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Confessed Conjectures and Contradictions of Paleoartists

by  Eric Lyons, M.Min.

How do we know what Neandertals really looked like? Is H. floresiensis (i.e., the Hobbit) proof of evolution, or was “the Hobbit” just a small human? Does “Lucy” (Australopithecus afarensis) look more like an ape or a person? What about the dozens of illustrations appearing on magazine covers around the world in any given year, which supposedly illustrate the truth of human evolution? What are the real facts behind the illustrations and models of our alleged ape-like ancestors?

In a recent Science article titled “Bringing Hominins Back to Life,” evolutionist Michael Balter collaborated with various scientists and artists to discuss some of the shaky science of today’s paleontologists and paleoartists. Since no one has ever seen an ape-like human or a human-like ape (they do not exist and never did—Genesis 1; Exodus 20:11), there are no photographs of hairy, bi-pedal, knuckle-dragging, club-carrying “half-and-halfs.” All of the life-like illustrations and reconstructions around the world are based upon interpretations of various fossils. So much of the time, however, “[reconstructions] require lots of decisions that science can’t answer.... The reconstructions allow us to ask the question but not to answer them” (Balter, 2009, 325[5937]:137). According to anthropologist Zeresenay Alemseged, “[A]rtists must track researcher’s latest anatomical interpretations.... But the end product should be seen as an artistic creation” (as quoted in Balter, p. 137, emp. added)—not a scientific one.

Sadly, books, magazines, and museums all over the world are full of faulty artistic creations based on misinterpretations of human and animal fossils. Balter briefly mentioned two examples of these mistakes, albeit he passed them off more as differences than mistakes. First, he noted how, in the early 1900s, French paleontologist Marcellin Boule “concluded that the Neandertal did not walk fully erect and played no part in human ancestry” (Balter, p. 137). What’s more, the early 20th-century artist that Boule enlisted “created a brutish stooped, hairy creature, more ape than human” (p. 137). However, “[r]esearchers now think that Neandertals...were closely related to Homo sapiens and did not look apelike” (p. 137). Thus, rather than focus on animalistic likenesses, “[t]oday’s Neandertal reconstructions tend to emphasize their humanity” (p. 137).

A second example of contradictory interpretations and reconstructions by paleontologists and paleoartists is found on page 138 of Balter’s article. At the bottom left-hand corner are two very different recreations of the head of Homo floresiensis. On the left is a pale, wrinkled, round-faced, round-eyed, small-nosed “Hobbit” with scraggly facial hair and thinning head-hair. On the right is a dark-skinned, tight, chiseled-faced, wide-eyed, big-nosed “Hobbit” with a head full of hair, but with no facial hair. Amazingly, paleoartists made the reconstructions from the same skull...yet they look nothing alike.

Near the end of the article, Balter quoted anthropologist Adrienne Zihlman, who admitted that “[m]ost of what we do is part art and part science” (p. 139, emp. added). Similarly, he acknowledged that “much of the work that human evolution researchers do today is based on conjecture as well as hard science” (p. 139, emp. added). In truth, the “conjecture” and “art” part of evolutionary scientists’ work is the part about evolution, while the “hard science” is that which we can know experimentally or from the laws of nature.

What we can know from “hard science” is that no one has ever observed apes or ape-like creatures evolve into humans. What’s more, such evolution defies a well-known law of science known as the Law of Biogenesis (see Thompson, 1989). “Advanced” mammals never evolved into humans, anymore than fish developed legs and lungs and evolved into amphibians and reptiles over many millions of years. Such conjectures may make for appealing art exhibits, but they will never tell the true story of human origins (Genesis 1-2; Psalm 139:13-16; see Harrub and Thompson, 2003).


Balter, Michael (2009), “Bringing Hominins Back to Life,” Science, 325[5937]:136-139, July 10.

Harrub, Brad and Bert Thompson (2003), The Truth About Human Origins (Montgomery, AL: Apologetics Press).

Thompson, Bert (1989), “The Bible and the Laws of Science: The Law of Biogenesis,” [On-line], URL:

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