Making sense of ‘apeman’ claims
Neandertals are increasingly being depicted, like in this commercial image, as the totally human beings they were.
by Carl Wieland
Adapted from “The ever-changing story of ‘human evolution’,” Chap. 7 of the author’s book One Human Family: the Bible, science, race and culture, onehumanfamily.us.
There are many, sometimes conflicting, claims about so-called ‘apemen’, fossil creatures alleged to be evidence for ‘human evolution’. These ‘hominids’ are supposed to be our ancestors, transitions linking us and the alleged common ancestor of both apes and humans.1 Whenever new ‘finds’ are trumpeted, many wonder how anyone could deny we evolved from apelike ancestors. After all, isn’t each new find one more link in an evolutionary chain?
Yet the ‘big picture’ is very different, and encouraging for the biblical creationist. For many decades now, with few exceptions,2 a consistent pattern has emerged. It’s as if each find switches on some more pixels in a grainy image, maybe sharpening but not changing the picture, which was long obvious in outline. All of the finds more or less naturally fall into one of only three major groups. And two of these, Neandertal and Homo erectus, are similar anyway. Both are clearly human descendants of Adam.3
Virtually all others, including the famous ‘Lucy’, are in the remaining group, which generates the most evolutionary excitement. But it turns out to be an extinct non-human primate group, anatomically not between apes and humans.
Future finds will almost certainly also fall into one of these groups. So overviewing them here should equip us to more readily understand how the next such proclaimed ‘human ancestor’, too, will likely fit this big picture, consistent with biblical history.
Artists’ impressions of Homo erectus have most often depicted some really primitive, subhuman ‘apeman’. However, the evidence that these were people (that should even share our species name) is mounting. So artists’ renditions are gradually shifting toward a much more obviously human appearance, as here.
These have more robust skeletons than most people living today—and bigger braincases. Everything about them is consistent with regarding them as post-Flood/post-Babel descendants of Adam.
Evolutionist Donald Johanson, discoverer of the famous ‘Lucy’ fossil, co-writes of Darwin’s defender and friend, biologist Thomas Huxley FRS:
“From a collection of modern human skulls Huxley was able to select a series with features leading ‘by insensible gradations’ from an average modern specimen to the Neandertal skull. In other words, it wasn’t qualitatively different from present-day Homo sapiens.”4
Huxley did not believe that Neandertals evolved into modern humans, but that they were fully human. The ‘standard’ evolutionary view is that they were not a direct ancestor of modern people, but rather a side branch. Huxley’s skulls make perfect sense if one sees Neandertals as simply part of the range of bony variation in our one human family. Many of the things showing the true humanity of Neandertals are listed in the box below.
Sequencing of [Neandertal] DNA clearly shows interbreeding with modern populations, particularly those from eastern Europe/Eurasia.
Sequencing of their DNA clearly shows interbreeding with modern populations, particularly those from eastern Europe/Eurasia. So Neandertals can’t be a separate species, despite evolutionary claims they split off from the human lineage 500,000 years ago. This evidence has been a major blow to ‘progressive’ or ‘old-earth’ creationist notions. Even the most ingenious manipulation of Adam’s lineage can’t stretch it to hundreds of thousands of years ago. So, because such ‘creationists’ accept secular dating as their starting point, they must regard Neandertals as pre-Adamic soulless nonhumans, despite all the archaeological evidences of their humanity (box). But DNA now makes this completely dead in the water; having children together means they must be the same created kind as us.
More relatives …
We may include in this group the Denisovans, recently ‘discovered’ from DNA in a tiny fingerbone in Siberia and a second bone from Spain).5 Regarded as a sister group to Neandertals, they, too, appear to have interbred with moderns, particularly Melanesians. Prof. Clive Finlayson of the Gibraltar Museum, an evolutionist, says the scientific community will have to accept that the Denisovans, like Neandertals, were, like us, Homo sapiens.6
2. HOMO ERECTUS
This group includes Java Man, Peking Man, and Turkana Boy. For our purpose, we can include specimens called by a different species name, but near-identical, e.g. H. ergaster.7
Recently, analysis of five skulls from a single erectus population from Dmanisi, in Georgia (near Russia) shows that they had the total amount of variation in the African fossils assigned to three separate Homo species; erectus, habilis and rudolfensis.8 Finlayson refers to these fossils “and those of the more recent Neanderthal-modern human era” as “all part of a single, morphologically diverse, species with a wide geographical range.” He even suggests that like Neandertals, Homo erectus also probably interbred with ‘moderns’.9 In other words, all are people.
Former Russian boxer Nikolai Valuev (pronounced “va-LOO-yev”, 1973–) won several championships and is the tallest and heaviest boxing champion in history at 2.1m (7’1”) and 145 kg (320 lbs). His robust appearance reminds us that, according to DNA evidence, some of the genetic variation in humanity expressed in the tough, robust Neandertals is still prominent in Eastern European populations in particular.
