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Creation Vs. Evolution: Paleontology

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Lies, Lunatics and Lawrence

by  Brad Harrub, Ph.D.

All across Australia, the sound rang throughout classrooms as Helen Lawrence threw down the gauntlet. It is with pleasure that I boldly pick it up to discuss the truth about human origins. In what can only be described as a political media blitz, Lawrence’s new booklet, Making Friends with Fossils: How to Find Your Way Through the Maze of Human Origins, has been placed into the hands of thousands of school-age children. Sadly, those hands have received a perverted, watered-down version of the truth, as Lawrence did everything she could to uphold the tenets of organic evolution.

The seeds that are planted to lead children away from a divine Creator are sown literally before the first word in the introduction. In penning the foreword for this booklet, Colin Groves noted: “It is important for us to know where we came from and how we got here and that we are not so special…,yet there is so much misunderstanding about human evolution that it is all too easy for the lunatic fringe to bend the evidence and mislead the unwary” (emp. added). That being said, maybe Professor Groves could explain why language and communication are “not so special”—and how human beings came about this “commonplace” trait. Or maybe he would like to share with the thousands of school children why humans are the only creatures who are self-aware and can build upon previous knowledge. I assume that those traits also would be considered mundane. In addition, why do humans pay such tribute and honor to their dead? Is this just another by-product of evolutionary theory? And I assume the fact that humans have moral conscience of right and wrong—laws by which I suspect Professor Groves lives—does not separate us in any way from all the “other animals” on the planet?

In her introduction, Lawrence espoused the idea that evolutionists are after only one thing, the truth. She noted: “Nevertheless, the people who pursue the chase for knowledge in this field are after just one thing—to find out the truth.” She then went on to discredit creationists, stating: “There is no point in arguing with someone who ignores the underlying knowledge.” Yet two pages later she began chapter one, titled “A Fossil Called Lucy,” without relaying the admissions of Lucy’s discoverer, Donald Johanson. In an honest assessment of his search for the truth Johanson admitted:

There is no such thing as a total lack of bias. I have it; everybody has it. The fossil hunter in the field has it.... In everybody who is looking for hominids, there is a strong urge to learn more about where the human line started. If you are working back at around three million, as I was, that is very seductive, because you begin to get an idea that that is where Homo did start. You begin straining your eyes to find Homo traits in fossils of that age.... Logical, maybe, but also biased. I was trying to jam evidence of dates into a pattern that would support conclusions about fossils which, on closer inspection, the fossils themselves would not sustain (Johanson and Edey, 1981, pp. 257,258, emp. added).

Johanson went on to confess: “It is hard for me now to admit how tangled in that thicket I was. But the insidious thing about bias is that it does make one deaf to the cries of other evidence” (p. 277). Lawrence is telling school children that evolutionists are only after the truth, while creationists are ignoring “underlying knowledge.” Yet, Johanson himself admits to “straining” his eyes to see evidence in a particular light, all the while being deaf to the cries of opposing evidence.

Lawrence laid the foundation for human evolutionary origins with Australopithecus afarensis—Lucy. How can Lawrence, who herself admitted that she was after only one thing—the truth—explain the outlandish description she painted of Lucy: “Lucy must have fed on entrails and got blood and guts all over her until she had a dip in the lake” (p. 5). Unbelievable! Since Lawrence charges creationists with ignoring underling knowledge, I would be interested in knowing precisely where the scientific data are that prove this creature “fed on entrails and got blood and guts all over her until she had a dip in the lake.” Maybe Colin Groves would like to explain who is doing the “bending of evidence,” and who is really “misleading the unwary.” If Lawrence is truly interested in providing school-aged children with the truth, then maybe she will go back and correct the following errors concerning Lucy.

