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42. Man From the Apes: Has Science Proved It Yet?

Charles Darwin was a clever salesman--he wanted to sell his evolutionary theory and he wanted to promote himself as a great man of science. Very aware of the power of public opinion, he was careful not to shock the public sensibilities more than necessary. Thus, in his Origin of Species published in 1859 he advanced his theory that all species of plants and animals had descended by evolution from one or a few common ancestral cells. But he avoided the issue of human origins, only suggesting that the future would illuminate this question. some of his knowledgeable critics immediately warned of the plain implication of his theory, that man had an animal ancestry. Only after twelve years, when his reputation was secure, did he publish The Descent of Man in which he made man a product of evolution from ape-like ancestors. This was obviously the ultimate conclusion of his theory. If it is a fact, as virtually all science textbooks teach, it is surely the most significant fact of human history. For if the origin of the race was mere dust, its destiny likewise is nothing but dust. Has science proved it to be so. Let us survey the evidence.

Fossils provide the principle historical evidence offered for human evolution. It seems as if every year or some striking new fossil "hominid" hits the front pages. But like a blazing meteor, it soon is forgotten, only to have another soon replace it in the news. John Reader commented in the New Scientist (3/26/81), "Not many (if any) have held the stage for long; by now laymen could be forgiven for regarding each new arrival as no less ephemeral than the weather forecast." Thus, the Neanderthal people, their fossil remains first found in 1856, are now conceded to have been true human beings. Also they were not hunched over but walked as upright as we do. Furthermore, the Cro-Magnon people, essentially the same as us modern humans, are now known to have lived at the same time as the Neanderthalers.

In 1891 Eugene Dubois discovered the so-called Java Man skull. But he concealed for thirty years a true human skull of very large brain capacity found two years earlier. In 1936 he concluded that Java Man was actually the skull of a giant gibbon. Scientists today, however, continue to hold that fossils of this type, now called Homo erectus, were our ancestors. They cannot, however, prove that these fossils have any connection with an cultural artifacts or implements such as tools found in their vicinity.

The Piltdown fossil found in England in 1912 was shown in 1953 to be a cleverly contrived hoax. The greater part of the scientific world accepted the fraud for forty years. One of the men implicated in this fraud was Teilhard de Chardin. He later was involved as a fund-raiser for the investigation of the Peking Man or Sinanthropus fossils in China. Only drawings, photographs, and plaster casts were allowed out of China. Just two outside authorities were permitted to examine them, and they both raised very serious questions, doubting the connection of Sinanthropus to man. During World War II the fossils mysteriously disappeared, leaving no scientific evidence.

Since the 1920s prominent candidates for our ancestors have been coming to light in Africa. The principal type is called Australopithecus. A shining star since the early 1980s has been Australopithecus afarensis, the prime example of which was affectionately dubbed "Lucy." In just a few years Lucy suffered several criticism, however. Professors R. Susman and J. Stern of the State Univ. of New York at Stoneybrook commented that Lucy not only spent a lot of time in trees, but that she probably also nested in the trees and lived a lot like other monkeys. Even Dr. Donald Johanson, Lucy's finder, admitted, "There is little evidence that Australopithecines made and used tools." thus the stars rise and fall, and John Reader's gloomy assessment of the fossil man scene is again confirmed.

To establish evolutionary ancestors, a sequence of intermediate fossil types is necessary. The recently popular sequence is Australopithecus afarensis to Homo habilis to Homo erectus to Homo sapiens. Prof. S.J. Gould of Harvard University has pointed out, however, that there are substantial fossil gaps between these types. Therefore, evolution of one into the other cannot be proved. In addition, only the Homo sapiens fossils can be firmly related to evidence of culture and tools.

The currently hot evidence for human evolution comes from molecular biology. The DNA molecules or genes of different species are compared, and particular protein molecules are likewise compared. The more similar are the sequences of nucleotide units in the DNA molecules, and the more similar are the sequences of amino acid units in the protein molecules, the closer the evolutionary relationship is assumed to be. This type of evidence can be used to construct diagrams of assumed evolutionary history which looks like a tree, with root, trunk, branches, twigs and leaves at the ends of the branches. It does not, however, prove that the evolutionary history actually occurred.

There are problems with this theory of DNA and protein evolution, however. Different proteins sometimes give different results from each other and from DNA. For example, the cytochrome c molecule of man is identical to that of chimpanzee, but differs by one amino acid from that of the rhesus monkey. The comparison of carbonic anhydrase I molecules shows rhesus monkey considerably more distant from man, but chimp till quite close. In fact, it has been said that chimp DNA is as much as 99 percent similar to human DNA. But then it is reasonable to ask why there is so much difference between chimps and humans. It appears that DNA may not determine everything after all. One thing certain is that DNA comparisons do not prove evolution.

It should be pointed out that for computerized comparisons of DNA sequences from different species and of protein sequences from different species, the data often must be "massaged" in order to make things work out right. "Right" means in agreement with accepted evolutionary theories. Finally, it is important to remember that these comparisons of molecules are just like comparisons of anatomy in that they provide only circumstantial evidence for one or another conclusion. They do not prove any evolutionary history or relationships.

How can the various kinds of evidence be fitted into a biblical framework? Any such scheme is necessarily quite speculative, but here is one which is plausible. As the population increased from the eight people of Noah's family, small pioneer groups began to spread out across the earth from the region of Mount Ararat. Moving into various differing climatic zones, these small populations adapted to the new conditions. For example, in northern Europe fair complexion is advantageous, for it allows the scarce sunlight to produce more vitamin D in the skin. Consequently, northern Europeans are fair skinned. Thus different racial groups developed. Noah and his sons had brought with them through the flood much of the pre-flood culture and technology which is briefly mentioned in the fifth chapter of Genesis. This can explain how the great Sumerian civilization could suddenly appear on the stage of world history without apparent historical roots.

In some cases the rugged living conditions as well as the curse of sin led to certain degrees of degeneration. The rugged but somewhat crude Neanderthalers may be an example of this. This may explain why the cruder types of fossil human remains are mostly found at considerable distances from the Middle East, as in Africa and the Far East. Later population groups moved out from the Middle East and either melted in with the early comers or overwhelmed or exterminated them. Thus, the Cro-magnon people replaced the Neanderthalers. The division of the language groups at Babel and also the division of the great land mass into the present continents tended to make the separate racial groups more or less permanent, because genetic mixing was somewhat restricted. As the unsettled conditions in the earth's crust and climate following the flood gradually subsided, the stage was set for the history of nations and empires. The stage was set for the coming of Abraham, Israel, Messiah and His Church.

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