Bipedal apes, australopithecines and human evolution

by

Published: 17 April 2020 (GMT+10)

A Focus item by me titled ‘‘Bipedal’ ape sinks human evolution theory’ (Creation, Vol. 42(2):11, 2020) raised objections from an evolutionist (see letter by Daniel P. below). As Focus items are of necessity very brief, I follow up the letter by first explaining my position in more detail before responding to Daniel on the main issues raised in his letter.

Daniel P. from Australia writes:

wikipedia.orgAustralopithecus-sediba
Australopithecus sediba

Re ‘Bipedal’ ape sinks human evolution theory. Contrary to the claims of this article, it would actually be no surprise to evolutionary scientists that a pre-hominid ape species could evolve bipedalism and yet not be hominids themselves, as bipedalism is not the only feature that distinguishes a hominid, despite what the article suggests. Also, it’s long been observed that some apes these days can walk on two legs when it suits them, without meaning they are hominids. Claims like “this finding devastates their argument” and “this finding is a real blow” to the idea of bipedalism equals hominids—such claims are pure exaggeration, no “evolutionist” is worried about such finds because it’s long been admitted that bipedalism can evolve independently in apes, without that meaning they are hominids or human ancestors.

Richard Dawkins and Yan Wong explored this very issue in their book “The Ancestors Tale”, in the Chapter on Ape-Men, which discusses in depth bipedalism in hominids and apes—both living and extinct, and how bipedalism may have evolved more than once, and that chimps and gorillas may have evolved from bipedal ancestors before they reverted back to quadrupedal walking again. Such complexities are well explored in evolutionary circles, they hardly sink the evolutionary theory of human origins, they just show that evolution is not linear, not working towards a pre-determined outcome.*

The actual exploration of these issues—bipedalism in hominids and apes—in evolutionary science, is far more in-depth and more complex than the simplistic caricatures and strawmen arguments that creationists like to indulge in. I realise that such articles in Creation magazine are preaching to the converted and directed at scientifically illiterate people who really like to believe that such finds are a blow to evolution—but it’s not.

I was co-incidentally reading this book by Dawkins and Wong which addresses this very issue just as I came across the article in Creation. The book also mentions John Gribbin and Jeremy Cherfas, who even suggest that chimpanzees and gorillas might have descended from Austropithecus [I presume the author means Australopithecus—PL], ie that modern apes may have evolved from hominids. lt’s a radical idea, and seemingly counter intuitive, until you understand that evolution is not meant to be linear and doesn’t flow towards any human outcome as some top of the Great Chain of Being. That’s not how evolution works. So finding bipedalism in an ape fossil dated some 11 million years ago, doesn’t undermine human evolution in any way, and it’s not that surprising really, it just adds another piece to a very big and complex puzzle. No “evolutionist” is worried about this, creationists just want to believe that they are, yet not realizing these issues have already been explored years ago.

*It must be remembered that evolution is not meant to be ascendant or moving towards any predetermined form, bipedalism could evolve in many different kinds of animals at different times, without that implying they are hominids or on the way to become human. Bipedalism could evolve for many reasons, but mostly because it would serve some advantage for a species.

Before specifically addressing these points, it is helpful to explain aspects of my position in more detail (skip straight to my response):

Australopithecines are unique

Australopithecus-afarensi
A cast of the adult male Australopithecus afarensis skull AL 444-2 from Hadar, Ethiopia (cranial capacity ~550 cc).

As discussed by me in a forthcoming book it is obvious from looking at the australopithecine head that they were not human.1 Their brains were ape-size. They seem to have been built for a lifestyle suited for living in the trees. As an aside, and as detailed elsewhere, Homo habilis is likely a phantom species, i.e., a ‘composite taxon’ made up of mainly australopithecines, but also likely a few Homo erectus remains, that have been bundled together and marketed as a species of ‘apeman’.2 It is beyond the scope here to assess the correctness of bipedalism claims for the australopithecines, made by evolutionists, but if their description of the morphology of these creatures is accurate then there likely is some truth to the claims. However, so what? Even if some australopithecines, such as Australopithecus sediba, Australopithecus afarensis and Australopithecus africanus/prometheus did walk upright (i.e., were bipedal) in some (probably strange) manner, whether habitually or not, whether in the trees or on the ground, or whether the ‘bipedal’ feature was just associated with upright posture in the trees, that in no way indicates they were on their way to becoming human. For example, on the Australopithecus sediba pelvis creationist David DeWitt suggests:

“While the pelvis has some features that are consistent with bipedal locomotion, it is important to point out that a tree-dwelling creature would require a more upright posture than a creature that knuckle walks. For example, orangutans, which are arboreal, do not knuckle walk and have certain features of the lower limbs that are more similar to humans than to chimpanzees. Thus, we should not be surprised by some traits consistent with upright posture in an otherwise arboreal creature.”3

According to evolutionist authority Charles Oxnard, certain features (e.g., humeri, ankle bones and metacarpals) of the australopithecines “clearly differ more from both humans and African apes, than do these two living groups from each other. The australopithecines are unique.”4 He further states on the same page that “though bipedal, it is likely that their bipedality was mechanically different from that of humans. Though terrestrial, it is further likely that these fossils were accomplished arborealists [i.e., suited to living in the trees].”