LUCY’S RIB CAGE

Due to the impossibility of reconstructing Lucy’s skull from the few fragments available, the determination that Lucy walked upright (like a human) had to be derived from her hips and ribs. Peter Schmid, a paleontologist at the Anthropological Institute in Zurich, Switzerland, studied Lucy for quite some time, and summarized his efforts as follows:

When I started to put the skeleton together, I expected it to look human. Everyone had talked about Lucy as being very modern, very human, so I was surprised by what I saw. I noticed that the ribs were more round in cross-section, more like what you see in apes. Human ribs are flatter in cross-section. But the shape of the rib cage itself was the biggest surprise of all. The human rib cage is barrel shaped, and I just couldn’t get Lucy’s ribs to fit this kind of shape. But I could get them to make a conical shaped rib cage, like what you see in apes (as quoted in Leakey and Lewin, 1992, pp. 193-194).

True, ribs can be “tweaked” and rotated so that they appear more “barrel-like” or conical, but the best (and correct) arrangement will always be the original morphology. The facets from the ribs that line up on the vertebrae provide a tighter fit when aligned correctly. In Lucy’s case, her ribs were conical, like those found in apes.

LUCY’S PELVIS AND GENDER

Lawrence asked the question of how Lucy’s discoverers knew she was female. That is an excellent question. Given that in her introduction, Lawrence mentioned that her unique qualifications in “obstetrics and gynaecology has helped me to appreciate birth mechanisms,” then one would assume that these qualifications would be useful in analyzing Lucy’s pelvis. Johanson’s original assessment stated: “The most complete adult skeleton is that of AL 288-1 (‘Lucy,’ Fig. 5). The small body size of this evidently female individual (about 3.5 to 4.0 feet in height) is matched by some other postcranial remains…” (Johanson and White, 1979, p. 324). It would be from the shattered fragments of the pelvis that Donald Johanson and others would interpret the AL 288-1 fossils as being a female—primarily due to the diminutive size. But as Hausler and Schmid discovered: “The sacrum and the auricular region of the ilium are shattered into numerous small fragments, such that the original form is difficult to elucidate. Hence, it is not surprising that the reconstructions by Lovejoy and Schmid show marked differences” (1995, 29:363).

In regard to Lucy’s pelvis, Johanson affirmed: “Lucy’s wider sacrum and shallower pelvis gave her a smaller, kidney-shaped birth canal, compared to that of modern females. She didn’t need a large one because her newborn infant’s brain wouldn’t have been any larger than a chimpanzee infant’s brain” (1994, p. 66). That admission begs the question as to why this fossil was not categorized within the chimp family. But this gender declaration poses additional problems for Lucy. As Hausler and Schmid noted: “If AL 288-1 was female, then one can exclude this species from the ancestors of Homo because its pelvis is certainly less primitive than the pelvis of Sts 14 [designation for a specific A. africanus fossil—BH]” (29:378). Both of the pelvises mentioned displayed some degree of damage, and both were missing critical parts. However, it should be noted that in regard to the Lucy fossil, more than one attempt was made at reconstruction.

Surely, Lawrence is familiar with the fact that reconstructions of the inlet and midplane of Lucy’s pelvis, and comparisons to other fossils and modern humans, revealed that the shape of Lucy’s pelvis was not structured correctly to give birth. The pelvis was just too narrow to accommodate an australopithecine fetus. Hausler and Schmid noted that Lucy’s pelvis was ridgeless and heart shaped, which means that “she” was more likely a “he.” They noted:

Contrary to Sts 14, delivery in AL 288-1 would have been more complicated than in modern humans, if not impossible, due to the protruding promontorium…. Consequently, there is more evidence to suggest that AL 288-1 was male rather than female. A female of the same species as AL 288-1 would have had a pelvis with a larger sagittal diameter and a less protruding sacral promontorium…. Overall, the broader pelvis and the more laterally oriented iliac blades of AL 288-1 would produce more favourable insertion sites for the climbing muscles in more heavily built males…. It would perhaps be better to change the trivial name to “Lucifer” according to the old roman god who brings light after the dark night because with such a pelvis, “Lucy” would apparently have been the last of her species (29:380, emp. added).

