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The “Glorious Mess” of Human Origins

by  Brad Harrub, Ph.D.

Textbook writers leave little doubt about their views regarding the origin of mankind. In Miller and Levine’s popular textbook titled Biology, they noted: “We know for example that humans evolved from common ancestors we share with other living primates such as chimpanzees and apes” (1995, p. 757). Phrases like, “We know...,” definitely are intended to lead students to believe that the truth is proven, and that no uncertainty remains. Yet, this presumptuous statement—that the origin of mankind from evolutionary ancestors is “known”—is a complete falsehood!

The September issue of National Geographic, featuring the African continent, makes some startling admissions regarding the alleged fossil origins of man. Joel Achenbach, one of the contributing authors, noted that the story of human origins appears rather “messy” even among evolutionary scientists. He observed:

Scientists are good at finding logical patterns and turning data into a coherent narrative. But the study of human origins is tricky: The bones tell a complicated story. The cast of characters keeps growing. The plot keeps thickening. It’s a...tale, still unfolding. More than half a century ago the great biologist Ernst Mayr surveyed the field of paleoanthropology and saw all sorts of diverse characters: Peking man, Java man, and Homo erectus. He figured out that they were all the same thing and helped bring coherence to a rambling tale. By the 1960s the textbook version of human origins looked pretty tidy: Humans evolved in Africa; Homo habilis begat Homo erectus, who begat Homo sapiens.(The Neanderthals were sort of a fly in the ointment.) Today the field has again become a rather glorious mess (2005, parenthetical item in orig., emp. added).

If the tale is still unfolding, then how can we “know?” If the field is a “rather glorified mess,” then why are we presenting it as a crisp, clean, and well-defined “fact” to students?

In his article, Achenbach quotes Dan Lieberman of Harvard, who admitted: “We’re not doing a very good job of being honest about what we don’t know. Sometimes I think we’re trying to squeeze too much blood out of these stones” (see Achenbach, 2005, emp. added). Contrast the statement that the field of anthropology is a “glorified mess” and that we aren’t “doing a very good job of being honest about what we don’t know,” with textbooks that proclaim: “We know for example that humans evolved from common ancestors we share with other living primates....” An honest man, whether a scientist, theologian, banker, or bus driver, must admit that children are being lied to and kept uninformed about the truth of human origins.

Most students complete their education under the impression that the evolutionary tree of life has been documented, and that we have scientific evidence for a progression of ape-like men in the fossil record. Even some scientists have been misled into thinking things are more complete than they really are. But, as paleontologist David Raup admitted, this is merely wishful thinking:

A large number of well-trained scientists outside of evolutionary biology have unfortunately gotten the idea that the fossil record is far more Darwinian than it is. This probably comes from the over-simplification inevitable in secondary sources: low-level textbooks, semi-popular articles, and so on. Also, there is probably some wishful thinking involved. In the years after Darwin, his advocates hoped to find predictable progressions. In general, these have not been found—yet the optimist has died hard, and some pure fantasy has crept into textbooks (1981, 213:289, emp. added).

When will our students learn that their textbooks are not accurate, and that much of what is published about human origins is speculation and “artist’s conceptions”? Almost thirty years ago Richard Leakey and Roger Lewin wrote:

What the fossils tell us directly, of course, is what our ancestors and their close relatives look like. Or rather, to be more accurate, they give us some clues about the physical appearance of early hominids, because until someone is lucky enough to come across a complete skeleton of one of our ancestors, much of what we can say about them is pure inference, guesswork (1978, p. 19, emp. added).

Guesswork indeed! Students need to understand that the evolutionists, themselves, admit that they do not possess the answers, and that the many holes in their theory have been patched with guesswork. In his National Geographic article, Joel Achenbach stated further that the

Earth doesn’t yield a perfect database. Still, it’s our scientific impulse to impose parsimonious explanations on complex problems in the same way that Newton realized that the fall of the apple and the motion of the planets were governed by the same simple force called gravity. But the process of evolution can’t be observed like the fall of an apple. Life—despite all the efforts of modern science—is messy (emp. added).

One might believe that after calling the entire field of paleoanthropology into question and admitting that the evidence was “messy,” Achenbach would question the validity of evolutionary theory. But he leaves no question that he continues to uphold the banner of evolution. He remarked: “The central fact of human evolution is a given—humans descended from a primate that lived in Africa six or seven million years ago” (Achenbach, 2005).

It’s “messy,” the tale is “still unfolding,” involves “pure inference, guesswork,” “wishful thinking,” and “pure fantasy [that] has crept into textbooks.” But we are supposed to believe that six to seven million years ago we descended from ape-like creatures out of Africa? Ridiculous! Jeremy Rifkin summed it up quite well when he observed:

What the “record” shows is nearly a century of fudging and finagling by scientists attempting to force various fossil morsels and fragments to conform with Darwin’s notions, all to no avail. Today the millions of fossils stand as very visible, ever-present reminders of the paltriness of the arguments and the overall shabbiness of the theory that marches under the banner of evolution (1983, p. 125, emp. added).

Given their own admission regarding the “glorified mess” of the fossil record—I would have to agree! No fossil evidence will ever be compiled that accurately links humans to any lower life form—for the simple reason that humans did not evolve! They were created by the Creator!


Achenbach, Joel (2005), “Views of Africa,” National Geographic, September, [On-line] URL:

Leakey, Richard and Roger Lewin (1978), People of the Lake (New York: E.P. Dutton).

Miller, Kenneth and Joseph Levine (1995), Biology (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall).

Raup, David (1981), “Letter to the Editor,” Science, 213:289, July 17.

Rifkin, Jeremy (1983), Algeny (New York: Viking Press).

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