Hence, the australopithecines (members assigned to the genus Australopithecus) were unique primates that would have been at home in the trees, as well as on the ground. If they were capable of an upright posture, it was likely a design feature also useful for life in the trees, e.g,, for reaching overhanging fruit with their hands whilst walking on a limb, as well as for tree climbing, and so any ‘bipedal’ locomotion was not necessarily similar to that of humans. The australopithecines appeared to have exhibited considerable variation, as do the great apes, and so the locomotor pattern likely varied between different species in the genus Australopithecus.

Likely, the australopithecines were an extinct apish primate group, and whilst ape-like, may not necessarily best be classified as apes, in the sense that monkeys are not classified as apes either. Perhaps they were a different primate group altogether.

The Bible does not address the issue of locomotion in primates, and so, from a creation viewpoint, if bipedal ape-like primates existed, it does not contradict Scripture. If God created humans bipedal, why would He not use variation on a similar design pattern for some other primates? Given how many non-human primates there are, if considering both extant and extinct species, it would in some ways seem a bit unusual if He had not. Australopithecines may be one such primate group, but there may be others, as discussed below.

Bipedal apes

A type of bipedal ability is thought to have existed in the extinct primate Oreopithecus bambolii, described as a “large bodied hominoid,” its remains found in Tuscany and Sardinia, Italy, allegedly from 7–9 Ma.5 On Oreopithecus bambolii Köhler and Moyà-Solà stated that the “mosaic pattern of its postcranial morphology is to some degree convergent with that of Australopithecus and functionally intermediate between apes and early hominids.”5 According to them a study of the morphological features of Oreopithecus “suggests that bipedal activities made up a significant part of the positional behavior of Oreopithecus.”6 They further stated that:

“The morphology of Oreopithecus is not ape-like, because it is functionally designed for habitual and not facultative terrestrial bipedal activities, but neither is it hominid-like, as the special environmental conditions of islands engraved their peculiar traits. Nevertheless, the striking convergences with and differences from hominids clearly make Oreopithecus a key species for understanding human bipedality.”7

According to Henry Gee:

“In other words, bipedality, as an habitual form of locomotion, might have occurred in lineages of apes that are now extinct. This idea has found support, albeit controversially, in the claim that Oreopithecus bambolii, an ape that lived 7–9 million years ago on an isolated island that is now Tuscany, was bipedal to some extent—and yet this creature is thought to have become bipedal independently and was only distantly related to hominids.”8

It is difficult enough to imagine primates evolving a form of bipedal locomotion once, let alone that it happened independently two or more times. Once again, independent or parallel evolution is invoked to explain evolutionary difficulties. The interpretation that Oreopithecus bambolii was bipedal has been challenged by Russo and Shapiro, who argue, from their study of its lumbosacral region, that the “Oreopithecus lumbosacral region does not exhibit adaptations for habitual bipedal locomotion.”9 The authors reported:

“The results of this study of the Oreopithecus lumbosacral region do not lend support to the hypothesis that Oreopithecus practiced ‘“habitual and not facultative terrestrial bipedal activities.’” (Köhler and Moyà-Solà, 1997: 11750). It is certainly possible that Oreopithecus relied on bipedal locomotor activities to some extent as nonhuman apes are known to employ short bouts of arboreal or terrestrial bipedal locomotor progression.”10
Australopithecus-boisei
Casts of the adult OH 5 Australopithecus boisei cranium (~520 cc) from Olduvai Gorge, Tanzania (left) and adult KNM-ER 732 Australopithecus boisei cranium (~500 cc) from Koobi Fora, Kenya (right), presumed male and female respectively.

Such contrary interpretations by two different groups of researchers reminds one of the comment by evolutionist James Shreeve, that “Everybody knows fossils are fickle; bones will sing any song you want to hear.”11 Late in 2019, after examination of the skeletal remains of Oreopithecus bambolii, Hammond et al. also expressed doubt regarding the bipedalism claims, stating that, “Although certainly more capable of bipedal positional behaviors than extant great apes, O. bambolii lacked features of the lower torso related to biomechanically efficient habitual and/or obligate bipedalism in hominins.”12

However, in 2019 other potential ‘bipedal’ apes were announced. Ward et al. reported on a recently recovered partial hipbone attributed to a “fossil ape Rudapithecus hungaricus from Rudabánya, Hungary,” allegedly dated to 10 Ma, with morphological features said to be “related to orthograde [standing or walking erect] positional behaviors.”13 Lead author of the study, Carol Ward, is quoted as follows:

Rudapithecus was pretty ape-like and probably moved among branches like apes do now —holding its body upright and climbing with its arms,” said Ward, a Curators Distinguished Professor of Pathology and Anatomical Sciences in the MU School of Medicine and lead author on the study. “However, it would have differed from modern great apes by having a more flexible lower back, which would mean when Rudapithecus came down to the ground, it might have had the ability to stand upright more like humans do.”14

