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This article is from
Creation 34(1):54–55, April 2012

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Icon illusion


©iStockPhoto.com/sjlocke icon illusion
From Whalley, et al., ref 18.
Human evolution, according to a modern textbook used in Australian high-schools. (Figure 7.4.7 in: Whalley, K., and 6 others, Science Focus 4, Pearson Educational Australia, Melbourne, 2005.) Note the subtle colour change of the creature from a ‘black’ ape to a ‘white’ human.

Surely you’ve seen it: the succession of drawings portraying our supposed evolution from ape-like creature to modern human—an instantly recognizable ‘icon’ of evolution. Apart from adorning evolutionary magazines and books, it’s become stock-in-trade for many cartoonists worldwide. And advertisers have used it in their efforts to boost sales of anything from cell phones to steaks (e.g. “feed the man meat”, just like our supposed hunter-gatherer ancestors, etc.).

But does this icon have any basis in fact? Not according to eminent paleoanthropologist Bernard Wood, of George Washington University’s Department of Anthropology at the Center for Advanced Study of Hominid Paleobiology. Although a committed evolutionist himself, Wood has written (emphasis added):

“There is a popular image of human evolution that you’ll find all over the place, from the backs of cereal packets to advertisements for expensive scientific equipment. On the left of the picture there’s an ape—stocky, jutting jaw, hunched in the knuckle-walking position. On the right, a man—graceful, high forehead, striding purposefully into the future. Between the two is a succession of figures that become ever more like humans, as the shoulders start to pull back, the torso slims down, the arms retract, the legs extend, the cranium expands and the chin recedes. Our progress from ape to human looks so smooth, so tidy. It’s such a beguiling image that even the experts are loath to let it go. But it is an illusion.1

An illusion! And none of the much-heralded ape-man ‘discoveries’ in the decade since Wood made that admission in New Scientist have done anything to change his view.2 He recently wrote:

sxc.hu Blue monkey
“The origin of our own genus remains frustratingly unclear.”3

Our supposed evolutionary origin: frustratingly unclear, according to this leading evolutionist. One of the reasons is apparent in a lengthy review Wood co-wrote with colleague Nicholas Lonergan in the Journal of Anatomy4 about the ‘hominin’5 fossil-naming controversies raging among anthropologists. In context of widespread arguments and disagreements over ascribing genus and species names to particular fossils, Wood and Lonergan highlight the difficulties involved in accurate species identification when only bone fragments or teeth are available:

“We know from living animals that many uncontested species are difficult to distinguish using bones and teeth (e.g. Cercopithecus species [guenons, a type of Old World monkey]).”4

By “uncontested species” Wood and Lonergan are referring to living animals such as the blue monkey (Cercopithecus mitis) where there is no dispute as to what the creature (and its bones and teeth) looks like. Leading anthropologists concede that it’s difficult enough to identify from teeth or bone alone a living animal, where we know what they look like. So, what hope is there for reconstructing from teeth some unknown and disputed creature presumed extinct?

Wood and Lonergan conclude their review by counselling (emphasis added), “we hope that these relatively simple explanations of the background to some of the main controversies will enable readers to apply a healthy dose of skepticism to pronouncements about the taxonomy and systematics of the hominin clade.”4

Sage advice indeed, coming from evolutionists. Especially when it concerns such illusory icons.6

References and notes

  1. Wood, B., Who are we? New Scientist 176(2366):44–47, 26 October 2002. Return to text.
  2. Also Wood, B. and Collard, M., The human genus, Science 284(5411):65–71, 1999, shows that various alleged ‘ape-men’ have almost fully human characteristics or fully australopithecine features. See also Woodmorappe, J., The non-transitions in human evolution on evolutionists terms, J. Creation 13(2):10–13, 1999; creation.com/non-transitions. Return to text.
  3. Wood, B., Did early Homo migrate “out of ” or “in to” Africa?, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA, 2011; published ahead of print 15 June 2011, doi:10.1073/pnas.1107724108. Return to text.
  4. Wood, B. and Lonergan, N., Review—The hominin fossil record: taxa, grades and clades, Journal of Anatomy 212:354–376, 2008. Return to text.
  5. Wood defines the ‘hominin fossil record’ as consisting of “all the fossil taxa that are more closely related to modern humans than they are to any other living taxon.” Ref. 4. Return to text.
  6. For a discussion on how this icon has promoted racism by showing that blacks are less evolved than whites see Cosner, L. and Bates, G., Racism: a consequence of evolution?. Return to text.

