"Just So" Stories of Apes and Humans
Dr. Ray Bohlin
A recent issue of _Time_ magazine (14 March 1994) displayed a
picture of _Homo erectus_ on the cover with the title, "How Man
Began: Fossil bones from the dawn of humanity are rewriting the
story of evolution." The question of human origins fascinates us!
Many people are intrigued by the possibility of descending from an
ape-like ancestor only 7 million years ago. The field of
paleoanthropology, the study of human fossils, embraces colorful
personalities that compete for our allegiance to their particular
evolutionary scheme. Mary and Louis Leakey, their son, Richard
Leakey, and Donald Johanson are all recognizable names in this
fascinating field of study.
Reading _Time_, _Newsweek_, and _National Geographic_ convinces
most people that humans evolved from ape-like ancestors. However,
a now well-known poll indicates that 47% of adults in the United
States, almost half, believe humans were created only 10,000 years
ago and that only 9%, less than 1 in 10, believe humans are the
result of an evolutionary process in which God played no part. So
who's fooling whom? I want to take a brief look at the evidence for
human evolution. This is an engrossing topic with some surprising
The story begins about 3.5 million years ago with the appearance of
a group of animals collectively known as australopithecines.
_Australo_ meaning "southern" and _pithecines_ meaning "apes."
These "southern apes," initially discovered in South Africa, were
small, apparently upright walking apes. Then around 2 million years
ago, a new creature appears that is now put into the genus _Homo_,
_Homo habilis_. _Homo habilis_ possesses the same stature of the
australopithecinesbut with a slightly larger brain. It is also
suggested that he used a few primitive tools. Next appears the real
star of human evolution, _Homo erectus_. _Homo erectus_ possesses
the skeletal frame of modern humans though he's a little more
robust, and his brain capacity is closer still to humans. _Homo
erectus_ uses more advanced tools. This "almost" human hangs around
we're told for over 1.5 million years when nearly modern humans
(_Homo sapiens_) begin to appear. Soon the offshoot neanderthals
arise and about the same time thoroughly modern humans appear in
the last 100,000 years.
While this is the standard story, and the one you will find in the
recent issue of _Time_ magazine, it is far from convincing when all
the data are considered. Take the australopithecines, for example.
While there is still some debate about whether these creatures
walked upright at all, most anthropologists accept that they walked
on two legs. But it is misleading if you don't know the rest of the
story. The fact is, that Lucy, the most well known
australopithecine (_Australopithecus afarensis_), was also mildly
adapted to life in the trees. The evolutionist William Howells said
"there is general agreement that Lucy's gait is *not* properly
understood, and that it was *not* something simply transitional to
ours" (_Getting Here: The Story of Human Evolution_, 1993, emphasis
mine). If Lucy walked upright, it was distinct from apes and
humans. Not exactly what you would expect from a transitional form.
Lucy is simply anextinct ape with no clear connection to humans.
The Uncertainties of _Homo Erectus_
We have all seen the series of extinct creatures that lead from ape
to man. Evolutionists confidently declare that while there may be
a lot of details missing from the story, the basic outline is
fairly complete. This all seems rather impressive. In his recent
book, _Bones of Contention_ (Baker, 1992, p. 21), creationist
Marvin Lubenow, offers an important observation.
"What is not generally known is that this sequence, impressive as
it seems, is a very artificial and arbitrary arrangement because 1)
some fossils are selectively excluded if they do not fit well into
the evolutionary scheme; 2) some human fossils are arbitrarily
downgraded to make them appear to be evolutionary ancestors when
they are in fact true humans; and 3) some non-human fossils are
upgraded to make them appear to be human ancestors."
The australopithecines are a good example of Lubenow's
third point. These extinct apes are trumpeted as human ancestors
because of their crude bipedal walking ability. But nearly
everything else about them is ape-like. The origin of their
bipedality would be no small evolutionary task. Even Richard Leakey
admits as much in his book with Roger Lewin, _Origins Reconsidered_
(pp. 83_84), when he says that the change from walking on four legs
to walking on two legs
"...would have required an extensive remodeling of the ape's bone
and muscle architecture and of the overall proportion in the lower
half of the body. Mechanisms of gait are different, mechanics of
balance are different, functions of major muscles are different_an
entire functional complex had to be transformed for efficient
bipedalism to be possible. "
Yet these immense changes are not documented from the fossil
A good example of Lubenow's second point, the arbitrary downgrading
of human fossils to make them appear to be our ancestors, is _Homo
erectus_. _Homo _erectus is said to span the time from around 1.7
million years ago to nearly 400,000 years ago. From its first
appearance, erectus is admitted to have a fully human post-cranial
skeleton (that means everything but the head). But the brain size
is given an evolutionary twist by saying that it only approaches
the average for modern humans. In reality, _Homo erectus_ brain
size is within the range of modern humans.