This declaration has received an enormous reaction from the evolutionist community, as many scientists work diligently to defend Lucy. If Hausler and Schmid’s conclusion is correct, then the equivalent female of this species would have been even smaller—something unheard of in trying to compare this creature to modern humans! Lucy’s pelvis is not what it should be for an upright-walking hominid—but the dimensions do fall within primates found among the ape family. Why did Lawrence not report this scientific truth?

LUCY—BIPEDAL, OR SWINGING FROM THE TREES?

What do Lucy’s arms and legs tell us in regard to her locomotion? In her booklet, Helen Lawrence admitted that Lucy “had long arms like a tree-clinging ape” (p. 4). If Lucy were a biped, surely her upper and lower extremities would point toward an upright stance. After all, the bone that led to Johanson’s discovery of Lucy was that of the arm. Yet the bony framework that composes Lucy’s wrists may be the most telling of all. Brian Richmond and David Strait of George Washington University in Washington D.C. experienced what many might call a “Eureka!” moment while going through some old papers on primate physiology at the Smithsonian Institute.

“We saw something that talked about special knuckle walking adaptations in modern African apes,” Dr. Richmond said. “I could not remember ever seeing anything about wrists in fossil hominids.… Across the hall was a cast of the famous fossil Lucy. We ran across and looked at it and bingo, it was clear as night and day” (see BBC News, 2000).

Lawrence acknowledged this fact later in the book, when she commented: “A chimp has a less flexible wrist, held habitually in a knuckle walking position, flexed with the arm pronated (back of arm facing forwards). A wrist needs a stiffer structure when it is used for taking weight in that position…” (p. 22, parenthetical item in orig.). Interestingly, Lawrence never once mentioned Lucy in that discussion of stiff wrists. The March 29, 2000, San Diego Union Tribune reported:

A chance discovery made by looking at a cast of the bones of “Lucy,” the most famous fossil of Australopithecus afarensis, shows her wrist is stiff, like a chimpanzee’s, Brian Richmond and David Strait of George Washington University in Washington, D.C., reported. This suggests that her ancestors walked on their knuckles (Fox, 2000).

Richmond and Strait discovered that knuckle-walking apes have a mechanism that locks the wrist into place in order to stabilize this joint. In their report, they noted: “Here we present evidence that fossils attributed to Australopithecus anamensis (KNM-ER-20419) and A. afarensis (AL 288-1) retain specialized wrist morphology associated with knuckle-walking” (2000, 404:382, parenthetical items in orig.). They went on to note:

Pre-bipedal locomotion is probably best characterized as a repertoire consisting of terrestrial knuckle-walking, arboreal climbing and occasional suspensory activities, not unlike that observed in chimpanzees today. This raises the question of why bipedalism would evolve from an ancient ancestor already adapted to terrestrial locomotion, and is consistent with model relating the evolution of bipedalism to a change in feeding strategies and novel non-locomotor uses of the hands” (p. 384, emp. added).

Not only have Lucy’s wrists and arm-bones been called into question, but there also is a mountain of evidence that demonstrates this fossil was better adapted for swinging through trees, like modern-day chimps. Lawrence was correct, Lucy’s arms were long, “like a tree-climbing ape.” So the natural question to ask is, why was she not considered just that?

AUSTRALOPITHECINE EARS—
DID LUCY WALK UPRIGHTLY?

