Hominids & Hoaxes
By Answers in Genesis
Printed in Practical Homeschooling #37, 2000.
If you use textbooks, library books, software, websites, or magazines as any part of your homeschool program, you have doubtless encountered the "missing link" - apelike ancestors of humans. Especially if you use older textbooks, you may be shocked to discover the real story behind these "missing links." Given that mentions of and allusions to these "pre-human ancestors" pop up constantly in educational materials, PHS thought it important to bring you, once again, the facts you'll never see in a secular text - or even in many Christian texts.
We're all familiar with the alleged ape-to-man evolutionary sequence popularized in textbooks, the popular press, and television documentaries.
Now the big surprise: no such evolutionary chain has been discovered in the fossil record. Of course, Biblical creationists hold in the first place that there are no "missing links" to be found, so the lack of fossil evidence comes as no surprise. The "missing links" of human evolution are more than missing - they are non-existent! From the beginning, apes have always been apes, and man has always been man.
If humans really did evolve from prehistoric primate ancestors, there should be a long chain of descent linking a great variety of transitional creatures - progressing from true apes to more human-like "ape-men," and then to fully "modern" human beings. But, as you will see, what evolutionists have is just a handful of bones and a history of mistakes and hoaxes.
Far from posing a problem for creationists, the fossil remains of the highly publicized "ape-men" provide one of the most powerful arguments against human evolution. A look at some simple facts concerning these creatures - facts admitted by the most ardent evolutionists - is quite telling.
Neanderthal was discovered in the Neander Valley of Germany, in 1856. Shortly after its discovery, University of Berlin Professor Rudolf Virchow (regarded as the father of modern pathology) concluded that Neanderthal was simply an unfortunate Homo sapiens who had suffered childhood rickets and adult arthritis, and had been victim of several nasty blows to the head. Depicted in textbooks and museums as a subhuman "ape-man" for over a century, it is now agreed that Virchow was correct - the Neanderthals were simply a distinctive, sturdily built people group - clearly 100 percent human, with a brain capacity actually larger than the current norm. Some Neanderthal individuals suffered from disfiguring diseases, reflecting dietary, social and environmental factors - as with modern man.
The Piltdown fossils were discovered between 1908 and 1915, at gravel pits in Piltdown, England. For about forty years, Piltdown Man was highly publicized as proof that man had descended from ape-like animals. In fact, it was an elaborate hoax, and in 1953 the British Museum issued a statement identifying it as such.
What was found were a skull that was obviously human-like, and a jawbone that looked very ape-like, but had human-like teeth. In fact, Piltdown Man consisted of a human skull mated with the mandible (lower jaw) and canine tooth of an orangutan (confirmed biochemically in 1982). The orangutan remains had been heavily altered and transplanted to the site. The deception included breaking off parts of the mandible that would reveal the mismatch, coloring it with stain to match the skull, filing the teeth of the mandible to match those of the human upper jaw, and filing the canine tooth, to make it look properly worn.
Leading evolutionists of the day touted Nebraska Man as a genuine ape-man, including Henry F. Osborn, head paleontologist at the American Museum of Natural History, in New York. In February 1922, Dr. Osborn received a single fossil tooth, discovered at Snake Creek, Nebraska. A full reconstruction was commissioned, based on nothing more than this tooth and the desire to produce "evidence" of human evolution. Very soon, widespread illustrations of an ape-like subhuman appeared, often in newspapers. But almost as quickly, the publicity became a big embarrassment. By 1927, it came out that later excavations of the rest of the remains revealed the true identity of Nebraska Man: not an ape-man, or even an ape, but an extinct peccary or wild pig! Then, in 1972, it was discovered that, in fact, "Nebraska Pig" is not even extinct, but can be found alive and well in Paraguay.
Java Man was discovered by a Dutch anatomist, Eugene Dubois, on the island of Java. A skullcap and three teeth were found in 1891, and in 1892, a femur (thighbone) was found 46 feet away. Dubois held that the skullcap had both human and ape features, whereas the thighbone appeared very human-like. Dubois claimed until his death that he had found "the real missing link," his purpose in journeying to the Dutch East Indies.
The doctor was not completely forthright, however - he also found two obviously human skulls (known as the Wadjak skulls) near the Java Man remains, at about the same level. He kept them secret for thirty years (until 1920), while promoting Java Man as the missing link. Obviously, Java Man could not be the evolutionary ancestor of humans with whom it coexisted. While the shape of the skull would be unusual today, it falls within the range of human variability. Java Man is now classified as Homo erectus, meaning erect or upright-walking human. Thus, even evolutionists agree that these fossils are human - not an ape-man.
