Are there apemen in your ancestry?
Apemen have long been the stuff of science fiction. For example, in 1912, Arthur Conan Doyle1 wrote The Lost World, a novel in which four male explorers search for dinosaurs in the Amazon valley and find a whole tribe of apemen/missing links. In 2001–2002, the BBC’s adaptation of this, with computer-generated dinosaurs and a star cast, was shown on TV screens around the world.
In an apparent attempt to vilify Biblical belief, the BBC added a mad priest (played by Peter Falk) to the explorers’ team; also his nubile niece (for romantic interest). Falk’s character tries to kill the explorers to stop them taking news of the apemen back to the world, lest this discovery destroy faith in the Genesis account of Creation!
So what is the truth about so-called ‘apemen’?2
Scientifically, the concept of apemen implies the following.
That evolution is true and that it produced a line of semi-human creatures from some original non-human ancestor.
That the process which ultimately produced man was death of the less fit along the way.
That the millions of years necessary for this process did occur.
That the fossils claimed to be relics of such creatures constitute a reliable record, i.e. have been interpreted correctly in anatomy, age, and presumed evolutionary relationships.
What is the evidence?
There are many differences between humans and apes that can be seen in fossil remains. These include the fact that humans walk erect and so have appropriate/distinctive knee and hip joints, backbone, toes, etc. Humans also have an opposable thumb, make and use sophisticated tools as well as fire, and engage in diverse creativity. They have a larger brain capacity than apes, smaller teeth set in parabolic or V-shaped, rather than U-shaped, jaws, and they sometimes write, paint or make and play musical instruments.
Communication by language is another crucial difference, as is the ability to do mathematics. Other differences include the exercise of reason and free-will, rather than just instinct. However, evidence of these capabilities is not usually observable from fossil fragments.
The spiritual dimension
Christians would add to this list that man was made in the image of God. God is spirit (John 4:24), therefore this ‘image’ cannot have anything to do with man’s physical form. Rather, humans have a spiritual dimension.3 This means that they can communicate with God and receive answers to prayer. ‘God is light’ (1 John 1:5), so humans have moral consciousness—i.e. an understanding of right and wrong, and so the capacity for either holiness or sin. ‘God is love’ (1 John 4:8), so humans can know the love of God in experiencing forgiveness for sin, which brings peace of mind, and a love for God and fellowship with Him on our part.
Humans can also be filled with His Holy Spirit through a right relationship with God. The fruits of this are love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Galatians 5:22–23).
No animal worships God, or gives evidence of having moral consciousness, or concern for spiritual behaviour. Spiritual qualities are not things that can be seen in the fossil record. However, the spiritual dimension of man includes belief in life after death, and this is often shown by evidence of religious burial ceremonies.
A fertile field for hoaxers
Evolutionists looking for evidence of apemen search for fossils that show anatomical features that look ‘intermediate’ between those of apes and humans, or that show some but not all of the above bodily characteristics. This has provided a fertile field for hoaxers.
The most notable hoax was Piltdown Man, ‘discovered’ in England from 1908 to 1912. This comprised a human skullcap plus the lower jaw of an orangutan, the teeth of which had been stained and filed to make them look human and match the size of the teeth in the upper human jaw. Although the hoax was poorly done, it fooled the establishment and was probably the most quoted ‘evidence for evolution’ for around 40 years, until 1953, when the fraud was exposed.
Another huge hoax field has been the way in which scores of deformed humans were exhibited as ‘apemen’ or ‘apewomen’ in circus sideshows from the early 1800s for over a century, with no known scientific refutation of the frauds so perpetrated.4
The desperate need of evolutionists to find a missing link has also contributed to some inexcusably gross scientific boo-boos. The most notable of these was Nebraska Man. A pig’s tooth, found by Harold Cook in 1922, was proclaimed by the eminent evolutionist Dr Henry Fairfield Osborne5 to belong to the first anthropoid (man-like) ape of America, which he named Hesperopithecus (‘western ape’). The Illustrated London News for June 24, 1922, printed an artist’s impression of the tooth’s owner as an upright-standing apeman, showing the shape of his body, head, nose, ears, hair, etc., together with his wife, domestic animals, and tools.
This highlights the fact that fossils of so-called ‘hominids’ are often only fragments of bones which, when combined with a huge dose of imagination, are transformed into apemen. Another factor is that ‘hominid’ fossils are sufficiently rare that many researchers have never actually handled one, so that many scientific papers on human evolution are based on only casts or published photos, measurements and descriptions.
