Evidence for human evolution?
What does the science really say?1
Evangelical Christians who believe the biblical narrative in Genesis strongly affirm the real, historical existence of Adam and Eve. We say it is non-negotiable and we point to the fact that the New Testament writers clearly taught this fact, as numerous verses testify.2 In CMI, we have frequently affirmed the vital theological importance of this biblical anthropology in our books3 and numerous online articles.
However, scientists and writers who publish on creation.com have also been careful to unpack and critique scientific reports in the plethora of journals, books, documentaries, feature films, and pop-science media items that appear annually. While many Christian believers desire faithfully to stand upon God’s Word, the constant barrage of subtle (or not-so-subtle) attacks upon its history can be daunting. And the subject of human origins gets right to the heart of the conflict between the ‘creationary’ and evolutionary worldviews.
Those who wish to keep informed about current affairs, particularly scientific advances, often encounter material which is used to push a humanistic agenda. Therefore, in order to maintain a healthy diet of information in today’s world, it is important to filter out and discard both faulty science and deceitfully biased claims—stuff which might otherwise erode faith’s foundations. Some people feel intimidated in the face of the long line of impressive experts interviewed in the media. Can we really gainsay such high-flying scientists as they parade the very latest revelations about human evolution? The short answer is ‘yes’; there really is no need to be intimidated.
Human evolution storytelling
Studies in genetics loom large in debates over human ancestry, and much has been written on these matters by scientists with biblical creation convictions. For example:
- articles about chimp vs human DNA (e.g. creation.com/1-percent-myth and creation.com/chimp-human-similarity),
- Mitochondrial Eve (creation.com/topics/mitochondrial-eve),
- and Y-chromosome Adam (creation.com/chimp-y-chromosome and creation.com/noah-and-genetics).
However, let’s leave that to one side and focus on palaeoanthropology, the scientific discipline particularly preoccupied with the study of our alleged hominid ancestors.4 We are all familiar with the fact that new ‘candidates’ for human ancestors are regularly trumpeted by the media.
One would think that this discipline should have made great strides forward. After all, it is over 150 years since the publication of Darwin’s famous book The Descent of Man (1871). Yet the startling fact is that evolutionists still have no agreed-upon account of human origins. The prestigious journal Science published a major review of this subject in May 2021.5 Lead author Sergio Almécija (from the American Museum of Natural History’s Division of Anthropology) admitted:
More than fifty genera of fossil apes have been described from Africa and Eurasia alone, but they exhibit “combinations of features that do not match expectations for [presumed] ancient representatives of the modern ape and human lineages. As a consequence, there is no scientific consensus” (emphases added).7 The reason for this lack of agreement is blindingly obvious, for those who have eyes to see! Human evolution never took place, so all these intelligent men and women are barking up the wrong tree. Sadly, of course, most of them simply will not consider the possibility that human beings are divinely designed.
A large part of the field of palaeoanthropology is taken up with procuring fossil crania (skull bones), jaws and teeth of presumed human ancestors—that is, the ‘ape-men’ of popular science, more correctly termed hominids.6 Such fossils are often extremely fragmentary. Even their reassembly, not to mention their interpretation, is fraught with the problem of investigator bias. This is inevitable because of the overriding worldview commitments of the scientists involved, however honest they aim to be. It is all too easy for the experts to ‘see’ in these scraps of bones and teeth what they expect (or hope) to find.
