Genetics: Friend or Foe?
We have a big group of geneticists, biologists/molecular-biologists, anthropologists, and myself as an ancient historian on Logos Research associates. Here is a bit of our findings/work lead by Dr. John Sanford (upcoming book on Adam/Eve set to be released this Summer Lord willing).
Dr. John Sanford
Friend at Discovery Institute on the "Signature in the Cell" - genetics/information and the cell.
Dr. Georgia Purdom
The Origin of Man and the “Waiting Time” Problem
August 10, 2016, 11:03 AM
Editor’s note: We are pleased to welcome a contribution from Dr. Sanford, who is Courtesy Associate Professor, School of Integrative Plant Science, Cornell University.
My colleagues and I recently published a paper in Theoretical Biology and Medical Modeling, “The Waiting Time Problem in a Model Hominin Population.” It is one of the journal’s “highly accessed” articles. A pre-human hominin population of roughly 10,000 individuals is thought to have evolved into modern man, during a period of less than six million years. This would have required the establishment of a great deal of new biological information. That means, minimally, millions of specific beneficial mutations, and a large number of specific beneficial sets of mutations, selectively fixed in this very short period of time. We show that there is simply not enough time for this type of evolution to have occurred in the population from which we supposedly arose.
Historically, Darwin-defenders have argued that time is on their side. They have claimed that given enough time, any evolutionary scenario is feasible. They have consistently argued that given millions of years, very large amounts of new biologically meaningful information can arise by the Darwinian process of mutation/selection. However, careful analysis of what is required to establish even a single genetic “word” (a short functional string of genetic letters) within a hominin genome shows just the opposite. Even given tens of millions of years, there is not enough time to generate the genetic equivalent of the simplest “word” (two or more nucleotides). Even in a hundred billion years, much longer than the age of the universe, there is not enough time to establish the genetic equivalent of a very simple “sentence” (ten or more nucleotides). This problem is so fundamental that it justifies a complete re-assessment of the basic Darwinian mechanism.
In my book Genetic Entropy, I have previously outlined the waiting time problem (for example, see the 2014 edition, Chapter 9, pp. 133-136). My calculations there, and calculations published by others (Behe, Snoke, Axe, Gauger et al.), all demonstrate the same basic problem. (For a complete literature review, see the link to our new paper given above.) What this new paper provides is an independent validation, by a totally different method, of the previous works done by Behe, others, and myself.
In our paper we examine the waiting time problem in a new way, employing state-of-the-art, comprehensive, numerical simulations to empirically document the time required to create a specific string of mutations. This method is an alternative to employing mathematical approximations, and is preferable for various reasons outlined in the paper. Our empirical experiments realistically enacted the establishment of short genetic sequences within biologically realistic virtual hominin populations. These experiments demonstrate the limits of the classic neo-Darwinian mechanism in a clearer, and more compelling way. Of special significance, we show that as genetic “word size” increases linearly, waiting time increases exponentially (see Table 2 in the new publication).
The waiting time problem has four basic elements. First, in a small population it takes a very long time for any specific nucleotide (genetic letter) to mutate into a specific alternate nucleotide. Second, it takes vastly more time for a given string of nucleotides to mutate into a specific alternative string of nucleotides (as is required to create a new beneficial genetic “word”). Third, any specific new word that arises is quickly lost due to genetic drift, and so must arise many times before it “catches hold” within the population. And fourth, even when the new word catches hold, it takes additional time for natural selection to amplify the new beneficial mutation to the point of fixation within the population.
Our paper shows that the waiting time problem cannot honestly be ignored. Even given best-case scenarios, using parameter settings that are grossly overgenerous (for example, rewarding a given string by increasing total fitness 10 percent), waiting times are consistently prohibitive. This is even for the shortest possible words. Establishment of just a two-letter word (two specific mutations within a hominin population of ten thousand) requires at least 84 million years. A three-letter word requires at least 376 million years. A six-letter word requires over 4 billion years. An eight-letter word requires over 18 billion years (again, see Table 2 in the paper). The waiting time problem is so profound that even given the most generous feasible timeframes, evolution fails. The mutation/selection process completely fails to reproducibly and systematically create meaningful strings of genetic letters in a pre-human population.
