithecines and H. erectus fossils into this ‘taxonomic waste bin.’
Out of Africa?
PBS 6 begins deep in a cave in France, where archaeologist Randy White explores cave paintings, allegedly 30–40 ka (kilo-annum = thousand years ago). The narrator intones about finding out how our ancestors became truly human, and how the mind was born. Then the scene shifts to the Rift Valley in East Africa, where ‘humans began.’
Supposedly our branch of the evolutionary tree split off 6 Ma (mega-annum = million years ago) from the line leading to chimps. Our ancestors swung down from the trees and became bipedal about 4 Ma, tools were first made 2.5 Ma, early humans began to leave Africa 2 Ma but they would all eventually become extinct, while truly modern humans left Africa 50–60 ka. This is all ‘documented’ with computer graphics, then by actors.
Internal evolutionary squabbles overlooked
As shown later, PBS 6 advocates what is called the ‘out of Africa’ model, without saying so. This is where modern humans came out of Africa and replaced less evolved hominids that had emerged from Africa much earlier. But there is another evolutionary idea, called the ‘multi-regional’ or ‘regional-continuity’ hypothesis, where the hominids that emerged from Africa 2 Ma evolved into modern humans in many parts of the world. This is one of the most vitriolic debates among paleoanthropologists, yet this episode presents only one side. The acrimony between the proponents of these rival theories is due, according to anthropologist Peter Underhill of Stanford University, to: ‘Egos, egos, egos. Scientists are human.’ We think both sides are right in their criticisms of each other, because humans did not evolve at all!6
PBS 6 showed a skull ‘dated’ 100 ka, and said that the owner could have been dressed in modern clothes and it would hardly raise an eyebrow. Massachusetts Institute of Technology psychologist Steven Pinker pointed out that modern human babies anywhere in the world can learn any language in the world, and how to count, as well as grow to understand computers. So he suggested: ‘The distinctively human parts of our intelligence were in place before our ancestors split off into the different continents.’
The humans who allegedly left Africa 50–60 ka encountered the hominids that had left earlier, that had evolved into Neandertals. They were bigger and stronger than we are, had bigger brains, and were characterized by having a big nose, receding chin (prognathism) and forehead, almost no cheek, and prominent brow ridges (supraorbital tori). But they were less creative, with almost no symbolic life or art, and unstructured burial of their dead. Their spear tips were easy to make by chipping stone, but had low range so were used mainly for stabbing. Supposedly they learned by imitation, rather than passing on information via a highly developed language.
The late arrivals, however, had a structured burial of their dead, and made long-range spears with some difficulty by carving antlers for tips. They also invented a spear thrower. Most importantly, they had a sophisticated language that enabled them to transmit information across both distance and time.
They also produced art and culture. PBS 6 demonstrates a ‘spit painting’ technique they could have used for their cave paintings, and shows that they may have played music by using speleothems (stalactites and stalagmites) as natural percussion instruments.
The Bible teaches that the first man, Adam, was made from dust and the first woman was made from his rib. Also, Genesis 1 teaches that living creatures reproduce ‘after their kind’—see chapter 4. Therefore, we would expect no continuity between man and the animals.
Cavemen and the Bible
One important event recorded in the Bible is the confusion of languages at Babel. The obvious effect was to produce the major language families, from which modern languages have developed. But the division of people according to their newly created language groups had other effects, too.
Babel resulted in the isolation of small people groups, each containing a fraction of the total gene pool. This would help fix certain characteristics. Natural selection and sexual selection would act on these, producing the different people groups (‘races’) we see today.
Also, some people groups would be isolated from civilization. Consider even the typical small extended family group today, if suddenly isolated from civilization, e.g., on a desert island. Many such groups would not have the ability to smelt metals or build houses. Therefore, they would have to use the hardest material available (stone) and make use of already-existing structures (caves). Different family groups would also have different levels of artistic ability. So it shouldn’t be too difficult to accept that humans such as Homo erectus and Neandertals were probably post-Babel humans who became isolated from major cities, and developed certain physical characteristics because certain genes became fixed due to the small population and selective factors. The notion of a ‘stone age’ is fallacious—rather, it’s a cave/stone technology stage of different people groups. Some people even today have this level of technology, but they live at the same time as us, and are just as human.
Human brain uniqueness
PBS 6 quotes the psychologist Pinker again, who points out that the human brain contains 100 billion cells, and more importantly, it is wired with 100 trillion connections, ‘wiring it in precise ways to produce intelligence.’ But he attributed this to mutations over 10s and 100s of thousands of years. He has yet to find a single mutation that could increase information, let alone the colossal number required to wire the cerebral supercomputer correctly.
