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Reason and Revelation Volume 32 #9

Sediba Hype Continues

Recently, we addressed the latest fossil find that has been drawing the attention of the evolutionary community—Australopithecus sediba (Miller, 2012; cf. Butt, 2010). Lee Berger, an evolutionary paleoanthropologist at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa, discovered two sets of sediba fossils in 2008 that some are claiming to be representative of the immediate evolutionary ancestor of the genus, Homo. The sediba fossils continue to be in the limelight, as in April, Scientific American featured them in an article titled, “First of Our Kind” (Wong, 2012).

No essential new evidence was presented in this article, which attempted again to prove that humans evolved from sediba, beyond what was discussed in our previous articles. What is new in this article is a further exposition of the dissent in the evolutionary community over their alleged fossil evidence for evolution. The evolutionary community simply cannot come to a consensus about the implications of its fossil finds, which illustrates the fact thatthe fossils cannot be definitively used as proof of evolution, since they can be interpreted in so many ways.

Lee Berger of the University of Witwatersrand in South Africa holding the cranium of
Australopithecus sediba

While Berger and others contend that the sediba fossils are representative of the ancestor of Homo, others vehemently disagree. William Kimbel of Arizona State University is known for leading the team that found the alleged 2.3 million-year-old upper jawbone in Hadar, Ethiopia that many evolutionists, up to this point, have believed to be the earliest evidence of the genus Homo. Kimbel responded to Berger’s assertion, saying, “I don’t see how a taxon with a few characteristics that look like Homo in South Africa can be the ancestor (of Homo) when there’s something in East Africa that is clearly Homo 300,000 years earlier [i.e., the jawbone he discovered—JM]” (as quoted in Wong, p. 36). Meave Leakey, of the famous fossil finding Leakey family, said, “There are too many things that do not fit, particularly the dates and geography. It is much more likely that the South African hominins are a separate radiation that took place in the south of the continent” (as quoted in Wong, p. 36). René Bobe, a biological anthropologist at George Washington University, believes the sediba fossils to be “too primitive in their overall form” to be the claimed ancestors (Wong, p. 36). Bernard Wood, a paleoanthropologist and professor at George Washington University, as well as adjunct senior scientist at the National Museum of Natural History, said, “There are not many characters linking it to Homo…. I just think sediba has got too much to do in order to evolve into [erectus]” (as quoted in Wong, bracketed item in orig., p. 36). If leading evolutionists cannot agree with each other about what their fossil evidence proves, how can their evidence be used to definitively prove anything?

One of the fascinating admissions that was made in this article by the evolutionists is that, contrary to the picture painted by many, the alleged evidence for human evolution is meager at best. Kate Wong, evolutionist and senior science writer for Scientific American, said, “The origin of our genus, Homo, is one of the biggest mysteries facing scholars of human evolution. Based on themeager evidence available, scientists have surmised that Homo arose in East Africa…” (Wong, p. 31, emp. added). Paleontologists often rely on a few isolated fossil bones, found here and there around the world, to construct their alleged tree of human evolutionary proof. Wong went on to say:

For decades paleoanthropologists have combed remote corners of Africa on hand and knee for fossils of Homo’s earliest representatives…. Their efforts have brought only modest gains—a jawbone here, and handful of teeth there. Most of the recovered fossils instead belong to either ancestral australopithecines or later members of Homo—creatures too advanced to illuminate the order in which our distinctive traits arose…. [W]ith so little to go on, the origin of our genus has remained as mysterious as ever (Wong, p. 32, emp. added).

Mariette DiChristina, editor-in-chief of Scientific American, also admitted that “[p]ieces of our ancient forebears generally are hard to come by…. Scientists working to interpret our evolution often have had to make do with studying a fossil toe bone here or a jaw there” (DiChristina, 2012, p. 4). Lee Berger, himself, admitted that there is a lack of human evolutionary evidence in the fossil record, although he tried to shine the light of hope on the issue. He stated: “[W]e really need a better record—and it’s out there” (as quoted in Wong, 2012, p. 39). Such a statement is strongly reminiscent of the admission and hopes of Charles Darwin over a century ago:

[T]he number of intermediate varieties, which have formerly existed, [must] be truly enormous…. Geology assuredly does not reveal any such finely graduated organic chain; and this, perhaps, is the most obvious and serious objection which can be argued against this theory. The explanation lies, I believe, in the extreme imperfection of the geological record (1956, pp. 292-293, emp. added).

He, of course, hoped that further fossil exploration would help to validate his theory, but over 150 years of continued research has left the evolutionary community with the same result: “We really need a better record.” Others have admitted the fact that the alleged evidence for human evolution in the fossil record is scarce and controversial (see Thompson, 2004, pp. 209-236), but it is nice to see other evolutionary scientists admitting the truth, at least on this point.

A final point made by Lee Berger that deserves highlighting is the fact that Berger chided the standard practice in paleontology of drawing too much from isolated bone discoveries. The sediba skeletons were more complete than typical fossil finds (even though the sediba skeletons are nowhere near being even 50% complete). According to Berger, if any of the bones he found had been found in different locations, isolated from one another, as is the typical scenario in fossil finds, completely different conclusions would have been drawn about the anatomy of the creature. He said, “Sediba shows that one can no longer assign isolated bones to a genus” (as quoted in Wong, 2012, p. 34). Bernard Wood agreed that Berger is “absolutely right” (as quoted in Wong, p. 36). The creationist community has made this contention all along, but Berger’s point is highly controversial in the evolutionary community, to say the least, considering that the bulk of the alleged evidence for human evolution ultimately comes down to such “isolated bones.” If Berger is right, the evolutionary “tree” would be essentially cut down and used as firewood. We wouldn’t expect the evolutionary community to agree with him, but Berger’s honesty on this point, in spite of its controversial nature, is certainly commendable.

Note that the Creation model would not be harmed in the least by an axe being taken to the human evolutionary tree. The evolutionary community, however, is reluctant to follow the evidence where it leads on this point because of the establishment’s clear bias against the Creation model. However, the Creation model contends, in keeping with the evidence, that humans did not evolve over millions of years from an ape-like ancestor, but rather, were created separately from all other creatures, on day six of Creation. While minor changes can occur within kinds over time (e.g., changes in beak size, color, etc.), evolution between “kinds” (Genesis 1:25) simply does not occur—according to the scientific evidence. Creatures were created from the beginning according to their kinds, and the fossil evidence supports this truth.

REFERENCES

Butt, Kyle (2010), “Australopithecus Sediba: Another Relative We Never Had,” Apologetics Press, http://www.apologeticspress.org/APContent.aspx?category=9&article=2872.

Darwin, Charles (1956 edition), The Origin of Species (London: J.M. Dent & Sons).

DiChristina, Mariette (2012), “The Story Begins,” Scientific American, 306[4]:4, April.

Miller, Jeff (2012), “Australopithecus Sediba: Evolutionary Game Changer?” Reason & Revelation, 32[3]:33-35, March, http://www.apologeticspress.org/APPubPage.aspx?pub=1&issue=1024&article=1741#.

Thompson, Bert (2004), The Scientific Case for Creation (Montgomery, AL: Apologetics Press).

Wong, Kate (2012), “First of Our Kind,” Scientific American, 306[4]:30-39, April.



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