Even more recently, Böhme et al. described the ‘bipedal’ baboon-sized fossil ape Danuvius guggenmosi from Bavaria, Germany.15 Danuvius is said to be a great ape:

“With a broad thorax, long lumbar spine and extended hips and knees, as in bipeds, and elongated and fully extended forelimbs, as in all apes (hominoids), Danuvius combines the adaptations of bipeds and suspensory apes, and provides a model for the common ancestor of great apes and humans.”16

Danuvius guggenmosi is supposedly 11.62 million years old in the evolutionary timescale, which would mean that bipedalism existed millions of years earlier than the first supposed apemen (aka hominins or hominids—if using the old definition of the latter). John Relethford, in discussing general characteristics “shared by all of the early hominins” in the chapter of his text on biological anthropology, stated that “All are classified as hominin because they show evidence, direct or indirect, of being bipedal (although, as noted below, some of this evidence for the earliest possible hominins is being debated).”17 Bipedalism is a defining feature that evolutionists use to assign fossils to the ‘hominin’ lineage,18 and so the finding that Danuvius guggenmosi was bipedal devastates their argument that the australopithecines were apemen because they may have been bipedal in some way. In an accompanying article, Tracy Kivell described the mosaic features of the Danuvius guggenmos ape as having

“forelimbs suited to life in the trees that all living apes, including humans, still have; lower limbs suited to extended postures like those used by orangutans during bipedalism in the trees; and further specialization of such features of the lower limbs in humans to enable habitual terrestrial bipedalism.”19

As indicated, the above finding is a real blow to the idea that bipedalism equals apeman. I.e., if apes/primates in Europe were built for some form of bipedalism, yet are not regarded as apemen, then why would bipedal features in the australopithecines from Africa mean they were apemen? Hence, the argument of evolutionists for the australopithecines being apemen, because they were bipedal in some way, collapses. However, the argument that the australopithecines were apemen because they were bipedal is invalid reasoning per se, regardless of whether there were ‘bipedal’ apes/primates in Europe or not. This is because, as discussed above, the creationist position is also fully compatible with bipedalism in non-human primates, if that indeed was the case.

On the locomotion of Danuvius guggenmosi, Kivell wrote that the authors interpreted the shape of the “fossils as indicating a type of previously unknown movement that they term extended limb clambering, which combines adaptations of both suspension in the trees and bipedal locomotion.”19 Thus, the ability to walk bipedally (though not necessarily in the same way as humans) appears to have been a useful designed method of movement for some extinct tree-dwelling apes/primates not considered ‘hominins’ (apemen) by evolutionists. And also for extinct apish primates, like the australopithecines, that similarly appear to have been suited for an arboreal lifestyle.

Conclusion

On appearance alone, it is obvious that the heads of the australopithecines were not human-like. Their brains were ape size. There is little doubt that the australopithecines were nothing more than extinct apish primates that were at home in the trees. Even if some australopithecines were capable of walking upright in some manner, or adopting an upright posture, whether on the ground or in the trees, that no more indicates they were on their way to becoming human than were the extinct tree dwelling ‘bipedal’ apes/primates in Europe, such as Danuvius guggenmosi, which are not regarded as apemen even by evolutionists.


Responding to the main issues raised in the letter by Daniel P.:

Daniel P. writes:

Contrary to the claims of this article, it would actually be no surprise to evolutionary scientists that a pre-hominid ape species could evolve bipedalism and yet not be hominids themselves, as bipedalism is not the only feature that distinguishes a hominid, despite what the article suggests.

Peter Line responds:

Dear Daniel,

Thank you for taking the time to respond to my brief article. Whether it is or isn’t a surprise to evolutionists that so-called “pre-hominid ape species” could evolve bipedalism is irrelevant to whether it is possible or not.

You say that “bipedalism is not the only feature that distinguishes a hominid”. Firstly, ‘species’ or taxons that evolutionists claim are hominids (i.e., apemen), like Homo erectus, I would claim are fully human, or like Homo habilis, are a ‘composite taxon’ made up of mainly australopithecines (but also likely a few Homo erectus remains). Also, Neanderthals (fully human) are technically hominids in the evolutionary scheme. Introducing the broad term ‘hominid’ confuses the issue. I will deal with the australopithecines here (the supposed hominids assigned to the genus Australopithecus), as that is the subject of relevance. As discussed above, bipedalism is the defining feature that evolutionists use to assign fossils to the ‘hominid’ (or ‘hominin’) lineage. The thing is ‘bipedalism’ was about the only thing that the australopithecines had going for them as ‘hominid’ candidates. If this was not unique to them (as well as to other even earlier ‘hominin’ candidates in Africa), then I would argue they were simply an extinct primate group, no more ‘apemen’ then were other primates (‘bipedal’ or not), such as chimps, monkeys or extinct European ‘Miocene’ apes.

Also, it’s long been observed that some apes these days can walk on two legs when it suits them, without meaning they are hominids.