It also means that new discoveries can seriously upset the apple-cart, as was the case with ‘Dragon Man’. Reported (mid-2021) by Chinese researchers as a new human species, Homo longi, ‘Dragon Man’ was noted for his large skull (said to be at least 146,000 years old). Commenting on the find, Prof Chris Stringer at London’s Natural History Museum said, “I think this is one of the most important finds of the past 50 years … a wonderfully preserved fossil.”8 Eminent geneticist Adam Rutherford (University College London) responded rather differently. He had this to say about the ape-to-man ‘march of progress’ image, now recognised to be a fraudulent icon, popularised since the mid-1960s:9
“It’s one of the most famous images in the history of scientific endeavour. … But the past few days have seen a new discovery [Dragon Man] which perfectly illustrates what scientists such as myself have long known: the image is completely wrong.”10
Recall the question that I posed earlier: “Can we really gainsay such high-flying scientists as they parade the very latest revelations about human evolution?” Well, consider what Dr Rutherford now has to say about the flawed idea of a linear evolutionary progression from apes to human:
“[W]e’ve come to realise that we don’t actually know the direct pathway from early humans to us. We’ve got dotted lines and working theories, but for the most part, we’re no longer sure who our ancestors were.”10
The so-called evidence is sufficiently uncertain that it can be seriously challenged by one new discovery! Moreover, although one might imagine dispassionate scientists whose sole purpose is to follow where the evidence leads, it’s hard even for the best of people to be fully objective. A telling case in point concerns the skull of the famous Little Foot fossil, a supposedly 3.6 million-year-old australopithecine, so nicknamed because of its small foot bones.11 In early 2021, its skull was secretively transported (under armed guard!) from its South African home to the UK’s Diamond X-ray Light Source facility, near Oxford. The party accompanying the fossil included professors Dominic Stratford and Ronald Clark (University of Witwatersrand). At the lab, they joined Dr Louise Humphrey of London’s Natural History Museum and facility expert Thomas Connolley. Picture the scene, as this team of top experts gathered to perform tests on a small fossil skull. How did they feel?
‘ “This was a very special experiment,” Dr Connolley admitted. “It was actually quite emotional to think that we were studying one of our very early ancestors—for everyone I think, certainly for me.” Dominic Stratford confesses to a little emotion, too’ (emphases added).12
In other words, while I am not criticising their scientific credentials, the scientists’ shared commitment to human evolution is striking some sort of religious chord within them—that desire within us all to know where we came from. I think it’s fair to say that such an emotional attachment to this sort of material is almost bound to colour their judgment. Notice that there is no question in their minds as to whether or not ‘Little Foot’ is one of humanity’s “early ancestors”; that is merely assumed at the outset.
Our amazing brains
It is probably fair to say that the majority of scientists, even the most militant atheists, acknowledge how astonishingly complex the human brain is. Nevertheless, even the cleverest of people can make claims that are frankly barmy.13 For instance, I came across this statement from the late Stephen Hawking in his final book:
“I … believe that evolution implies there can be no qualitative difference between the brain of an earthworm and that of a human. It therefore follows that computers can, in principle, emulate human intelligence, or even better it.”14
Professor Hawking could not have been more mistaken in his insinuations, not least of which is the vacuous belief that the human brain is the product of evolution. Most paleoanthropologists believe that small-brained australopithecines represent a stage in the evolutionary path leading up to modern humans. However, there is no hard scientific evidence for the belief that the human brain evolved from smaller, more primitive brains of ape ancestors.
The simplistic formula, that bigger brains means greater intelligence, has been part of human evolution lore for generations. It is still taught in schools and in popular science books and documentaries, but it is wrong. More and more evidence is coming to light that reinforces this point (see e.g. Our shrinking brains). Recently, a collective of researchers set out to test whether they could predict a mammal’s brain size based on its body size. They had to acknowledge that their findings just did not to fit the evolutionary trajectory beloved of evolutionary theorists:
“Big-brained mammals are typically considered intelligent—but a study has found that the body size of a species could have evolved smaller to adapt to environmental changes, making the brain appear proportionally bigger. In other words, relative brain size may have nothing to do with being clever after all (emphasis added).”15
This is no new revelation however. Other experts have long pointed out that it is the brain’s organisation, not its size, which is critical to an understanding of a creature’s intelligence. Moreover, one does not need to be a PhD scientist to understand that human beings are much brainier than our supposed ape cousins. Stanislas Dehaene is a French neuroscientist, known for his research on consciousness and numerical cognition. In his book How We Learn, published in 2021, he writes:
“And no, today’s learning machines are nowhere close to surpassing the human brain: our brains remain, for the moment at least, the fastest, most effective, and most energy efficient of all information processing devices.”16
This fact, of course, is the direct opposite of the claim quoted earlier from Stephen Hawking. But one wonders how many readers of his book would have uncritically accepted his claim that computers can better human intelligence?
