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All hominid fossils are fully human or fully ape (Talk.Origins)

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Response Article
This article (All hominid fossils are fully human or fully ape (Talk.Origins)) is a response to a rebuttal of a creationist claim published by Talk.Origins Archive under the title Index to Creationist Claims.

Claim CC050::

All hominid fossils are fully human or fully ape.

Source: No source given.

CreationWiki response:

Note: The dates used by Talk.Origins are based on uniformitarian dating methods and are invalid if the Genesis Flood occurred. (Talk.Origins quotes in blue)

1. There is a fine transition between modern humans and australopithecines and other hominids. The transition is gradual enough that it is not clear where to draw the line between human and not.

This is not true. This claim is based mainly on a comparison of skulls, most of which are just incomplete fragments. Even those that are nearly complete are broken into pieces and have had to be reassembled. This has allowed evolutionary presuppositions to get in the way. When these fossils are evaluated without assuming evolution, the alleged smooth transition goes away.

Evolutionists place a large emphasis on cranial capacity (brain size) and if that is the primary comparison then there is no solid gap, but that is not surprising since living gorillas can have a cranial capacity as high as 752cc and living humans go as low as 1100cc.[1] This leaves a gap of only 348cc difference, so it would not take much more variation on both sides for them to meet.

It further needs to be noted that there is more to the line between ape and human than cranial capacity or even skull morphology. There are numerous other skeletal differences that do not show up when all one has is a skull.

Intermediate fossils include

  • Australopithecus afarensis, from 3.9 to 3.0 million years ago (Mya). Its skull is similar to a chimpanzee's, but with more humanlike teeth. Most (possibly all) creationists would call this an ape, but it was bipedal.

The description of Australopithecus afarensis having more human-like teeth than a chimpanzee is a little like saying a station wagon is more truck like than a sedan. The fact is that Australopithecus afarensis teeth were still ape-like.

The claim that Australopithecus afarensis was bipedal is out of date. A study of their wrist showed that they had the same wrist anatomy as knuckle-walking apes. Furthermore, their skeletal anatomy showed that they walked with a stooped gait, similar to knuckle-walking chimps. This shows that,rather than being bipedal, Australopithecus afarensis was a knuckle-walker.

  • Australopithecus africanus (3 to 2 Mya); its brain size, 420-500 cc, was slightly larger than A. afarensis, and its teeth yet more humanlike.

The brain size of Africanus is within the upper limits of a chimpanzee. The only way the teeth of africanus teeth seem to be more human-like than those of afarensis is that africanus had smaller canine teeth and the back top teeth were farther apart. Otherwise the teeth of both have the same size and shape.

  • Homo habilis (2.4 to 1.5 Mya), which is similar to australopithecines, but which used tools and had a larger brain (650-cc average) and less projecting face.

The comparison of Homo habilis to australopithecines is accurate since all indications are that the best Homo habilis fossils are australopithecines and not the same species. As for the tools associated with Homo habilis, it turns out that they are not associated with Homo habilis fossils but have simply been "dated" to the alleged time frame of habilis. Furthermore, none of the reasonably complete Homo habilis skulls have a cranial capacity greater than 600cc and the rest are too fragmented for positive identification. However, all of their cranial capacities are with in the upper limits of gorillas.

Finally, Homo habilis is no longer considered a human ancestor, having been relegated to a side branch.

  • Homo erectus (1.8 to 0.3 Mya); brain size averaged about 900 cc in early H. erectus and 1,100 cc in later ones. (Modern human brains average 1,350 cc.)

Most creationists believe that Homo erectus was human but probably highly degenerative. The use of cranial capacity averages is a little deceptive. While it does show a general trend, it hides the fact that one of the "oldest" homo erectus fossils has one of the highest cranial capacities. (Fossil OH 9, cranial capacity 1065, "date" 1.5 ma. This fits the degenerative model perfectly.) If the cranial capacity of Homo erectus was the result of a degenerative condition, those with the smaller brains would be the most degenerate, and as such they would also tend to be shorter-lived. So if the correct timing of the Homo erectus fossils were only a few generations, one would expect the more degenerative ones to be the oldest and the less degenerative ones to be the youngest, with anomalies such as fossil OH 9.

Finally, Homo erectus is no longer considered a human ancestor, having been relegated to a side branch.

  • A Pleistocene Homo sapiens which was "morphologically and chronologically intermediate between archaic African fossils and later anatomically modern Late Pleistocene humans".
  • A hominid combining features of, and possibly ancestral to, Neanderthals and modern humans.

Since all of these are human the presence of intermediates is no surprise.

And there are fossils intermediate between these.

Since Homo erectus, Homo sapiens and Neanderthals are all human beings, intermediates would be no surprise, since they are all descended from the same ancestors and would probably be interfertile. Furthermore, being the same genus, it is likely all australopithecines were descended from the same ancestors and probably interfertile, so intermediates would also be no surprise. So the question is: is there a clear gap between the genus homo and the genus Australopithecus?

Having shown that the so-called Homo habilis fails to provide the necessary link, we are left with only a small number of fossils to consider.

