Journal of Creation 35(2):22–24, April 2021
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Human evolution remains non-factual
A review of: Apes as Ancestors: Examining the claims about human evolution by Jerry Bergman, Peter Line, Jeffrey Tomkins, and Daniel Biddle
BP Books, Tulsa, OK, 2020
This recently published book is a one-volume encyclopedia of claims of human evolution, and is quite detailed and fairly technical. Besides examining the standard extinct primates that are enlisted as part of evolutionary scenarios, it also focuses on seldom-considered factors that separate humans from non-human primates, both in terms of biology and behaviour. In addition, this work offers a creationist explanation for the fact that modern Homo sapiens is noticeably different from the likes of Homo erectus and Neanderthal Man, and relates these differences to the teachings in the Bible.
The authors Bergman, Line, Biddle, and Tomkins, are well qualified to examine questions related to presumed human evolution. Bergman, Line, and Tomkins have strong backgrounds in anatomy and physiology, and Peter Line has a strong background in neurobiology. Their analysis of the paleonthropological literature is exhaustive.
Fragmentary and incomplete skeletons
The ‘pre-human’ specimens found so far are far from ideal. Bergman reminds us that, “Most claimed fossil ape-men finds consist of a few teeth plus pieces of broken skull and other bone fragments” (p. 26). For instance, ‘Turkana boy’ (usually assigned to Homo erectus) is exceptional in that its skeleton is 40% complete. The much-hyped australopithecine Lucy is fragmentary, and only 20% complete by skeletal weight (Bergman and Biddle, p. 104). The habiline KNM-ER 1470 is notorious for its fragmentary character, leading to ever-changing reconstructions and ensuing interpretations (Peter Line, p. 187). Homo erectus is difficult to evaluate because of the rarity of postcranial elements, especially those that can unambiguously be linked to the crania (Line, p. 246).
Illusory ‘grab bag’ taxons
Some of the taxons are each a ‘wastebasket’. The understanding of extinct primates, and their presumed role in the evolution of humans, is complicated by the fact that some of the names used are, or may be, an amalgamation of skeletal remains of different animals, and even of nonhumans and humans. This is true, for example, of so-called Australopithecus sediba (Editors, p. 3, Peter Line, p. 134) and Homo habilis (Peter Line, p. 198). The latter is an admixture of australopithecines, Homo erectus, and the skeletal remains of oddball extinct primates of unclear affinities. In addition, the presence of nearby tools influences the naming of specimens (e.g. habilis), even though the identity of the toolmakers cannot be proved. In addition, toolmaking, even if it could unambiguously be linked to specific skeletal elements, is less diagnostic of ‘human-ness’ than previously supposed. We now know that chimps make and use tools of varying sophistication, but this of course does not make them any more human-like.
The conventional evolutionary scenario is as follows: The australopithecines were succeeded by Homo habilis, which in turn was succeeded by Homo erectus and then Homo sapiens. Paleoanthropologist Bernard Wood rejects this simple unilineal model of human evolution, basing his conclusion on both fossil morphology and evolutionary dating methods (Peter Line, p. 201).
Some paleoanthropologists question: the significance of absolute cranial capacity, the inferring of language function from skeletal elements, and the inferring of the ability of precision gripping (Line, p. 173). Differing interpretations of newly discovered skeletal elements are common. For instance, evolutionists disagree on whether Oreopithecus was bipedal (Line, p. 92).
Let us take a closer look at cranial capacity. Evolutionists see the crude trend towards greater cranial capacity, in the inferred lineage leading to humans, as evidence of increase in intelligence with time. However, evolutionists admit that, among modern humans, there is a wide range of cranial capacities, and that such cranial capacity has no relationship to intelligence. They get around this paradox that they had created by claiming ad hoc that cranial capacity was once associated with intelligence, but no longer is. This is special pleading with a vengeance! (Line, pp. 242–244).
