Human Origins Research is in Complete Disarray

I haven’t written much about evolution in these pages.  The principle reason is that I consider the debate on that question to be a distraction from the question which really ought to concern us, namely, did biological diversity arise by accident, or was it by design?  And we already know from other lines of reasoning that it was by design. 

God could have used an evolutionary process, but whether He did or not is of very little consequence to me.  What is of tremendous consequence is that living systems unmistakably reflect the activity of a mind.  They are distinctively characterized by information, and information, wherever it is found, always reflects intention.  Intentions are mental activities.  Always.

There is another reason I do not jump into the debate with both feet, and that is that I usually find that those who subscribe to evolutionary theory are entrenched in their view and are not amenable to persuasion.  Since the question is of little consequence, I prefer to spend my time in other ways.

You may ask, however, Isn’t the veracity of Genesis also at stake?  Isn’t that a matter of some consequence?

Yes, it is a matter of great consequence, but I really don’t think that evolutionary theory places the veracity of Genesis at issue.  That depends on one’s interpretation of Genesis, which is another topic I prefer to avoid, for three reasons: One, I already know from other lines of reasoning that Genesis is true (regardless of what it means); two, Genesis is very difficult to interpret; and three, many people are again entrenched.  The things that matter to me, namely, God’s existence and our redemption through the Cross of Jesus, are not in doubt.

That is why, whenever anyone tries to pull me in to a conversation about human origins, the first thing I say is, Yeah, we can talk about that, but first we need to understand what is NOT at stake: God’s existence and His love; for our knowledge of these things is established through independent lines of reasoning.  There is no reason to resist God’s free offer of forgiveness merely because you think the church has it wrong about evolution.  The interpretation of Genesis is not essential to salvation.  There is a diversity of opinion within the church about the meaning of Genesis.

Nevertheless!  Sometimes there is a development in science that has great bearing on the human origins debate, and that I think deserves to be more widely heard.

In the May 2021 issue of Evolution News and Science Today (a publication of the Discovery Institute, an intelligent design think tank), Gunter Bechley brings to our attention an important research article published May 7, 2021 in the journal Science, which is the peer-reviewed academic journal of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) and one of the world’s top academic journals.

Bechley’s essay is titled, “Scientists Conclude: Human Origins Research is a Big Mess,” and it may be found at https://evolutionnews.org/2021/05/scientists-conclude-human-origins-research-is-a-big-mess/.

The Science article is titled, “Fossil Apes and Human Evolution,” (Science Magazine, 07 May 2021: Vol. 372, Issue 6542, eabb4363 DOI: 10.1126/science.abb4363), and may be found at (https://science.sciencemag.org/content/372/6542/eabb4363).

Here are some choice quotes from the Science article:

After 150 years of continuous discoveries, essential information about human origins remains elusive owing to debates surrounding the interpretation of fossil apes.

. . . .

The root of the conflict is the remarkable differences in subjective definition and scoring of complex morphologies.

The decades-long feud regarding arboreality [tree-dwelling] and bipedalism in A. afarensis exemplifies the complexity of inferring function from anatomy. . . .

Humans are storytellers: Theories of human evolution often resemble “anthropogenic narratives” that borrow the structure of a hero’s journey to explain essential aspects such as the origins of erect posture, the freeing of the hands, or brain enlargement. Intriguingly, such narratives have not drastically changed since Darwin. We must be aware of confirmation biases and ad hoc interpretations by researchers aiming to confer [upon] their new fossil the starring role within a preexisting narrative. Evolutionary scenarios are appealing because they provide plausible explanations based on current knowledge, but unless grounded in testable hypotheses, they are no more than “just-so stories”

Bechley says, “The press release from the American Museum of Natural History (2021) sums up the gist of this review article:”

Most human origins stories are not compatible with known fossils. . . .  [T]he number of species in the human family tree has exploded, but so has the level of dispute concerning early human evolution. . . .  However, many of these fossils show mosaic combinations of features that do not match expectations for ancient representatives of the modern ape and human lineages. As a consequence, there is no scientific consensus on the evolutionary role played by these fossil apes. . . .  Overall, the researchers found that most stories of human origins are not compatible with the fossils that we have today.

Bechley concludes:

That is a fair assessment indeed, which admittedly does not mean that these evolutionary speculations are all wrong or futile enterprises. However, it at least shows that those bold hardcore Darwinists, who think they can dismiss and rebuke Darwin critics and ID proponents with some grandiose claims of allegedly settled science, are not just vastly overstating their case but indeed are ignorant of the current state of the scientific debate. The question of human origins is far from being resolved, and non-mainstream options should be explored based exclusively on the available evidence, rather than being rejected due to world-view bias.

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