Move Over Ardi and Ida: Make Room for Sediba



Move Over Ardi and Ida: Make Room for Sediba




Does anyone remember all the hoopla and fanfare that accompanied the discovery of Ardi (Ardipithecus ramidus)? If anyone thinks that evolutionary scientists are not given to incredible levels of hyperbole, just look at the headlines that accompanied the discovery of the allegedly 4.4 million year old newly christened species of early hominid nicknamed Ardi. Why all the publicity for Ardi? Well Ardi was deemed to be 4.4 million years old, a million years older than Lucy. And in typical evolutionary thinking, if it’s older, it must be ancestral. That is why Ardi’s discovery was announced with such lofty accolades by the proponents of “molecules to men” or “goo to you by the way of the zoo” Theory of Evolution. Ardi was proclaimed the “Rosetta stone for understanding bipedalism.”  

Was Ardi really the Rosetta stone for understanding how monkeys began to walk upright like humans? Let us first consider that the real Rosetta stone. It was a basalt tablet bearing inscriptions in Greek and in Egyptian hieroglyphic and demotic scripts that was discovered in 1799 near Rosetta, a town of northern Egypt in the Nile River delta. The reason this discovery was so immensely important was that the Rosetta stone was the key to the decipherment of Egyptian hieroglyphics as well as being the most influential archeological discovery of all time in the field of linguistics. Without it, we might never have known anything about Egypt’s written language, ancient Egypt, and ruler Ptolemy V. 

Aside from the incredible hyperbole of referring to the discovery of Ardi as the Rosetta stone for understanding bipedalism, we have the admission by Dr. Tim White, the lead paleoanthropologist who oversaw the discovery and reconstruction of Ardi and his account of the excavation of this newest in a long line of so-called missing links.     

Dr. White admitted that the skull was “squished” and in a continuing state of erosion. This can only serve to raise even more concerns about the reconstruction of Ardi. Here is yet another characterization of the condition of this specimen excerpted from Time magazine.  

One problem is that some portions of Ardi's skeleton were found crushed nearly to smithereens and needed extensive digital reconstruction. “Tim [White] showed me pictures of the pelvis in the ground, and it looked like an Irish stew,” says Walker. Indeed, looking at the evidence, different paleoanthropologists may have different interpretations of how Ardi moved or what she reveals about the last common ancestor of humans and chimps (Lemonick and Dorfman 2009) (White 2008). 

Did these researchers really admit that Ardi was nearly ‘crushed to smithereens’ and that the pelvis was so crushed that it ‘resembled an Irish stew’? How then could any self-respecting scientist come to the conclusion that Ardi was capable of walking upright? Chimpanzees can be trained to walk upright; however, it is clearly not their natural stance. Even gorillas can, and do, walk upright for short distances, do so only occasionally for very limited time periods. Clearly, the concept that primates somehow became capable of true bipedalism is another example of the Theory of Evolution’s numerous “just so” stories. 

So now we have even more disturbing information about Ardi. With descriptions like this, how can the public place any real confidence in the claims being made concerning the fossil discoveries of evolutionary paleontologists. Reconstructions of specimens in fair condition are difficult and can be somewhat arbitrary. You can easily have differences of opinion among scientists concerning the placement, range of motion and/or function of certain skeletal configurations, etc. How then can Ardi be characterized as “the Rosetta stone for bipedalism” when by the discoverer’s own admission, “different paleoanthropologists may have different interpretations of how Ardi moved or what she reveals?” Combine this with the fact that these fossils were still eroding, soft to the touch, pliable, etc., and I guess you could make them into just about anything you want them to be.   

So did Ardi live up to all the hype? Like so many of Ardi’s predecessors, further examination revealed that Ardi was far from being the “Rosetta stone for understanding bipedalism.” Ardi was not the missing link that predated the earliest alleged ancestors to modern man, the Australopithecines. Given the condition of the specimen, not much is really known about this trampled fossil evidence.  

What about Ardi’s distant cousin Ida, the 8th Wonder of the World? Does anyone remember Ida? It was only a short time ago that Ida was being hailed as the eight wonder of the world!  [Emphasis added]. Sir Richard Attenborough of Jurassic Park fame stated gleefully that, “Darwin would have been thrilled” and “This little creature is going to show us our connection with the rest of the mammals.” Sir Richard went on to say, “Now people can say ‘okay we are primates’ show us the link” and “The link we have said up to now is missing – well it’s no longer missing,” (Watts 2009). Where were all the excited evolutionary scientists when further examination revealed that Ida was nothing more than an extinct lemur?  

Another interesting fact left out, or overlooked, by those who were gushing with evolutionary enthusiasm over Ida’s discovery, is that it would have been highly unlikely that lemurs would be the evolutionary ancestors of chimpanzees.  

