New Missing Link: Real or Imaginary?

By Peter Line

The expression ‘yet another missing link unearthed’ is a rather tired cliché these days, but here we go again.

Reports on the internet are surfacing with claims that scientists have found a new ‘hominid’ cranium, believed to be between 500,000 and 250,000 years old, which they believe ‘could be a missing link between the extinct Homo erectus and modern man’.1

The find, discovered in Gawis, Ethiopia less than two months ago, is said to be a ‘near-complete skull’ and is referred to as the ‘Gawis cranium’. According to paleoanthropologist Sileshi Semaw the ‘face and cranium of the fossil are recognizably different from those of modern humans, but bear unmistakable anatomical evidence that it belongs to the modern human’s ancestry’.1 True to form, like many of its ‘missing link’ predecessors, this new ‘hominid’ is tipped to force a rethink of current theories on human evolution. According to paleontologist Scott Simpson ‘A great fossil forces us to re-examine our views of human origins. I believe the Gawis cranium is a great fossil’.1

Currently there is little more information about the Gawis cranium than the above, and as yet no pictures of the specimen, so it is not possible to analyze the anatomy of this particular skull until more information is at hand. However, when reading claims like this it is important to keep a sense of perspective. Because of ideology, any such skull age dated by evolutionists as 500,000 to 250,000 years old is by definition a ‘hominid’ to them. Also, the lure of ‘fame and fortune’ that goes along with finding a ‘missing link’ influences its interpretation as such.

As indicated by evolutionist John Reader:

‘Preconceived notions have played a fundamental role in the study of fossil man. Indeed, the science itself was not founded upon the evidence of fossils that needed explanation but upon the notion that if mankind had evolved then fossils would provide the evidence of links between modern and ancestral forms’.2

It has to be understood that the interpretation of the fossil specimen is heavily biased according to the researchers’ framework, which in nearly all cases is evolutionary. In the introduction to his textbook on human evolution, titled Paleoanthropology, multiregional evolutionist
Milford Wolpoff writes:

‘I believe a framework is not something that can be eliminated in order to provide “objectivity”. In my view, “objectivity” does not exist in science. Even in the act of gathering data, decisions about what data to record and what to ignore reflect the framework of the scientist’.3

The reality is that scientists, both evolutionists and creationists, tend to interpret what they see in the world (the data if you like) through their own peculiar lenses, which represent their framework, worldview, ideology, philosophy, religion, or whatever you want to call it. If the lenses have evolution written on them then the data will usually be molded to fit that preferred framework, and if evolution is a false worldview, then a wrong picture of human origin emerges.

According to the Bible God ‘made of one blood all nations of men’ (Acts 17:26). There is no room for any ‘ape-men’ pre-dating humans because ‘from the beginning of the creation God made them male and female’ (Mark 10:6). Therefore, all the supposed ape-men belong either to the genus Homo and are descendants of Adam and Eve, or they belong to extinct apes.

From a biblical perspective the only way to correctly interpret the fossils of alleged ape-men is to throw out the whole evolutionary framework of looking at these fossils, and instead interpret them without ‘evolutionary’ constraints. There is enormous variation in skull size and shape in so called ‘modern humans’, and there undoubtedly was even greater variation in the past. Add environmental and dietary factors, and many of the alleged ‘hominids’ in the genus Homo, such as Neandertals, Homo erectus and other so-called ‘archaics’, can be explained as simply variations within the human population. However, the effects of pathology should also be considered, particularly now that evidence increasingly indicates that the famous Hobbit (suggested as being a dwarfed Homo erectus specimen according to its discoverers, but given the separate species name Homo floresiensis) was a microcephalic modern human, perhaps a microcephalic pygmy.4,5

The technology of the stone artifacts associated with the supposed species Homo floresiensis at Liang Bua exhibited ‘a level of complexity previously thought to be the sole purview of H. sapiens’,6 suggesting human-like intelligence. Hence, it may be that the tools belonged to other non-microcephalic humans of the same population, but either way the Hobbit was human, as was the maker of the tools. However, if the Hobbit turns out to be a microcephalic modern human then one may legitimately ask what other supposed ‘hominids’ are simply microcephalic humans, particularly some of the smaller Homo erectus/ Homo habilis crania.

Back in the late Victorian era in the 19th Century when the field of human evolution was in its infancy, and when the only fossil finds of any note in regards to human origins were a few Neanderthal finds, Carl Vogt, a prominent anthropologist of this era, and an ‘early evolutionist’, commented in his Lectures On Man that:

‘If a fossil microcephalic skull were found, without a lower jaw and an upper row of teeth, every naturalist would at once declare it to be the cranium of an ape, as in such a mutilated skull there would not be found the least characteristic mark which would justify an opposite inference’.7

He also remarked ‘that microcephali and born idiots present as perfect a series from man to the ape as may be wished for’.8 With the Hobbit find Vogt’s argument is becoming increasingly relevant. If pathological modern human skulls can exhibit such extreme variation, then why invent ape-men or missing links as explanations?

About the author

Peter Line’s undergraduate major was in biophysics. After that he completed a masters degree and a Ph.D., both in the area of neuroscience. He has had a keen interest in the creation/evolution issue ever since becoming a Christian, as evolution was a stumbling block to him believing God’s Word was true. Return to top.


  1. Could Ethiopian skull be missing link? <http://www.cnn.com/2006/WORLD/africa/03/25/missing.link.ap/index.html>, 27 March 2006. Return to text.
  2. Reader, J., Missing Links: The Hunt for Earliest Man, Second Edition, Penguin Books, London, p. xv, 1988.Return to text.
  3. Wolpoff, M.H., Paleoanthropology, Second Edition, McGraw-Hill, Boston, p. lv, 1999. Return to text.
  4. Wong, K., Whatever happened to the Hobbit? 7 March 2006, <http://blog.sciam.com/index.php?title=whatever_happened_to_the_hobbit&more=1&c=1&tb=1&pb=1>,
    16 March 2006. Return to text.
  5. Wong, K., Hobbit news, part 1, 14 March 2006 <http://blog.sciam.com/index.php?title=hobbit_news_part_i&more=1&c=1&tb=1&pb=1>, 16 March 2006. Return to text.
  6. Wong, K., The littlest human, Scientific American, 292(2):45, 2005. Return to text.
  7. Vogt, C., Lectures On Man: His Place in Creation, and in the History of the Earth, Longman, Green, Longman, and Roberts, Paternoster Row, London, pp. 198-199, 1864. Return to text.
  8. Vogt, ref. 7, p. 195. Return to text.
  9. Published: 30 March 2006