Human evolution: oh so clear?
Posted on homepage: 25 July 2011 (GMT+10)
Everyone ‘knows’ that humans shared a common ancestor with chimpanzees. DNA similarities prove it, don’t they?
The DNA evidence does nothing of the sort.1 Most importantly, similarities could be due to our having a common Creator rather than a common ancestor. Our Creator could have created the similarities to show us that there is one mind behind the design of all living things. Our similarity with the apes connects us to all other creatures, suggesting one Creator, not many.2 That’s one reason we have no excuse for not believing in one Creator-God (Romans 1:20), rather than no Creator (atheism or pantheism) or multiple creators (polytheism). Of course we also have to have the same basic biochemistry as other created living things so that we can have something to eat!
Some have pointed to precise similarities in DNA segments that they claim have no function (‘junk’ DNA). They say that such similarities must be due to evolution because God would not create similarities in ‘junk’. We will leave aside how they know what God would or would not do. But the notion of these sequences being ‘junk’ is unravelling. The scientific evidence grows daily that these stretches of DNA that are similar are not junk at all, but have functions. That being the case, the similarities are due to function; they have to be similar to function properly.
Furthermore, detailed comparisons of other similar DNA sequences that might actually be non-functional suggest that the similarities are due to a strong tendency of mutations to occur in the same spots in the DNA, not evolution (common ancestry).3
Among the different ‘camps’ of evolutionist views on human origins, there are two small ones whose very existence shows that neither the DNA data nor the fossils prove that chimps are our closest cousins.
1. The orangutan camp
A controversial paper published in 2009 claims that orangs are our closest relatives, not chimps.4 This paper caused a firestorm of controversy.5 The authors gathered a data set of similarities and differences between the various living apes (such as chimps, orangutans and gorillas), fossil apes and humans. Assuming evolution, they found a family tree that best fitted the data. This ‘best’ tree placed orangutans, not chimps, closest to humans. Note: being the best tree does not mean that the family tree is a reality; a collection of designed objects, such as wheeled vehicles or teaspoons, can also be arranged in a family tree using similar techniques.
The idea of orangutans being our closest ape relative is not new; Schwartz, one of the authors of this recent paper, has been arguing this since the 1980s.6
The authors dismiss the DNA data that supposedly ‘proves’ chimp-cousin relationship, commenting: “Molecular analyses are compromised by phenetic procedures such as alignment and are probably based on primitive retentions.” In other words, these authors claim, the DNA data is not conclusive because there are biases in doing any of these studies and the similarities can be explained in ways other than assuming a close relationship between humans and chimps. True!
Interestingly, the editorial in New Scientist, while supporting the publication of the paper, warned of a downside: creationists might use this against evolution by saying that, “this is evidence that the theory of evolution is crumbling”. No, I would say that it shows that the supposed evidence for human evolution is open to wildly different interpretations, so it is obviously not clear at all, contrary to the propaganda that we endure continually.
2. The aquatic ape camp
Humans have many features that are lacking in those apes that are normally held up as our relatives or ancestors. Aquatic ape proponents deduce from these differences that we cannot have derived from those apes. They propose that our ancestor must have been some unidentified aquatic primate with those characteristics. They say it evolved into possibly Homo habilis or Homo erectus.9
The characteristics peculiar to humans and absent from our supposed ape relatives include: walking upright, restricted sweat glands with very salty sweat, tears, the ability to hold breath, subcutaneous fat, ability to swim at birth, descended larynx, a soft palate capable of sealing off the wind-pipe (which keeps water out of the lungs) and love of water.
The ever-changing story of human evolution
It seems that almost every paleontologist who finds some primate fossil claims that it demands the radical re-writing of the story of human evolution. This merely underlines the conjectural nature of the whole story. The hype over the ‘Darwin year’ primate fossil known as ‘Ida’ is an example,10 and more recently, ‘Ardi’.11 As one evolutionist quipped some years ago, in reference to human evolution:
“Everybody knows fossils are fickle; bones will sing any song you want to hear.”12
The ‘facts’ of human evolution told 40 years ago in museums and popular magazines such as National Geographic have almost nothing in common with evolutionary stories of today. The ‘ape-men’ of the past have fallen out of the human tree. Some of these include Ramapithecus, Eoanthropus (Piltdown man, found to be completely fraudulent), Hesperopithecus (Nebraska man, based on a single tooth of a type of pig), Pithecanthropus (Java man), Sinanthropus (Peking man),13 Paranthropus robustus, Paranthropus boisei and Paranthropus aethiopicus. We might also include ones once claimed to be directly ancestral to man but now relegated to a side branch of the supposed family tree, such as Australopithecus africanus. I dare say, given another 40 years the story will be very different again, but museums, textbooks and Time will still portray it as the ‘fact of human evolution’.
We are justified in approaching all such claims about our history with a healthy dose of skepticism. No one was there to observe these events and the evidence available today is clearly open to widely differing interpretations, even within the evolutionists’ ranks. No real ‘ape-men’ will ever be found, because they never existed. The only witness to the origin of mankind, God, inspired the writer of Genesis to inform us that He took dust and made a man … (Genesis 2:7).
References and notes
- What about the similarities between ape and human DNA? creation.com/genetics#dna. Return to text.
- Also, in most cultures, such a pattern of similarity would bring honour to the Designer and would also indicate mastery of His designs. See Holding, J., Not to be used again: homologous structures and the presumption of originality as a critical value, Journal of Creation 21(1):13–14, 2007; creation.com/homologous. Return to text.
- Carter, R., The slow, painful death of junk DNA, creation.com/junk-dna-slow-death. Return to text.
- Grehan, J. and Schwartz, J., Evolution of the second orangutan: phylogeny and biogeography of hominid origins, Journal of Biogeography 36(10):1823–1844, 2009. Return to text.
- Lawton, G., Are orangs our nearest relatives? New Scientist 202(2713):6–7, plus editorial, p. 3, 2009. Return to text.
- Schwartz, J., The evolutionary relationships of man and orang-utans, Nature 308(5959):501–505, 1984. Return to text.
- Bergman, J., The Aquatic Ape Theory: challenge to the orthodox theory of human evolution, Journal of Creation 21(1):111–118, 2007. Return to text.
- Morgan, E., The Aquatic Ape Hypothesis: The Most Critical Theory of Human Evolution, Souvenir Press, London, 1999. Return to text.
- Some evolutionary paleontologists think that Homo habilis is an “invalid taxon”, meaning that it never actually existed as a creature, but came about by treating the name as a ‘wastebasket’ into which various fossils from different creatures were dumped. Homo erectus is of the human kind. See Line, P., Fossil evidence for alleged apemen Part 1: the genus Homo, Journal of Creation 19(1):22–32, 2005; creation.com/apemen1. Return to text.
- Batten, D., Ida: Darwin fossil hyper-hype, Creation 32(1):44–46, 2009; creation.com/darwin-fossil-ida-hype. Return to text.
- Wieland, C., Ardipithecus again: a recycled ape man, creation.com/ardipithecus-again, 5 October 2009. Return to text.
- Shreeve, J., Argument over a woman, Discover 11(8):58, 1990. Return to text.
- The fragmentary fossils of Pithecanthropus and Sinanthropus were placed in Homo erectus (part of the human kind, not an ‘ape-man’). Return to text.