So where does all this leave the matter of the evidence for apemen?
Australopithecus (‘southern ape’) is the name given to a number of fossils found in Africa. These are claimed by evolutionists to be the closest to the alleged common ancestor of apes and humans. However, Dr Fred Spoor has done CAT scans of the inner ear region of some of these skulls. These show that their semi-circular canals, which determine balance and ability to walk upright, ‘resemble those of the extant great apes’.6
The most well known australopithecine is ‘Lucy’, a 22.8% complete skeleton [see box below] found by Donald Johanson in Ethiopia in 1974 and called Australopithecus afarensis.7 Casts of Lucy’s bones have been imaginatively restored in museums worldwide to look like an apewoman, e.g. with ape-like face and head, but human-like body, hands and feet. However, the original Lucy fossil did not include the upper jaw, nor most of the skull, nor hand and foot bones! Several other specimens of A. afarensis do have the long curved fingers and toes of tree-dwellers, as well as the restricted wrist anatomy of knuckle-walking chimpanzees and gorillas.8,9,10 Dr Marvin Lubenow quotes the evolutionists Matt Cartmill (Duke University), David Pilbeam (Harvard University) and the late Glynn Isaac (Harvard University): ‘The australopithecines are rapidly sinking back to the status of peculiarly specialized apes … .’11
Next up is Homo habilis or ‘handy man’, so named because he supposedly was handy with tools. The most well known is called KNM-ER 1470,12 comprising a fossil skull and leg bones found by Richard Leakey in Kenya in 1972. Spoor’s CAT scans of the inner ear of a Homo habilis skull known as Stw 53 show that it walked more like a baboon than a human.6 Today most researchers, including Spoor, regard Homo habilis as ‘a waste-bin of various species’, including bits and pieces from Australopithecus and Homo erectus, and not as a valid category. In other words, it never existed as such, and so cannot be the supposed link between australopithecine apes and true man.
Next up is Homo erectus or ‘upright man’. Excavations of many of these fossils show evidence of the use of tools, the controlled use of fire, that they buried their dead, and that some used red ochre for decoration. Their brain size, though smaller on average than modern humans, was within the human range. Recent research on Flores has shown evidence of seafaring skills.13 Spoor’s CAT scans of their inner ear architecture show that their posture was just like ours.6 Even some evolutionists concede that they should be put in the same species as modern man, i.e. Homo sapiens.14 Creationists can thus legitimately regard them as distinct variants of true humans.
This is a group that once lived in Europe and the Mediterranean lands.15 The researchers who first reconstructed these fossils gave them a bent-over (i.e. ape-like) appearance. However, the early reconstructions suffered from a heavy dose of evolutionary bias, along with the fact that some specimens suffered from bony diseases such as rickets, which is caused by vitamin D deficiency from childhood and can result in bowing of the skeleton. One cause of this is a lack of exposure to sunlight, consistent with their having lived in the post-Flood Ice Age.
Modern reconstructions of Neandertals are consistent with the creationist contention that they are fully human. Their minor skeletal variations from the modern average, including a larger braincase volume on average, are no different in principle from the minor physical differences between people groups today, which have been shown to be consistent with the genetic unity of humanity.
Despite attempts made on the basis of mitochondrial DNA fragments in one set of Neandertal bones to try to assign them to a separate species, even some evolutionist authorities claim that they should be regarded as Homo sapiens.16 [Ed: A forthcoming article will deal with Neandertals in much more detail.]
So how did these and other extinct human fossils originate?
Answer: Creationists say that the early human fossils are of various groups of people who lived post-Flood. The reason the oldest ape fossils are found below the oldest human fossils in many locations is that, after the Flood, animal migration happened more quickly than human migration, which was stalled until Babel.
How fossil bones are interpreted depends on the worldview of the researcher. The theory of human evolution requires one or more missing links, so in the post-Darwin era many candidates have been put forward. Not one has stood the test of honest, rigorous investigation, as all have turned out to be from either an extinct ape or an extinct human. The fossil evidence does not compel belief in the existence of apemen, nor that man is the product of evolution. Man was directly created by God and in the likeness of God, not in the likeness of an ape.
