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Creation 41(1):44–46, January 2019

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The myth of ape-to-human evolution

Being popular doesn’t make an idea scientifically plausible

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The public is frequently led to think that the evidence of humans evolving from an apelike common ancestor with chimps is simply overwhelming. The claim is often made in bombastic, even intimidating terms, such as in this example of ‘elephant hurling’ tactics by a prominent evolutionist:

“There are now tens of thousands of hominid fossils in museums around the world supporting our current knowledge of human evolution. The pattern that emerges from this vast body of hard evidence is consistent across thousands of investigations. All models, all myths involving singular, instantaneous creation of modern humans fail in the face of this evidence.” 1

However, when one starts to critically analyze these claims, things rapidly fall apart. For most categories of ‘hominid’ claimed, there are usually even evolutionist experts who themselves will point out something that seriously questions, if not disqualifies, the idea that the fossils concerned are ‘in-between’ apes and humans. For example:

Australopithecines (like ‘Lucy’): there are distinguished evolutionists who admit that these extinct primates were not anatomically intermediate between apes and humans.

Neandertals: probably most evolutionist paleoanthropologists now say that, although being robust in their anatomy, these are fully human.

Homo erectus and Homo heidelbergensis: some evolutionists classify them as ‘early’ and/or ‘archaic’ Homo sapiens. They had robust anatomy, as did the Neandertals, and like these there is no reason to believe that they were not fully human either.2

Homo habilis: whilst evolutionists generally regard these specimens as hominids (ape-men), when scrutinized this species appears to consist of specimens that should be grouped with the australopithecines, or other extinct apes, apart from a few that are likely Homo erectus.2 Even some prominent evolutionists, whilst still saying they were hominids, have suggested most of the specimens in Homo habilis should be re-assigned to the genus Australopithecus. Hence, Homo habilis is a false category. Terms such as ‘wastebasket’, ‘grab bag’ and ‘garbage bag’ have been used by evolutionists to describe it.

Remove all those from the hugely impressive-sounding number of fossils in the above quote, and we’re left with a mere handful. Among these are the more recently discovered Homo florensiensis (aka ‘The Hobbit’) specimens. Here, too, leading evolutionists have pointed out that their features would be consistent with humans deformed by cretinism, from congenital iodine deficiency. Moreover, this magazine has highlighted the evidence that cretinism is also a likely cause of the puzzling (to evolutionists) features of the even more recently discovered Homo naledi fossils.3

Is human evolution even possible?

In any case, however, there are substantial biological reasons why ‘ape-men’ could never even have existed. A major one of these reasons is the so-called ‘waiting time problem’. No-one disagrees that to cause all of the anatomical changes required to transform an ape-like creature (the supposed common ancestor of chimps and humans) into a human would take millions of DNA mutations. This is because there are millions of nucleotide (‘DNA letter’) differences between chimps and humans. And in the evolutionary timeline, this is supposed to have happened in six to seven million years. The problem in a nutshell is that calculations show that it would take way too long for these specific mutations to arise and become established within a so-called ‘hominin’ population.4

For example, even for one point mutation (one letter change) to become fixed (established), the waiting time is a minimum of 1.5 million years.4 The number of nucleotides that can be selected for simultaneously is believed to be small, as it interferes with the selection of other nucleotides (called selection interference). It has been estimated that at most 1,000 beneficial mutations could become fixed in six million years—and using seven million, the upper end of the range, makes no practical difference.5

But this is only a minuscule fraction of the information needed to turn an ape into a human.

Note that this is only for independent, unlinked mutations, as according to John Sanford, an expert in this area (emphasis in original): “Selection for 1,000 specific and adjacent mutations (to create a 1,000-letter string) could not happen in 6 million years because that specific sequence of adjacent mutations would never arise, not even after trillions of years.” 6

Even if the genome (DNA) difference between chimps and humans were as little as 1%, as used to be widely touted, this still represents around 30 million nucleotide differences. And hence in the evolving hominid line, around 15 million nucleotide changes would need to take place (see box) compared to the 1,000 changes at most that could have happened in that time.

The hurdle multiplied

In short, even with the false idea of just 1% difference, the transition is impossible for mutations to achieve in the time available. But the problem for evolution is compounded because the chimp-human difference is now known to be not 1%, but likely at least 5% different and probably more.7

So the hurdle for evolution is even more insurmountable. A five-fold increase in the difference now means some 75 million nucleotide changes since the imagined common ancestor!

