WHERE did we come from?
Are we the product of a Divine Creation?
Did we evolve through natural selection?
Or is there another possible answer?
In November 1859, Charles Darwin published a most dangerous idea - that all living things had evolved through a process of natural selection. Although there was almost no mention of mankind in Darwin’s treatise, the implications were unavoidable and led to a more radical change in human self-perception than anything before it in recorded history. In one blow, Darwin had relegated us from divinely-created beings to apes - the culmination of evolution by the impersonal mechanism of natural selection.
But are the scientists right in applying the theory of evolution to the strange two-legged hominid known as ‘man’? Charles Darwin himself was strangely quiet on this point but his co-discoverer Alfred Wallace was less reluctant to express his views. Wallace himself was adamant that ‘some intelligent power has guided or determined the development of man.’
One hundred years of science have failed to prove Alfred Wallace wrong. Anthropologists have failed miserably to produce fossil evidence of man’s ‘missing link’ with the apes and there has been a growing recognition of the complexity of organs such as the human brain.
Such are the problems with the application of Darwinism to mankind that Stephen Jay Gould - America’s evolutionist laureate - has described human evolution as an ‘awesome improbability’.
In Search of the Missing Link
Speciation - the separation of one species into two different species - is defined as the point where two groups within the same species are no longer able to inter-breed. The British scientist Richard Dawkins has described the separation quite poetically as ‘the long goodbye’.
The search for the missing link between man and the apes is the search for the earliest hominid - the upright, bipedal ape who waved ‘a long goodbye’ to his four-legged friends.
I will now attempt to briefly summarize what is known about human evolution.
According to the experts, the rivers of human genes and chimpanzee genes split from a common ancestral source some time between 5 and 7 million years ago, whilst the river of gorilla genes is generally thought to have branched off slightly earlier. In order for this speciation to occur, three populations of common ape ancestors (the future gorillas, chimpanzees and hominids) had to become geographically separated and thereafter subject to genetic drift, influenced by their different environments.
The search for the missing link has turned up a number of fossil contenders, dating from around 4 million years ago, but the picture remains very incomplete and the sample size is too small to draw any statistically valid conclusions. There are, however, three contenders for the prize of the first fully bipedal hominid, all discovered in the East African Rift valley which slashes through Ethiopia, Kenya and Tanzania.
The first contender, discovered in the Afar province of Ethiopia in 1974, is named Lucy, although her more scientific name is Australopithecus Afarensis. Lucy is estimated to have lived between 3.6-3.2 million years ago. Unfortunately her skeleton was only 40 per cent complete and this has resulted in controversy regarding whether she was a true biped and whether in fact ‘she’ might even have been a ‘he’.
The second contender is Australopithecus Ramidus, a 4.4 million year old pygmy chimpanzee-like creature, discovered at Aramis in Ethiopia by Professor Timothy White in 1994. Despite a 70 per cent complete skeleton, it has again not been possible to prove categorically whether it had two or four legs.
The third contender, dated between 4.1-3.9 million years old, is the Australopithecus Anamensis, discovered at Lake Turkana in Kenya by Dr Meave Leakey in August 1995. A shinbone from Anamensis has been used to back up the claim that it walked on two feet.
The evidence of our oldest ancestors is confusing because they do not seem to be closely related to each other. Furthermore, the inexplicable lack of fossil evidence for the preceding 10 million years has made it impossible to confirm the exact separation date of these early hominids from the four-legged apes. It is also important to emphasize that many of these finds have skulls more like chimpanzees than men.
They may be the first apes that walked but, as of 4 million years ago, we are still a long way from anything that looked even remotely human.
Moving forward in time, we find evidence of several types of early man which are equally confusing. We have the 1.8 million year old appropriately named Robustus, the 2.5 million year old and more lightly built Africanus, and the 1.5 to 2 million year old Advanced Australopithecus. The latter, as the name suggests, is more man-like than the others and is sometimes referred to as ‘near-man’ or Homo habilis (‘handy man’). It is generally agreed that Homo habilis was the first truly man-like being which could walk efficiently and use very rough stone tools. The fossil evidence does not reveal whether rudimentary speech had developed at this stage.
Around 1.5 million years ago Homo erectus appeared on the scene. This hominid had a considerably larger brain-box (cranium) than its predecessors and started to design and use more sophisticated stone tools.
