New African Fossils Alter Perception of Human Origins

by Dr. Elizabeth Mitchell on September 10, 2011

BBC: “African fossils put new spin on human origins storyPaleo-jigsaw or transitional form?

Paleoanthropologist Lee Berger’s team has brought their Australopithecus sediba fossils out of the closet for another showing and published a batch of anatomically ordered articles in last Thursday’s Science. The famous fossil pair, dug in 2008 from Malapa Cave in South Africa, debuted in Science last year when Berger put forth his hopes that Australopithecus sediba would prove to be the elusive transition between the apes and humans.

Many evolutionary paleontologists were not convinced by Au. sediba’s bid for Homo status. For instance, Berkeley paleoanthropologist Tim White pointed out that the characteristics being touted as transitional to Homo may have been nothing more than the characteristics of a juvenile ape.1 The fossil pair consists of an adult female and a male juvenile. Actually, published reports persist in referring to the male juvenile as a “boy,” a designation which typifies the observer bias found in the remainder of the reports.

Since last year’s publication revealed that the Au. sediba skull is remarkably ape-like, one of the current reports looks inside the “boy’s” skull to see what he may have really been thinking—at least that is the implication.

Since last year’s publication revealed that the Au. sediba skull is remarkably ape-like, one of the current reports looks inside the “boy’s” skull to see what he may have really been thinking—at least that is the implication. The 3D virtual endocast of the “boy’s” tiny ape-size brain has become the subject of an analysis asserting that the shape of the frontal lobe part related to language and social behavior in humans is un-ape-like. Berger’s team believes that the brain was reorganizing itself for human-hood.2

Additional pieces of the paleo-puzzle are presented in articles about the hand, the foot, and the pelvis. Each part contributes to the assessment that the fossil pair offers a “’marvelous mosaic’ of primitive and modern traits.”3 Many assertions relate to possible functions for the anatomical parts, suggesting for example that the hand retained its tree-climbing features while acquiring the ability for human-like dexterity. Other observations involve some wishful reconstruction. For example, the “remarkably complete”4 skeletons are missing some key pelvic portions—the ones that particularly distinguish human from ape. A look at the photographs of the two reconstructed pelvises shows those imaginary parts—the ones in gray—are conveniently drawn to match those of humans. Artistic license seems to have reached into the realm of observer bias.

Be sure to watch this web site this week for two additional reports dealing with the Science articles in greater detail. And have a look at our previous discussions of these same fossils at their 2010 debut: The Problem with Australopithecus sediba and Baraminological Analysis Places Homo habilis, Homo rudolfensis, and Australopithecus sediba in the Human Holobaramin: Discussion.

A trip to the zoo will confirm that we humans do indeed share some characteristics with apes. Yet the existence of some similarities is attributable to our common Designer. Those similarities do not imply a common evolutionary ancestor.

Similar design only implies ancestral origin in the imagination—no observational science shows actual transitions from ape to human. Those who “see” transitions are those who are committed to find them and to exclude the possibility of a Creator who designed one kind of human being in His image and many kinds of animals in one week. Some Christians claim we can compromise and assert that God used evolution, but that position is theologically bankrupt5 and denies God’s own eyewitness account of Creation.

Paleoanthropology cannot provide an eyewitness account of transitions from ape to human. Only the imagination can connect those dots. What you believe Au. sediba to be depends not on science but on your own worldview. You may choose to believe the God who sent His Son to die in your place or you may choose to compromise His word on the basis of conjectures based on wishful thinking, not on scientific facts.

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Footnotes

  1. Balter, M. 2010. Candidate human ancestor from South Africa sparks praise and debate. Science 328, no. 5975:154–155.
  2. Skeletons Present an Exquisite Paleo-Puzzle” Gibbons Science 9 September 2011:1370–1372.
  3. Skeletons Present an Exquisite Paleo-Puzzle” Gibbons Science 9 September 2011:1370–1372.
  4. Skeletons Present an Exquisite Paleo-Puzzle” Gibbons Science 9 September 2011:1370–1372.
  5. “The Search for the Historical Adam” and Population Genomics

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Answers in Genesis is an apologetics ministry, dedicated to helping Christians defend their faith and proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ effectively. We focus on providing answers to questions about the Bible—particularly the book of Genesis—regarding key issues such as creation, evolution, science, and the age of the earth.