Knowing that modern human bipedalism is unique among primates (and other mammals), Fred Spoor and colleagues decided to evaluate the vestibular apparatus of the inner ear—an area designed to help coordinate body movements. Modern human locomotor activity requires that the vestibular apparatus of the inner ear be able to maintain body posture, even though we are constantly balancing all of our weight on very small areas of support. Anyone who has suffered vertigo knows firsthand just how crucial this area is for balance and everyday activities. Using high-resolution computed tomography, Spoor, et al., were able to generate cross-sectional images of the bony labyrinth that comprised the inner ear. They wrote: “Among the fossil hominids, the earliest species to demonstrate the modern human morphology is Homo erectus. In contrast, the semicircular canal dimensions in crania from southern Africa attributed to Australopithecus and Paranthropus resemble those of the extant great apes” (1994, 272:645). With that single declaration, Spoor and his colleagues have drawn a line which unequivocally states that all fossils prior to Homo erectus have ape-like morphology that allowed them to climb trees, swing from branches, or walk hunched over on their knuckles. Toward the end of her booklet, Lawrence observed: “As I understand it there is one major gap. This lies between the australopithecines and habilines” (p. 62). The scientific data from Spoor and his colleagues cut the alleged “missing link” neatly into a human group and an ape group. Lawrence’s gap shows that these two groups have yet to be connected.

LUCY—HOMINID OR CHIMP?

One of the things Lawrence failed to tell the schoolchildren was that when Lucy first arrived on the scene, news magazines such as Time and National Geographic noted that she had a head shaped like an ape, with a brain capacity the size of a large chimp’s—about one-third the size of a modern man’s. Adrienne Zihlman remarked: “Lucy’s fossil remains match up remarkably well with the bones of a pygmy chimp” (1984, 104:39). It should be no surprise then, that in Stern and Susman’s analysis of A. afarensis, they pointed out: “These findings of ours...all seem to lead ineluctably to the conclusion that the Hadar hominid [Lucy] was vitally dependent on the trees for protection and/or sustenance” (60:311). All of these facts point toward the truth that Lucy was simply an ape-like creature. Sadly, Lawrence ignores this truth in favor of evolution.

QUIRKS, PROBLEMS, AND OUTRIGHT LIES

Throughout the book, Lawrence wove a tale of vast spans of time. In chapter two, she even worked in an ancient age for the Earth—making sure students were fully indoctrinated with evolutionary ages. She noted: “These proto-humans were dotted about the landscape for the immense time period of two million years, although this is nothing compared to the age of the Earth at four and a half billion!” (p. 10, italics in orig.). Yet she never once mentioned how often evolutionists have changed this date, and how it continues even today to be pushed back farther as additional time is needed to explain current findings. In further distinguishing our alleged ancestors, Lawrence mentioned Sir Arthur Keith, an anatomist who set the brain volume marker for humans at 750 cubic centimeters (p. 11). Simply put, brain size does not determine intelligence. Since Lawrence placed Ian Tattersall’s Human Evolutionary Tree on the back cover, one would expect her to be familiar with Tattersall’s observation regarding brain size:

[A]s it turns out, the concept of a gradual increase in brain size over the eons is actually rather problematic. For a start, this idea strongly implies that every ounce of extra brain matter is equivalent in intelligence production to every other brain ounce—which is clearly not the case (2002, pp. 67-68, emp. added).

No evidence exists that demonstrates a relationship between brain size and intelligence within any given species. The human brain, for example, is known to have a range in volume from less than 1,000 cubic centimeters to more than 2,000. In fact, some of the most intelligent people in history had small brains.

Yet, evolutionists routinely classify hominid fossils largely according to brain size (see, for example, the chart in Pinker, 1997, pp. 198-199). The assumption is, of course, that the human brain started out in early primates as a relatively small, insignificant organ, and then evolved through time to the size we now see it. But why should this be the case? That is the very question Stephen J. Gould asked in the concluding chapter of his volume, Ever Since Darwin:

But why did such a large brain evolve in a group of small, primitive, tree-dwelling mammals, more similar to rats and shrews than to mammals conventionally judged as more advanced? And with this provocative query I end, for we simply do not know the answer to one of the most important questions we can ask (1977, p. 191, emp. added).

I assume this “truth” was not one of those for which Lawrence was searching in her introduction. Lawrence continued, noting: “Once a hominin could balance in the fully upright position, the mechanical advantage it gave them was apparently grabbed and used for its efficiency” (p. 14). But just seven pages later, she spoke of OH 62, who had “many of the attributes of a habiline, and yet judging by those long arms, she appeared to have gone back to getting a living in the trees” (p. 21). Why? This seems a little like devolution.