Then consider, just for a moment that your entire body, including all the mind-bogglingly sophisticated circuitry of your brain, had to develop in your mother’s womb—and ultimately from the tiny fertilised cell at the moment of conception. Does anyone have a handle on how that took place? Our best minds are only scratching the surface. Michael Denton puts it eloquently when he writes:
“The development of the embryo with its staggering panoply of continuously morphing cells … is by far the most complex phenomenon on Earth, far more complex by many orders of magnitude than the assembly of the most complex human artefact ever built. … The unimaginable immensity of spatial and temporal molecular clues and molecular and genetic responses exploited by this innumerable host of nanobots [molecular machines] navigating the embryonic ocean is far greater than all the maps, charts, and devices used by all the mariners who have ever navigated the oceans of Earth.”17
Without doubt, the more that is discovered about human embryos and their development in the mother’s womb, the more obvious is the embryo’s remarkable design.
So where does this brief foray into the supposed evidence for human evolution leave us? Contrary to evolution-inspired pop-science, recent scientific data from such fields as palaeoanthropology, neuroscience, embryology, and comparative genetics does not support human evolution. The human embryo evidences creative design par excellence,18 as does the incredible human brain.19 And that, surely, should be our cue to ascribe praise to “our Great God and Saviour Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:13) through whom all these marvellous things were made (John 1:3).
References and notes
- A modified and expanded version of: Bell, P., Evidence for human evolution? No need to be intimidated by science, Update, CMI-UK/Europe, Aug 2021. Return to text.
- Luke 3:38, Acts 17:26, Romans 5:12–14, 1 Corinthians 15:22, 45, 1 Timothy 2:13–14, Jude 14. Return to text.
- Chapter 6 (pp. 118–144) in: Bell, P., Evolution and the Christian Faith, Day One Publications, 2018; Fretwell, T., What does the Bible really say about Adam & Eve? Day One Publications, 2019; chapters 10 (pp. 249–280), 12–13 (pp. 291–404) in: Sarfati, J., Genesis Account, Creation Book Publishers, 2015. Return to text.
- Lots of articles can be found at: creation.com/topics/anthropology. Return to text.
- Almécija, S. et al, Fossil apes and human evolution, Science, 7 May 2021 | doi: 10.1126/science.abb4363. Return to text.
- In the taxonomic classification, members of the family Hominidae (humans, the great apes, and many extinct fossils like australopithecines) are called hominids. The hominins are a subgroup of this family, which most evolutionists believe includes species of Homo including ourselves), Pan (chimp species), and various extinct australopithecines. Return to text.
- American Museum of Natural History, Evolutionary dispute: most human origins stories are not compatible with known fossils, scitechdaily.com, 9 May 2021. Return to text.
- Sample, I., Massive human head in Chinese well forces scientists to rethink evolution, theguardian.com, 25 Jun 2021. The findings were published online: The Innovation 100132, cell.com, 25 June 2021. The Homo longi skull was actually found in 1933 (Harbin, NE China) but only recently assessed by paleoanthropologists.Return to text.
- He was particularly referring to the famous image by Rudolph Zallinger which appeared in a book for children, The Road to Homo Sapiens, 1965. Return to text.
- How mankind really evolved: Top geneticist Dr Adam Rutherford says simple diagram of ape changing to man is ‘so wrong’ it should be removed from school books—and reveals the far messier Ascent of Man, dailymail.co.uk, 3 Jul 2021. Return to text.
- ‘Little Foot’ was first reported in the mid-1990s: Batten, D., Not another ape-man! Creation 18(3):42–45, Jun 1996; creation.com/not-another-ape-man. Return to text.
- Pease, R., Human origins: ‘Little Foot’ fossil’s big journey out of Africa, bbc.co.uk/news, 2 March 2021. Return to text.
- Informal British word meaning: silly, witless, extremely foolish. Return to text.
- Hawking, S., Brief Answers to the Big Questions, John Murray, 2018, pp. 184. The book was published posthumously. Return to text.
- Grover, N., ‘Big-brained’ mammals may just have small bodies, study suggests, theguardian.com, 28 April 2021. Return to text.
- Dehaene, S., How we Learn: The new Science of Education and the Brain, Penguin Random House, p. 238, 2021. Return to text.
- Denton, M., The Miracle of the Cell, Discovery Institute Press, Seattle, p. 115, 2020. Return to text.
- Park, G., Creative design in the human embryo, Creation 6(3):6–9, February 1984; creation.com/embryo-design. Return to text.
- Line, P., The incredible human brain, Creation 40(3):14–17, July 2018; creation.com/the-incredible-human-brain. Return to text.