A wide spread of fossils indicates that Homo erectus groups left Africa and spread across China, Australasia and Europe between 1,000,000-700,000 years ago but, for unknown reasons, disappeared altogether around 300,000-200,000 years ago. There is little doubt, by a process of elimination, that this is the line from which Homo sapiens descended.
The missing link, however, remains a mystery. In 1995, The Sunday Times summarized the evolutionary evidence as follows:
The scientists themselves are confused. A series of recent discoveries has forced them to tear up the simplistic charts on which they blithely used to draw linkages... the classic family tree delineating man’s descent from the apes, familiar to us at school, has given way to the concept of genetic islands. The bridgework between them is anyone’s guess.
As to the various contenders speculated as mankind’s ancestor, The Sunday Times stated:
Their relationships to one another remain clouded in mystery and nobody has conclusively identified any of them as the early hominid that gave rise to Homo sapiens.
In summary, the evidence discovered to date is so sparse that a few more sensational finds will still leave the scientists clutching at straws.
Consequently mankind’s evolutionary history is likely to remain shrouded in mystery for the foreseeable future.
The Miracle of Man
Today, four out of ten Americans find it difficult to believe that humans are related to the apes. Why is this so? Compare yourself to a chimpanzee. Man is intelligent, naked and highly sexual - a species apart from his alleged primate relatives.
This may be an intuitive observation but it is actually supported by scientific study. In 1911, the anthropologist Sir Arthur Keith listed the anatomical characteristics peculiar to each of the primate species, calling them ‘generic characters’ which set each apart from the others. His results were as follows: gorilla 75; chimpanzee 109; orangutan 113; gibbon 116; man 312. Keith thus showed scientifically that mankind was nearly three times more distinctive than any other ape.
Another scientist to take this approach was the British zoologist Desmond Morris. In his book, The Naked Ape, Desmond Morris highlighted the amazing mystery of mankind’s ‘missing hair’:
Functionally, we are stark naked and our skin is fully exposed to the outside world. This state of affairs still has to be explained, regardless of how many tiny hairs we can count under a magnifying lens.
Desmond Morris contrasted Homo sapiens with 4,237 species of mammals, the vast majority of which were hairy or partly haired. The only non-hairy species were those which lived underground (and thus kept warm without hair), species which were aquatic (and benefited from streamlining), and armoured species such as the armadillo (where hair would clearly be superfluous). Morris commented:
The naked ape [man] stands alone, marked off by his nudity from all the thousands of hairy, shaggy or furry land-dwelling mammalian species... if the hair has to go, then clearly there must be a powerful reason for abolishing it.
Darwinism has yet to produce a satisfactory answer as to how and why man lost his hair. Many imaginative theories have been suggested, but so far no-one has come up with a really acceptable explanation. The one conclusion that can perhaps be drawn, based on the principle of gradiented change, is that man spent a long time evolving, either in a very hot environment or in water.
Another unique feature of mankind may provide us with a clue to the loss of body hair. That feature is sexuality. The subject was covered in juicy detail by Desmond Morris, who highlighted unique human features such as extended foreplay, extended copulation and the orgasm. One particular anomaly is that the human female is always ‘in heat’, yet she can only conceive for a few days each month.
As another scientist, Jared Diamond, has pointed out, this is an evolutionary enigma that cannot be explained by natural selection:
The most hotly debated problem in the evolution of human reproduction is to explain why we nevertheless ended up with concealed ovulation, and what good all our mistimed copulations do us.
Many scientists have commented also on the anomaly of the male penis, which is by far the largest erect penis of any living primate.
The geneticist Steve Jones has noted it as a mystery which is ‘unanswered by science’, a point which is echoed by Jared Diamond:
... we descend to a glaring failure: the inability of twentieth-century science to formulate an adequate Theory of Penis Length... astonishing as it seems, important functions of the human penis remain obscure.
Desmond Morris described man as ‘the sexiest primate alive’, but why did evolution grant us such a bountiful gift? The whole human body seems to be perfectly designed for sexual excitement and pair bonding.