Throughout the course of their book, _Origins Reconsidered_, Leakey
and Lewin document an impressive array of characteristics that
distinguish the ape-like qualities of australopithecines from the
human qualities of _Homo erectus_. Australopithecines are small in
stature, only 3_4 feet tall, and the males are twice the size of
females. In humans and _Homo erectus_, the males are only 15_20%
larger than females, and a juvenile _erectus_ fossil is estimated
to have grown to a height of six feet if he had lived.
In _Homo erectus_, all of the following characteristics display the
human pattern, while in australopithecines, the ape pattern is
evident: growth pattern, dental structure and development, facial
structure and development, brain morphology, height to weight
ratio, probable position of larynx based on the contours of the
base of the skull making speech possible, and the size of the birth
canal relative to the size of the adult brain.
Where some _Homo erectus_ fossils differ from humans can be
explained by the effects of inbreeding, dietary restrictions, and
a harsh environment. But evolutionists need an intermediate, and
_Homo erectus_is the only option available.
Neanderthals and the Paleontologists
In the field of paleoanthropology, the study of human fossils, one
must approach the data and interpretations of the scientists
involved with a careful and skeptical eye. There are a number of
obvious reasons for this healthy skepticism. The most important
reason being that they are looking for man's evolutionary
ancestors. If that is what you are looking for, then that is likely
what you will report to have found. That is just human nature.
A second reason, is that there is a great deal of competitiveness
among anthropologists. They are involved in a race to be the one to
discover *the* missing link which will mean immense notoriety and
financial gain. The temptation to exaggerate the importance of
their findings at the expense of others is very great.
Another reason for skepticism is that all anthropologists compare
only plaster casts of the fossils or measurements available in the
literature and not the fossils themselves. The actual fossils are
understandably considered too delicate, fragile, and valuable to be
handled directly all the time. However, plaster casts are sadly
unable to accurately reproduce many of the details needed for
proper study. In 1984, the largest collection of actual fossils was
gathered from around the world at the American Museum of Natural
History for the opening of the "Ancestors" exhibit. It was a unique
opportunity for side by side comparisons that took much persuasion
to pull off. The mounts for each skull or fragment were
individually prepared using a cast of the original fossil.
Unfortunately, when the real fossils showed up, most of them did
not fit! It is a myth to think that those who teach and write on
human origins have actually held in their hands even a fraction of
the original material.
Evolutionists have been embarrassed on more than one occasion when
their evolutionary bias, competitiveness, and lack of familiarity
with the original fossils were not considered. A good example is
the misinterpretation of neanderthals. Though there is still much
dispute whether neanderthals are a sub-species of humans or a
completely different species, in the early part of this century,
there was unanimity in the belief that neanderthals were brutish,
stooped creatures who were more closely related to apes than to
humans. This impression stood for over forty years. One of the
first complete neanderthal skeletons was found in a cave in France
in 1908. It was given to the French paleontologist, Marcellin Boule
From other fragmentary fossils, Boule had already formed an
evolutionary bias that neanderthals were not related to humans.
Boule saw only the "primitive" traits of neanderthals and ignored
clear evidence of arthritis and rickets in the skeleton. Boule
reconstructed the skeleton without the curves in the spine that
allow humans to walk upright. He also placed the skull far forward
so that it would have been difficult to even look up as we do.
Other miscues produced an individual who was little more than a
shuffling hunchback. Because of his reputation, this reconstruction
stood until 1957, when two scientists re-examined the
reconstruction and found Boule's prejudicial mistakes. Their study
concluded that neanderthals, when healthy, stood erect, and walked
normally. Neanderthals were simply stronger, stockier members of
the human family.
Allowing the Facts to Speak
It is interesting to observe certain pieces of the fossil evidence
for human evolution either ignored or stretched in order to not
upset the accepted picture of human evolution. Creationist Marvin
Lubenow, in his recent book, _Bones of Contention_, gives numerous
examples of this kind of manipulation, and I'd like to discuss
three of the most glaring incidents.