Peking Man was discovered in China, in the 1920s and 1930s, and like Java Man has been renamed Homo erectus. The fossils, found about 25 miles from Peking (Beijing), consisted mostly of skull fragments (only five skulls were intact enough to gauge the brain capacity) and teeth, with very few limb bones. All of the original bones were mysteriously "lost" between 1941 and 1945. (Fortunately, some excellent casts of the originals were made before their disappearance.) Peking Man was a bit smaller overall than the average human today, but in all respects falls within the modern range of variation, and its middle ear structure has been found to be just like ours.
As with Java Man, much of the truth surrounding Peking Man was kept from the public, while evolutionists acclaimed it as a "missing link." At the site were also found the remains of ten fully human inhabitants who quarried the limestone, built fires, and left behind a variety of tools. It seems that - far from being the ancestor of modern man - Peking Man was not only a contemporary, but may also have been his dinner. The evidence suggests that the larger people removed (and very possibly ate) the brains of the smaller Peking Man individuals.
In 1964, Louis Leakey and his colleagues announced Homo habilis as a new human ancestor. Four "individuals" had been assembled from dissociated skull fragments, hand bones, and foot bones. Widely acclaimed as the oldest link between ape and man, much publicity came through the National Geographic Society. But none of the alleged individuals were discovered intact, and some experts suspected that Leakey had a mixture of ape and human material. Also, much of the hand and foot material - claimed to indicate tool making ability and bipedality - was juvenile, making it hard to evaluate.
In 1972, Leakey's son, Richard, found the controversial Skull 1470. Its features and large capacity were "too modern" to fit the mainstream evolutionary scenario, given its alleged age of 2.9 million years. The younger Leakey deliberately reconstructed the skull to give it a "more transitional" ape-like look, and less than ten years later (1981), the controversy was more or less settled, as the accepted age had been reduced to 1.9 million years. Skull 1470 was then classified as Homo habilis, a "win-win" move that supposedly boosted the credibility and status of both Leakeys and their famed fossils.
Then came the first discovery of an intact individual in 1986 - an adult. Evolutionists were surprised that it was smaller than its alleged ancestor, Lucy. The consensus now is that the genuine habilis was just another australopithecine ape that never belonged in the genus Homo, whereas the genuine skull 1470 should be classified as modern man, Homo sapiens. As for the "genuine" Homo habilis - it never existed. It is now considered to be an "invalid taxon."
Millions have heard of Lucy, a three-foot tall Australopithicine found by Don Johanson in Ethiopia in 1974. Publicized as our oldest direct human ancestor, many still believe that her genes are in all of us. The name "Lucy" comes from the Beatles' song, "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds," on a camp loudspeaker when she was found. A very small specimen, Lucy may or may not actually be a female. In either case, the famous fossil is remarkably complete (about 40 percent), accounting for much of the attention she has received. Yet, Lucy's skull is so incomplete that no firm conclusion can be drawn about her particular species.
However, Lucy is not alone. Many australopithecines like her have been studied extensively. Computer scan analyses of the inner ears, skulls, and bones indicate that these creatures may have walked more upright than most apes, but clearly would have gotten around on all four legs, and very likely spent a lot of time in trees. Lucy was an extinct type of ape, very similar to modern pygmy chimpanzees - and nothing more. Many leading evolutionists, including Richard Leakey, now share this view.
Ramapithecus, like Lucy, was promoted as the most primitive hominid ancestor of modern man, in our direct line of evolutionary descent. Numerous illustrations showed Ramapithecus walking in a nearly human upright manner. Even though the evidence was weak, this view was widely accepted for many years, due largely to the persuasiveness of Harvard University's David Pilbeam. Later, Pilbeam found additional fossil evidence which made it obvious that this creature could not be the ancestor of humans. As it turns out, Ramapithecus is simply another ape, an extinct type of orangutan.
We see that some of the alleged evolutionary "ape-men" have been deliberate hoaxes. Others have simply been cases of poor science, often motivated by overzealous and wishful thinking. We do observe evidence in the fossil record of natural variability within the ape and human populations, and a grim chronicle of disease, suffering, and death. In every case, however, the bottom line is the same: there is no fossil evidence of ape-to-man human evolution.
The "missing links" are still missing, because they never existed in the first place. From the beginning, true apes and true humans have coexisted as biologically distinct, created kinds - the works of the Creator.
For further study
- Paul S. Taylor - The Illustrated Origins Answer Book
- Marvin L. Lubenow - Bones of Contention, a Creationist's Assessment of Human Fossils
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