Morris saw elements of this plan in the enlarged breasts of the female, the sensitive ear lobes and lips, and a vaginal angle that encouraged intimate face to face copulation. He also highlighted our abundance of scent-producing glands, our unique facial mobility and our unique ability to produce copious tears - all features which strengthened the exclusive emotional pair-bonding between male and female.
This grand design could not be imagined unless humans also lost their shaggy coat of hair and so it might seem that the mystery of the missing hair is solved. Unfortunately, it is not that simple, for evolution does not set about achieving grand designs. The Darwinists are strangely silent on what incremental steps were involved, but however it happened it should have taken a long, long time.
There are three other interesting anomalies of ‘the naked ape’ which are also worthy of note.
The first is the appalling ineptitude of the human skin to repair itself. In the context of a move to the open savanna, where bipedal man became a vulnerable target, and in the context of a gradual loss of protective hair, it seems inconceivable that the human skin should have become so fragile relative to our primate cousins.
The second anomaly is the unique lack of penis bone in the male. This is in complete contrast to other mammals, which use the penis bone to copulate at short notice. The deselection of this vital bone would have jeopardized the existence of the human species unless it took place against the background of a long and peaceful environment.
The third anomaly is our eating habits. Whereas most animals will swallow their food instantaneously, we take the luxury of six whole seconds to transport our food from mouth to stomach. This again suggests a long period of peaceful evolution.
The question which arises is where this long and peaceful evolution is supposed to have taken place, because it certainly does not fit the scenario which is presented for Homo sapiens.
Nor have Darwinists explained adequately how the major changes in human anatomy were achieved in a time frame of only 6 million years...
The Mystery of the Human Brain
The greatest mystery of Homo sapiens is its incredible brain.
During the last fifteen years, scientists have used new imaging technologies (such as positron-emission tomography) to discover more about the human brain than ever before. The full extent of the complexity of its billions of cells has thus become more and more apparent. In addition to the brain’s physical complexity, its performance knows no bounds - mathematics and art, abstract thought and conceptualization and, above all, moral conscience and self-awareness.
Whilst many of the human brain’s secrets remain shrouded in mystery, enough has been revealed for National Geographic to have boldly described it as ’the most complex object in the known universe’.
Evolutionists see the brain as nothing more than a set of algorithms, but they are forced to admit that it is so complex and unique that there is no chance of reverse engineering the evolutionary process that created it.
The eminent scientist Roger Penrose, for example, commented:
I am a strong believer in the power of natural selection. But I do not see how natural selection, in itself, can evolve algorithms which could have the kind of conscious judgments of the validity of other algorithms that we seem to have.
What does the fossil record tell us about our evolving brain capabilities? The data varies considerably and must be treated with care (since the sample sizes are limited), but the following is a rough guide.
The early hominid Afarensis had around 500cc and Habilis/Australopithecus had around 700cc. Whilst it is by no means certain that one evolved from the other, it is possible to see in these figures the evolutionary effects over two million years of the hominid’s new environment.
As we move forward in time to 1.5 million years ago, we find a sudden leap in the cranial capacity of Homo erectus to around 900-1000cc. If we assume, as most anthropologists do, that this was accompanied by an increase in intelligence, it represents a most unlikely macromutation. Alternatively, we might explain this anomaly by viewing erectus as a separate species whose ancestors have not yet been found due to the poor fossil records.
Finally, after surviving 1.2 to 1.3 million years without any apparent change, and having successfully spread out of Africa to China, Australasia and Europe, something extraordinary happened to the Homo erectus hominid. Perhaps due to climatic changes, his population began to dwindle until he eventually died out. And yet, while most Homo erectus were dying, one managed to suddenly transform itself into Homo sapiens , with a vast increase in cranial capacity from 950cc to 1450cc.
Human evolution thus appears like an hourglass, with a narrowing population of Homo erectus leading to possibly one single mutant, whose improved genes emerged into a new era of unprecedented progress. The transformation from failure to success is startling. It is widely accepted that we are the descendants of Homo erectus (who else was there to descend from?) but the sudden changeover defies all known laws of evolution. Hence Stephen Jay Gould’s comment about the ’awesome improbability of human evolution’.
Why has Homo sapiens developed intelligence and self-awareness whilst his ape cousins have spent the last 6 million years in evolutionary stagnation? Why has no other creature in the animal kingdom developed an advanced level of intelligence?