Other authors have published on the waiting time problem and they have consistently acknowledged its reality, but some have then tried to minimize the problem. In those cases, the authors have first shown the waiting problem is serious, but then go on to invoke very special atypical conditions, seeking to reduce waiting times as much as possible. This is evidently in the hope of saving neo-Darwinian theory. But when these “special conditions” are carefully examined, in every case they are far-fetched and ad hoc.
When the dismissive authors use the same formulation of the problem as we used in our paper, they see the same prohibitive waiting times (see our paper’s discussion). For example Durrett and Schmidt (2007) model a human population of 10,000, just as we do. They show that for a specific set of eight required mutations (which must arise in the context of a specific genomic location), the waiting time is 650 million years. But most readers will miss the fact that this is just their estimated time to the “first instance” of the string. Elsewhere in their paper they acknowledge that the establishment and fixation of the specific set of mutations would take 100 times longer than the first instance (when they assume a 1 percent fitness reward). This would be 65 billion years! Using the same parameter settings (and applying a 1 percent fitness reward) our own experiments give waiting times of the same magnitude. Likewise, when Lynch and Abegg (2010) specify a population of 10,000, and when two specific mutations are required, they get waiting times exceeding 10 million generations (see their Figure 1). Assuming twenty years per generation for a human population, this is more than 200 million years (see our paper’s discussion).
What will the primary counterargument be to the waiting time problem? The primary objection is, and will continue to be, as follows. Within a small population, a given string of letters cannot arise in a specific location without a prohibitive waiting time, yet somewhere else in the genome good things might still be happening. For example, if one is waiting for the sequence ATCG to be fixed in a specific genomic location, it will require very deep time, but it will take no time at all if one is waiting for ATCG to arise anywhere in the genome. Indeed, many copies of ATCG are already in the genome. This argument has three problems.
First, it ignores context. The sequence ATCG by itself is not useful information. It can never be beneficial (and hence selectable), except in a very specific context. Consider randomly changing one word in an encyclopedia — will it consistently improve the text, regardless of where the change is made? All information is context-dependent. For example, if you have an executable computer program, inserting a certain random string of binary digits could conceivably improve the program’s information content. But in such a very unlikely case, it would only be beneficial within an extremely specific context (location). When inserted out of context, the same string would almost certainly be deleterious.
Second, when we broaden our view to include the whole genome, we have to consider the problem of net loss of information, due to a multitude of nearly neutral deleterious mutations that are happening throughout the genome. Random mutation will cause ubiquitous genetic damage (especially in deep time), which will greatly overshadow the few rare strings that might arise in just the right context and might be sufficiently beneficial to be selectable.
Third, invoking “good things that might be happening in other parts of the genome” is essentially sleight of hand. Other potentially beneficial sets of mutations in other parts of the genome will each have their own waiting time problem. This is not a reasonable explanation for the origin of the massive amount of integrated biological information that is required to change an ape into a man (i.e., millions of complementary nucleotide substitutions established and fixed within the source hominin genome, in very little time).
Given that higher genomes must continuously accumulate deleterious mutations (as I show in Genetic Entropy), and given that beneficial mutations are very rare (as shown by the famous Lenski LTEE project, and also as shown in Genetic Entropy), and given that evolution cannot create meaningful genetic words (even given deep time), it seems that neo-Darwinian theory is coming undone on every level.
New Book Shows that Fossil Record Supports Biblical View of Human Origins
Contested Bones is a new book that will encourage many Christians. This new book addresses the question, “Did apes really evolve into man?” Contested Bones provides a comprehensive, insightful, and up-to-date analysis of the bones that are commonly called hominin fossils (aka, the bones of “ape-men”). So, what did the authors discover? After more than four years of exhaustive research on this subject, the authors reached the following conclusions:
1) Collapse of the traditional understanding of ape-to-man evolution.