The problem with this particular hypothesis of lemur-to-chimp evolution has to do with a very important dynamic in Darwinian Theory, e.g. natural selection as it pertains to the survival of the fittest. The problem at hand is that lemurs were, and are, hunted by primates in the wild. An enquiring mind might ask how the prey could somehow become the ancestors of the same creatures that hunted them for food on a regular basis. Maybe anteaters did evolve from ants, but it seems to me that this is a notion is bordering on the absurd.   

With the once heralded Rosetta stone of fossil discoveries quietly laid to rest in the graveyard of debunked fossil frauds and incorrectly labeled missing links, and the 8th wonder of the word gathered to her real ancestors, a species of extinct of lemur, what shall become of Sediba? 

No one should be surprised that Sebiba (Australopithecus sediba) is being promoted as the next in a long line of missing links. An intelligent person might ponder why it is that the media so easily jumps on the bandwagon of these newly discovered alleged transitional fossils. These highly publicized creatures so often prove to be nothing more than an extinct species of the very same organism they are supposed to be evolving into. These creatures are almost identical to species that are alive and well on planet Earth today. One might be tempted to conclude that all the publicity being generated is an attempt to create evidence where none really exists.  

Perhaps the world’s largest news outlets are really just being supportive of their own godless, materialistic and naturalistic worldview? If that seems harsh, let these so-called impartial reporters of all that is newsworthy explain why they willingly go along with all the hype. They act like co-conspirators in these misrepresentations intended to bolster Darwinian Theory. They do so, even when the track record of these discoveries indicate in a couple of weeks or months, these so-called important transitional fossils  are so often found to be anything but what they were originally declared to be.  

What sparked all the interest in this particular fossil? Why are all the news and media outlets promoting this discovery with such zeal, e.g. the 60 Minutes television piece that aired on April 11, 2010, and a plethora of news articles from all the major news outlets? Part of the reason for the media blitz is the background concerning this discovery. This specimen of Australopithecus was found by paleoanthropologist Lee Berger's nine-year-old son, Matthew, on August 15, 2008.  The father and son team were exploring near his father's dig site in the plains north of Johannesburg, on the John Nash Reserve, in South Africa. This put a nice human interest spin on what was going to be the next in a long line of fossil discoveries in support of Darwinian Evolution.  

The second reason for all the attention focused on this particular fossil discovery, is that Sediba is alleged to bridge the gap between the Lucy-like Australopithecus and the first Homo species. That’s right. This is another in a long line of missing links, a transitional species between the southern African Australopithecus africanus and either Homo habilis or even the later Homo erectus. As is the case with much of evolutionary science, there is disagreement among the experts concerning just where this discovery should be placed in man’s family tree. 

So why did Sediba create all this hype? Well much of the excitement seems to be generated around the interpretation of the fossil evidence, e.g. what does the fossil evidence tell us about how humans evolved. The species has long apelike arms and short powerful hands. They exhibit a Homo-like pelvis and long legs. Some paleontologists think this animal was capable of striding and possibly running like a human. They come to these conclusions even though the femur and tibia are fragmentary and the foot is more primitive. Finally, its cranial capacity is estimated at around 420–450 cm3, about one-third that of modern humans, but exactly the same as extant and modern chimpanzees.  

There are some very interesting facts compiled by Dr. Carl Wieland, with regard to an earlier fossil of the same species, Sahelanthropus tchadensis, aptly nicknamed ‘Toumai’.  These observations do not lend credence to the importance being bestowed on this latest sister fossil of Toumai named Sediba. Here are some of Dr. Wieland’s observations.  

  • The dating of the skull (Toumai) indicates it is approximately 2 million years old, but the other fossils around it (unrelated to the skull) date much older, e.g. 6-7 million years old. We note that there are serious discrepancies in different radiometric dating techniques. For an in-depth review of such techniques see note below.*

  • Australopithecines are extremely chimp-like and have a flatter face and some of their teeth are smaller.

  • Detailed studies over the years on australopithecines show that these have been markedly over-hyped as potential ‘ancestors’. Even the dogmatic belief that they walked upright (which would not necessarily make them human ancestors anyway) has taken a severe blow from CAT scans of the bones housing the organ of balance, from the discovery of knuckle-walking wrist anatomy, and other anatomical features of tree-dwelling primates.

  • The detailed morphometric studies of distinguished anatomist Charles Oxnard, an evolutionist, supported by other independent researchers; show that the overall anatomical ‘sum’ of known australopiths is not ‘intermediate’ between people and the great apes at all. He is convinced that they were a distinct group of primates, now extinct, and that they were not in the human line.