This is true, but their anatomy makes such walking awkward for them. It is not something done habitually. For extant apes to walk habitually upright would require major design changes. The sort of complex functional changes that I would argue are impossible—if you believe in probability.

Claims like “this finding devastates their argument” and “this finding is a real blow” to the idea of bipedalism equals hominids—such claims are pure exaggeration, no “evolutionist” is worried about such finds because it’s long been admitted that bipedalism can evolve independently in apes, without that meaning they are hominids or human ancestors.

To me it does appear to devastate the particular evolutionist argument at issue, as even if some australopithecines were capable of walking upright in some manner, or adopting an upright posture, whether on the ground or in the trees, that no more indicates they were on their way to becoming human than were the extinct tree-dwelling ‘bipedal’ apes/primates in Europe, such as Danuvius guggenmosi. Massive numbers of documentaries, books, etc., tout the idea that certain creatures must have been in the first stages of an ape becoming human because their fossils indicate they walked upright. But this is blatantly wrong if apes living supposedly millions of years earlier already walked upright—yet remained apes. As such, bipedalism was nothing novel, and the australopithecines were likely an extinct primate group, and like the ‘bipedal’ European apes they remained apish primates.

However, this still doesn’t address the real question, that is, can a non-bipedal ape turn into a bipedal ape by the supposed process of evolution. Saying that bipedalism can evolve independently in apes is very easy, but ultimately meaningless, i.e., just another just-so story to comfort the faithful evolutionist, if it is an impossible transformation.

Richard Dawkins and Yan Wong explored this very issue in their book “The Ancestors Tale”, in the Chapter on Ape-Men, which discusses in depth bipedalism in hominids and apes – both living and extinct, and how bipedalism may have evolved more than once, and that chimps and gorillas may have evolved from bipedal ancestors before they reverted back to quadrupedal walking again. Such complexities are well explored in evolutionary circles, they hardly sink the evolutionary theory of human origins, they just show that evolution is not linear, not working towards a pre-determined outcome.

I read the above chapter in “The Ancestor’s Tale”. It discusses some of the just-so stories invented to explain what drove the evolution of bipedalism, from rising “on our hind legs as a means of showing off our penises” (p. 95), or freeing of the hands, or “perhaps standing upright to look over the long grass” (p. 96). Not exactly ‘settled’ science, if it deserves to be called science at all. Yes, Dawkins and Wong briefly discuss the possibility of “earlier occasions when African apes experimented with bipedality” (p. 101), regarding Orrorin and Toumai, as well as Ardipithecus. I am aware of these fossils. The jury is still out on whether any of them were ‘bipedal’ or not. Likely, Toumai and Ardipithecus were not. Perhaps Orrorin’s locomotion was similar to that of the australopithecines, or it even was an australopithecine, but not enough fossil scraps are known from this ‘taxon’ to know for sure. Many evolutionists believe these were the first ‘hominids’ to exhibit some form of bipedality. However, just because Dawkins briefly speculates that “bipedalism may have evolved more than once”, doesn’t make it true. Perhaps to some his words are a kind of ‘evolutionary canon’. However, to most people, whose ‘religion’ is not evolution, the words of Dawkins are taken with a grain of salt, as is the notion that chimps and gorillas evolved from a bipedal ancestor. The latter is another just-so story in the evolutionary smorgasbord of fanciful tales. I am glad you mentioned the word “complexities”, because from what I have read, evolutionists tend to ignore the functional complexities that would be involved in turning a non-bipedal ape into a bipedal ape. However, I will deal with this next.

The actual exploration of these issues—bipedalism in hominids and apes—in evolutionary science, is far more in-depth and more complex than the simplistic caricatures and strawmen arguments that creationists like to indulge in.

Rather than accusing creationists of using “simplistic caricatures and strawmen arguments”, evolutionists should explain how these complex processes are possible in an evolutionary scenario. Creationists are simply pointing out the impossible probabilities of the proposed evolutionary scenarios, which tend not to be addressed by evolutionists. That bipedalism in apes evolved from non-bipedal apes is not a scientific statement, as it has not been shown that it could happen once, let alone multiple times. Hence, it is a statement of faith in evolution (sounds like a religion to me).

The complexities of turning a knuckle walker (or non-biped) into something that walks bipedally (not necessarily like humans) appears to be totally ignored by evolutionists when they peddle their just-so stories. Hence, let me give some examples of what needs to be considered, and not ignored.

Firstly, you would need changes to bones, such as the hip bones, so that muscles that, e.g., are involved in balancing the body, such as the gluteal muscles, can be positioned in such a way as to do this. Likely, many muscles would need to be adjusted to the mechanics of habitual bipedalism. This would also have to be coordinated with the brain circuitry, like the motor areas of the cerebral cortex, as well as the cerebellum (one of its main functions concerns the regulation of movements underlying posture and balance) and basal ganglia (involved in regulation of stereotyped automatic muscle movements and muscle tone), as well as the vestibular apparatus (provides the brain with information about motion, head position spatial orientation, as well as involvement with motor functions related to balance and posture). And what about the sensory signals, like the muscle spindles that give feedback on the change of length (and rate of change of length) of the muscle, as well as the Golgi tendon organs that give feedback on the change in tension (and rate of change of tension) of the muscle? And if there is a change to the functionality of the muscles, does the innervation ratio (the number of muscle fibres innervated by one motor neuron) of the motor units change? Also, will the proportion of different motor units in the muscle change, e.g., proportion of slow to fast fatiguable motor units? I could go on, but you probably get the idea.