The traditional view of ape-to-man evolution was a simple linear progression forward. It was thought that ape-like creatures were sequentially replaced by more and more human forms (as illustrated by the famous “ape parade” icon, see Figure 1). This iconic image is still commonly portrayed in many books and out-of-date textbooks. However, in the last few decades, new fossil evidence has shown this classic point of view is false. All the experts in the field have abandoned what is called the straight-line concept of human evolution. The powerful ape parade icon that has so profoundly influenced our culture for over 50 years is now officially dead. This is now universally acknowledged within the paleoanthropology community. For instance, paleoanthropologist J.J. Hublin wrote in Nature:
The once-popular fresco showing a single file of marching hominids becoming ever more vertical, tall, and hairless now appears to be fiction.1
Paleoanthropologist Bernard Wood writes similarly in New Scientist: 1. Hublin J.J., An evolutionary odyssey, Nature 403:363, 2000.
There is a popular image of human evolution that you’ll find all over the place ... On the left of the picture there’s an ape ... On the right, a man ... Between the two is a succession of figures that become ever more like humans ... 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.2
Figure 1. Until fairly recently, it was assumed that one ape-like creature evolved cleanly into the next, similar to the famous “ape parade” illustration shown above. Evolutionary paleoanthropologists now universally acknowledge that this famous image, which for decades was used to promote the ape-to-man story, is contrary to the actual fossil evidence.
2) Field in crisis—newest data only suggests “messy and undecipherable bush”, no clear fossil trail leading to man.
The image below came from an article published in Scientific American (2014), by a leading evolutionary paleoanthropologist, Bernard Wood. The title Wood chose for the article describes the current sentiment in the paleo-community, “the origin of humans is surprisingly complicated.”3
In our research, we have found that there is really only one major claim that is uncontested in the field of paleoanthropology. It is the observation that the hominin bush is so complex and tangled that paleo-experts cannot decipher a credible evolutionary sequence from ape to man. So, what happened to the clear fossil trail leading to man? Did it ever really exist?
Since the time of Darwin’s early writings over a century ago, the lack of support for ape-to-man evolution has routinely been blamed on the incompleteness of the fossil record—there were almost no bones, almost no evidence of any kind. This made it easy for experts in the field to claim that the ape-to-man story would eventually be validated when more fossils were found.
2. Wood B., “Who are we?”, New Scientist 2366:44, 2002.
3. Wood B., Welcome to the Family, Sci Am 311(3):42-47, 2014. https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/the-origin-of- humans-is-surprisingly-complicated/
Figure 2. Bernard Wood of George Washington University is a world authority on hominin family trees (phylogenetic studies). Wood has confirmed in a recent tree diagram that the fossil record in no way reflects an ape-to-man progression. Note that none of the branches of the “human family tree” are actually connected. Instead, Wood acknowledges that the fossil record resembles a messy, tangled bush—with no direct ancestors leading to man. Image credit, ref. 3.
The period of time when there were almost no hominin fossils ended during the so-called “Golden Age” of paleoanthropology, when the Leakey Family began to discover various ape and human bones in East Africa in the 1970s. Since that time a fairly steady stream of new fossils have been found. Now that many thousands of hominin bones have been discovered, the ape- to-man fossil record should be easily discernable. Instead, leading experts widely acknowledge that every new finding further confounds the ape-to-man story. Every new bone seems to further confuse the experts in the paleoanthropology field. Paleo-expert Yohhannes Haile- Selassie, curator of the Cleveland Museum of Natural History, very recently affirms this in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (2016).
Figure 3. The paleo-community openly acknowledges that more fossils have not helped to support the ape-to-man story. Instead, more fossils have only confounded the most straightforward predictions of the theory.
Haile-Selassie asks in the title of his paper, “Do more fossils mean less clarity?”4 He answers his own question by confessing that every new hominin species found further “complicates our understanding” of human evolution (Figure 3). Paleo-expert Susan Anton of New York University has come to the same conclusion: “All new discoveries make things more confusing.”5 Donald Johanson agrees, “The transition to Homo continues to be almost totally confusing.”6 Paleo-expert John Hawks notes, “What a mess early Homo is!”7 Wood writes in Nature (2014):
Even with all the fossil evidence and analytical techniques from the past 50 years, a convincing hypothesis for the origin of Homo remains elusive.8
After 150 years of cataloging and meticulously describing several thousand hominin bones and fragments, the paleo-community now openly confesses that the hominin fossil record does not reveal any recognizable evolutionary progression from ape to man.