Let us consider closely-related traits. It should be noted that there is an unexpected considerable overlap, in cranial-vault thickness, of Homo erectus and modern Homo sapiens.1
The irrelevance of bipedalism in ‘pre-human’ primates
Evolutionists and the media put much hype into claims that (inferred) bipedality in certain extinct primates means that this alone makes them quite ‘human-like’. It does not.
In actuality, extinct primates fill in a lot of morphospace that is left empty by only considering today’s apes and humans. It is therefore not surprising that some ‘human’ traits (such as bipedality), so designated because they are found only in extant humans but not in extant apes, turn up in extinct primates. Consistent with this fact, Oreopithecus, Rudapithecus, and Danavius appear to exhibit a type of bipedalism, even though no evolutionist considers them closely related to humans, or on the evolutionary path to humans. Moreover, their bipedalism, according to the evolutionistic timescale, precedes the first hominids by several million years (Peter Line, pp. 92–93). From an evolutionary point of view, they can be seen as early evolutionary ‘experiments’ in primate bipedalism, but they reduce the presumed significance of bipedalism in the primate-to-human lineage. From a creationist viewpoint, the sheer variety of quasi-bipedal extinct primates bespeaks a common phenomenon among extinct primates, and not something special that occurs only in those extinct primates enlisted to support evolutionary scenarios.
Putative non-human primate bipedalism is also theologically irrelevant. Peter Line comments: “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” (Peter Line, p. 91).
How to count differences in members of genus Homo
Differing interpretations often cloud the picture. For instance, Neanderthal Man was originally portrayed as brutish and stooped-over, consistent with ruling evolutionistic preconceptions. Now we know better (Bergmann, p. 280).
Some of the distinctions in taxonomic classification of Homo are based on circular reasoning. Consider the Xuchung, China, crania, which are large-brained but otherwise very similar to classic Homo erectus. Line comments:
“However, if crania are ruled out from belonging to Homo erectus simply because of a large cranial capacity, then you will end up with a species of only small-brained individuals, but this leads to circular reasoning. The faulty logic produces this circular reasoning: crania are ruled out from belonging to Homo erectus if they have large cranial capacities, and then evolutionists use this as proof that there are no Homo erectus crania with large cranial capacities” (Line, pp. 232–233).
So part of the differences, as between Homo erectus and Homo sapiens, are artifacts of which specific fossils are assigned to Homo erectus, Homo neanderthalensis, Homo heidelbergensis, and which to Homo sapiens. In addition, what counts as a difference largely depends on how uncommon a feature has to be in today’s Homo sapiens, compared to its abundance in Homo erectus, in order to be counted as a difference (Line, p. 229).
There is also the factor of time. Consider the Willandra Lakes hominids of Australia. They are dated, according to evolutionary dating methods, to only 12,000 to 30,000 years old, which is a blink on the evolutionary timescale. Yet they look astonishingly similar to much, much older Homo erectus specimens (Line, p. 237). So what are they?
A creationist explanation for the differences in the genus Homo
Consider the implications of the likelihood that almost all the forms assigned to genus Homo are of one species. If Homo erectus, Neanderthals, and modern humans are just racial variants of each other, why are they different from each other, and why especially are modern humans different from the various fossil specimens of Homo? To begin with, Peter Line writes:
“Likely, some of the differences in the crania between Homo erectus, Homo heidelbergensis, and Neanderthals may simply be due to differences in brain size and/or a relatively minor difference in brain growth rate, as the brain growth largely determines the size and form of the neurocranium” (Line, p. 231).
As for modern Homo sapiens, Line adds:
“I believe that the Neanderthals were fully human, that is, descendants of Adam and Eve, as were the individuals that make up what evolutionists classify as Homo erectus and Homo heidelbergensis … . The few differences were caused by factors such as human variation, genetic drift, as well as environmental influences. Why Homo erectus, Homo heidelbergensis, and Neanderthals were more different from anatomically-modern humans, than from each other, requires further explanation. One explanation as to why they were different in morphology compared to modern humans, particularly in the skull, could reflect changes in development of these early, post-Flood, individuals compared to modern humans … possibly related to longevity” (Line, p. 321).