Toward the end of the second chapter, Lawrence made several telling comments, given her pledge for truth and knowledge. In the section titled “Did australopithecines make tools?,” she noted: “The australopithecines must have used stones and digging sticks but so far no worked stone tools have been found directly in association with them” (p. 15, italics in orig.). Translation: “Our theory predicts this to be true. And while we haven’t found any evidence to support it, we know it must be true.” She continued: “We can only speculate on whether a female had a particular male to offer her food in exchange for exclusive sexual rights” (p. 16). Speculate indeed! Lawrence has moved from science (from the Latin scientia, meaning “knowledge”) into the field of psychic fortune-tellers. The foolishness of a modern-day writer trying to camouflage that as science is utterly ridiculous. But Lawrence was not finished. She then completed the chapter by discussing the scientific names given to these creatures: “It is wise to keep in mind that classification is merely a useful method of keeping track. It applies to all collections of knowledge. I don’t think we humans could cope without it!” (p. 17). The reader is left to believe that without scientific classification, we simply cannot make it—again, a ridiculous statement that has no place in science.

In chapter four, Lawrence mentioned two individuals whom, history has recorded, had skeletons in their closets: Ernst Haeckel and Eugene Dubois (p. 26). While Haeckel’s name might not be familiar to some students, one of the drawings he used to bolster his theory probably is. This now-familiar illustration of embryos of fish, reptiles, birds, and mammals lined up side-by-side is a common staple in most biology and embryology textbooks. This single figure has altered public consciousness of, and has become one of the best-known “evidences” for, evolution. There is only one small problem. Haeckel’s illustration was a fake! Dr. Haeckel was an accomplished artist, as well as an anatomist. He used his artistic talent to falsify some of the drawings that accompanied his research articles on animal and human embryos, in order to make it appear as if embryonic recapitulation were true—when, in fact, it was not.

According to Lawrence, Haeckel “had a hunch” that inspired an “untrained but enthusiastic” Eugene Dubois to set out looking for another “missing link.” Later, in 1890, the Dutch anatomist focused his attention on the banks of the Solo River, near the village of Trinil. Excavators discovered a human-like fossilized tooth in September 1891. One month later, they uncovered the upper part of a skull. A year later, the team discovered a thighbone in the same sandstone layers, about fifteen meters upstream. In additional excavations, the team did not discover anything else except one tooth. As it turns out, the leg bone and teeth were, in fact, human. However, the skullcap eventually was shown to be from a giant gibbon. Lawrence admitted that Dubois hid fossils under the floorboards of his house, but she blamed it on “pique” (wounded vanity). What she does not tell school children is that below those floorboards were also other skulls—modern-looking skulls—that were found in the same level of strata, and would have surely put an end to Dubois’ precious Java Man.

NEANDERTHAL MAN—
DISTANT COUSIN OR MERELY HUMAN?

In her chapter on “Neanderthal Life,” Lawrence lamented: “Faces of humans vary a lot, but a Neanderthal nose was unusually large and prominent and might be worth a second glance. This is believed to be a climate-prompted mutation. It was an air-warming defrosting device” (p. 38). Individuals live on the Earth today in various extreme climates, yet, no “climate-prompted mutation” has been observed. Before Lawrence spouts such statements as “fact” to young, receptive minds, she needs to present the scientific data to back them up.

The July 11, 1997 issue of the journal Cell contained an article by Krings, et al., titled “Neanderthal DNA sequences and the Origin of Modern Humans” (Krings, et al., 1997). In that article, Dr. Krings and his coworkers explained how they successfully extracted mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA—which resides in the cell’s mitochondria, or “energy factories”) from the humerus (right arm bone) of the original Neanderthal fossil discovered in 1856. The scientific team doing the research, led by Svante Pääbo of the University of Munich, chose to search for mtDNA rather than nuclear DNA, due in large part to the fact that, whereas there are only two copies of DNA in the nucleus of each cell (one from each parent), there are 500 to 1,000 copies per cell of mtDNA. Hence, the possibility was much greater that some ancient mtDNA might have been preserved.