3) In the present, we see a diversity of ape-forms and a diversity of human forms. The fossils indicate that the same was true in the past—but there was even more diversity. Despite the diversity observed in the present and also in the past, it is still generally not
4. Haile-Selassie Y. et al., The Pliocene hominin diversity conundrum: do more fossils mean less clarity, Proc Natl Acad Sci, USA 113(23):6364-6371, 2016.
5. Balter M., Candidate human ancestor from South Africa sparks praise and debate, Science 328:154-155, 2010.
6. Balter M., Candidate human ancestor from South Africa sparks praise and debate, Science 328:154-155, 2010.
7. http://johnhawks.net/weblog/reviews/early_homo/taxonomy/wood-2014-homo-habilis-50.html 8. Wood B., Fifty years after Homo habilis, Nature News 508:31-33, 2014.
difficult to distinguish ape bones from human bones—as long as the skeletons are substantially intact.
Contested Bones affirms that the hominin bones clearly show that in the past there was much more diversity within the ape type and also within the human type. Although both groups were diverse, there is no credible evidence for a “bridge species” linking these two very distinct life forms. Paleoanthropologists openly acknowledge that there is indeed a clear separation between the ape and human type in the fossil record. There are just two relevant groups, each with its own diversity. Those two groups are the Australopithecus genus (which are distinctly ape) and the Homo genus (which are distinctly human). Leslie Aiello, paleoanthropologist of the University College London, affirms this stating:
No doubt about it, Australopithecines are like apes, and the Homo group are like humans.9
Aiello’s description of the fossil record certainly sounds more like what you would expect from a biblical perspective than an evolutionary perspective. In the fossil record, there are apes and there are humans, just as we see today. For decades, the paleo-community has acknowledged that there exists a “vast gulf” separating the australopithecine apes and man. So, the challenge for paleoanthropologists has always been to discover what might lay between these two very distinct groups (i.e. “missing links” or “ape-men”).
Figure 4. Apes and men have many physical similarities, but they are still two very distinct life forms. This is true in the present and was also true in the past. This is consistent with the traditional biblical perspective described in Genesis—God created apes and humans to be physically similar, but separate and distinct. Similarity can be attributed to a common designer, just as well as it can be attributed to common ancestry. A clear separation between the ape and human type (whenever skeletons are largely intact) is reflected in the present as well as in the fossil record.
Many fossil discoveries have been held up at one time or another as being credible “missing link” species, but these claims have consistently been based upon very incomplete skeletons that were often misassembled (i.e., see chapters on Lucy and her kind Au. afarensis, H. habilis, Ar. ramidus, Au. sediba). These types of incomplete and misassembled fossils have enabled just-so stories about certain fossils being “missing links”. Such “missing link” fossils are not convincing evidences for bridging the vast morphological gap that separates australopith and
9. Leakey, R. and Lewin R., Origins Reconsidered: In Search of What Makes Us Human, Anchor Books (Double- day), New York, p. 196, 1992.
man. Such skeletons are typically less than 50% complete (e.g., Lucy is 20% complete and H. habilis is even less), and have mistakenly included both ape bones and human bones.
4) There is mounting fossil evidence that man and the australopithecine apes coexisted and interacted (at least until the australopiths went extinct).
It is clear that none of the living apes are in the ancestral human lineage. This is also true of extinct apes such as the Paranthropus group. The only candidates that might arguably be in the ancestral human lineage are in the gracile (slender) “australopith” group. Yet the australopiths are distinctly ape, as noted above. Nevertheless, certain very incomplete Australopithecus skeletons (i.e., “Lucy” and “Ardi”10) have been promoted as “missing links”— our alleged apish ancestors. Traditionally, it has been assumed those reputed australopith ancestors evolved millions of years before humans existed. Those early ape-like creatures were said to have then gradually evolved into man through a series of intermediate forms that progressively became more human.
However, Contested Bones shows that these australopithecine apes are true apes that coexisted extensively with human beings. Famous paleoanthropologist Richard Leakey had long suspected this to be the case, stating:
I feel confident that one day we will be able to follow man’s fossil trail at East Rudolf [Turkana] back as far as four million years.
