Time’s alleged ‘ape-man’ trips up (again)!
Response to ‘One Giant Step for Mankind’
Time magazine cover story, 23 July 2001
Once more, Time magazine has loudly trumpeted the ‘fact’ of human evolution, and once more, based on flimsy evidence—One Giant Step for Mankind. The latest find is ‘dated’ between 5.6 and 5.8 million years old, although one toe-bone is ‘dated’ a few hundred thousand years younger. This was discovered by the Ethiopian graduate student Yohannes Haile-Selassie (no relation to the late Emperor) enrolled at the University of California, Berkeley, and a student of well-known paleoanthropologist Tim White. His original papers were published in Nature1,2 with commentary.3
Readers should be aware that this is far from the only recent article that has tried to promote evolution on the basis of a few fragments of bone. Also, a claim that they’ve found the ‘missing link’ now is a tacit admission that they haven’t found it before, despite their extravagant claims! For more information on alleged ape-men, see Q&A: Anthropology.
Another alleged missing link is claimed to be even older at 6 million years, and was named Orrorin tugenensis or the ‘Millennium Man’ because it was discovered near the turn of the Millennium.4 But this was based on 13 fossil fragments comprising broken femurs, jaw bones and teeth. There were accusations that the fossils were collected illegally, which were denied and seem to be unproven.5
Another recent evolutionary claim was Kenyanthropus platyops, allegedly 3.6 million years old. Readers would find our preliminary response Not another (yawn) ‘ape-man’ and follow-up article New Hominid Skull from Kenya helpful.6 Readers who are already familiar with these will see the latest Time article as déjà vu. It’s a good lesson that there is no need to be frightened by the latest media anti-God proclamations—they have been discredited time after time. Another example is the alleged life from the Martian meteorite.
What was the latest discovery?
So, what is so special about this latest Time article? This ‘new’ find is Ardipithecus ramidus kadabba. This comes from the local Afar language: Ardi = ground or floor, ramid = root, kadabba = basal family ancestor. But this means it is just a subspecies (i.e. a variant) of Ardipithecus ramidus, which is nothing new. Time wrote about this ape-like creature (among other alleged ape-men) two years ago, Up From The Apes, and we responded on this Website.
Even this wasn’t the first we’d heard of this creature—in 3 October 1994, Time published One less missing link when this creature was first discovered by Tim White and others, and published in Nature.7,8,9,10 However, back then, it was called Australopithecus ramidus, i.e. thought to be a type of the famous australopithecines. At the time, it was considered the oldest fossil human ancestor, ‘dated’ 4.4 million years old. But even back then, it was known to be highly doubtful that australopithecines were human ancestors. Evolutionary anatomist Charles Oxnard performed detailed multivariate analysis on them, and concluded that they did not walk upright in the human manner and were more distinct from both humans and chimpanzees than these are from each other.11
As we reported in Root of the Trouble in Creation 17(4):9, Sept–Nov. 1995, a later Nature article admitted it was ‘possible that Australopithecus ramidus is neither an ancestor of humanity, nor of chimpanzees …’, and even a tongue-in-cheek suggestion:
‘By 2000, A. ramidus will have been removed to a new genus, and regarded as a member of what we have dubbed the ramidopithecines.’12
As we now know, he was right about renaming, if not about the new name Ardipithecus!13
We also covered A. ramidus in Journal of Creation 8(2) 1994. One writer (somewhat naïvely, in our view) accepted that the fragmentary remains were a genuine stratomorphic intermediate, i.e. both intermediate in the geological layer it was found (stratum) and in shape (morphology).14 But he thought that the fossil still fit best with a widely accepted creationist model of the post-Flood world’s climatic and biological change. But Dr Don Batten in the same issue15 showed that it was unreasonable to base missing link claims on fossils found over 17 locations spread over two miles! A lot of weight was given to eight teeth, mostly damaged, and the most detailed treatment was given to a tooth that was practically identical to that of a pygmy chimp (Pan paniscus). He also noted the caution of the editorial note:
‘The attractive epithet of the “missing link” had better be avoided until it is possible to answer with clarity the question “with what?”’16
So what’s so special about this new discovery?