All these things (and more) may need to be re-adjusted or to be re-coordinated with the mechanics of the new method of bipedal locomotion/upright posture. This isn’t trivial. Maybe in some areas no changes are needed, but there would have to be new information encoded into the genome. Overall, the mutations (carrying the new information) that need to be fixed in the genome for the non-bipedal to bipedal transformation to take place must at least be in the hundreds, if not significantly more. But even if it is much fewer than this it wouldn’t help much, particularly as the mutations needed are not independent ones, but coordinated mutations, which makes the waiting time problem so much worse. And at the same time the genome is degrading relatively rapidly due to genetic entropy. For more on this, and how impossible ape-to human evolution is, see my article: The myth of ape-to-human evolution.20 See also the estimate (on something similar) by Ann Gauger for how difficult or impossible it would be to fix the necessary mutations.21

I realise that such articles in Creation magazine are preaching to the converted and directed at scientifically illiterate people who really like to believe that such finds are a blow to evolution – but it’s not.

Rather than characterizing as “scientifically illiterate” people who believe that the almost infinite functional complexity of the human body can only be explained by an Intelligent Designer, you should examine your own position, and the things you accept as ‘science’, such as the evolutionary just-so stories, which in reality are articles of faith. I suggest you think deeply about the words written in 1 Corinthians 3:18–20. If not believing in evolutionary fairytales makes one “scientifically illiterate”, then I am proud to be so by this definition.

I was co-incidentally reading this book by Dawkins and Wong which addresses this very issue just as I came across the article in Creation. The book also mentions John Gribbin and Jeremy Cherfas, who even suggest that chimpanzees and gorillas might have descended from Austropithecus [I presume the author means Australopithecus], ie that modern apes may have evolved from hominids. lt’s a radical idea, and seemingly counter intuitive, until you understand that evolution is not meant to be linear and doesn’t flow towards any human outcome as some top of the Great Chain of Being. That’s not how evolution works. So finding bipedalism in an ape fossil dated some 11 million years ago, doesn’t undermine human evolution in any way, and it’s not that surprising really, it just adds another piece to a very big and complex puzzle. No “evolutionist” is worried about this, creationists just want to believe that they are, yet not realizing these issues have already been explored years ago.

I have already discussed evolutionary just-so stories above, and the idea that “modern apes may have evolved from hominids” is just one more such speculative tale. You say that “finding bipedalism in an ape fossil dated some 11 million years ago, doesn’t undermine human evolution in any way”. As indicated above, evolving bipedal locomotion once would be a miracle, that it did so multiple times would involve multiple miracles. Show me how evolution performs this magic without intelligence? You cannot, as it is not possible. Yet, whenever evidence against evolution like this is presented, evolutionists dismiss it in typical fashion, with the words that you just used, i.e., saying it “doesn’t undermine human evolution in any way”. That these issues were explored years ago, as you say, proves nothing. Whether you admit it or not your position is essentially a religious one, every bit as much as any other religion one can think of.

It must be remembered that evolution is not meant to be ascendant or moving towards any predetermined form, bipedalism could evolve in many different kinds of animals at different times, without that implying they are hominids or on the way to become human. Bipedalism could evolve for many reasons, but mostly because it would serve some advantage for a species.

Saying evolution can do all these things doesn’t make it true. It’s like you’re attributing to evolution magical powers to create, yet evolution is just a human construct, and a bad one at that. It is hard to reason with someone who believes evolution is so ‘plastic’, i.e., can be accommodated to almost any scenario. I wish you well, although I realize that our discussion will likely not change anything. However, to those whose minds are not shut on this issue, Jesus Christ is our Creator (not evolution), and He is also our Saviour, offering eternal life to those who believe in Him. Evolution has only empty just-so stories to offer.