Leakey’s prediction is now being dramatically confirmed. Human bones, human footprints, and human stone tools are commonly found alongside the early australopith bones (dating to the time of Lucy, 3-4 million years ago). Though we do not agree with the timescales, we agree with Leakey’s general conclusion that the australopiths did not give rise to man, as evidenced by their early and extensive coexistence. Richard Leakey agrees with our observation that australopith and man are two separate and distinct forms (Figure 5). In the journal Nature, he wrote:
There seems no evidence, however, that the genus Homo at Rudolf had any direct relationship to the australopithecine population of the same time and with which it shared its habitat. The concept of the gracile australopithecine being ancestral to Homo in the Lower Pleistocene requires careful reexamination... The Rudolf [Lake Turkana] material seems to confirm the view developed as a result of work at Olduvai... that Homo and Australopithecus are two quite separate and distinct early Pleistocene hominids.11
Australopithecine expert, Charles Oxnard, has recently made a similar observation:
There are now many more fossils more similar to humans and older than australopithecines than are any of the australopithecines themselves. Hence A [australopiths] not on a direct line to humans.12
10. The authors do not accept the Ardipithecus genus as a credible taxonomic group. We agree with the discoverer’s original designation of the bone called Ardi to the Australopithecus genus.
11. Leakey R., Further Evidence of Lower Pleistocene Hominids from East Rudolf, North Kenya, Nature 231:241-245, 1971. 12. Personal communication, 2016.
Figure 5. A robust australopithecine ape (left) and a human skull of H. erectus (right). These skulls were discovered by Richard Leakey in East Turkana of Northern Kenya. The comparison shows that the australopiths were separate and distinct from man. The coexistence of these two distinct forms has been found at all three major hominin sites in East Africa (Kenya, Tanzania, and Ethiopia).
It is now widely documented in the hominin fossil record that australopith and man lived together in the same environments and at the same time. Paleoanthropologist Ella Been of Tel Aviv University writes, “The coexistence of Homo and Australopithecus in early South African sites is not unusual...”13 The same can be said of the famous East African sites. It appears that australopith and man interacted, and had the relationship of hunter/prey (i.e., humans hunted and ate australopith apes). Indeed, even now some human hunter/gatherer tribes hunt baboons, chimpanzees, and other primate species. There is abundant evidence that men hunted the australopiths, transported their carcasses to living sites (campsites), where they were butchered using stone tools, and where their meat was processed and cooked over fires. This hunter/prey relationship is evidenced by the presence of stone tools and butchered bones displaying visible slice marks, which are found in archeologically rich sites known as “living sites”.
It is not unusual for australopith and human bones to be found in the same strata as the living sites, butchered bones, and stone tools. This pattern of intimate coexistence of australopith and man is found at all three of the most famous East African hominin sites—Olduvai Gorge (Tanzania), East Turkana (Kenya), and Hadar (Ethiopia). The coexistence of australopith and man appears to have been both extensive and long lasting. Indeed, the bones and artifacts of humans are found in rock strata of equivalent age as the earliest australopith species (Figure 6). This is a profound problem for the ape-to-man story.
The extensive coexistence of australopith and man shows, contrary to the ape-to-man story, that the australopith apes did not exist before man, nor did they give rise to man. These findings are documented in Contested Bones.
13. Been E. and Rak Y., The lumbar spine of Australopithecus sediba indicates two hominid taxa, Paleoanthropology, A2, 2014.
Figure 6. A timeline is shown at the top of this chart spanning from over 5 million years ago to the present. The authors do not accept the ages assigned that were obtained from the popular radioisotope dating methods. However, because the australopith and human bones are buried together, we cannot deny that these two forms coexisted extensively in the fossil record. So, for the sake of argument, we present the evolutionary assigned ages of these bones and artifacts. What the chart shows is that anatomically human bones, human footprints, human stone tools, butchered bones displaying slice marks, etc. date back to the time of the earliest australopithecines, from 3–5.7 million years ago. Several of these human bones/footprints and stone tools date to the time of Lucy’s kind (our alleged ancestor), from 3–4 million years ago. This raises a serious problem for the ape-to-man story. If humans date back to the earliest australopiths (and even predate them), then we obviously could not have descended from them. That would be like saying grandchildren can be the same age or older than their grandparents.