  • The ‘revolutionary’ aspects of this skull for schemes of human evolution seem to have a lot to do with the dates given to the various specimens. On the basis of the extremely subjective nature of dating schemes, linked as they are to pre-existing paradigms of an old Earth, it is not unreasonable to ignore the dates assigned. Toumai illustrates the circularity involved: the nearby fossils would have been assigned dates based on the assumption that they were present at a particular stage in the evolutionary scheme. Even a radiometric date which contradicted that assumption by enough of a margin would be rejected as ‘unreliable’.

  • Since australopiths are not good candidates for our ancestors, why should creationists utter more than a big ‘yawn’ when something is found which combines chimp and australopith features? It is already clear from existing fossil finds that there was a great deal of variation in various primate kinds in the early post-Flood period. Toumai fits comfortably into this pattern. This variation will continue to cause confusion and drop ‘nuclear bombs’ into the evolutionist camp, as one carefully worked out evolutionary scheme collapses with a new discovery and has to be replaced by another. In one sense, this is normal in science; creationists also modify things when new evidence appears. What we need to remember, however, is that the pronouncements in newspapers are not dealing with ‘raw facts’ but with interpretations that are already seen through culturally-determined ‘glasses’ which assume that evolution is a 'fact'. Seen through the ‘glasses’ of the Bible's real history, Toumai reveals nothing which would cause even a mildly raised scientific eyebrow.
  • The excitement over such fragmentary, trivial findings underlines again the flimsy nature of the evidence for the evolutionary story of human origins. The anthropologists apparently spent 10 years or so in the Chad desert looking for something to do with human ancestry. Then there is also the problem of the ongoing funding of a project that does not turn up something. These would be strong incentives to ‘see’ something in anything that is found.

  • The wild enthusiasm the mass media have shown towards this find (front page treatment in many cases) underlines again the ‘push’ by many in positions of power to make us into ‘just evolved animals’ rather than ‘made in the image of God’. And they wonder why social problems abound (Wieland 2002).

With all this information being suppressed or ignored, is there any reason to believe that Sediba, like Ardi and Ida before her, will soon be demoted from the high status being afforded her? After all, when all is said and done, the only conclusion we should be confident of regarding the evolutionary family tree of man is that monkeys remain monkeys, and human beings remain human beings. The never ending search for a common ancestor is due to the fact that finding a common ancestor is a prediction of Darwinian Theory. The creationist’s model predicts exactly what the fossil record indicates. The reality of the creationist’s model is confirmed in the biblical record of the first book of the Bible, the book of Genesis. The Genesis account indicates that God has genetically preprogrammed every living creature to reproduce “after its own kind” by designing the Deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) molecule and inserting the DNA code into every living organism. Because of this truth, we observe this in the reproductive patterns in our world around us. The fossil record confirms that, almost without exception, every living organism appears abruptly in the fossil record fully formed.

Just using simple brain capacity comparisons, we can make observations that should guide our conclusions about much of the fossil evidence for ape-to-man evolution. All the fossil and anthropological evidence tells us that there are enormous physical, developmental, and psychosocial differences between the great apes, chimpanzees, and humans.  

If the brain capacity fits, you’re either ape or human!

Traditionally, there are several areas of comparison that evolutionary scientists use to connect the dots of ape-to-human evolution. Among the most important is cranial capacity. The reason for the importance bestowed upon this particular variable is that brains size has long been associated with intelligence. The correlation between intelligence and brain size has been studied and found to be well documented by researchers in this field (Reader & Laland 2001) (Andreasen et al. 1993) (Willerman et al. 1991). 

H. habilis- Specie of great ape with a cranial capacity = 450-600 cm3

H. rudolfensis and H. georgicus - Specie of great ape with a cranial capacity = 526-752 cm3    

(Distinct anatomic and developmental differences separate these two groups) 

H. ergaster and H. erectus – Human with a cranial capacity of 750-1300 cm3 

H. cepranensis and H. antecessor – Human with a cranial capacity of 750 to 1250 cm3

H. heidelbergensis - Human with a cranial capacity of 1100 to 1400 cm3

H. rhodesiensis - Human with a cranial capacity of 1200 to 1400 cm3

H. neanderthalensis - Human with a cranial capacity of 1200 to 1750 cm3

H. sapiens - Human with a cranial capacity of 750 to 1250 cm3

*  H. floresiensis - Human with a cranial capacity of 375-550 cm3

While the disciples of Darwin continue to believe that there is an evolutionary connection between the great apes, e.g. H. habilis, H. rudolfensis, H. georgicus, and the australopithecines they claim predate them, the evidence can best be explained by the biblical model, e.g. apes remain apes and humans remain humans. Finally, the brain capacities of the great apes, H. habilis, H. rudolfensis, and H. georgicus, all compare favorably with modern gorillas = 500 cm3, chimpanzees = 405 cm3, and orangutans = 355cm3, with the extant specimens being only slightly larger than their modern counterparts. All other alleged precursors to Homo sapiens have the equivalent brain capacities of modern man.  

