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Recent skeletal find not evidence of evolution, creationists maintain

SAN DIEGO, Calif. (BP)–A fossilized skeleton, described as being 3.2 to 3.5 million years old, likely is a unique form of ape or primate rather than a human being, leading creation advocates said after news reports about the discovery circulated worldwide Dec. 9.
Scientists reported that the fossil, found in a cave in South Africa, is the most complete ever found of a classification known as “australopithecus,” including the most complete skull ever found.
The australopithecines as a whole seem to be a unique form of ape, similar to pigmy chimpanzees, said Kurt Wise, a science professor at Bryan College in Dayton, Tenn., who earned a doctorate in paleontology from Harvard University, studying under famed evolutionalist Stephen Jay Gould.
The australopithecines’ relative brain sizes are well below humans, Wise said, and they seem to be a different kind of ape — as different from other apes as they are from humans.
“I would expect that the new find will show us that the animal was even more unique than we formerly thought,” Wise said, “probably made up of a unique mixture of fully functional character traits.
“I would also maintain that no australopithecine, including this one, was in any way an ancestor of modern man or in any way within the lineage of man.”
Phillip Johnson, a leading evolution critic, cautioned against getting caught up in “the fossil of the week.” Rather, he urged maintaining a focus on the “big picture” of whether truth lies with “intelligent design” of mankind, and the universe, or with Darwinian evolution and secular science. Johnson is a professor of law at the University of California, Berkeley, whose writings on the evolution-creation debate include “Darwin on Trial, Reason in the Balance: The Case Against Naturalism in Science, Law, and Education.”
John Morris, president of the Institute for Creation Research who holds a doctorate in geological engineering from the University of Oklahoma, predicted a number of scientists will initially claim that these bones prove humans’ common ancestry with apes, but further studies won’t support that theory.
“I predict the bones will support the conclusion that australopithecus was a chimp,” Morris said, echoing Wise.
“But I predict they will lie; they always do,” Morris claimed of evolutionists, pointing to a similar 1974 discovery in Ethiopia of a skeleton known as “Lucy.” Despite claims that the skeleton was of a human ancestor, further studies showed it actually was a 3-foot, 6-inch tall chimpanzee, Morris said. In addition, he said reports that Lucy was 3 million years old have been widely disputed in scientific literature.
Among other controversies surrounding Lucy, Wise noted that the skeleton was constructed of bones scattered over a large area that didn’t have direct connections to a skull.
Whether Lucy or the most recent skeleton represent an extinct category or subspecies, they are still chimps, Morris said, not a half-human, half-man specimens. “Evolutionists admit that when they’re speaking soberly among scientists,” Morris said. “When they present it to the public, they say it’s half man and that’s just not true.”
As for the age of the newest discovery, Wise said most of the radiometric dating for such materials is known as K-Ar. The method has yielded wide-ranging results in the past, such as estimates of Grand Canyon basalt dating from 10,000 to 1.7 million years in age, he said.
While creationists haven’t done a reinterpretation of radiometric dating methods, the relative position of fossil materials in Africa indicate they date from Noah’s flood, Wise said.
“Biblically (that) seems to have occurred only thousands of years ago,” he said. “Therefore, young-age creationists would argue the bones of this find are only thousands, not millions, of years old.”
However, evangelical scientist Hugh Ross doesn’t question the hypothesis that the skeletal remains are millions of years old. In his new book, “The Genesis Question,” he argues that modern scientific discoveries line up with the Bible.
But Ross, founder of Reasons to Believe, a ministry near Pasadena, Calif., also challenges the idea that the skeletons are a link to human ancestors.
“From the Bible’s perspective, a primate is only human if it contains a spirit, desires to worship a higher being and has awareness of a moral code of law,” Ross said. “That kind of evidence is missing from Neanderthal, homo erectus and so on.
