The Not-so-Hard "Facts" of Man's Evolution
Not long ago many influential scholars spoke of the "certain results" and "assured findings" of the "science" of higher textual criticism as having rendered untenable the orthodox conception of Biblical history. Over the years numerous archaeological discoveries have blown up one "assured result" after another. The existence of the Hittites, of writing at the time of Moses, of a king named Tiglath-Pileser (2 Kings 15:29) who destroyed the northern kingdom of Israel, of the first century authorship of the gospel of John — all of these in the past have been confidently denied by the liberal scholars; and all of these have more recently been confirmed by archaeological discoveries. Such examples can be multiplied; yet the higher critics continue to spin off new theories from their ivory towers of unbelief, undeterred by the lack of solid support such theories have found in the past.
And they continue to slay their thousands. When freshly spun, many of their theories and arguments — such as the past assertion that writing did not exist at the time of Moses — seem unanswerable. Yet those who have retained their belief in the historical trustworthiness of an inerrant Bible have time and again lived to see their own position vindicated rather than that of the "scientific" higher critics.1
There is a second group of influential scholars who today are slaying their tens of thousands. They too speak of the "scientific facts" which have done away with the orthodox conception of Biblical history as it is recorded in Genesis 1-11. They too have persisted in spinning off new theories only to have them rapidly blow up due to the absence of supporting evidence and the eventual discovery of contradictory evidence. The subject of their speculations? The evolution of man.
Yet many non-technical people who hear only the confident pronouncements of the evolutionists and who do not have the opportunity to read and evaluate the scientific literature find it hard to deal with these challenges. Especially so since many of the evangelical intellectuals — the scientists and theologians — have displayed greater skepticism with respect to the historicity of the Genesis account than they have to the ever-changing theories of paleoanthropology. As a result, many Christians are unaware of the complete lack of compelling scientific evidence to account for the recent widespread abandonment of belief in God's miraculous creation of Adam and Eve. Yet the scientific case for man's evolution is no stronger than it was a hundred years ago, despite the ongoing diligent search for the missing links.
A half-century ago the thrice-censured Jesuit Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (whom a recent Calvin Center for Christian Scholarship book describes as a "great Christian thinker") arrogantly asserted,
It is irreconcilable with what we know from biology that our human species should be descended from a pair.quoted by Malachi Martin in The Jesuits; p. 287
De Chardin was confidently parroting the classical Darwinian dogma that evolution occurs very gradually in large populations. Today, as anyone knows who has kept at all abreast of developments in paleontology, this conception of evolution has fallen on rather hard times. The trouble is, fossils of the supposed transitional forms, which ought to be plentiful, are in fact absent. Since Darwin's Origin of Species was first published in 1859, over a century and a quarter of diligent fossil collecting has failed to discover the hypothetical transitional forms. This is as true of the supposed ape—man transition as it is of other transitions. So a new theory of evolution, called saltational or punctuated equilibria evolution, has recently been formulated by leading paleontologists such as Niles Eldridge, Stephen Gould, and Steven Stanley. To account for the lack of transitional forms in the fossil record they theorize that in general evolutionary change has occurred rapidly (in thousands instead of millions of years) and in very small, isolated populations (perhaps starting from just a pair of individuals). This theory also has problems,2 which I shall not deal with here; however, it is clear that the "scientific knowledge" confidently trumpeted by de Chardin is increasingly being rejected by modern paleontologists.
Teilhard de Chardin made a further abortive contribution to establishing the myth of man's evolution through the role he played in the discovery and evaluation of Piltdown Man: This "fossil," on which over fifty PhD theses were written, was "discovered" in 1912 and finally proved in 1950 (38 years later!) to be a complete fraud constructed of a doctored ape's jaw fitted with a human skull. The bones were deliberately stained to give the appearance of age; the teeth had been filed down to the desired ape-man shape. De Chardin is considered by many as a prime suspect as at least being a co-conspirator in the perpetration of this fraud.
Nor has this been by any means the only such instance of a much heralded ape-man "missing link" fossil turning out, on closer analysis, to be not such after all. Nebraska Man was extrapolated from a single fossil tooth, which was later shown to be that of an extinct peccary, or wild pig.
Creationist author Dr. Duane Gish comments that this is one instance in which a pig made a monkey out of an evolutionist.
Joining Piltdown Man and Nebraska Man as "scientific facts of evolution" at the famous Scopes trial in 1925 was Java Man. The discoverer of this hodge-podge collection of fragmentary fossils, Eugene Du Bois, later dismissed his own find as the unrelated parts of a human and a giant gibbon.
Some other evolutionists who knew less than Du Bois did concerning the poorly documented excavation of the Java Man fossils, continued to claim the bones belonged together, were quite man-like (as indeed the human bones were), and of the same species as Peking Man, whom they classified as Homo erectus.
Peking Man provides us with yet another strange story. As Gish chronicles, the descriptions of the Peking Man fossils evolved remarkably in the scientific literature. In earlier descriptions the fossils are very apelike, in later descriptions very manlike. But no one has been able to examine the Peking Man fossils for the last forty-seven years since they mysteriously disappeared during the Japanese occupation of China in World War II. Wonderfully, cast of reconstructions of the Peking Man fossils have been preserved. It is interesting to note that our supercilious evolutionist crusader de Chardin played a leading role in the excavation of the Peking Man site.
