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Missed the Memo; Forgot to Leave Africa

on November 17, 2007
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ScienceNOW: “New Ape Fossils Found in Africa A new fossil found in Kenya’s Rift Valley is shaking up the latest hypotheses about alleged ancient apes and their postulated connection to modern humans, chimpanzees, and gorillas.

Kyoto University paleoanthropologist Yutaka Kunimatsu and colleagues found the fossil in 2005 in Nakali, Kenya. Based on the fossil, they have hypothesized a new ape, Nakalipithecus nakayamai, thought to have lived nearly 10 million years ago.

It was a “paucity of data” that engendered the older theory.

Reporting in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the authors argue the find challenges an existing theory that “apes in Africa died out millions of years ago only to be replaced by other apes that had migrated to Europe and Asia and then returned.” Interestingly, it was a “paucity of data” that engendered the older theory, as the ScienceNOW article explains (quoting at length):

The ancestors of humans and chimpanzees split about 5 million to 7 million years ago … . Verifying that date in the fossil record has been difficult, however, because the trail of old bones for apes goes cold in Africa right at the time when the African apes were diverging 7 million to 12 million years ago … . Given the paucity of data, some researchers have proposed that apes originated in Africa but went extinct there. According to the theory, today's African apes descended instead from those that migrated to Europe or Asia and eventually wandered
back to Africa.

The discovery by Kunimatsu, et al., along with a nearby discovery dubbed Samburupithecus kiptalami and an Ethiopian find named Chororapithecus abyssinicus, “[show] that there were two different large hominoids even within a very narrow range of time and space,” reports Kunimatsu, suggesting apes never migrated out of Africa completely.

What you’ve just read is the evolutionary interpretation of the discovery. Now for the creationist response.

First of all, although the ScienceNOW article does not obscure the fact, there’s no discussion of the fact that the fossil used as the basis of Nakalipithecus nakayamai is nothing more than “the partial lower jaw and 11 teeth of [the] ape.” For the evolutionist, major doctrines of human origins are based on hypothesized ape species, themselves based on often meager fossil remains. The australopithecine Lucy, for instance, despite all the fanciful artists’ interpretations, is only a partial skeleton. Obviously, the smaller the fossil remains, the more prominent the factors of interpretation and presumption play into the fossil classification. But then again, it’s no wonder that amid a “paucity of data,” evolutionists are grasping at straws—er, jawbones—to form theories.

It’s no wonder that amid a “paucity of data,” evolutionists are grasping at straws to form theories.

Second, the researchers consider the new fossil find “a close relative of the last common ancestor of humans, chimps, and gorillas.” If you’re a believer in evolution, though, then all of earth’s life—including all living species along with the fossils we find—is part of one large evolutionary tree; everything must fit in somewhere. Evolutionists use the system of cladistics to classify species into hypothesized evolutionary relationships (different branches of the tree, that is); for a species to be considered a relative of a (distant) “last common ancestor” of humans, chimps, and gorillas does not indicate that its role in the evolutionary tree is clear; rather, what is clear is that the species is simply dissimilar enough to humans, chimps, and gorillas to fall into those groupings. The creationist view is that—if the jawbone alone is sufficient for classification—the species is simply a unique type of primate.


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