First is a bone fragment of the lower end of the upper arm, near
the elbow, that was found near Kanapoi, Kenya, in 1965 and is given
the designation, KP 271. What is unusual about this discovery is
the date of around 4.5 million years_unusual because it appears for
all intents and purposes to be human. Humans are not supposed to
have been around 4.5 million years ago. Consequently, this small
piece of humerus is usually designated as Australopithecus because
that is the only hominid species known to be available at that
time. Lubenow quotes Harvard anthropologist William Howells in a
"The humeral fragment from Kanapoi, with a date of about 4.4
million, could not be distinguished from Homo sapiens
morphologically or by multivariate analysis by Patterson and myself
in 1967. . . . We suggested that it might represent
Australopithecus because at that time allocation to Homo seemed
preposterous, although it would be the correct one without the time
element" (pp. 56_57).
The only reason KP 271 is not listed as human is because it can't
be, according to evolution.
Second, many have heard of a series of footprints found by Mary
Leakey near Laetoli, Tanzania. Richard Leakey and Roger Lewin,
however, just gloss over them by calling them hominid footprints
(_Origins Reconsidered_, p. 103). But Lubenow documents that these
footprints are identical to those made today by humans that always
walk barefoot. Yet these footprints are routinely classified as
Australopithecine. William Howells refers to the conclusions of
Russell Tuttle from the University of Chicago and a leading expert
on hominoid gates and limbs as saying that the footprints are
nearly identical to modern humans and that australopithecine feet
are significantly different. Tuttle suggests an undiscovered
species made these prints. But he can't say that a human made them
because humans aren't supposed to exist yet. In the words of
evolutionist William Howells, "Here is something of an enigma"
(_Getting Here: The Story of Human Evolution_, p. 79). Indeed!
Finally, Lubenow documents the incredible saga of determining the
date for Skull 1470. Skull 1470 was very modern in its appearance
but was found in rock previously dated at 2.9 million years_much
too old for a modern skull. So some scientists set out to determine
a much younger date. Lubenow recounts the back and forth wrangling
over the issue. Several radioactive methods and paleomagnetism
mainly pointed to 2.9 million years, but a few were found
contradictory. Ultimately the radioactive dates were tossed aside
in favor of a date of 1.9 million years, a date that fit the human
evolution better, based on the certainty of the dates of pig
evolution. Yes, pig evolution. To quote Lubenow, "The pigs won. .
. . The pigs took it all. But in reality, it wasn't the pigs that
won. It was evolution that won. In the dating game, evolution
always wins" (p. 266).
A Creationist Perspective on Ancient Humans
Thus far we have been discussing some of the significant problems
with evolutionary explanations of ancient human remains. But
questions still remain. Many of these individuals do look very
different from modern humans. Who are they? Where did they come
from? Does any of this make sense from a creationist perspective?
While we need to be careful not to over interpret the data as we
have accused evolutionists of doing, there are a few suggestions
that make some sense.
The most obvious first step is to recognize that _Homo erectus_,
archaic _Homo sapiens_, neanderthals, and _Homo sapiens_ form a
continuum of the human family. The different forms represent
genetic variation within a species and not distinct species. Many
evolutionists themselves have difficulty drawing the line between
these four different labels.
A group of human fossils from Kow Swamp, Australia, are no more
than 13,000 years old yet contain may of the skull characteristics
of _Homo erectus_. Some of the explanations for this involve
cultural modifications and not genetic differences. In other words,
many of the characteristics of _Homo erectus_ can be achieved in
modern humans by lifestyle changes. These could include deliberate
forehead compression, deformation due to inbreeding, modifications
due to dietary deficiencies and peculiarities. The late Arthur
Custance documents differences in the modern skulls of Eskimos due
to the massive jaw muscles that are developed because of their diet
(_Genesis and Early Man_, 1975). Many of these changes would be
labeled as primitive if dug up in some ancient river bed, yet they
exist in fully modern humans today.
Marvin Lubenow offers the interesting suggestion that many of these
ancient humans are the remains of individuals within the first
millennia after the flood of Noah (_Bones of Contention_, pp.
144_156). Effects of the ice age, constant cloud cover (preventing
Vitamin D formation leading to rickets), largely vegetarian and
uncooked diet, and expression of local genetic variation could
readily account for the many different, yet anatomically related
human forms. Are these ancient humans former ape-like creatures
that are evolving towards humans, or are they humans caught in a
unique and harsh world that brought about numerous interspecies
variants? Evolutionists never bother to ask the latter question. A
creationist perspective, in this case, may lead to questions that
evolutionists may never ask. That is the value, in science, of a
Copyright 1994 Raymond G. Bohlin
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