Best regards
Peter Line

References and notes

  1. Line, P., The Australopithecines, chap. 7; in: Bergman, J. et al., The Apeman Controversy: A Thorough Examination of Modern Human Evolution Claims, Bartlett Publishing, United States, 2020, in press. Return to text.
  2. Line, P., Homo habilis, chap. 13; in: Bergman, J. et al., The Apeman Controversy: A Thorough Examination of Modern Human Evolution Claims, Bartlett Publishing, United States, 2020, in press. Return to text.
  3. DeWitt, D.A. 2011, It’s an ape… It’s a human… It’s… It’s… a missing link! Detailed analysis of Australopithecus sediba presents problems for evolution, 13 September 2011, answersingenesis.org/human-evolution/australopithecus-sediba/its-an-ape-its-a-human-its-its-a-missing-link/. Return to text.
  4. Oxnard, C., Fossils, Teeth and Sex: New Perspectives on Human Evolution, Hong Kong University Press, Hong Kong, p. 227, 1987. Return to text.
  5. Köhler, M. and Moyà-Solà, S, Ape-like or hominid-like? The positional behavior of Oreopithecus bambolii reconsidered, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA 94:11747, 1997. Return to text.
  6. Köhler and Moyà-Solà, ref 5, p. 11749. Return to text.
  7. Köhler and Moyà-Solà, ref 5, p. 11750. Return to text.
  8. Gee, H., Return to the planet of the apes, Nature 412:131, 2001. Return to text.
  9. Russo, G. A. and Shapiro, L.J., Reevaluation of the lumbosacral region of Oreopithecus bambolii, Journal of Human Evolution 65:253, 2013. Return to text.
  10. Russo and Shapiro, ref 9, p. 263. Return to text.
  11. Shreeve, J., Argument Over a Woman, Discover 11(8):58, 1990. Return to text.
  12. Hammond, A.S. et al., Insights into the lower torso in late Miocene hominoid Oreopithecus bambolii, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA, p. 5, 23 December 2019. www.pnas.org/cgi/doi/10.1073/pnas.1911896116. Return to text.
  13. Ward, C. V. et al, A late Miocene hominid partial pelvis from Hungary, Journal of Human Evolution, p. 1, 2019. doi.org/10.1016/j.jhevol.2019.102645. Return to text.
  14. University of Missouri, Rare 10 million-year-old fossil unearths new view of human evolution, 17 September 2019, phys.org/news/2019-09-raremillion-year-old-fossil-unearths-view.html. Return to text.
  15. Böhme, M. et al., A new Miocene ape and locomotion in the ancestor of great apes and humans, Nature 575:489–493, 2019. Return to text.
  16. Böhme et al., ref 15, p. 489. Return to text.
  17. Relethford, J. H., The Human Species: An Introduction to Biological Anthropology (Seventh Edition), McGraw-Hill, New York, p. 268, 2008. Return to text.
  18. Kivell, T.L., Fossil ape hints at how bipedal walking evolved, Nature 575:445, 2019. Return to text.
  19. Kivell, ref. 18. p. 446. Return to text.
  20. Line, P., The myth of ape-to-human evolution, Creation 41(1):44–46, 2019. Return to text.
  21. Gauger., A., Science and Human Origins, chap. 1; in: Gauger, A. et al., Science and Human Origins, Discover Institute Press, Seattle, pp. 24–26, 2012. Return to text.

Helpful Resources

Readers’ comments

Simon F.
Thank you so much for this article. It's always illuminating to read a response from an evolutionist. It's interesting to read their perspective. Sadly, I see far too much 'missing the point' (perhaps thinking we are saying something we aren't?) or not following the logic of the argument. For example: saying there is no *scientific* explanation that accounts for a *mechanism* for the origin of bipedality is missed, and our evolutionary friends reply with some of the 'just-so' stories mentioned in this article ('it was to see over long-grass', 'it was to occupy a new ecological niche', 'it allowed them to hold tools', etc) to justify a 'driver' for change. It is just assumed to have happened.
But - it can go both ways: We are all human and prone to error. Sometimes we don't understand the other person's point-of-view and as a result we don't adequately address points they raise. I guess that's a warning for us who have been saved by Grace and are able to appreciate God's wisdom and power in creation. We need to actively listen and step into the worldview of our would-be 'opponent', as CMI has taught for years.
It's disappointing to see evolutionists continue to paint creationists as scientifically illiterate. I do not know who Daniel P. is, but I highly doubt that he would call Dr. Line (with a Ph.D. in neurophysiology) illiterate to his face. When I was in my post-graduate degree in palaeontology, I found that the evolutionists were almost completely illiterate when it came to the Bible they rejected. In order to engage with them satisfactorily, I had to know both creationist and evolutionist perspectives. I believe many creationists are 'double-qualified'; scientifically and biblically literate. May God help us and bless us as we continue to learn.
Richard P.
Great detailed response Peter, just wondering when your book on this topic will be available
Peter Line
Thanks for that Richard.

The book is currently at the publisher being typeset for print. Hence, it should be available very soon (or so I have been told).
Nigel B.
A great and informative article, with some very incisive logic on what evolutionists 'think'. My only comment as a newbie here is the tag line of the gospel at the end. The gospel is important, but not every deflation of the pagan is about proclamation; some, indeed, most I think, is about de-legitimizing their world view. Planting an irritant in their frame of thinking that others will take advantage of in good time. In fact, I think it de-values the gospel when it becomes an 'note from our sponsor' at the end of pieces that are not about it and not answering questions about it. It can amount to casting pearls before swine, but certainly seemingly trying to hood-wink the pagan into the kingdom. Jesus didn't do this....he often confronted the Jewish leaders with irritants.
Sarah C.
It is hard to have a meaningful and productive conversation with someone who dismisses you as "scientifically illiterate" just because you consider a different scientific theory. I run into this problem time and time again. It would seem that no matter how many letters I stack next to my name, how many hours of education I receive, or time I spend studying secular as well as creationist scientific literature, my views will always be immediately discounted because I dare to question keystone theories of the scientific community. The only way to "prove I'm a REAL biologist" is to accept evolution. Good for you for taking a stand and trying to shed light on the issue! I myself find it discouraging to even try fostering productive conversations with people who hold so firmly to their faith in evolution.
Don Batten
'Shoot the messenger' and the 'No true Scotsman' fallacies are common resorts for those who want to avoid engaging their critical faculties in regard to evolution.
Deon B.
Just for interest sake - I have seen a troop of baboons crossing a swamp area with about 2-300mm of water, walking upright, carrying babies and infants in their arms or piggy back. You can tie the hands of most primates behind their backs, and they will walk upright.
Don Batten
Yes, birds walk upright too, but not in the human manner.
Chris M.
Great article.