Helpful Resources

Readers’ comments

James T.
The icon itself,i always felt was misleading.I know the bad argument where,if we evolve from apes,why are there still apes.But shouldn't evolutionist be showing a icon where you have an ape on one side and a man on the other side and then at the bottom the common ancestor?Just so that there is no confusion for some people who use that bad argument.
Chris S.
There is something relevant to this in The Fossil Record by John Morris and Frank Sherwin. A major problem with 'Lucy', the alleged ape/man missing link, was that the retrieved fragments of her pelvis fitted together into an ape-like form, which did not fit the evolutionary story as Lucy needed a human-like hip to walk upright. The book has a transcript of a television program in which Lucy's discoverer, Dr Donald Johanson, tells how he overcame this 'problem'. Working with Dr Owen Lovejoy, he makes plaster copies of the hip fragments but adds material to them to replace bone postulated as lost as the hip was crushed after Lucy's death. The doctored pieces then assemble, by design, into the desired human-like hip. All this is done openly and without a blush. It is the most blatant example of data being moulded by a theory I have ever come across.
David Catchpoole
The book that Chris S. refers to is on sale via our website: The Fossil Record.
Aleksandar K.
In Croatia we have Muzej Krapinskog čovjeka (Museum of the Krapina man). Krapinski čovjek-Krapina man (I don't know the official translation) is the so-called neanderthal. It is also THE neanderthal that was used to analyze neanderthal DNA. The museum is is filled with evolutionist cliché, such as the iconic representation of human evolution you are referring to in the article. The thing is that the Krapina man is a pile of teeth. Someone reconstructed an entire being on basis of teeth. And then someone dedicated an entire museum to a pile of teeth!! Worst of all, it's a real tourist attraction.
John Leslie
Dr Catchpoole, Thank you for the article. It is refreshing when an evolutionist admits the lack of evidence for transmutation (e.g. amphibian to reptile progeny). Yet, because of their religio-philosophic view of life each will always, unless a conversion to God occurs, believe that somehow or somewhere in nature lies the answer or proof of evolution. Most accept Speciation as the mechanism for these massive changes. Speciation, even among living organisms is very difficult to assess much more so among fossil forms. Even among living forms do you use DNA (and what sequence), or bone structure, or behavioral patterns, or reproductive capability etc. to determine proximity of so-called relatedness. It is very controversial. In truth, the simple answer is that there is considerable variation among life forms, but they remained confined in their own "groups" and there is no proof of transmutation. There are no examples of transition life forms, living or dead, and no evidence of a mechanism for it. Variation supports the concept that God put within organisms some adaptive ability to adjust to the fallen and corrupt conditions of this world. Thanks be to God for His mercy towards His creation. Dr John G Leslie
CMI editor
[For readers who might be wondering here why we've made an exception to our usual practice of not showing correspondents' surnames, it is because the above correspondent, Dr John Leslie, has contributed major articles to CMI's Creation magazine, Journal of Creation and website over a very long period, so there did not seem any reason to protect his privacy here. Dr Leslie is also the subject of our regular 'scientist interview' feature in an upcoming issue of Creation magazine.]
Chandrasekaran M.
I am glad that some of evolution scientists are open about their frustration with the evolution science ‘findings’.

So it is highly likely that evolution scientists with their worldview might have classified juvenile dinosaur fossils as intermediary or different species.
David Catchpoole
Yes, as we've earlier written:

Dino puberty blues

Too many dinosaur names

Jack C.
It’s interesting that the more science progresses the more of the truth we uncover, yet the vast majority of the people of the world are fed with the opposite and false information. Meanwhile the real scientists, including the atheistic kind know and sometimes admit the information being publicized by and large is getting further away from the truth. It’s as though there is an agenda by the media at large and certain elements of the scientific community that are not real scientists but more like political speech writers to mislead deliberately the people. I wonder why? Do they hate the truth (and hence God) that much?

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