Brain capacity comparisons, coupled with most of the physical and anthropological evidence from the excavation sites e.g. tool use, burial ceremonies, use of language, benevolence towards the old and infirm, etc., leaves little room for doubt concerning the data. What is being labeled as missing links, are nothing more than extinct great apes or chimpanzees.  

If the evidence tells us anything, it is that there are distinct anatomical and psychosocial differences between the apes and man. Similarities in outward appearances can indeed be deceiving; especially when evolution’s materialistic and naturalistic worldview is driving all of their conclusions, and suppressing any explanations that may be contrary to that worldview (Rowitt 2009). 

After all, if you start with the presupposition that Darwinian evolution is true, every discovery will be placed, or shoved, onto the appropriate branch on the family tree. Even if no humans actually live in trees, or ever used trees as part of their natural habitat, the creatures who do will somehow find themselves being given more and more human characteristics. This will be the case, even if the evidence does not really support these evolutionary conclusions.  

At the end of the day, I have little doubt that Sediba will be laid to rest alongside all the other alleged missing links. After all, the graveyard now contains the remains of the once heralded “Rosetta stones of bipedalism” (Ardi), and “8th wonder of the world” (Ida). Perhaps this is a fitting analogy for a theory that postulates that death and destruction can somehow defy the laws of physics and biochemistry, and give birth to ever more complex and resilient life forms. That, after all, is the basic premise of Darwinian evolution, and no mater how many new fossils are unearthed, the acclamation that is associated with them soon fades as the real facts surrounding these discoveries come to light.  

*   Note: There are several resources that outline the problems with the radiometric dating systems used by evolutionary scientists to confirm their uniformitarian worldview. Virtually all dates that do not conform to their preconceived notion of millions to billions of years of evolutionary time are discarded. Only those dates that confirm to the long ages of Darwinian Theory are accepted. A short overview of the problems associated with radiometric dating can be found Here.

* H. floresiensis is a discovery that has generated considerable dispute in the scientific community. Some experts deny that this is a separate species of human and others remain convinced that these were fully human, albeit, of very small stature. The real difficulty is because of the relatively small cranial capacity that some believe is far too small to be considered closely related to homo sapiens whose cranial capacity is between 750 to 1250 cm3. 

Submitted by
Steven Rowitt, Th.M., Ph.D. (c)

 

References

Andreasen, N.C., Flaum, M., Swayze V. 2d., O'Leary, D.S.,  Alliger, R., Cohen, G., J Ehrhardt, J.,  & Yuh. W.T. (1993). Intelligence and brain structure in normal individuals. Am J Psychiatry 1993; 150:130-134. Accessed 13:00 on 4/13/10 at http://ajp.psychiatryonline.org/cgi/content/abstract/150/1/130.

Lemonick Michael D. and   Dorfman Andrea (2009). "Excavating Ardi: A New Piece for the  Puzzle of Human Evolution," Time Magazine October 1, 2009 first accessed on 10/13/09 at http://www.time.com/time/health/article/0,8599,1927200-2,00.html.

Watts, Alex (2009). Scientists Unveil Missing Link in Evolution. Sky News. Accessed 15:30 on 4/12/10 at http://news.sky.com/skynews

White, Tim. (2008). Ardipithecus ramidus. A dedicated website containing a series of articles first accessed on 10/13/09 http://www.sciencemag.org/ardipithecus/.

Wieland, Carl (2002). New ‘Ape Man’ Preliminary Response. Creation Ministries International.  Accessed 00:15 on 4/12/10 at http://creation.com/new-ape-man-preliminary-response-sahelanthropus-tchadensis-toumai

Willerman, L., Schultz, R., Rutledge, N.J., Bigler E.D., (1991). In vivo brain size and  intelligence. Intelligence, Volume 15, Issue 2, April-June 1991, Pages 223-228. Accessed 13:10 on 4/13/10 at http://www.sciencedirect.com/science.

Reader, Simon M., Laland, Kevin, N. (2001) Social intelligence, innovation, and enhanced brain size in primates. Published online before print March 12, 2002, doi: 10.1073/pnas.062041299. Accessed 12:50 on 4?13/10 at http://www.pnas.org/ content/99/7/4436.abstract.

Rowitt, Steven (2009). Ape to Man: The Ultimate Myth. The ancestry of man from Homo habilis to Homo floresiensis. Creation Studies Institute. Accessed 16:40 on 4?12/10 at http://www.creationstudies.org/operationsalt/ancestry_of_man.html.