In general, real fossils which were once touted as "missing links" between the apes and man on closer analysis have proven to be either very much apes (Pilbeam's Ramapithecus, L. Leakey's Zinjanthropus, Johanson's "Lucy," Dart's "Taung Child," — these latter three now classified in the genus Australopithecus, i.e. "southern apes") or they have proven to be very much human (Neanderthal Man, Cro-Magnon Man). A third category is "extremely fragmentary and disputable" (e.g. L. Leakey's Homo habilus).
Most paleontologists today agree that the Neanderthals were fully human. At the most they may represent a vanished race of man. The Australopithecines, on the other hand, the favorite "missing link" of recent years, are very like modern chimpanzees, with an average cranial capacity of 500 c.c. or less (about one third that of man and in the range of gorilla). These apes' remains have regularly made the cover of National Geographic in recent years. Why? It is claimed by some that certain skeletal fragments suggest that they walked relatively upright, and that certain aspects of the dentition are more similar to humans than to apes. It has been also claimed as "hard evidence" for man's evolution that the shape of the bones in the nasal region of some of these fossils exhibit a "paranthropine" (man-like) pattern.
All of these claims have been persuasively disputed in the scientific literature. Richard Leakey has published evidence that indicates that "the australopithecines were long-armed, short-legged knuckle-walkers, similar to extant African apes" (Nature, V. 231, p. 241(1971); Science News, V. 100, p. 357 (1971)). In a CAT-scan study of the dentition of the Taung skull, two scientists conclude "the dental development patterns revealed here by CT are clearly comparable to those of a 3-4 year old great ape" (Nature, V. 329, p. 627 (1987)). Another study examined the variability of nasal bone structure in modern great ape skulls and found that a significant percentage of chimpanzees, gorillas, and orangutans also exhibited the "paranthropine" pattern considered so important in some of the Australiopithecus fossils (Nature, V. 328, pp. 333-335 (1987)).
Besides all this, as creationist author Dr. Gary E. Parker points out, the question should be asked how crucial to the definition of man are his teeth and his upright posture? The living rare pygmy chimpanzee, Pan paniscus, also spends a fair amount of time walking upright. Gish notes that the living high-altitude Ethiopian baboon, Theropithecus galada, possesses dental features considered "man-like" in fossils.
In short, the gap between man and ape is as big as it ever was, though ill-founded speculation abounds. As the jacket cover to evolutionist author John Reader's 1981 book Missing Links explains: "...seeing how little evidence exists — the entire significant hominid (fossil) collection would barely cover a billiard table — it is easy to understand why most of these theories are controversial."
To top it off, paleoanthropologists are notoriously subjective in their analysis of the fossils. Saltational evolutionist Steven M. Stanley writes:
Even today, the most common interpretation of human evolution places us at the end of a single lineage tracing back to a slender australopithecine — a somewhat apelike humanoid ... This view has prevailed to the point that it has become difficult to extract objective observations from many writings on the subject. Fossils have often been described in terms of how they seem to fit a pre-conceived gradualistic scheme rather than in terms of their fundamental attributes.The New Evolutionary Timetable, p. 138 
Later in the same book he writes: ...the old idea Australopithecus africanus being gradually transformed into Homo erectus (i.e. Peking Man, Java Man) by way of 'Homo' habilus is now difficult to defend.p. 149
Roger Lewin, an individual who has co-authored two bestselling books with fellow evolutionist Richard Leakey, and who is currently editor of research news for the prestigious scientific journal Science, has recently (1987) written a book entitled Bones of Contention: Controversies in the Search for Human Origins. In this book he documents the subjectivity, the emotional involvement, the subconscious community influences, etc., which in case after case (Taung, Ramapithecus, Zinjanthropus, the "1470" skull, Lucy, etc.) have led to a breakdown in the quality of the science.
In the past few years biochemists have challenged the paleoanthropologists' speculations with widely differing views of their own. These biochemists have concluded from genetic similarities and a number of assumptions (especially concerning the rate of random mutations) that all of humanity can trace their lineages back to a single woman, appropriately called "Eve," who, according to their calculations lived some 200,000 years ago.
The great majority of evolutionists cannot accept such a recent date as this and would be much happier with Eve who lived more than 2 million years ago. This is an order of magnitude difference! According to Newsweek "Eve has provoked a scientific controversy bitter even by the standards of anthropologists, who have few rivals at scholarly sniping" (Jan. 11, 1988; p. 46). The article quotes a Fred Smith of the University of Tennessee as saying:
What bothers many of us paleontologists is the perception that this new data from DNA is so precise and scientific and that we paleontologists are just a bunch of bumbling old fools. But if you listen to the geneticists, you realize they're as divided about their genetic data as we are about the bones. We may be bumbling fools, but we're not any more bumbling than they are.Newsweek p. 47
Even the long-held and widely believed assumption that the African great apes are man's "closest living relatives" has now been questioned.
Some cladistic taxonomists are asserting that that distinction belongs rather to the Asian ape, the orangutan. There is virtually not one single thing that evolutionists can agree on as a solid fact concerning man's supposed evolution from the apes.
The multiplied theories amount to much ado about nearly nothing, bringing to mind Mark Twain's remark:
There is something fascinating about science. One gets such wholesale returns of conjecture out of such trifling investments of fact.
Twain was a skeptic, but at least he was a thoroughgoing one. Would that more evangelical college and seminary professors who profess belief in Total Depravity were as skeptical towards that very human pursuit known as science!
With regards to man's hypothetical evolutionary origins the past century has witnessed one after another "assured fact" of science self-destruct. Whatever may be the reason for the recent widespread abandonment among evangelical intellectuals of the historicity of the Genesis account of man's origins, one thing seems certain: the reason is not to be found in recent scientific discoveries.