Question, are there other groups of animals who may share certain anatomical features to each other but we know aren’t related? Let’s just say a horse and a camel? I’m not sure if that’s a good example or not but both curious of there are animals who do share certain physical traits but aren’t related at all.
Don Batten
There are many similarities between organisms that cannot be explained by common ancestry (evolution). The are technically called 'homoplasies'. Search creation.com for 'homoplasy' and you will find plenty of examples, such as the flying squirrel (a placental mammal) and the flying phalanger (a marsupial). Homoplasy is a serious problem for evolutionary theory, because if there can be lots of similarities that are clearly not due to evolution, then what about the similarities that are said to be due to evolution (homologies)? How do they know that such similarities are not due to the same reason for the homoplasies? Of course such patterns in living things are consistent with a single intelligent Creator designing them all, and placing patterns that thwart evolutionary story telling; a 'biotic message' as Walter Remine called it.
Thomas C.
I have a hard time believing any statement about the past is scientific, except when in the past a scientist did an experiment and accurately reported the outcome. Science is doing it again. And that really only proves it could be done in the now. History is the reporting of an observer. And depends on the observer's accuracy and reporting capability. Then there are the claims by folks, even scientists about what no human has observed nor reported. So it relies on imaginations of humans. Either living or dead ones. Is that any different than imaginary?
Chuck R.
Very good response to Mr. Daniel P.
As you note, the 'just-so' stories and explanations evolutionists provide to prove evolution: evolving bipedalism multiple times then de-evolving(?) back to all four, or the proposed reasons why they would evolve bipedalism.
The world of evolutionism is full of speculation and conjecture, and yet they claim to be Scientific?
Don D.
I quote from the article: "As indicated above, evolving bipedal locomotion once would be a miracle, that it did so multiple times would involve multiple miracles. Show me how evolution performs this magic without intelligence? You cannot, as it is not possible. Yet, whenever evidence against evolution like this is presented, evolutionists dismiss it in typical fashion, with the words that you just used, i.e., saying it “doesn’t undermine human evolution in any way”. That these issues were explored years ago, as you say, proves nothing. Whether you admit it or not your position is essentially a religious one, every bit as much as any other religion one can think of." I take issue with your last sentence here that the "position is essentially a religious one". You are doing a disservice to "religion"! Their position is religious in the same sense that Scientology is a religion, wholly man-made, for financial gain and personal aggrandizement. As others have noted, Mr Daniel P. dismisses actual arguments with "Well, it might have been this or that" as if that is proof of the very point under examination. No, evolution is not thereby "proved"; it is only (poorly) argued for.
Rod R.
When Daniel P. writes: "The ... simplistic caricatures and strawmen arguments that creationists like to indulge in.", he is engaging in projection, because "simplistic caricatures and strawmen arguments" are just about all the macro-evolutionists engage in when attacking creationist theory. Creationists neither do not do that nor need to do that because all of the empirical evidence is on their side.
Michael S.
"Scientifically illiterate" in regards to ALL creationist readers is an implied false dichotomy where there isn't a true disjunction. That is to say, to take one group (creationists) and apply the term, "scientifically illiterate" to that group implies you have knowledge that each individual in that group has that trait. Then by accusing that group of something based only on an ad-hominem comment rather than knowledge you then IMPLY that everyone in your group (evolutionists) ARE scientifically literate. Which is the same error of pretending you have knowledge of each individual in the group, "evolutionist".

So it's basically just a way of venerating evolutionists and villainising creationists by use of a false dichotomy where you endow all creationists with a negative trait and endow all evolutionists with a positive trait.

