Humans: Images of God or Advanced Apes?

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Analyzing the fossil record, and genetic information content between apes and humans.

by Jonathan Sarfati, Ph.D., F.M.

Chapter Six of Refuting Evolution

Note: References and notes are available here

Humans are very different from animals, especially in the ability to use language and logic. Teaching about Evolution and the Nature of Science [the NAS guide book for public school teachers] points out a number of contrasts between humans and apes on page 83. But Teaching about Evolution forcefully indoctrinates readers with the idea that humans have descended from a simple cell via ape-like ancestors. The arguments used involve alleged apemen and DNA similarities. This chapter analyzes the fossil record, and also discusses the large difference in genetic information content between apes and humans.

Fossil Apemen

The best-known fossil apemen are the extinct australopithecines (the name means ‘southern ape’). Teaching about Evolution on page 20 illustrates a series of five skulls: Australopithecus afarensis (‘Lucy’), A. africanus, early HomoH. erectus, and H. sapiens (modern man). However, many evolutionists disagree with this picture. For example, Donald Johanson, the discoverer of ‘Lucy,’ places A. africanus on a side-branch not leading to man. Anatomist Charles Oxnard performed a detailed analysis of different bones of A. africanus and concluded that it did not walk upright in the human manner and was more distinct from both humans and chimpanzees than these are from each other. More recently, Oxnard made the following comments about the australopithecines, including ‘Lucy’:

It is now recognized widely that the australopithecines are not structurally closely similar to humans, that they must have been living at least in part in arboreal [tree] environments, and that many of the later specimens were contemporaneous [living at the same time] or almost so with the earlier members of the genus Homo.

Oxnard, an evolutionist, is one of several experts who do not believe that any of the australopithecines were on the human line.

Humans have always been humans

Marvin Lubenow, in his book Bones of Contention, also shows that the various alleged apemen do not form a smooth sequence in evolutionary ‘ages,’ but overlap considerably. He also points out that the various finds are either varieties of true humans (e.g. Neandertals, Homo erectus) or non-humans like the australopithecines, which probably includes the so-called Homo habilis. There are several lines of evidence to support this:

  • Mitochondrial DNA analysis of a Neandertal skeleton found that the sequence differed from modern humans in 22 to 36 places, while the differences among modern humans are from 1 to 24 places.6 Despite some statistically invalid claims that this makes the Neandertals a separate species, the differences are within the range of modern humans. Also, DNA is quickly broken down by water and oxygen, so under favorable conditions, DNA might last tens of thousands of years at the most. This raises serious questions about the 100,000-year ‘age’ that some scientists have assigned to this skeleton.
  • X-ray analysis of the semicircular canals of a number of apemen skulls showed that the Homo erectus canals were like those of modern humans, meaning they walked upright. But those of the A. africanus and A. robustus were like those of great apes. This shows they did not walk upright like humans, but were probably mainly tree-dwelling. ‘Homo habilis’ turned out to be even less ‘bi-pedal’ than the australopithecines.

Human and ape similarities?

Teaching about Evolution emphasizes physical and especially DNA similarities between human and other living organisms, and this is alleged to be evidence for evolution. However, again this is not a direct finding, but an interpretation of the data.

common designer is another interpretation that makes sense of the same data. An architect commonly uses the same building material for different buildings, and a carmaker commonly uses the same parts in different cars. So we shouldn’t be surprised if a Designer for life used the same biochemistry and structures in many different creatures. Conversely, if all living organisms were totally different, this might look like there were many designers instead of one.

Another good thing about the common biochemistry is that we can gain nourishment from other living things. Our digestive systems can break down food into its building blocks, which are then used either as fuel or for our own building blocks.

Since DNA contains the coding for structures and biochemical molecules, we should expect the most similar creatures to have the most similar DNA. Apes and humans are both mammals, with similar shapes, so have similar DNA. We should expect humans to have more DNA similarities with another mammal like a pig than with a reptile like a rattlesnake. And this is so. Humans are very different from yeast but they have some biochemistry in common, so we should expect human and yeast DNA to be only slightly similar.

So the general pattern of similarities need not be explained by common-ancestry evolution. Furthermore, there are some puzzling anomalies for an evolutionary explanation—similarities between organisms that evolutionists don’t believe are closely related. For example, hemoglobin, the complex molecule that carries oxygen in blood and results in its red color, is found in vertebrates. But it is also found in some earthworms, starfish, crustaceans, mollusks, and even in some bacteria. The α-hemoglobin of crocodiles has more in common with that of chickens (17.5 percent) than that of vipers (5.6 percent), their fellow reptiles. An antigen receptor protein has the same unusual single chain structure in camels and nurse sharks, but this cannot be explained by a common ancestor of sharks and camels.1

Similarities between human and ape DNA are often exaggerated. This figure was not derived from a direct comparison of the sequences. Rather, the original paper1 inferred 97 percent similarity between human and chimp DNA from a rather crude technique called DNA hybridization. In this technique, single strands of human DNA were combined with DNA from chimpanzees and other apes. However, there are other things beside similarity that affect the degree of hybridization.

Actually, even if we grant that degree of hybridization entirely correlates with similarity, there are flaws. When proper statistics are applied to the data, they show that humans and chimps have only about 96 percent similarity. But we frequently hear larger figures bandied about—the alleged similarity grows in the telling!

A point often overlooked is the vast differences between different kinds of creatures. Every creature has an encyclopedic information content, so even a small percentage difference means that a lot of information would be required to turn one kind into another. Since humans have an amount of information equivalent to a thousand 500-page books, a 4 percent difference amounts to 40 large books (again, even if we assume that the hybridization data really correlates to gene sequence similarity).

That is, random mutation plus natural selection is expected to generate the information equivalent of 12 million words arranged in a meaningful sequence. This is an impossibility even if we grant the 10 million years asserted by evolutionists. Population genetics calculations show that animals with human-like generation times of about 20 years could substitute no more than about 1,700 mutations in that time…

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image credit: Savs