Christians who flirt with the evolutionary idea that apemen once roamed Earth and that God chose one of these to be ‘Adam’ are flying in the face of both true science and the Word of God.
Updated: 11 January 2012
How many bones does Lucy have?
‘Lucy’ is the name given to a collection of bones found by paleoanthropologist Donald C. Johanson and associates at Hadar in north-central Ethiopia in 1974. The name arose because of repeated playings of the Beatles’ song Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds at the camp on the day the bones were found.
“About forty percent”
In his 1981 book Lucy The Beginnings of Humankind, Johanson described the collecting of the bones, and he then stated:
“When it was done, we had recovered several hundred pieces of bone (many of them fragments) representing about forty percent of the skeleton of a single individual.”1
This claimed figure of “about forty percent” has been repeated by most other writers commenting on Lucy in books, scientific journals and popular magazines worldwide. For example, National Geographic’s Senior Assistant Editor Kenneth Weaver, in a 1985 article wrote: “Although much of the skull was missing, roughly 40 percent of the skeleton was discovered.”2
Most writers, of course, have no way of checking such figures. As creation scientist Prof. Martin Lubenow explains: “Because of their incalculable value and fragile nature, the original human fossils are so protected that the total number of people who have access to them is actually fewer than the total number of heads of state in the world today.”3
In 1984, Richard Leakey and team (which included paleoanthropologist Alan Walker) discovered the bones known as Nariokotome Boy or Turkana Boy (KNM-WT 15000).4 Turkana Boy superseded Lucy as the most complete early human skeleton ever found.5 It actually contained about 42 percent more bones than Lucy did.
How many bones in the human body?
An adult human has 206 bones. Of these, each hand contains 27 bones, and each foot 26, so the two hands and two feet of any complete skeleton contain 106 bones, or slightly more than half of the body total of 206. This of course means that any skeleton found with both hands and both feet missing is deficient by just over 50 per cent of its total number of bones.
In his 1996 book The Wisdom of Bones, about the discovery of Turkana Boy, Alan Walker describes how Turkana Boy consisted of “67 bones, or 33 percent of the whole skeleton”6 and he went on to say:
“This figure struck me as odd, because it is often repeated that the Australopithecus afarensis skeleton known as Lucy is about 40 percent complete—and yet we had more of the boy’s bones than of Lucy’s. Calculating her completeness in the same way as I had for the boy, and allowing even a fragment of a bone to be counted as complete, Lucy is only 20 percent of a whole skeleton … . Puzzled, I asked Don Johanson how he had arrived at his figure for Lucy. His answer: when Lucy’s completeness was calculated, he discounted the 106 bones of the hands and feet, perhaps because they are so rarely found … .” (Emphasis added.)
The actual figure for Lucy
The endorsements on the dust jacket of Walker’s The Wisdom of Bones include one by Donald Johanson. Presumably Johanson thus became aware that his dialogue with Alan Walker about the number of Lucy’s bones was about to be made public in the latter’s book. Be that as it may, that same year, 1996, in a new book, From Lucy to Language, Johanson wrote:
“Lucy’s skeleton consists of some 47 out of 207 [sic] bones, including parts of upper and lower limbs, the backbone, ribs and the pelvis. With the exception of the mandible [lower jaw] the skull is represented only by five vault fragments, and most of the hand and foot bones are missing.”7
So the correct percentage figure for the number of Lucy’s bones found is actually 47 ÷ 206 x 100 = 22.8 percent, not “about 40 per cent”.
Few writers seem to have noticed this revised figure. On October 28, 2010 National Geographic News reproduced an article from their own News of September 20, 2006 titled “What was ‘Lucy’? Fast facts on an Early Ancestor”, which stated: “’Lucy’ was the first Australopithecus afarensis skeleton ever found, though her remains are only about 40 percent complete.”
There is room for argument as to whether paleoanthropologists should compare human fossils in terms of the total mass of the bones of any skeleton discovered, or in terms of the total number of such bones found. Donald Johanson and the National Geographic writers obviously prefer the former option; Alan Walker, the latter.
Since the above events, other australopithecine bones of afarensis type have been found, and ‘Lucy’ has now become a general term rather than just the name of a specific individual. For further information see creation.com/lucy-walked-upright.8
We are indebted to Paul Feifert of Vincetown, N.J., USA for drawing our attention to the above matter.
