SBC Life Articles

The Colossal Fossil Failure

Journey with me, if you will, into the mists of prehistory some 3.25 million years ago and pretend for a moment that your name is none other that australopithecus africanus, a Latinism invented by men from the future to classify you as a bipedal hominid, or "southern ape." While it's believed that "Lucy" – an australopithecus afarensis – may have been roaming around to the north and east of you a million years or so earlier, the fact remains that you now find yourself in a never-ending, survival-of-the-fittest struggle for daily existence in the midst of some lush South African forest world. Your evolving mind, however, somehow senses instinctively that a better life can be found at the boundary zone between forest and savanna, where the best of two worlds is available. As for food there, your tentative upright steps allow you to forage the earth and low-lying shrubs for insects, berries, nuts, and fallen fruit, things that satisfy your incessant hunger for a while. As for protection, the lofty heights of centuries-old baobob trees provide you with an airborne blanket of security, safeguarding you temporarily from predatory meat-eaters intent upon having you for a well-deserved meal. After all, you're only four feet tall, not overly bright, and the rangy grasses won't hide you forever as a long-armed, short-legged knuckle-walker.

As unremembered millennia pass, your progeny somehow manage to survive even as you did in such an on-again, off-again favorable environment, only to emerge in due time by way of chance happenings, positive mutations, and natural selection, and with bodily features distinctive enough from yours to warrant the designation homo habilis. On the road to an unmapped macroevolution, these protohuman sons and daughters of yours had the bigger-brained sense to acquire a certain handiness with stone tools to assist them with the difficulties of nomadic life. In turn, their own even closer-to-human sons and daughters learned to hunt game, to use and control fire, and to escape from Africa over extensive ice or land bridges, eventually populating other parts of the world. Homo erectus is their given name. At last your homo neanderthalensis posterity arrives on the scene, both in "Europe" and as far away as "China," only to begin making weapons and burying their dead with afterlife-driven pomp and ceremony. As strong hunters without equal, it may sadden you to learn that no one knows for sure why they ceased to exist as a separate species some 30,000 years ago. Some still call them archaic homo sapiens, but the majority will say that their DNA ascends only to the level of the never-to-be-human. Even so, their cave-painting rivals living nearby – Cro-Magnon, or homo sapiens sapiens – went on to become the only remaining line of descent to the first true humans. According to evolutionists, this is your savage but noble heritage.

Back to "Little Foot"

Now that some time has passed since December 9, when the worldwide "Little Foot" announcement hit the anthropological scene and global media, the evolutionary hoopla has quieted to a large degree. If you remember, paleoanthropologists Ron Clarke and Phillip Tobias from the University of Witwatersrand discovered the almost complete fossil remains of a "three-million-year old hominid skeleton" at the Sterkfontein Caves, just north of Johannesburg, South Africa. Although it will take at least a year to clear away the surrounding limestone rock, the locked-in skeleton's completeness seems to be a key facet of the investigation, prompting Tobias to remark: "We are talking here about world impact news – nothing like it of such a great age has ever been found in the world." When the work is finished, large numbers of scientists believe that the fossil remains of "Little Foot" – an australopithecine of some variety – will help to unravel the mystery of human evolution. The hominid's little foot is said to have a prehensile big toe, resembling the grasping toe of a chimpanzee, while the back portion of the foot is more explicitly human. "We are getting down nearer and nearer," Tobias indicated, "to the critical parting of ways between the hominids – our family – and the African apes, which share with us a common ancestry, perhaps about five to seven million years ago." With ex cathedra-like tones, the ancient bone specialists tell us that the new hominid will soon change the way we view history.

What the Fossil "Experts" Don't Tell You

Many Christians already understand the unspoken theological implications of such hubris-filled pronouncements – namely, that the biblical conception of a "created" cosmos or the provision for human "salvation" by way of a bloody cross are useless hypotheses to the atheistic evolutionist. What is often overlooked, however, is the fact that when some trained paleoanthropologist or just an everyday "Joe Citizen" begins to speak in terms of human beings evolving from a common ancestry with apes, it simply can't be left to remain at that level alone. If humans evolved into what we have before us, to be a consistent naturalist/evolutionist the debate must be taken all the way back to the origin of life itself, with the succeeding "amoeba-to-man" treatment of (pre)history outlined carefully as well.

