Origin of Mankind
by Gary Parker, Ed.D.
Children lined up row upon row, mouths open, and eyes agog, as they look up at a museum's hairy half-man, club in hand, and listen to their group leader repeat:
Four million years ago, a few ape-like animals began to walk upright, taking the first faltering steps toward becoming human beings. Time, chance, and the struggle for survival continued shaping us. As Carl Sagan put it: "Only through the deaths of an immense number of slightly maladapted organisms are we, brains and all, here today."1
Along the way, social groups became the key to survival, and the human family evolved as the pleasure of sex was offered in return for food and protection. 2 Now we are capable of directing our own further evolution, but to avoid extinction we must understand our animal origins and instincts. Truly, evolution is the science of human survival.
So goes the lecture, often replete with compounded speculation and sexually explicit detail, and always with the subliminal soft-sell, "science is salvation." Our children are told this "old, old story" over and over again in children's science magazines, high school science textbooks, Saturday morning TV cartoons, talk shows, news specials and documentaries, and, of course, in museum after museum. Sometimes they hear the words "perhaps" or "theory" or "may have been," but the whole thrust of constant repetition by "experts in the field" could not have been designed any better to overwhelm our young people into believing that "evolution is a fact, like apples failing out of trees." 3
But what are the facts? Tragically, the facts are virtually inaccessible to most students. Museums rarely point out which parts of their displays are real and which are reconstructions and artistic imagination. Textbooks, encyclopedias, and scientific journal articles, the normal sources of student information, rarely report the facts admitted by an international conference of leading evolutionists, namely that the missing links between man and apes, like the supposed links between other plant and animal groups, are still missing (see ref. 3). In fact, it is really only in creationist works that students can get a scientifically critical look at the so-called "facts" behind evolutionist museum displays and textbook pictures of our supposed "family tree." 4
Now, thanks to two new displays, ICR's Museum of Creation and Earth History gives students and other visitors a close look at the facts regarding the origin of mankind. One display features life-size replicas of famous fossil skulls, and the second includes film and casts of dinosaur and man-like tracks from the Paluxy River in Texas. Students are encouraged to put their science process skills into action, and to examine all the relevant features and facets of each specimen. The "facts" evolutionists cite are included, but so are points missing from ordinary, evolution-only display. Consider the following as examples.
Neanderthals were once pictured by evolutionists as "beetle-browed, barrel-chested, bow-legged brutes," a link between apes and man. It is now possible to diagnose the several bone diseases common among Neanderthals, and we now know that creationists were right all along on this point: Neanderthals were just people—fully human. 4
Unfortunately, Neanderthals have not been the only people once considered subhuman by evolutionist authorities. Dr. Downs named his well-known syndrome "Mongoloid idiocy" because he thought children born with this condition (an extra 21st chromosome) were "throwbacks" to the "Mongolian stage" in human evolution. 5 Even sadder, Henry Fairfield Osborn once argued that "unbiased" scientists would classify "mankind" into several distinct species, if not different genera. Thus, he wrote, "The standard of intelligence of the average adult Negro [who evolutionist Osborn placed in a distinct subhuman species] is similar to that of the eleven-year-old youth of the species Homo sapiens."6 These ideas, rejected by evolutionists today, were, nevertheless, the "facts of evolution" in Osborn's time, and are crucial to understanding world events of the 1930's and 1940's.
Piltdown. Almost everyone now knows that Piltdown Man was a deliberate hoax. But for over 40 years, from 1912 until the 1950's, the subtle message of scientific authority was clear: "You can believe in creation if you want to, but the facts are all on the side of evolution." The facts in this case turned out to be an ape's jaw with its teeth filed and a human skull, both stained to make them look older.
At least Piltdown answers one often-asked question: "Can virtually all scientists be wrong about such an important matter as human origins?" The answer, most emphatically, is: "Yes, and it wouldn't be the first time." Over 500 doctoral dissertations were done on Piltdown, yet all this intense scientific scrutiny failed to expose the fake.
Students may rightly wonder what today's "facts of evolution" will turn out to be in another 40 years.
Too Much From Teeth? One of our museum displays shows what happened when people were too eager to interpret meager data. All scientists, whether creationist or evolutionist, are embarrassed by Hesperopithecus haroldcookii ("Nebraska Man"), reconstructed flesh, hair, and family, from a single tooth. Touted as another "fact of evolution" at the time of the Scopes trial, "Nebraska Man" turned out to be just the tooth of an extinct pig.
Evolutionists today are much more cautious about such zealous over-extrapolation. Yet it was not until 1979 that Ramapithecus—"reconstructed as a biped on the basis of teeth and jaws alone"—was written off as a "false start of the human parade."7 Even now Aegyptopithecus is being pictured as mankind's "psychological ancestor" (what Elwyn Simons called "a nasty little thing") on the basis of highly imaginative "behavioral analysis" of the canine teeth of the males. 8
"Lucy" and the Australopithecines. Current speculation about human ancestry centers around a group of fossils called australopithecines, especially a specimen called "Lucy." 9 Students visiting ICR's Museum see a picture of Lucy's skeleton, plus a full-scale reconstruction of a skull.
Next to this gracile australopithecine skull, however, the student also sees a life-size model of a chimpanzee skull. The similarities are striking. In fact, the similarities between gracile australopithecines and chimpanzees are so striking that "modern chimpanzees. by this definition [Richard Leakey's] would be classified as A. africanus [australopithecines]."10 Lucy's discoverer, Donald Johanson, made that statement about Leakey's definition, and he goes on to say that Lucy is even more "primitive" (i.e. more ape-like) than Leakey's australopithecines. Perhaps the most logical inference from our observations—certainly one students should be allowed to consider—is that Lucy and her kin are simply varieties of apes, and nothing more.
