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Early Man and Human Fossils
  • The Story of Human Evolution
  • Did Australopithecines Walk Upright?
  • Ambiguity of Fossil Human Categories

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Early Man and Human Fossils

Ray Bohlin


A 1994 issue of Time magazine{1} displayed a picture of Homo erectus on the cover with the title, "How Man Began: Fossil bones from the dawn of humanity are rewriting the story of evolution." The question of human origins fascinates us! Many people are intrigued by the possibility of descending from an ape-like ancestor only 7 million years ago. The field of paleoanthropology, the study of human fossils, embraces colorful personalities who compete for our allegiance to their particular evolutionary schemes. Mary and Louis Leakey, their son, Richard Leakey, and Donald Johanson, are all recognizable names.

  1. The story of human evolution.

    1. Australopithecines.

      The story begins about 3.5 million years ago with the appearance of a group of animals collectively known as australopithecines: "Australo" meaning southern and "pithecines" meaning apes. These "southern apes," initially discovered in South Africa, were small, apparently upright, walking apes.

    2. Homo habilis.

      Around two million years ago, a new creature appeared that is now put into the genus Homo, Homo habilis. Homo habilis possessed the same stature of the australopithecines but with a slightly larger brain. It is also suggested that he used a few primitive tools.

    3. Homo erectus.

      Next appeared the real star of human evolution, Homo erectus. Homo erectus possessed the skeletal frame of modern humans (though a little more robust) and a brain capacity closer still to humans. Homo erectus used more advanced tools.

    4. Archaic Homo sapiens.

      This "almost" human hung around we're told for over 1.5 million years when nearly modern humans (Homo sapiens) began to emerge.

    5. Thoroughly modern humans.

      Soon the offshoot neandertals arise and about the same time thoroughly modern humans appear in the last 100,000 years.

  2. Did australopithecines walk upright?

    The first major player as mentioned above is the genus Australopithecus. Many creationists have debated whether these creatures walked upright. These creatures did walk on two legs probably, but not very well, and not in a manner similar to humans. The most famous australopithecine is "Lucy," who was discovered by Donald Johanson in East Africa in 1974.

    1. Lucy walked on two legs.

      While there is still some debate about whether these creatures walked upright at all, most anthropologists accept that they walked on two legs.

    2. Lucy was also adapted to the trees.

      But this is misleading if you don't know the rest of the story. The fact is that Lucy, the most well known australopithecine (Australopithecus afarensis), was also mildly adapted to life in the trees.

    3. The gait of australopithecines was probably not intermediate.

      The evolutionist William Howells summed it up well. "There is general agreement that Lucy's gait is not properly understood, and that it was not something simply transitional to ours" (emphasis mine).2

    4. Lucy was unique.

      If Lucy walked upright, it appears to have been something distinct from how apes and humans walk. Not exactly what you would expect from a transitional form. The best guess is that Lucy is simply an extinct ape with no clear connection to humans.

  3. The ambiguity of fossil human categories should be understood.

    We have all seen the series of extinct creatures that supposedly lead from ape to man. Evolutionists confidently declare that while there may be a lot of details missing from the story, the basic outline is fairly complete. This all seems rather impressive. Creationist Marvin Lubenow, offers an important observation:

    What is not generally known is that this sequence, impressive as it seems, is a very artificial and arbitrary arrangement because 1) some fossils are selectively excluded if they do not fit well into the evolutionary scheme; 2) some human fossils are arbitrarily downgraded to make them appear to be evolutionary ancestors when they are in fact true humans; and 3) some non-human fossils are upgraded to make them appear to be human ancestors.{3}

    1. The australopithecines are a good example of Lubenow's third point.

      1. These extinct apes are championed as human ancestors because of their crude bipedal walking ability. But nearly everything else about them is ape-like. The origin of their bipedality would be no small evolutionary task. Even Richard Leakey admits as much in his book (written with Roger Lewin), Origins Reconsidered, when he says that the change from walking on four legs to walking on two legs
        would have required an extensive remodeling of the ape's bone and muscle architecture and of the overall proportion in the lower half of the body. Mechanisms of gait are different, mechanics of balance are different, functions of major muscles are different -an entire functional complex had to be transformed for efficient bipedalism to be possible.{4}

      2. Yet this immense change is not documented from the fossils.

    2. Just who or what is Homo erectus?

      A good example of Lubenow's second point, the arbitrary downgrading of human fossils to make them appear to be our ancestors, is Homo erectus.

      1. Homo erectus is said to span the time, from around 1.7 million years ago to nearly 400,000 years ago. From its first appearance, erectus is admitted to have a fully human post-cranial skeleton (that means everything but the head). But the brain size is given an evolutionary twist by saying that it only approaches the average for modern humans. In reality, Homo erectus brain size is within the range of modern humans.

      2. Throughout the course of their book, Origins Reconsidered, Leakey and Lewin document an impressive array of characteristics that distinguish the ape-like qualities of australopithecines from the human qualities of Homo erectus. Australopithecines are small in stature, only 34 feet tall, and the males are twice the size of females. In humans and Homo erectus, the males are only 1520% larger than females and a juvenile erectus fossil is projected to grow to a height of six feet if he had lived.{5}

      3. In Homo erectus, all of the following characteristics display the human pattern, while in australopithecines, the ape pattern is evident: growth pattern, dental structure and development, facial structure and development, brain morphology, height to weight ratio, probable position of larynx based on the contours of the base of the skull making speech possible, and the size of the birth canal relative to the size of the adult brain.

      4. Where some Homo erectus fossils differ from humans can be explained by the effects of inbreeding, dietary restrictions, and a harsh environment. But evolutionists need an intermediate link from ape to man, and Homo erectus is the only option available.


©1998 Probe Ministries
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