Fact Versus Fiction: The Recent Ethiopian Fossils

by Marvin Lubenow on April 17, 2006

The Asa Issie fossil discovery is just one more of evolutionists false interpretations of the fossil record in an attempt to “prove” an animal origin for humans.

In recent days, newspapers worldwide have been blazing headlines similar to what I read in my hometown paper: “Scientists say fossil find completes a human evolutionary chain.” 1 Like the original Nature article2 upon which it was based, the San Diego article is an amazing mixture of fact and fiction. By “fiction,” I mean philosophy or belief that is completely unsubstantiated by factual evidence.

In the San Diego newspaper article, Ethiopian anthropologist Berhane Asfaw, one of the Nature authors, is quoted: “We just found the chain of evolution, the continuity through time. One form evolved to another. This is evidence of evolution in one place through time.”

There are no legitimate transitional fossils.

Tim White of the University of California, Berkeley, another of the Nature authors, describes the discovery (found in the Middle Awash Region, Afar Rift in Ethiopia) as being like 12 frames of a home movie, covering six million years, involving eight different human-like fossil species (including the Asa Issie discovery) and showing the three major phases of human evolution. These three major phases are the genus Ardipithecus, the genus Australopithecus (including the famous “Lucy”), and the genus Homo (which includes modern humans).

After those clear statements of certainty regarding human evolution, however, things proceed downhill. Regarding the genus Ardipithecus evolving into the genus Australopithecus, the article gets fuzzy. Ardipithecus is described as “a key candidate for the genus that evolved into Australopithecus.” The new Asa Issie fossils are said to not completely bridge the “giant leap” between the two forms. Tim White stated that: “it is not a sure thing that Ardipithecus evolved into Australopithecus.” And Alan Walker (Pennsylvania State University) remarks that these connections “have been theorized.”

Regarding the genus Australopithecus evolving into the genus Homo (that’s us), the reports are even fuzzier. The newspaper article only says: “What evolved into Homo was likely the genus Australopithecus” [emphasis added].

The Nature article seeks to give the basis of the evidence for the alleged evolution of the genus Ardipithecus into Australopithecus and then into Homo. It is largely that the chewing teeth of the australopithecines tend to get bigger over time. The Asa Issie fossils fit into this picture, which is why they are considered to be such important transitional fossils. If anyone is so mentally constituted as to feel that this “completes a human evolutionary chain,” I am sure that nothing I could say would discourage that person. The fact is that there is no evidence in the Nature article that would rule out the Asa Issie fossils from being just another species of the genus Australopithecus.

The Nature article then explodes a bombshell! After explaining that in the pre-Homo fossils the teeth tend to get bigger, the article continues: “Species of the genus Homo violated this trend, but only subsequent to the appearance of stone tools.” There is good reason why this trend was “violated” with the appearance of stone tools. Stone tools (and other elements of culture) mark one of the differences in the fossil record between true human fossils and the fossils of non-human primates.

If in the non-human primate fossils the teeth tend to get bigger, and in the true human fossils, the teeth tend to get smaller, that would represent a discontinuity, a “reversal,” which is a “no-no” in the fossil record. (See my book, Bones of Contention: A Creationist Assessment of the Human Fossils, Revised edition, pp. 215–217) The reason is that if by random mutations the teeth in a lineage tend to get larger, it is highly unlikely (read “virtually impossible”) for random mutations to occur in that same lineage that would exactly reverse the process.

There is an even bigger problem for the alleged evolution of the genus Australopithecus into the genus Homo. There are no legitimate transitional fossils. The alleged transition, Homo habilis, is a mess. It is now commonly acknowledged that the Homo habilis assemblage actually constitutes at least two if not three different species, almost all of the alleged Homo habilis fossils being australopithecines.

The famed paleontologist Richard Leakey describes the situation:

Of the several dozen specimens that have been said at one time or another to belong to this species [Homo habilis], at least half probably don’t. But there is no consensus as to which 50 percent should be excluded. No one anthropologist’s 50 percent is quite the same as another’s.3

Because the tremendous need for that transitional form between the australopithecines and humans still persists, Milford Wolpoff (University of Michigan), who needs Homo habilis and believes in it, states it well: “. . . the phylogenetic outlook suggests that if there weren’t a Homo habilis we would have to invent one.” 4

Invention is something that many evolutionists do well.

For fifty years, creationists have been hammering at the evolutionist establishment, making remarkable inroads in exposing the bankruptcy of molecules-to-man evolution. And the Intelligent Design Movement has been creating a recent stir as well. So, dismayed that about 50% of the American people still believe in some form of creationism, the evolutionist community has stepped up its counterattack. The Asa Issie fossil discovery is just one more of their false interpretations of the fossil record in an attempt to “prove” an animal origin for humans, and to separate us from the God of Creation, and from our risen Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.


  1. San Diego Union-Tribune, April 13, 2006.
  2. Nature, April 13, 2006, pp. 883–889.
  3. Origins Reconsidered, 1992, p. 112.
  4. American Journal of Physical Anthropology 89(3), November, 1992, p. 402.


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