Supposedly, this would have been driven by selection for ability to manipulate others. Better language control means better social control.
The PBS episode turns to psychologist Andrew Whiten of the University of St. Andrews in Scotland, who tested how young children learned. (Incidentally, on the lintel above the entryway to the school is the Latin ‘In principio erat Verbum,’ the Vulgate translation of John 1:1, ‘In the beginning was the Word’). He tested children with small models of people, where one ‘person’ puts an object in one place, goes away, then another ‘person’ takes this object and hides it somewhere else. Then the first ‘person’ returns, whereupon the child is asked where he or she would look for the object. A three year old suggests the new hiding place, while a five year old correctly realizes that the first ‘person’ would have no way of knowing that the object had been moved, and would look in the place he left it. (Sometimes this is called the ‘Sally-Anne’ test, where the ‘Sally’ doll hides something in the absence of ‘Anne.’) Whiten concluded that by the age of three:
A child cannot ascribe actions to others. But by the age of five, the child’s brain has developed the capacity for stepping into someone else’s mind. [PBS 6]
The program contrasts this with chimpanzees, which are incapable of this at any age, ‘No chimp has passed the test of attribution of false belief.’
There are about 6,300 languages in the world today. They all have certain constraints, and obey strict rules, called syntax. This enables us to hierarchically organize information, which is something chimps cannot do, even with the best training in signing.
There is a certain window of opportunity for learning syntax by imitation that gradually closes after the age of seven. PBS 6 shifted to Managua, the capital of Nicaragua, where we meet ‘Mary No-name.’ She was born deaf, and no one taught her sign language, so she never had a chance to learn syntax. She is still intelligent enough to communicate with some signs, but only to people who know the context.
PBS 6 documents how after the Nicaraguan revolution, U.S. sign language experts tried to teach sign language to deaf people from isolated villages, but failed. But the children developed their own sign language instead, which is a real language with proper syntax and as much capacity for expressing complex thought as spoken language. They wanted to communicate with other people like themselves rather than have a language imposed upon them.
Deaf people actually process sign language with the same areas of the brain that hearing people use to process spoken language, including Broca’s area and Wernicke’s area. This is shown by deaf patients who have damage to either area, who have an equivalent type of aphasia (language impairment) in sign language to that which a hearing person would suffer in spoken language.7
Evolution of language?
None of the above has anything to do with evolution. The language processing areas are unique to humans, and enable us to use syntax in both written and sign language.
All the same, atheist Richard Dawkins of Oxford University presents his usual storytelling on PBS 6 about how language conferred a selective advantage, so left more offspring. It’s interesting that the only topic this well-known propagandist for neo-Darwinism is interviewed on is language, although Dawkins’s field is biology, not linguistics. It’s also notable that the PBS series did not show Dawkins promoting his rabid atheistic religion, which he makes plain is a main reason for his promotion of Darwin. Presumably the producers didn’t want to make the materialistic implications of evolution too obvious to an American public that might still be repulsed by overt atheism.
PBS 6 explains how Robin Dunbar of Liverpool University has researched the way people use language, and he rejects the idea that the main function is to exchange information. Rather, about two-thirds is social interaction, which he called ‘gossip.’ So natural selection favored those with the most refined social skills, which would have the advantages of holding big groups together and being able to find out information about third parties.
Difficulties with language evolution
It’s one thing to claim that languages evolved, but it’s another to provide a mechanism. Evolutionists usually claim that languages evolved from animal grunts. Some even claim that the continuing change of languages is just like biological evolution. However, actual observations of language present a very different picture.
First, ancient languages were actually extremely complex with many different inflections. There is no hint of any build-up from simpler languages. For example, in the Indo-European family, Sanskrit, Classical Greek and Latin had many different noun inflections for different case, gender, and number, while verbs were inflected for tense, voice, number, and person. Modern descendants of these languages have greatly reduced the number of inflections, i.e., the trend is from complex to simpler, the opposite of evolution. English has almost completely lost inflections, retaining just a few like the possessive ‘s.’
English has also lost 65–85 percent of the Old English vocabulary, and many Classical Latin words have also been lost from its descendants, the Romance languages (Spanish, French, Italian, etc.).