5) There are major problems with the methods used to date the hominin fossils.
Many Christians would be surprised to learn that the radioisotope dating techniques used to date hominin bones have major problems. Contested Bones reviews the primary scientific literature on this topic, and shows that the dating methods commonly used to date hominins yield extremely inconsistent ages, and so paleoanthropologists tend to only use the dates that fit the evolutionary story. Dates that conflict with the proposed ape-to-man timeline are routinely rejected. Unacceptable dates are routinely assumed to be corrupted by sample contamination—even when there is no direct evidence of contamination. Selective use of data is bad science, yet this is common practice in the field of paleoanthropology.
There are serious flaws in the underlying assumptions inherent in the standard radioisotope dating techniques. One of the most popular radioisotope dating methods that was used to establish the hominin timescale is the potassium-argon method. When volcanic ash or igneous rocks that are associated with hominin bones are dated using the potassium-argon method, it is necessary to make certain assumptions about the initial isotope concentrations in the rock
when it crystalized. For instance, it is assumed that there were no excess daughter isotopes trapped in the system when the rock formed (all of it is supposed to have totally degassed from the lava before cooling). The problem is, that assumption cannot be directly verified because those early conditions were established in the untestable past. There is really only one sure way to test the validity of that critical assumption, and that is to date rocks of known age that formed from recent eruptions (i.e., those that occurred in relatively recent history).
Remarkably, when samples are collected from recent volcanic eruptions and dated using the potassium-argon method, the dates obtained routinely conflict with the true age of those rocks (Table 1). If young rocks of known age yield dates of millions of years, how can anyone trust those same dating methods on rocks of unknown age? This very real problem is discussed at length in chapter 12 of Contested Bones.
Table 1. Young rocks from recent eruptions (<1,000 years old) yield radioisotope dates of millions of years. The data used in this table was retrieved from mainstream scientific journals.
6) New genetic data indicates that ape-to-man evolution is no longer credible—evolution is going the wrong way.
There are many serious genetic problems with the ape-to-man story. First, the genetic differences between man and ape are much greater than previously thought (the actual genetic difference is roughly 100–300 million genetic letter differences). Second, to genetically reprogram the ape genome, via random mutations, such that it is programmed to specify a human being, is virtually impossible. The numerous claims that there is genetic evidence that proves ape-to-man evolution are now collapsing. The evidence that both ape and human genomes are degenerating due to mutation accumulation is now very strong—meaning that neither ape not man could have evolved—they both must degenerate. In fact, many of hominin fossils display anomalous pathologies that suggest that in the past certain isolated and inbred
human populations have experienced “reductive evolution” (de-evolution). Such reductive evolution has resulted in genetic pathologies, reduced body size, reduced brain size, and subsequent tribal extinction.
Genetic degeneration is a very real phenomenon occurring in living populations. This has been extensively documented in the book Genetic Entropy. If reverse evolution is happening today, why wouldn’t it have happened in the past? Contested Bones shows that genetic degeneration is clearly seen in the hominin fossil record. For instance, many of the bones of the reputed Homo species like “Hobbit”, Erectus, Naledi, and Neanderthal seem to show evidence of severe inbreeding and genetic decline. Therefore, many of the disturbing human fossils are better understood to be de-evolution (degeneration), rather than evolution. The so-called “primitive features” seen in “Hobbit”, Erectus, Naledi, and Neanderthal, do not actually show they were “pre-human” tribes. Rather, they were human tribes that were severely inbred and were in genetic decline.
Just before Contested Bones went to press, the book’s genetic decline thesis was dramatically confirmed with publication of several studies in leading scientific journals. For instance, in a study published by the Genetics Society of America in the journal Genetics (2016), the researchers observed that Neanderthals were inbred, with low genetic variation and a high “mutational load.” High mutation load means many deleterious mutations had accumulated in their genomes. The geneticists reported in their paper that, “Neanderthals had at least 40% lower fitness than humans on average.”14
7) Almost every major claim is fiercely contested within the field of paleoanthropology. Unfortunately, the competing views are not widely publicized. The interpretation that receives the most publicity is the claims made by the discoverers, who almost always promote their finding as a human ancestor.