Apart from brain size, erectus specimens are actually very similar to Neandertals in their skull features. From the neck down, it’s been said, they would have looked like an Olympic power athlete of today. Their brain size was on average smaller than that of today’s human,10 though still within the modern human range for most specimens.11 Of the features indicating humanity listed for Neandertals, a good number, though by no means all, have been found associated with erectus, too. Some creationists, with good cause, regard them as simply a variant of Neandertals. Even many evolutionists lump these first two categories into one, ‘archaic humans’. Humans, yes, but with some distinguishing bony features, prominent among these being robusticity in their skulls.12
Paleoanthropological evidence from the Indonesian island of Flores indicates (to the surprise of evolutionists) that the erectus people must have had complex seafaring skills.13 They were able to reach, and hunt on, an island that was only accessible across significant stretches of open ocean. Research at the University of Georgia USA, has suggested that their ‘Acheulean’ hand axe was a highly sophisticated hunting projectile.14In short, both of these subsets of archaic humans are simply post-Babel descendants of Adam and Noah.
The common belief that bony robusticity is an evolutionary ‘stage’ prior to modern ‘gracile’ anatomy is belied by the find, in Australia, of ‘gracile’ skulls dated as ‘older’ than ‘robust’ ones.15 However, the frequent association of robusticity with the early post-Flood era has led some creationists to suggest it is somehow genetically linked with the longevity—now also thought to be genetic—documented for the pre-Flood patriarchs.
Others have suggested that the smaller brain size of erectus humans may be related to environmental issues such as iodine-deficient soils. While interesting, the key point is that their total humanity should no longer be in doubt—which is pertinent to any future such ‘archaic Homo’ finds also.
In fact, some evolutionary paleoanthropologists, such as the University of Michigan’s Milford Wolpoff, have long been saying that neither Neandertals nor erectus should be labelled as species separate from us. They should all be renamed Homo sapiens, as we are—then described as they are, robust or gracile, ‘modern’ or ‘archaic’.
Prof. Finlayson, the evolutionist mentioned earlier, also said regarding recent fossil and genetic evidence that “we must abandon, once and for all, views of modern human superiority over archaic (ancient) humans. The terms ‘archaic’ and ‘modern’ lose all meaning as do concepts of modern human replacement of all other lineages.”16 Obviously, though the professor didn’t mean to support Genesis history, he certainly does just that.
Australopithecus skeleton reconstruction. A top evolutionist anatomist has concluded that these unique extinct primates are, overall, anatomically further from both apes and humans than these are from each other—definitely not ‘inbetween’.
The next and final group, we shall see, are definitely non-human. Though if we saw them today, we would likely call them ‘apes’, their anatomy was actually substantially different from both modern apes and humans, and definitely not, as will become clear, ‘inbetween’ the two.
This includes virtually all the rest of the alleged ‘apeman’ specimens in recent times. It incorporates the australopithecines (genus Australopithecus)—e.g. the famous Lucy (A. afarensis), the Taung skull and ‘Mr/Mrs Ples’ (all A. africanus), Nutcracker Man (Australopithecus/Paranthropus (formerly Zinjanthropus) boisei), and more.
It also incorporates Ardipithecus.17 I’ve loosely included Homo habilis; it’s widely conceded that this is a ‘phantom taxon’; some bony fragments labelled as that should be reassigned to erectus, and others to Australopithecus/Ardipithecus.
Here’s why the australopiths do not qualify as the human ancestors many of them (e.g. Lucy) are claimed to be:
Their limb bones were highly suited to life in the trees, not the open savannah, as textbooks depict. Curved hand and foot bones, long arms and more indicate this.18
As evidenced by CAT19 scans of the fossil skulls (which show the orientation of the organ of balance), they did not walk habitually upright in the human manner.20 Lucy’s kin have also been shown to have had a locking wrist mechanism typical of knuckle-walkers.21 The ‘upright walking’ claims are largely based on a set of bipedal footprints in volcanic ash, the famous ‘Laetoli prints’. But, as Dr Russell Tuttle of the University of Chicago showed, they are indistinguishable from the prints of modern humans who walk habitually barefoot.22 The only reason they are assigned to Lucy and her kin is because of the ‘dating’ of the ash. This is more than ‘3 million years’, and modern humans are not supposed to have been around that early. So by the circularity that is quite common in evolutionary reasoning, the prints have to have been made by the ancestors of humans—which then shows that the ancestors of humans walked upright. Go figure.
Importantly, these creatures were, overall, not anatomically intermediate between humans and apes.
Importantly, these creatures were, overall, not anatomically intermediate between humans and apes. This was based on a detailed objective computerized analysis of multiple coordinates on their bony skeletons—by a team led by distinguished evolutionary anatomist Charles Oxnard, recipient of the Charles R. Darwin award for lifetime achievement in physical anthropology. The total anatomical coordinates of the three groups—modern apes, modern people, and australopiths—were plotted in a 3D morphometric space, as it’s called.Evolutionary expectations were clear; people should cluster in a blob at one position in this space, apes at another, and australopiths somewhere in-between. But the Oxnard team found something quite different; the anatomy of this extinct group of primates was, overall, further from apes and people than those two groups were from each other.23 They did not walk upright, but had a unique rolling locomotion. Importantly, Oxnard did not regard them as ancestral to people.