Second, most of the changes were not random, but the result of intelligence. For example: forming compound words by joining simple words and derivations, by adding prefixes and suffixes, by modification of meaning, and by borrowing words from other languages including calques (a borrowed compound word where each component is translated and then joined). There are also unconscious, but definitely non-random, changes such as systematic sound shifts, for example those described by Grimm’s law (which relates many Germanic words to Latin and Greek words).8
Dawkins said on PBS 6, ‘The Mind’s Big Bang’:
The only kind of evolutionary change we’re likely to see very much of is not genetic information at all, it’s cultural evolution. And if we put a Darwinian spin on that, then we’re going to be talking about the differential survival of memes, as opposed to genes. [PBS 6]
Dawkins proposed the meme idea long ago in his book The Selfish Gene, and psychologist Sue Blackmore of the University of West of England has been one of his recent champions. She said on PBS 6:
Memes are ideas, habits, skills, gestures, stories, songs—anything which we pass from person to person by imitation. We copy them … just as the competition between genes shapes all of biological evolution, so it’s the competition between memes that shapes our minds and cultures.
Nowadays I would say that memetic evolution is going faster and faster, and it has almost entirely taken over from biological evolution … .
The more educated you are, the less children you have. That is memes fighting against genes. [PBS 6]
Now memes have apparently found a new home, the internet, and it has actually enslaved us, we are told.
Blackmore even believes that the idea of the ‘self’ is an illusion produced by competing memes in the brain. But under her own system, we must ask her, ‘Who is (or rather, what are) actually proposing this idea?’!
But it becomes ridiculous when things such as the internet, birth control, any invention, insulin, are called ‘memes.’ A term that describes everything really describes nothing. All that she’s done is apply the same label to just about anything, but this adds nothing to our knowledge.
It’s no wonder that the evolutionist Jerry Coyne called Blackmore’s book ‘a work not of science, but of extreme advocacy.’ He says that memes are ‘but a flashy new wrapping around a parcel of old and conventional ideas.’ Coyne also believes that evolutionary psychology is non-science (and nonsense). Coyne is no creationist sympathizer but an ardent—but ineffective—opponent of creation.9
The Discovery Institute critique of the PBS series points out that, if the likes of Eugenie Scott were truly concerned about non-science being taught in the science classroom, she would oppose evolutionary psychology and memetic evolution as well, and certainly not support the use of this PBS series in science classrooms.10 No, what she’s opposed to are challenges to her materialistic faith.
From all the money and time lavished on the PBS ‘Evolution’ series, major articles in science journals, and political campaigns to keep teachers from presenting alternatives to evolution in schools, it is evident that the evolutionists fear the increasing spread of creationist information, despite their best efforts at censorship. So they are desperate to counteract this information. But their efforts don’t withstand scientific scrutiny, and in the end any reasonable observer would have to admit that evolution is a deduction from a materialistic belief system. It is philosophy/religion dressed up as ‘science.’
References and notes
- See also Don Batten, Human/chimp DNA similarity: Evidence for evolutionary relationship? Creation 19(1):21–22, December 1996–February 1997.
- W.J. ReMine, The Biotic Message (St. Paul, MN: St. Paul Science, 1993), chapter 8.
- For example, see J. Sarfati, Time’s alleged ‘ape-man’ trips up (again), Journal of Creation 15(3) 2001.
- M. Lubenow, Bones of Contention (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1992).
- J. Woodmorappe <www.rae.org/johnw.htm>, The non-transitions in ‘human evolution’—on evolutionists’ terms, Journal of Creation 13(2):10–13, 1999.
- For an explanation of both the ‘out of Africa’ and ‘regional-continuity’ ideas and a biblical alternative, see C. Wieland, No Bones about Eve, Creation 13(4):20–23, September–November 1991.
- G. Hickok, U. Bellugi, and E.S. Klima, Sign Language in the Brain, Scientific American 284(6):42–49, June 2001.
- K. May, Talking Point, Creation 23(2):42–45, March–May 2001, and A. Steel, The Development of Languages Is Nothing Like Biological Evolution, Journal of Creation 14(2), 2000.
- See C. Wieland, New eyes for blind cave fish?
- The Discovery Institute’s critique makes these good points in Getting the Facts Straight: A Viewer’s Guide to PBS’s Evolution (Seattle, WA: Discovery Institute Press, 2001).
Note about citations: Quotations from the Scientific American article by John Rennie will be labeled ‘SA,’ followed by the page number. Quotations from, and other mentions of, the PBS-TV series ‘Evolution,’ will be labeled ‘PBS,’ followed by the episode number, e.g. ‘PBS 6’ refers to Episode 6. Return to article