In terms of technical details, Line explains:
“Evolutionists have no problem incorporating changes in growth rates to explain some of the differences in skull features between modern and robust humans. For example, acceleration in the longitudinal growth of the cranial base early in the development of the Neanderthals has been speculated to, ultimately, because of a longer and flatter cranial base, ‘have impacted both vault and facial shape, and may have been responsible for many of the craniofacial differences between Neanderthals and modern humans.’ Arguments have been made with respect to the face, that some of the most significant differences in facial features including ‘massive, protruding supraorbital tori, their prognathic faces, and their receding, chinless mandibular symphyses’ is what distinguishes modern human faces from Homo erectus and Homo heidelbergensis …” (ibid, p. 234).
Other factors that could explain at least some of the differences in ancient and modern Homo are diseases in fossil organisms. These diseases include microcephaly and cretinism.
Humans and chimps are in no sense ‘almost the same’
Books such as The Naked Ape (figure 1) have promoted and reinforced the notion that humans and chimps are astonishingly similar to each other. They are not. Tomkins and Bergman (p. 58) point out that chimps and humans cannot interbreed, that chimp organs cannot be transplanted to humans, that chimps cannot read and write, and that chimps do not bury their dead or conduct funerals. Humans can convey over 1,000 different facial expressions, as against less than a dozen in chimps (Bergman, p. 33). Even the ‘nakedness’ of the ‘naked ape’ is ironic in a way. Among primates, humans have a unique dearth of body hair, and evolutionists have a myriad of conflicting hypotheses as they try to account for this salient fact (ibid, p. 44).
Let us now focus on genomic characteristics. The much-hyped evolutionistic claim that the DNA of humans and chimps is 98% identical, is false. It turns out that this is based on a comparison of only already-similar DNA sequences in both genomes. When the entire DNA sequence of both is compared, the number drops to 81–84% (Tomkins and Bergman, p. 61). But all this is academic: similarities and differences in DNA may be a foundation of sensationalistic evolutionary arguments and media narratives, but they tell us very little about the relative capabilities of different creatures. The venerable creationist Duane T. Gish once pointed out that clouds are 100% water and watermelons are 98% water, but that hardly means that both are essentially the same.
Now consider chromosome structure. Of all the chimp and human chromosomes, two chimp chromosomes are inferred, by evolutionists, to have fused to form one corresponding chromosome in humans. In actuality, the corresponding similarities between the human-chimp chromosomes are doubtful, and the ‘fusion point’ is actually functional (ibid, pp. 63–64).
What about genes? There are thousands of genes found in humans but not found in chimps, and thousands of genes found in chimps but not humans. These are called ‘orphan genes’ (ibid, p. 66).
Human evolution continues to be beset with problems, such as fragmentary and incomplete remains, indefinite taxa, and over-interpretation. These problems add up, as elaborated by retired biologist Willard Lake:
“A major problem in the field is, as Mark Twain is reported to have stated, the evidence in the paleoanthropology field consists of a few scraps of bone and a few tons of plaster to fill in the missing parts. The authors conclude from their review, documented in over 5,000 endnotes … that all of the ‘hominid’ fossils so-far discovered are either some kind of misidentified monkey, ape or human [or hoax]. No example reviewed is convincingly shown to be an intermediate link bridging primates to humans to support the view that mankind and apes have a common ancestor, which was some kind of simian. Remember, the range of physical traits in both simians and humans is wide, and all of the examples researched in this book fit neatly in either one category or the other” (p. v).
The differences between modern and ancient Homo do not require evolution, and may be explicable by such things as differences in aging soon after the Flood. However, owing to the fact that some of these differences occur among juveniles, the differences in modern and ancient Homo must also include a difference in the timing of development, and not simply a longer lifespan for early-post-Flood man. All this should definitively be further explored as part of a more comprehensive creation model.
References and notes
- Woodmorappe, J., How different is the cranial-vault thickness of Homo erectus from modern man? J. Creation 14(1)10–13, 2000. Return to text.
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