Homo rudolfensis is represented by several fossils but only skull KNM ER 1470 is reasonably intact. KNM ER 1470 has a cranial capacity of 775cc which is within the lowest range of both Homo ergaster and Homo erectus, both of which are fully human. The KNM ER 1470 skull has definite human features, and it looks as though in reconstructing this fossil the face was needlessly angled ten to twenty degrees away from the rest of the skull, making it look less human than it really is.

Next comes a group of fossils from Dmanisi, in Georgia of the former USSR. Three skulls were found at this site.

  • The first two are skulls D2880 and D2282. Both fit the morphology of homo ergaster and are classified as such, making them human. Skull D2880 has a cranial capacity of 775cc which is within the limits of homo ergaster. Skull D2282, however, is surprisingly small with a cranial capacity of only 650cc. While a human with such a small cranial capacity is surprising, it is not totally unexpected, based on the model that Homo ergaster and Homo erectus suffered from some form of degeneration. The fact that the only significant difference between D2282 and other Homo ergaster skulls is its size supports the degeneration model.
  • The third skull, designated D2700, has a cranial capacity of only 600cc and like the other two was classified as Homo ergaster and thus it was human. While smaller than D2282, D2700 was a juvenile whose adult cranial capacity would have been about 650cc making it comparable to D2282. Given the fact that D2282 and D2700 were found in the same area, there is a good likelihood that D2700 was the child of D2282.
  • Reference: Dmanisi Paleoanthropology - Dmanisi hominids
  • Reference: The Rolex Awards: an excavation shedding light on early human evolution, D. Lordkipanidze
  • Reference: Old Man of Georgia

So while the their brains were are on the extreme small end of the human kind, all four were clearly human. The fossils next down the line are clearly apes, so Talk.Origins' so-called fine transition does not exist.

2. Creationists themselves disagree about which intermediate hominids are human and which are ape

Some disagreement has occurred about some individual finds, but this is nothing more than an information problem. Evolutionists guard their pet skulls like treasure. Most evolutionists don't even get a chance to study them firsthand, so a creationist does not stand a chance. Only one creationist, Dr. Jack Cuozzo, has had such an opportunity and that was only with a few Neanderthal skulls. As a rule, creation scientists need to rely on what they can get from evolutionary sources for information on these skulls. Sometimes that has lead to misunderstandings about just how human the individuals were. This is particularly true of older finds such as Java man and Peking man.

3. There is abundant genetic evidence for the relatedness between humans and other apes:

However the same evidence can also point to a common designer. If you start with the assumption that all life on Earth had a common ancestor, then yes the genetic similarities between humans and apes would suggest a close relationship. Similarly, if you assume that life arose from unintelligent natural causes then the genetic similarities between humans and apes would strongly suggest a common ancestor. However, if the only relationship between humans and apes is a common designer, then the genetic similarities are to be expected.

The closest comparison would be computer programming, since the genetic code is basically the programming of biology. In writing computer programs it is very common for programmers to reuse the same code to do the same job. If you had two similar programs written by the same programmer, it highly likely that you would find probably find that the programing code is virtually identical, in both sequence and placement.

Note that Talk.Origins' says "humans and other apes", so Talk.Origins is implying that humans are apes. This type of wording reveals their bias.

  • Humans have twenty-three chromosome pairs; apes have twenty-four. Twenty-two of the pairs are similar between humans and apes. The remaining two ape chromosomes appear to have joined; they are similar to each half of the remaining human chromosome.
  • The ends of chromosomes have repetitious telomeric sequences and a distinctive pretelomeric region. Such sequences are found in the middle of human chromosome 2, just as one would expect if two chromosomes joined.

Other than evolution there are at least two other possible explanations for this data.

  1. Humans were genetically engineered by God or some other intelligent entity using ape DNA as starting point. This would be consistent with the programmer analogy, since programmers often modify existing programs to produce new ones. The two ape chromosomes could have been stitched together as evidence of the genetic engineering.
  2. More likely humans were originally created with 24 pairs of chromosomes, and the two of them joined at some point. The most likely time from a Biblical perspective would have been during the fall.

From a naturalistic perspective, such chromosome joining is difficult to explain; it would likely cause problems reproducing unless you had at least one mating couple with the joined chromosomes.

  • A centromere-like region of human chromosome 2 corresponds with the centromere of the ape chromosome.

This is to be expected if both were created by the same designer.

  • Humans and chimpanzees have innumerable sequence similarities, including shared pseudogenes such as genetic material from ERVs (endogenous retroviruses).

These too are evidence for design, when one understands how viruses fit in to the design scheme. If viruses were designed as a DNA transfer system intended to aid adaptability, then this is to be expected. Such a virus would not insert themselves totally randomly, but in a location dictated by the existing genetic code. The result is that even unrelated organisms with similar DNA would tend to get such viruses in the same location. Furthermore, deterioration caused by mutations would make it likely that insertions would become more random over time.

This interpretation is supported by studies showing that at least some ERVs are specific in their genome integration into the genome.

The present results indicate that there are highly specific integration patterns for each endogenous retrovirus that do not readily relate to their sequence or particle classification. Each host genome may utilize these elements for contrary, and possibly beneficial functions.

Replication of retroviruses and retrotransposons depends on selecting a favorable chromosomal site for integration of their genomic DNA. Different retroelements meet this challenge by targeting distinctive chromosomal regions. Despite these differences, recent data hints at a common targeting mechanism-tethering of integration complexes to proteins bound at favorable sites.