If more australopiths—so what?
For decades, now, there has been one variety of australopith after another trumpeted as the latest spectacular find allegedly supporting human evolution, but nothing has changed the ‘big picture’. And it seems unlikely to change with any number of future finds of new varieties of australopiths—or of archaic humans, for that matter. The reason is straightforward; the notion that humans evolved from ape-like creatures is simply wrong.
Reconstruction of the head of the Shanidar 1 fossil, a Neandertal (John Gurche 2010).
Finds which show Neandertals were human
Bone tools specialized for leatherworking.1
The controlled use of fire (including heating birch bark peelings in the absence of air to make special pitch to haft wooden shafts onto stone tools).2
Perfectly balanced and finely crafted wooden hunting javelins.
Evidence of body decoration and cosmetics.4
Cooking utensils and the use of herbs in food.
Burying their dead with ornaments.
Musical instruments (on a pentatonic scale even).5
A complex structure built 1 mile (1½ km) deep under the ground, where no daylight penetrates, suggests the technology and know-how to transport sustained fire as a source of light that far down. Try it sometime!
The capacity for compassion shown by caring for the disabled. There is bony evidence of people severely and permanently handicapped by injury, yet living for many years after the injury.
Evidence that they had dwellings made of timber draped with animal skins. They seem to have been nomadic hunters, so they may have mostly returned to caves for ceremonial reasons or to bury their dead, as in Abraham’s time (Genesis 23:9). Where they did live in caves long-term, there is recent evidence of spatial compartmentalization.8
Recent detailed analysis of a hyoid bone (associated with the voicebox) indicates they could speak,9 as does recent genetic evidence.10
References and notes
Soressi, M. et al., Neandertals made the first specialized bone tools in Europe, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 110(35):14186–14190, 27 August 2013 | doi:10.1073/pnas.1302730110. See also Neandertal leatherworking discovery, Creation 36(1):9, 2014.
Neanderthals were nifty at controlling fire: study, physorg.com, 14 March 2011.
The evidence for this has been challenged by a recent redating on one site leading to a claim that the ornaments were later intrusions. But Francesco D’Errico of the University of Bordeaux, France, an authority on Neandertal artefacts, has challenged the dating and remains, convinced of the evidences for jewellery from other Neandertal sites.
Zilhão, J. et al., Symbolic use of marine shells and mineral pigments by Iberian Neandertals, PNAS 107(3):1023–1028, 2010 | doi:10.1073/pnas.0914088107. See also Carter, R.W., The Painted Neandertal: Ancient cosmetics are upsetting evolutionary stories, creation.com/the-painted-neandertal, 20 May 2010.
Zilhão, J. et al., Analysis of Aurignacian interstratifications at the Châtelperronian-type site and implications for the behavioral modernity of Neandertals, PNAS 103(33):12643–12648, 2006 | 10.1073/pnas.0605128103. See also Sarfati, J., Neandertals were fully human in thinking: Symbolic items show human cognition and symbolic thinking, creation.com/nean-thought, 30 August 2006.
Viegas, J., Neanderthals made high-tech superglue, Discovery News, 16 January 2002; Neanderthals ‘used glue to make tools’, news.bbc.co.uk, 19 January 2002.
Riel-Salvatore, J., and 3 others, A spatial analysis of the LateMousterian Levels of Riparo Bombrini (Balzi Rossi, Italy), Canadian Journal of Archaeology 37:70–92 (2013).
D’anastasio, R. et al., Micro-biomechanics of the Kebara 2 hyoid and its implications for speech in Neanderthals, PLoSOne 8(12):e82261, 2013 | doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0082261.
Borger, P. and Truman, R., The FOXP2 gene supports Neandertals being fully human, J. Creation 22(2):13–14, 2008; creation.com/foxp2.
Editor’s September 2015 note: A comment seems called for concerning the recent finds in South Africa, of 15 specimens dubbed Homo naledi. It would seem too early to be certain where this fits within the above pattern. Its discoverers are quick to point to some similarities with human anatomy, such as aspects of skull shape and tooth morphology, and even to suggest that these creatures were deliberately buried by others of their kind, which till now has been thought would require a level of abstract thinking associated with big-brained humans. And artistic reconstructions have sought to give its eyes that special ‘human light’ to support the notion that it has human evolutionary significance. However, the hand bones are strikingly curved, and tellingly, its brain is ‘no bigger than an orange’. So whether it is a microcephalic version of erectus, as some evolutionists have noted (perhaps due to iodine deficiency in the soils), or simply a variety of australopith, is likely only going to be able to be determined after some time has passed allowing critical evaluation (including of the evidence for its supposed deliberate burial) by those evolutionists not associated with its discovery. And, hopefully, assessed by competent non-evolutionists as well. Evolutionary enthusiasm has in the past shown a tendency to exaggerate the significance of aspects of a find like this until the initial hoopla dies down. One sign that lessons have been learned is that the discoverers are not trumpeting the words ‘missing link’ but rather talking about the ‘bushiness’ of human evolution and about nature ‘experimenting’ with various ‘human species’.