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Funny Bones and Fairy Tales
In Defense of the Faith
Wednesday, May 04, 2016
Wendy Wippel

Evolutionary Biologist Richard Dawkins, has stated that "Evolution is a fact. Beyond reasonable doubt, beyond serious doubt, beyond sane, informed intelligent doubt, it is a fact. No serious scientist has any doubt that evolution is a fact in the sense that we are cousins of chimpanzees. We know better, and really, so do they. And occasionally they are even willing to admit it."

It is true that most scientists and members of the intelligentsia support evolutionary theory as the only explanation for life on planet earth and tend to consider any other explanations (i.e. intelligent design or (gasp! the book of Genesis ) as myth or junk science only entertained by the ignorant uneducated masses.

According to The U.S. National Academy of Sciences “intelligent design" and other claims of supernatural intervention in the origin of life "are not science"  a statement that Intelligent design cannot be considered a scientific theory because “its central conclusion is based on belief in the intervention of a supernatural agent."

In 2005, more than 70,000 Australian scientists and science teachers issued a statement saying "intelligent design is not science" asking schools to forego teaching Intelligent Design as a possible alternative to evolution. A brief signed in 1986 by 72 US Nobel Prize recipients asked the US Supreme court to reject a Louisiana law that required teaching Intelligent Design as an alternative.

Which is ironic, really, because Darwin himself actually knew that he had no direct fossil evidence for human evolution from non-human primates, and for that reason never actually mentioned human evolution in The Origin of Species.

All he had to say about it, actually, was “much light will be thrown on the origin of man and his history”. But as the 20th century dawned it seemed that what had been a somewhat speculative theory was gathering steam.  Fossil remains of early humans started to be found, and to novice eyes seemed to be transitional links.  The “peppered moth experiments” published in 1896 in which black moths, invisible on sooty London tree trunks, appeared to be eaten by birds less often than the mostly white peppered moth, providing what seemed to be a methodology for natural selection. And in 1958, Watson and Crick figured out the structure and function of DNA. It was all systems go for the search for proof of our simian relatives.  

Or so it seemed.

The first Neanderthal skeleton had been discovered in 1856, but nobody at that time considered him a human ancestor—his skeleton being markedly more robust than modern humans. Other skeletons surface, but still no likely human ancestors.(It was believed at the time that a likely ancestor would have large brain but ape-like jaw).  It wasn’t until 1912 that a skeleton fitting that description was unearthed in a gravel pit in England. Piltdown, England, with the skeleton named “Piltdown man” Piltdown man held sway as the model for our ancestral human for decades, with all further skeletons found judged against him.  Till it was discovered that he had been patched together from several skeletons. Not all of them human.  In short, he was a fraud.

And in fact, as more and more prehistoric skeletons are discovered, attempts to define how humans evolved from primates just gets more and more complicated. American Paleontologists Niles Eldredge and Ian Tattersal said that “it's not just about discovering all the skeletons. If that were really true, one could confidently expect that as more hominid fossils were found, the story of human evolution would become clearer.. the exact opposite has occurred”. Constance Holden, in the Magazine Science, compared trying to reconstruct our evolutionary history from bones was like trying to reconstruct that plot of War and Peace with 13 randomly selected pages.

(A book  BTW, that has over 1000 pages.  I had to read it for a Russian Literature class once. My advice? Don’t bother.  But I digress.)

The point of the analogy is that there’s just no way to piece the story together. Henry Gee, writer, for the Journal Nature, said, "the intervals of time that separate fossils are so huge that we cannot say anything definite about their possible connections through ancestry and descent… when we are dealing with millions of years the job is effectively impossible.”

But hope springs eternal, especially when it pays the groceries. Time magazine in 2011 announced that paleoanthropologist Lee Berger had discovered, in a cave in Malapa, South Africa, skeletons that seemed to be the long-awaited missing link—a major and find that spurred no less than five separate papers in the same scientific journal. Berger’s treasure trove consisted of several skeletons, whom although disarticulated, seemed relatively complete, with features that appeared to indicate that they were, in fact, a transitional species. This new species was named Australopthecus Sadiba, and there was much rejoicing in the evolutionist world.

Short lived. 

By 2015, with experts around the world having then had a chance to examine the bones, it was agreed that the bones discovered were again, a mix of species.

And a funny thing has started to happen. There are some honest voices on team evolution who are starting to cry wolf. To ask if evolution has become a mythology of its own:

John Duratin, for one, who gave the Darin Lecture to the British Association for the Advancement of Science and asked, “could it be that, theories of human evolution reinforce the value systems of their creators?" Henry Gee admitted that the conventional picture of human evolution as lines of ancestry and descent is a completely human invention created after the fact… to take a line of fossils and claim that they represent a lineage is not a scientific hypothesis that can be tested, but an assertion that carries the same validity as a bedtime story—perhaps instructive, but not scientific.

Pierre-Paul Grasse, French zoologist, and evolutionist, for another, who said,

"Today, our duty is to destroy the myth of evolution, considered as a simple, understood, and explained phenomenon which keeps rapidly unfolding before us. Biologists must be encouraged to think about the weaknesses of the interpretations and extrapolations that theoreticians put forward or lay down as established truths. The deceit is sometimes unconscious, but not always, since some people, owing to their sectarianism, purposely overlook reality and refuse to acknowledge the inadequacies and the falsity of their beliefs."

NY, 1977, p.8. "Directed by all-powerful selection, chance becomes a sort of providence, which, under the cover of atheism, is not named but which is secretly worshipped. . . To insist, even with Olympian assurance, that life appeared quite by chance and evolved in this fashion, is an unfounded supposition which I believe to be wrong and not in accordance with the facts."

Honesty. So refreshing. Like a kiss on the lips. I think God said that. What if all the signs at all the museums tried it?

Naah. It will never happen.

About Wendy Wippel

Last week: What's in a Name?



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