Many paleoanthropologists who have made famous fossil discoveries such as Donald Johanson (discoverer of “Lucy”) or Lee Berger (discoverer of Au. sediba and H. naledi), have spoken of their lifelong ambition to one day find a “missing link”. Interestingly enough, one tends to find what one is looking for, as long as one looks long enough and hard enough. Indeed, Donald Johnson confesses the strong tendency for fossil hunters (including himself) to “strain their eyes” to see the bones in a certain light. Experts in the field acknowledge that it is much more exciting to find a “missing link” than it is to find the bones of say, an ordinary ape or an already recognized species. Perhaps this explains why only a single chimpanzee fossil has ever been found. It is striking that every time fossil hunters claim to have found an important new set of bones—it turns out that they have found precisely the “missing link” they were hoping to find. The discoverers’ claims are then sensationalized by the mass media, usually before the broader community of paleoanthropologists have had any chance to scrutinize those claims.
14. Harris K. and Nielsen R., The genetic cost of Neanderthal Introgression, Genetics 203: 881-891, 2016.
Typically, after those initial hyped-up claims, other experts in the field will publish technical papers rebutting the discovery team’s exciting claims. Unfortunately, those competing views are rarely publicized, and it’s easy to understand why. The rebuttal papers generally don’t help to bolster the ape-to-man story. As a result, the public is left with the misleading impression that every new fossil discovery is continually confirming the ape-to-man story, and that there are no serious controversies within the field.
The bottom line is that all the major fossil finds that are claimed to be “transitional forms” are either rejected or are hotly contested within the field of paleoanthropology. This includes the most famous eight allegedly pre-human fossil types—Neanderthals, Erectus, Habilis, Naledi, Sediba, “Hobbit”, “Ardi”, and “Lucy”. The public has been left with the misleading impression that each of those findings are compelling evidences in support of the ape-to-man story. The public has not heard any of the many reasons why these fossil claims have been challenged by numerous experts in the field, including world-renowned paleoanthropologists reporting in prestigious scientific journals including the American Journal of Physical Anthropology, Journal of Human Evolution, PLOS One, Nature, Science, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, and more.
For the last 150 years, bones and bone fragments have been used to promote the concept of ape-to-man evolution. One by one, these bones have been questioned, then challenged, and then have been either abandoned or simply put on the shelf. Tens of thousands of bones and bone fragments have now been catalogued, named, and often re-named. Some of these bones have been very strange indeed. Despite all this, the scientists who study these things now conclude that these bones DO NOT SHOW a clear progression from ape to man (Figure 1). All that is seen is a messy, tangled “bush” with no fossil trail leading to man (Figure 2).
What do the bones show? They show that there are basically two types of bones of interest— bones of the ape type (cataloged Australopithecus), and bones of the human type (cataloged Homo) (Figure 4). There are no bones that are clearly transitional between the ape type and the human type.
How can we make sense of the actual fossil evidence? Surprisingly, the best framework for understanding these bones is in the context of the traditional Christian perspective, as described in the Bible. The biblical view is that all mammals were miraculously created at the same time as distinct kinds. These kinds would have had a lot of built-in genetic diversity (heterozygous alleles). This would have resulted in lots of diversity within those originally created kinds.
Man is unique. Apes and men have numerous physical similarities, but they have always been separate forms of life, and they coexisted extensively. Once there were more kinds of apes, with some of these having now gone extinct. This explains why ape bones with unique features have been found. The human population was divided into many diverse people groups after the Tower of Babel. Some of these people groups flourished, while other very small populations became isolated, inbred, and genetically compromised. This helps explain some of the very strange and pathological human bones that have been found (including “Erectus”, “Hobbit”, and “Naledi”). These compromised populations eventually died off, leaving us with nothing but some bones, some stone tools, and some footprints.
By God’s grace, the human fossil record is increasingly aligning with the biblical view of human origins as described in the book of Genesis. This emerging picture is antithetical to what the paleoanthropology community has always wanted to confirm. The data is relentlessly moving the field away from the cherished ape-to-man story. God, in His mercy, is revealing surprising new evidences that affirm the Bible, in order to encourage His people.
For more information see ContestedBones.org
Written by Christopher Rupe and Dr. John Sanford FMS Foundation, All Rights Reserved, 2018