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National Geographic News: “6-Million-Year-Old Human Ancestor 1st to Walk Upright?” A new analysis of the bones of a human “ancestor” suggests it was the earliest known hominin to walk upright, reports National Geographic News.
The controversial alleged ancestor, Orrorin tugenensis, is simply a handful of bones said to be six million years old. Found in Kenya in 2000, National Geographic News reports that “[s]cientists have hotly debated” whether the fossilized bones were from an upright-walking apeman or just an ape.
The O. tugenensis thighbone was different than that of both modern humans and living apes.
A team led by biological anthropologist Brian Richmond of George Washington University measured certain indicators of upright walking, such as joint size, comparing them to “other early hominin fossils, living apes, and bones from about 130 modern humans from around the world.” The O. tugenensis thighbone was different than that of both modern humans and living apes, but similar to a species thought to live two or three million years ago, Australopithecus (Lucy’s kind). Based on that similarity, the team concluded that O. tugenensis, too, must have been an upright walker—but one that, like Lucy and her kind, walked differently than modern humans.
What we might say at this point is that the research—published in Science this week—supports the idea that both O. tugenensis and australopithecines were not true humans, but rather part of the ape kind that may have used their lower limbs differently than tree-bound apes, but were nonetheless apes that were distinctly different from the human kind and who did not bear God’s image.
However, there’s a twist. Biological anthropologist Terry Harrison of New York University’s Center for the Study of Human Origins argues that O. tugenensis should be seen as a tree-dwelling ape. “It does not make sense [to] interpret the anatomical features of O. tugenensis as a biped that could climb trees. I see it as a good arboreal quadruped that has a package of features like [those found in] Australopithecus.”
There are two important issues here, one general and one more specific, that creationists can take away from this news. We’ll start with the specific, the more obvious: this news, despite appearing under a sensational evolutionary headline, fits well into the creation model: God made certain ape kinds with a certain amount of built-in variation; some of these may come slightly closer to resembling humans—such as a chimpanzee is more “human-like” in appearance and behavior than a marmoset—but nonetheless, they are clearly distinguished from intelligent humankind, made in the image of God.
The more general issue to note is the variability and prominence of interpretation even when two scientists start with the same data. Here we have two evolutionists, both experts, who are looking at the same O. tugenensis fossil but who come to different conclusions. One sees it as an upright walker; the other sees it as a tree dweller. Without going back in time to see how this ape really got around, it’s simply one unprovable interpretation of the evidence versus another.
Creationists and evolutionists have the same data—the same evidence...
In the same way, creationists and evolutionists have the same data—the same evidence—yet the evidence must be interpreted since we cannot scientifically look back in time to see what really happened. Creationists have God’s Word that gives us a starting point for understanding what happened; we can then build a scientific understanding of what happened based on the Bible’s account of creation, the Flood, etc. Similarly, evolutionists have the dogma of Darwinism at their core, and build on top of that.
Thus, when it comes to alleged apemen, we must remember both the scientific reasons we view them separately as “apes” (e.g., australopithecines) or “men” (e.g., Homo erectus) and the philosophical reasons—evolution requires apemen; creation requires a separation between apes and men.
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