Conclusion: That's not at all rational, and represents a low level of critical thinking, because groups comprise of individuals. ( I find most evolutionists use this propaganda-tactic without even realising the error they are making implying they aren't as superior as they think they are.)
Bill P.
Thanks for a very good article. So many people calling GOD a liar by trying to convince the world that we evolved from chimps. Every time I hear them teaching this lie I amuse myself by thinking about a clan of chimps doing what comes natural to them. I picture a mother chimp holding her baby and telling her young one, "Don't you believe what many men are saying about humans evolving from us, there is no way we would do the things that men do, they did not learn these evil things from us, so don't you believe that lie called "evolution".
Thanks a million folks for the work you do, AND Thank You Lord for having mercy on those of us who put our trust in you and "The Love of The Truth" that comes from You and Your Holy Word.
Bob C.
Dr. Line, thank you for an illuminating presentation of bipedalism and the obvious (to creationists) fact that God could certainly create non-humans with that ability. It is only from the assumption of evolution that such a creature would be considered transitional, not from the evidence itself. The contradictory evolutionist quotes you have presented illustrate that this is certainly not "settled science," as it is portrayed to be in the media, at least until the next discovery is made which overturns everything that came before! Since Danuvius guggenmosi is not exactly a household name yet, I think the public still views bipedalism through the example of Lucy, the "ape that stood up," according to Johanson. In this regard, since there are supposedly around 400 afarensis individuals that have been found, are there any whose pelvis did not benefit from Lovejoy's "tinkering" and show unequivocally that afarensis could walk on his/her own two feet? I have not been able to find any such examples anywhere on the web. Thank you also for the many CMI articles you have written on these topics and I look forward to your upcoming book.
Peter Line
Thank you for your feedback.

When you mention 400 afarensis individuals, I presume you are talking about fossils scraps from 400 different individuals, and not necessarily pelvis fragments. I am not aware of Lovejoy tinkering with any other afarensis pelvises, and as far as I know Lucy is the most complete afarensis, and any inferences based on locomotion from the pelvis in afarensis tends to be based on the Lucy specimen anyhow.

When you talk about Lovejoy’s “tinkering”, I presume you are talking about the incident shown in the documentary, In Search of Our Ancestors, where Owen Lovejoy argues there is an unnatural fusion between the sacrum and coxal bone (hip bone), i.e., too close a fit, which he argues makes Lucy’s hip bone flare out more like a chimps. Lovejoy, using a plaster copy, restores the pelvis to what he sees as its natural shape, which he argues makes the angle of the hip more human-like (i.e., the hip bone is less flaring). Whilst there is room to disagree about his reconstruction, it was probably true that the sacrum and hip bone joint had been distorted somewhat, and so required reconstruction (but the reconstruction can be disputed).

However, any such reconstruction does not significantly alter the overall shape of the tiny Lucy pelvis, which appears to be quite different to a chimp. The Lucy hip bone is short with a relatively broad ilia, whereas the chimp has a tall hip bone with relatively narrow ilia. In this regard Lucy’s pelvis is more human-like. However, the ilia of Lucy’s pelvis are more laterally flaring, and in this regard are more similar to chimps. The Lucy femur has a large carrying angle, again quite different to a chimp.

I would say the pelvis and mode of locomotion in Lucy was unique, which is part of the reason why I regard the australopithecines as an extinct primate group that were different to extant apes, although the former could be described as apish. It should be remembered that it is not just Australopithecus afarensis that is argued by evolutionists to have been bipedal in some way, but the list also includes Australopithecus sediba, Australopithecus africanus and Australopithecus prometheus.

I have no doubt that Lucy could walk on her own two feet, as even chimps can do that. The question is whether her anatomy was suited to habitual bipedalism. I think there are valid arguments on both sides of this dispute. Personally, I think afarensis (the species Lucy belonged to), as well as other australopithecines, were at home both climbing trees and walking on the ground, at least to some degree, but being built also to climb trees suggests any bipedalism would be different to humans (i.e., unique). For example, the australopithecines do not appear to have a medial longitudinal arch in the foot, nor do they appear to have an adducted hallux (i..e, their big toe is likely opposable, whereas in humans the big toe lies in line or parallel with the other toes—i.e., is non-opposable), two features that appear to be unique to humans. This indicates the australopithecines were likely not efficient bipeds.
Nathan G.
I find it amusing whenever an evolutionist tells me I am stupid, then finds out I have more university degrees in my pocket. This has happened to me quite often. Yet when the shoe is on the other foot the fallacy of "I'm more educated than you" is conveniently ignored for evos. A good example is the series of encounters between Richard Dawkins and John Lennox. Lennox has three PhDs, Dawkins only one. But Dicky Dawkins will never bow to the "more educated" argument if he is on the losing end. Pathetic and hypocritical.

Human beings can also walk or crawl on all fours when necessary. That proves nothing, as does the argument that primates can walk upright to varying degrees. Chimpanzees do not walk five miles or even five hundred miles upright. They do not walk upright 99 percent of the time. Primates can also swim, but that doesn't mean that they are evolving into fish. What a bogus argument of similarities, just like the converging/diverging evolution twaddle used as a convenient pigeon-hole to stuff uncomfortable anomalies into, when evolution has no answer.

An idea that allegedly explains everything is worth exactly nothing, as evolution proves.

The question is what a creature habitually does because it is the most efficient thing to do. When you feel the urge to run, because walking has become uncomfortable at increased speeds, that is a natural design factor built in to achieve maximum efficiency. We use less energy when we run to achieve higher speeds. You can see this when you watch the "race walking" events at the Olympics. Whose hips, backs, knees and legs wear out faster or lead to injury at that pace: runners or walkers? I would bet race walkers. Just as race walkers force themselves not to run, chimps have to force themselves to remain standing for long.

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