“There’s a lot of evidence they were intelligent,” he said of the discoveries of ancient life forms. “But I don’t see anything that would distinguish them from primates that are alive today, like chimpanzees, orangutans or gorillas.”
As Morris sees it, “We’re in a propaganda war here and they use these things to propagandize naturalism.”
That war has escalated in the past year, with the National Academy of Sciences publishing a book buttressing the teaching of evolution and the National Association of Biology Teachers devoting much of its November annual meeting in Reno, Nevada, to the subject. The annual meeting was attended by about 1,500 teachers.
According to The New York Times’ assessment, the National Academy of Sciences, the National Association of Biology Teachers and the Society for the Study of Evolution, the largest professional group of evolutionists, “are embarking on a concerted effort to change the way Americans view evolution.”
“The evolution-creation controversy is as charged today as it was when Scopes was tried,” Randy Moore, editor of the association’s magazine, The American Biology Teacher, told The Times. “Creationists are more powerful than ever. They’re winning, not in terms of court cases, but what happens in the classrooms.”
“As miracles are not allowed in scientific explanations, paleoanthropologists must explain human origins by some evolutionary process governed by natural laws,” noted David Dockery III, a Baptist layman and chief of the Mississippi Office of Geology’s surface geology division in Jackson who holds a doctorate in paleontology from Tulane University.
“For those who believe that God created some things by miraculous means, there is no problem in accepting the Genesis account of Adam and Eve, regardless of how many complete australopithecus skeletons are found,” Dockery said.
“Humans are not human because they walk on two feet as australopithecus may have done and as even some dinosaurs once did. We are human because of our brain’s complex frontal lobe and our ability to reason. We are also human because of our special DNA, which has a low diversity even considering the billions of people and many tribes on our planet.
“This low diversity,” Dockery said, “shows that, in geological terms, we all had a recent common ancestor, a couple known among geneticists as the ‘mitrochondrial Eve’ (mother of us all) and the ‘Y Adam’ (father of us all).”
Ross, in his latest book, refers to scientific literature that states DNA analysis proves neanderthals (a link widely touted by evolutionists) had no part in human ancestry.
Ross speculates that neanderthals and other primitive beings were created by God long before Adam and Eve to help mammals and birds adjust to mankind’s change from vegetarians to carnivores.
That shift is outlined in the ninth chapter of Genesis, Ross said. Because of primitive species hunting them, birds and mammals were prepared to become prey for humans, he said.
“Half the bird species and half the land mammal species that were here when God created Adam and Eve are now extinct,” Ross said. “We have had a tremendous shock on them.”
Meanwhile, while scientists study this latest find, Morris said Christians should bear in mind that evolutionists’ denial of the possibility of Noah’s flood colors their interpretation of the evidence.
“Be skeptical of things like this,” he said of the news reports from South Africa, “and don’t take them at face value.”
Ted J. Cabal, dean of the James P. Boyce College of the Bible at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Louisville, Ky., reminded, “Most importantly, at this stage the evidence has not even been submitted to the review of other paleontologists, and as the papers are reporting, many scientists are skeptical of the claims. We should remember the ‘Martian’ rock which ‘proved’ biogenesis had occurred on that planet, but now is overwhelmingly doubted.
“There are other reasons why Christians should sit tight and stay tuned on this one.” Cabal continued. “Rather than provide clear confirmation of Darwinism, the fossil record presents a tremendous problem for the theory.
“All too often, fossil finds are touted as conclusive evidence for particular aspects of macroevolution only to be completely reinterpreted later without the general public hearing of the less-spectacular conclusion,” Cabal said. “Of course, the idea that this creature may just be an interesting but extinct creature unrelated to humans rarely makes the press.
“Finally, Christians must remember that contrary to naturalist worldviews, bipedal locomotion is not what distinguishes humans from the rest of creation. We are made in the image of God, made to know and worship him who has so wonderfully and interestingly created us and other creatures,” Cabal said.