Evolution: Just 4 Million Years Ago

on March 3, 2007

Reuters: “Chimps, humans split only 4 million years ago

It’s one of those ultimate questions that keep people awake at night: just when did chimps and humans split apart from one another—five million, six million, or seven million years ago? Seriously, these evolutionary estimates are being challenged by a new study that claims the alleged evolutionary split occurred “just” four million years ago.

The study’s authors, writing in the Public Library of Science’s PLoS Genetics journal, employ a statistical technique known as the “hidden Markov model, developed in the 1960s and originally applied to speech recognition,” to come up with their recent estimate. The Markov model was applied to the molecular clock, a hypothetical, evolution-based concept that constructs genetic timelines based on similarities and differences in the DNA sequence data of different animals.

The study’s finding “directly contradicts some other recent research.”

What’s of particular interest, though, is that the study’s finding “directly contradicts some other recent research.” ScienceNOW reports that what was once a “satisfying consensus is [now] being challenged by a new study that proposes a surprisingly recent separation.” The ScienceNOW article highlights the controversy further:

Some researchers say the date is so recent, something must be wrong with this application of the Markov methodology. It would bump all the earliest fossils out of the human tree […] “A 4.1-million-year split for humans and chimps … is hard to defend because fossils practically reject it,” says evolutionary biologist Blair Hedges of Pennsylvania State University in State College.

All these dates are in conflict, it seems, with each backed by a different scientific field or technique. But should we expect these contradictions to force evolutionary scientists to start rethinking their beliefs about human evolution? Don’t hold your breath. Even when confronted with contradictions and inconsistent evidence, the presupposition of naturalism drives evolutionists’ understanding of human origins and precludes the consideration of alternate ideas, such as divine creation.

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