Here the story gets even more bizarre, and there is much that we're never told by the scientific powers-that-be – most notably, the utter lack of bona fide evidence for the existence of transitional forms (intermediate links; missing links) between classes of animals (fishes; amphibians; reptiles; mammals; insects; birds) in the fossil record. Famed Harvard geologist and paleontologist Stephen Jay Gould called this very problem "the trade-secret of paleontology." As Gould's colleague David Pilbeam also admits: "Theories have, in the past, clearly reflected our current ideologies of the actual data." As a consequence of unfettered ideology, then, the undocumented "fairy tale" of macroevolution endures to the present. Essentially, it has been told to us as children ever since 1859, that landmark year when Darwin's Origin of Species was placed for our reading pleasure on the bedstands of a credulous worldwide public. Interestingly, Darwin himself remarks candidly in Origin of Species: "Why then is not every geological formation and every stratum full of such intermediate links? Geology assuredly does not reveal any such finely graduated organic chain; and this, perhaps, is the most obvious and serious objection which can be urged against the theory. The explanation lies, as I believe, in the extreme imperfection of the geological record." In brief, the fossils (or lack thereof) tell one story, and the "experts" tell another. Consider what the fossil finders are actually doing when they don't inform the general public of such things as:

o Other scientists view paleoanthropological research as far less objective than their own investigations;

o Documented cases of hoax and deceit have cast doubt on paleoanthropology's overall achievements;

o Unmistakably human fossil remains appear only suddenly in the fossil record;

o Alleged primitive-to-advanced contours of fossil skulls do not constitute adequate evidence for human evolution because of the wide genetic diversity found in human beings;

o Theory so strongly influences the collecting of facts that self-deception is always a possibility;

o Fossils identical to modern humans parallel the entire history of australopithecus africanus;

o Homo habilis fossils are more often than not contemporary with homo erectus fossils;

o Homo erectus fossils reveal no evolving characteristics over their conjectural two-million-year history.

And the list goes on, with especially interesting tidbits of disinformation about Neanderthals and Cro-Magnons. Thanks to apologist Marvin Lubenow's volume Bones of Contention, these commonly silenced facts have now seen the light of day. Driven by a naturalistic worldview, evolutionary paleoanthropologists have failed to account for these many items, either on the basis of sheer ignorance of their chosen field, or willful misinterpretation for the sake of avoiding religious implications. Either way, what they have on their hands is a colossal fossil failure for all to observe. From a Christian perspective, origins research asserts that australopithecine fossils in particular represent nothing more than the remains of a once alive but now extinct primate species, creatures once as carefully wrought by God as any other vanished species from taxonomic families other than hominidae. And as for the recent australopithecus "Little Foot" find forcing the rewrite of human history – no, it just won't happen! It's utter folly to think it will.

The "Little Foot" episode as a story is indeed a fascinating one, all the way down to its archaeological details. Two well-written articles are available, one found in the South African Journal of Science and the other in the acclaimed journal Nature, with each article affording us more than enough information about the historical particulars of the find. But the whole episode as a reflection of the tenets of a culturally-entrenched evolutionism is a different matter altogether, if for no other reason than the fact that our purported "hominid heritage" in the one corner and our "Christian heritage" in the opposite corner both speak volumes about the ongoing clash of two titan worldviews – naturalism vs. theism.

The descriptive scenario about you as an imagined australopithecus africanus at the top of the article illustrates what so many believe to be the "gospel truth," so to speak, about human origins. So how do you reverse/revise/reformulate someone's worldview from naturalism/evolution to theism, or better yet to Christian theism? Not an easy question, but at the level of God's general revelation to us, you take apart your opponent's system piece by piece, demonstrating to them in due course that it fails collectively with respect to at least four worldview tests. Is your naturalist/evolutionary/materialist worldview logically consistent? Are its empirical data adequate? Is its explanatory power comprehensive enough? And is it practically relevant? At the level of God's special revelation to us, you continue to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ with boldness, knowing that the Holy Spirit will work infallibly and according to God's good pleasure in the hearts and minds of your various worldview opponents, naturalists, New Agers, or otherwise.

While it's true that a cadre of contemporary Christian scientists is working hard even now to dismantle naturalism (and its other dependent systems) via the maturing influence of "design theory" (see "Intelligent Design Theory," SBC LIFE, February/March 1998), naturalism and evolutionary theory are both likely to be around for a while. As worldviews per se, they can't be extricated from academic and popular venues overnight. Design theorists are unquestionably enjoying varying degrees of success on the national and beyond academic circuit, but it's still wise to realize that in the minds-already-made-up context of Darwin's contemporary protégés, men, women, and children will in all probability continue to be ranked as nothing more nor less than chemical beasts. For the evolutionary faithful, then, anything is possible as long as a hodge-podge of contradictory ideas can be espoused simultaneously.

    About the Author

  • Hal Ostrander