One feature is the allegedly ancient ‘date’, primarily by a radiometric technique called argon-argon dating of volcanic ash layers above and below the fossils. But there are many assumptions involved in such work—see Q&A pages on Radiometric Dating and Young Earth Evidence. On the other hand, a lot of it is much the same. For example, much of the evidence is speculative, as shown by the following paragraph:
‘Haile-Selassie and his colleagues haven’t collected enough bones yet to reconstruct with great precision what kadabba looked like. …. The size of kadabba’s brain and the relative proportions of its arms and legs were probably chimplike as well. … Exactly how this hominid walked is still something of a mystery … Details of kadabba’s lifestyle remain speculative too, …’
Also, Time cites Lucy’s17 discoverer Johanson as skeptical:
‘when you put 5.5 million-year-old fossils together with 4.4 million-year-old ones as members of the same species, you’re not taking into consideration that these could be twigs on a tree. Everything’s been forced into a straight line.’
The transition from walking on all fours to uprightness is fraught with difficulties—humans are designed for it, but an ape finds it strenuous, so any selective pressures would work against it. Evolutionists have proposed a few scenarios of where uprightness had compensations. But Meave Leakey, wife of Richard and head of paleontology at the National Museums of Kenya, while not questioning the ‘fact’ of the evolution of uprightness, is quoted as follows on proposed scenarios:
‘There are all sorts of hypotheses, and they are all fairy tales really because you can’t prove anything.’
But Time nevertheless reports that this new specimen was already walking upright, already at (what they claim is) the dawn of human evolution:
‘But unlike a chimp or any of the other modern apes that amble along on four limbs, kadabba almost certainly walked upright much of the time. The inch-long toe bone makes that clear.’
But how clear is this really? Time reports Johanson’s opinion:
‘Beyond that, he’s dubious about categorizing the 5.2 million-year-old toe bone with the rest of the fossils: not only is it separated in time by several hundred thousand years, but it was also found some 10 miles away from the rest.’
Note that this toe was the major ‘evidence’ for uprightness, yet it boggles the mind how it could be regarded as part of the same specimen!
This article is just one more example of evolutionary indoctrination by the media, but when closely examined, the evidence is found to be fragmentary and interpreted within a framework of wishful thinking.
- WoldeGabriel, G., et al., Geology and palaeontology of the Late Miocene Middle Awash valley, Afar rift, Ethiopia, Nature 412(6843):175–178, 12 July 2001. Return to text.
- Haile-Selassie, Y., Late Miocene hominids from the Middle Awash, Ethiopia, Nature 412(6843):178–181, 12 July 2001. Return to text.
- Gee, H., Return to the Planet of the Apes [commentary on Refs. 1 and 2], Nature 412(6843):131–132, 12 July 2001. Return to text.
- Pickford, M. and Semut, B., Comptes Rendus de l’Academie des Sciences 332:145–152, 28 February 2001; cited in Ref. 3. Return to text.
- Balter, M., Early Hominid Sows Division, Science Now 22 February 2001. This contains references to their denials published in Science and photographs of the fossils. Return to text.
- See also Lubenow, M., New hominin skull from Kenya, Journal of Creation 15(2):8–9, 2001. Return to text.
- White, T. et al., Australopithecus ramidus, a new species of early hominid from Aramis, Ethiopia, Nature 371(6495):306–312, 22 September 1994. Return to text.
- WoldeGabriel, G., et al., Ecological and temporal placement of early Pliocene hominids at Aramis, Ethiopia, Nature 371(6495):330–333, 22 September 1994. Return to text.
- Wood, B., The oldest hominid yet [commentary on Refs. 6 and 7], Nature 371(6495):330–333, 22 September 1994. Return to text.
- Anon., Discoveries in Africa, [editorial note about Refs. 6, 7 and 8], Nature 371(6495):330–333, 22 September 1994. Return to text.
- Oxnard, C.E., Nature 258:389–395, 1975. Return to text.
- Gee, H., Uprooting the human family tree, Nature 373(6509):15, 5 January 1995. Return to text.
- On the topic of taxonomic difficulties, Ref. 12 contains a box ‘Hominid and hominin’ explaining these terms, and how there is no agreement among anthropologists about which is the proper term for a given species. Return to text.
- Wise, K., Australopithecus ramidus and the fossil record, CEN Technical Journal 8(2):160–165, 1994. Return to text.
- Batten, D., Australopithecus ramidus — ‘the missing link’? CEN Technical Journal 8(2):129–130, 1994. Return to text.
- Anon., Ref. 9, p. 270. Return to text.
- About Lucy’s status as a missing link, see Oard, M., Did Lucy walk upright, Journal of Creation 15(2):9–10, 2001. This cites research by evolutionists showing that Lucy had wrist characteristics ‘classic for knuckle walkers’. Return to text.