- Co-authored with Maitland Edey, namely Johanson, J., and Edey, M., Lucy The Beginnings of Human Kind, Granada, London, 1981, p. 18. Return to text.
- Weaver, K., Stones, Bones, and Early Man: The Search for our Ancestors, National Geographic 168(5):560-593, November 1985. Quote is on p. 585. Return to text.
- Lubenow, M., Bones of Contention: A Creationist Assessment of Human Fossils, Baker Books, Michigan, 2004, p. 24. Return to text.
- So named because it was discovered at Nariokotome near Lake Turkana in Kenya. It has been designated KNM-WT 15000, i.e. Kenya National Museum; West Turkana; item 15000. Return to text.
- See creation.com/turkana-boy-getting-past-the-propaganda. Return to text.
- Co-authored with Pat Shipman, namely Walker, A., and Shipman, P. The Wisdom of Bones, Weidenfeld and Nicolson, London, 1996, p. 147. Return to text.
- Co-authored with Blake Edgar, namely Johansen, D. and Edgar, B., From Lucy to Language, Weidenfeld & Nicolson, London, 1996, p. 124. Return to text.
- Wieland, C. ‘Lucy walked upright!’ (or did she?): One tiny bone ignites evolution fervour. Return to text.
References and notes
- Best known as the author of the Sherlock Holmes detective stories. Return to text.
- Not to be confused with ‘humans’, commonly called ‘pre-Adamites’, that some Christians erroneously think existed before Adam. See Grigg, R., Pre-Adamites: Were there human beings on Earth before Adam?, Creation 24(4):42–45, 2002. Return to text.
- Dr Marvin Lubenow, Prof. Emeritus of Christian Heritage College, San Diego, says: ‘Only this spiritual dimension explains both our glory and our agony.’ See Lubenow, M., Bones of Contention, Baker Books, Michigan, p. 168, 1992. Bones of Contention is the definitive creationist book on human origins. Return to text.
- One of the best known was Julia Pastrana (1834–1860), who suffered from several genetic diseases, which caused her to have profuse bodily hair and an ape-like protruding jaw. See Bergman, J., Darwin’s apemen and the exploitation of deformed humans, Journal of Creation 16(3):116–122, 2002. Return to text.
- Then head of the department of paleontology at the American Museum of Natural History. Return to text.
- Spoor, F., et al., Implications of early hominid labyrinthine morphology for evolution of human bipedal locomotion, Nature 369(6482):645–648, 23 June 1994. Spoor is Professor of Evolutionary Anatomy at University College London, UK, and joint editor of the Journal of Human Evolution. Return to text.
- Meaning ‘southern ape from the Afar triangle (of Ethiopia)’. Lucy’s genus is now sometimes reclassified as Praeanthropus. Return to text.
- Menton, D., Making man out of monkeys, 23 August 2002. Return to text.
- Oard, M., Did Lucy walk upright?, Journal of Creation 15(2):9–10, 2001. Return to text.
- See Lucy was a knuckle-walker, Creation 22(3):7, 2000. Return to text.
- Ref. 3, p. 167, which quotes Cartmill, M., Pilbeam, D. and Isaac, G., One hundred years of paleoanthropology, American Scientist 74:419, July–August 1986. Return to text.
- Meaning ‘fossil no. 1470 at Kenya National Museum, East Rudolph’. Return to text.
- See Early man underestimated (again), Creation 21(1):9, 1998, based on Thwaites, T., Ancient mariners: Early humans much smarter than we expected, New Scientist 157(2125):6, 14 March 1998. Also, Morwood et al., Fission-track ages of stone tools and fossils on the east Indonesian island of Flores, Nature 392(6672):173–176, 12 March 1998. See also this section that summarizes this research on Homo erectus seafaring skills. Return to text.
- Wolpoff et al., showed that the features of various human skulls indicated that there must have been interbreeding among modern-looking Homo sapiens and Neanderthals and even Homo erectus (Modern human ancestry at the peripheries: A test of the replacement theory, Science 291(5502):293–297; comment by E. Pennisi, p. 231, Skull study targets Africa-only origins). Return to text.
- Named after the Neander Valley in Germany, where the first fossils were found in 1856. Return to text.
- See White, M., The caring Neandertal, Creation 18(4):16–17, 1996; also Lubenow, M., Recovery of Neandertal mtDNA: An evaluation, Journal of Creation 12(1):87–97, 1998. Return to text.