An evolutionist might object, "But here is the crucial difference: Lucy walked upright, and that makes her the evolutionary ancestor of man." But let's make sure our students hear both sides of that story, too. First, as leading evolutionary anthropologists point out, the living rain forest chimpanzee spends a lot of time walking upright," so that feature alone makes Lucy only man-like or chimp-like—and all her other features argue for chimp-like.
Secondly, we have evidence that people walked upright before Lucy was fossilized—the Kanapoi hominid, Castenedolo Man, perhaps even the Laetoli footprints discovered by Mary Leakey, and most especially the man-like tracks preserved with those of dinosaurs in the rocky bottom of the Paluxy River in Texas. 12 The ICR Museum's superb new Paluxy display (donated by Paul and Marian Taylor) features film of the research in progress, and casts of the manlike tracks that young people can try on for size. If people walked upright before Lucy was fossilized, then of course she could not have been our ancestor.
But did Lucy really walk upright anyway?" … anatomical features in some of these fossils provide a warning against a too-ready acceptance this story," says anatomist Charles Oxnard in a published address to biology teachers. 13 On the basis of multi-variate analysis, an objective computer technique for analysis of skeletal relationships, Oxnard reaches two conclusions. His scientific conclusion: the evidence is clear that the australopithecines did not walk upright, at least not in the human manner. Then, to the assembled teachers, he expressed his educational conclusion: "Be critical." We must teach our students to be critical, to examine the facts that lie behind popular theories, to explore alternate theories, and to test ideas and assumptions against the evidence at hand.
It is impossible for students to think critically about origins, however, if they are only presented with evolution in some form as the only idea acceptable in science. Teachers with no special interest in creation realize that presenting only evolutionary ideas is neither good science nor good education and it must make students wonder how science can be called an open-ended search for truth. An increasing number of teachers, parents, and especially students are realizing that true academic freedom must involve not only the freedom to discuss how, but also whether, evolution occurred—and, even more importantly, the freedom to discuss its one and only logical alternative, the scientific concept of creation.
No scientist has trouble distinguishing the kind of order in objects shaped by time and chance (e.g., a tumbled pebble) and those created with plan and purpose (e.g. an arrowhead). According to creation scientists, the evidence of anatomy physiology, and genetics enables us to recognize human beings and apes as separately created kinds. The fossils found so far indicate that apes and human beings existed as separate kinds with large but limited variability in the past as they do today. On the basis of such evidence, many scientists are now developing and defending creation as a scientific model, well able to compete with evolution in the marketplace of ideas.
We know that acceptance of either view strongly affects the way a person lives. But let's lay aside our personal preferences for the moment and simply ask: which concept better fits the facts—evolution or creation? "The good ole American fair play system is to show 'em both sides and let 'em make up their own minds." That simple and fair-minded view was expressed by Wayne Moyer during a televisions interview with Richard Threlkeld.14 That is the approach we are trying to take in the "two model" section of ICR's Museum of Creation and Earth History: " … show people both sides and let them make up their own minds."
Paradoxically, Moyer does not believe the rules of fair play can be applied to the creation/evolution question. Why? "It's like mixing apples and oranges; you're working from two sets of assumptions." That is the "official position" of the anti-creationists, but it simply cannot be true. First, nothing is more crucial to good science and good education than the ability to compare critically two sets of assumptions. Our students do it in social studies, they do it in literature, they do it in real life—why not in science, where comparing fact and assumption ought to be the backbone of the open-ended scientific approach to problem solving Second, when it comes to the scientific aspects of origins, any open-minded individual and all scientists—creationist, evolutionist, or undecided—work from the same assumption: respect for logic and observation and the time-tested procedures of science.
Surely we can all benefit from full and free discussion of this basic question: What is the most logical inference from our observations of human fossils: creation, or evolution? Certainly our students deserve the freedom to choose, and the freedom to look at all the data needed to make an intelligent choice.
1. Carl Sagan as quoted in "The Cosmic Explainer," Time, 20 Oct. 1980, p. 68.
2. Rensberger, Boyce, "Our Sexual Origins," Science Digest, Winter, 1979 (Special Ed.), ("Sexual intercourse evolved into ‘making love’ …."), pp. 46-47.
3. Stephen Gould, as quoted in "is Man a Subtle Accident?", Newsweek, 3 Nov. 1980, p. 96.
4. See for example, Duane T. Gish, Evolution, The Fossils Say No!, Creation Life Publishers, San Diego. 1979, pp- 106-162.
5. Gould, S.. "Dr. Down's Syndrome, Natural History, Apr; 1980, pp. 142-148.
6. Osborn, Henry, "The Evolution of Human Races," Natural History, Jan./Feb. 1926; rpt. Apr. 1980, p. 129.
7. Zlhlrnan, Adrienne, and Jerold Lowenstein, "False Start of the Human Parade," Natural History, Aug./Sep. 1979, p. 86.
8. Elwyn Simons, as quoted in "Just a Nasty Little Thing," Time, 18 Feb. 1980. p. 58.
9. Johanson, Donald, and Maitland Edey, "Lucy: The Beginnings of Humankind," Reader's Digest, Sep. 1981, pp. 49ff.
10. Johanson, D and T.D. White, "On the Status of Australopithecus afarensis," Science, 7 Mar. 1980. p. 1105.
11. "The Case for a Living Link," Time, 4 Dec. 1978. p. 82.
12. Parker, Gary, Creation: 'The Facts of Life, Creation-Life Publishers, San Diego, 1980, pp. 108-119.
13. Oxnard, Charles, "Human Fossils: New Views of Old Bones," American Biology Teacher. May 1979, pp. 264-276.
14. CBS "Sunday Morning," Nov. 23, 1980.