The problem is worse still, as in addition to this, the human genome is deteriorating, on a downward spiral towards ‘mutational meltdown’. This is due to the accumulation of genetic mutations, at a rate of some 100 point mutations per person per generation, with natural selection powerless to stop it.8

Making matters even worse for evolution theory, the amount of ‘junk’ DNA believed to be in the genome has shrunk considerably of late. The proportion evolutionists think is functional has now increased from about 3% to 80% or more. This is a problem, because it makes it far more likely for any mutation to be harmful, not neutral.9

Rising concerns

All of this has raised alarm amongst some evolutionists. For example, Graur claims that for human population levels to be sustainable (to negate the effects of harmful mutations) no more than 25% of the human genome can be functional.10

But the estimate of the renowned ENCODE project is that at least 80% of our DNA is functional.10 So that means that humans should be extinct, because fertility is too low to compensate for the amount of deleterious mutations. But they are not, so therefore either

  1. the ENCODE estimate is totally wrong (highly unlikely) or
  2. the alleged ‘hominins’ (including modern-type humans) have not existed for the millions of years believed by evolutionists and the whole ape-to-human evolution story is false.

The problem of accumulating harmful mutations is even more serious than portrayed by evolutionists. Even if only 10% of the genome were functional, “extinction of all hominid lineages” would happen long before even the first waited-for beneficial mutation could be established in a ‘hominin’ population.11

So not only is evolution unable to explain the arrival of information to turn apes into humans, it cannot even explain the preservation of existing information over timespans of millions of years.

The idea of human evolution means there was no original couple, no “first Adam” who fell into sin—and hence no logical reason for the sacrificial death of “the last Adam”, Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:45). Many believers, even entire institutions of Christian higher learning, have been intimidated and/or indoctrinated into thinking they have to accept this notion. It is particularly ironic that this is happening right when the biological evidence is so strongly in favour of biblical creation.

Ape-to-human belief—clarifying terms and issues

Ape-to-human-belief

In evolutionary theory, both humans and chimpanzees are believed to have originated from the same apelike creature, or ‘last common ancestor’ (LCA), about 6 Ma (million years ago), and thereafter were on separate ‘evolving’ lineages to ultimately become today’s humans and chimps. Hominids (or hominins) is the name evolutionists usually apply to all individuals (whether apes, ‘ape-men’ or humans) on the imagined lineage from the LCA to modern humans.

So why does the argument in the main text focus on the DNA difference between chimps and humans today, when the issue is the difference between the LCA and humans today? Because they are directly related in evolutionary theory. As each lineage accumulates mutations, the DNA differences between them become greater. So the greater the difference between chimps (Cs) and humans (Hs) today, the greater the difference between humans today and the supposed LCA.

For example, if the human (H) and chimp (C) lineages changed at roughly the same rate, which most evolutionists assume, then a difference of 1% (= about 30 million nucleotide differences) between Hs and Cs today would mean that both differ by about 15 million nucleotides from the LCA. But if the H–C difference is 5% then that means a difference of about 75 million nucleotides between humans and the LCA, an even more impossible hurdle (see main text).

Even if the rates were different between the lineages of Hs and Cs it makes little practical difference, unless it is suggested that the human lineage rate was almost static (In fact, if anything, evolutionists would believe the human lineage changed the most, accumulating more differences from the LCA than the chimp lineage). But that would mean chimps derived from modern humans—who then must have lived 6 Ma, which would also falsify human evolution theory. And then you have the problem of explaining how chimps could establish double the number of nucleotide differences in 6 million years (if previously it was 75 million, it’s now 150 million)!

References and notes

  1. White, T.D., Human evolution: The evidence; in: Brockman, J. (Ed.), Intelligent Thought: Science Versus The Intelligent Design Movement, Vintage Books, New York, pp. 79–80, 2006. Return to text.
  2. See: Line, P., Explaining robust humans, J. Creation 27(3):64–71, 2013; creation.com/explaining-robust-humans. In an upcoming book I have detailed chapters on Homo erectus, Homo heidelbergensis, and Homo habilis. Return to text.
  3. Line, P., Making sense of ‘Homo naledi’, Creation 40(4):36–38, 2018. Return to text.
  4. Sanford, J. et al., The waiting time problem in a model hominin population, Theoretical Biology and Medical Modelling, 12:18, 2015 | doi:10.1186/s12976-015-0016-z. Return to text.
  5. Sanford, J.C., Genetic Entropy, 4th ed., FMS Publications, pp. 137–138, 2014. Return to text.
  6. Sanford, ref. 5, p. 137–138. Return to text.
  7. Buggs, R., How similar are human and chimpanzee genomes? 14 July 2018. richardbuggs.com/index.php/2018/07/14/how-similar-are-human-and-chimpanzee-genomes/#more-265. Return to text.
  8. Sanford, ref. 5, pp. 44–49, 85, 127, 131. Return to text.
  9. Sanford, ref. 5, pp. 21–22, 184. Return to text.
  10. Graur, D., An upper limit on the functional fraction of the human genome, Genome Biol. Evol. 9(7):1880–1885 | doi:10.1093/gbe/evx121, 2017. Return to text.
  11. Rupe, C. and Sanford, J., Contested Bones, FMS Publications, pp. 292–295, 2017. Return to text.

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