At the conclusion of their research, the scientists involved suggested that fewer differences in the mtDNA exist between modern humans, than exist between modern humans and the Neanderthal specimen. Based on those differences, evolutionists have suggested that the Neanderthal line diverged from the line leading to modern humans about 550,000 to 690,000 years ago, and that Neanderthals became extinct without contributing any genetic material to modern humans through intermarriage. Marvin Lubenow explained:

The implications are that the Neandertals did not evolve into fully modern humans, that they were a different species from modern humans, and that they were just one of many proto-human types that were failed evolutionary experiments. We alone evolved to full humanity (1998, 12[1]:87).

In his 2000 book, Genes, People, and Languages, Luigi Cavalli-Sforza, professor emeritus of genetics at Stanford University, and director of the International Human Genome Project, commented:

There is a considerable difference between the mtDNA of this Neandertal and that of practically any modern human. From a quantitative evaluation of this difference it was estimated that the last common ancestor of Neandertal and modern humans lived about half a million years ago. It is not quite clear where those common ancestors lived, but modern humans and Neandertal must have separated early and developed separately, modern humans in Africa and Neandertals in Europe. The results of mitochondrial DNA show clearly that Neandertal was not our direct ancestor, unlike earlier hypotheses made by some paleoanthropologists (p. 35).

I beg to differ! The results of mtDNA research do not “show clearly that Neandertal was not our direct ancestor.” A closer examination of the mtDNA research shows that it is not all it has been cracked up to be. The Krings study compared various DNA sequences from 1669 modern humans with one Neanderthal. Statistically, this not only is insignificant, but also incorrect. As Lubenow wrote concerning this mtDNA research:

Statistics has been used to cloud the relationship between Neandertals and modern humans. It is improper to use statistical “averages” in situations where many entities are being compared with only one entity. In this case, 994 sequences from 1669 modern humans are compared with one sequence from one Neanderthal. Thus, there is no Neanderthal “average,” and the comparison is not valid (1998, 12[1]:92, emp. added).

The original study showed that the Neanderthal individual had a minimum of 22 mtDNA substitution differences when compared to modern humans. Yet mtDNA substitution differences among modern humans range from 1 to 24. As Lubenow correctly noted:

That means that there are a few modern humans who differ by 24 substitutions from a few other modern humans—two substitutions more than the Neanderthal individual. Would not logic demand that those few modern humans living today should also be placed in a separate species? To state the question is to reveal the absurdity of using such differences as a measure of species distinctions (12[1]: 92).

Furthermore, as Maryellen Ruvolo of Harvard has pointed out, the genetic variation between the modern and Neanderthal sequences is within the range of substitutions within other single species of primates. She concluded: “…[T]here isn’t a yardstick for genetic difference upon which you can define a species” (as quoted in Kahn and Gibbons, 1997, 277:177). Geneticist Simon Easteal of Australian National University, noting that chimpanzees, gorillas, and other primates have much more intra-species mtDNA diversity than modern humans, wrote: “The amount of diversity between Neanderthals and living humans is not exceptional” (as quoted in Wong, 1998, 278[1]:32).

Over the past several years, the scientific community has witnessed (not always to its liking, I might add) a serious “redefining” of the Neanderthal people. Some anthropologists of the past depicted them as culturally stagnant, if not outright stupid, individuals. In 1996, however, researchers were forced to reevaluate their long-held views on Neanderthals, due to the discovery of musical instruments and items of personal ornamentation (similar to our jewelry) [see: Hublin, et al., 1996; “Neanderthal Noisemaker,” 1996; Folger and Menon, 1997]. Furthermore, almost all anthropologists recognize burial rituals as being not just strictly associated with humans, but as a distinctly religious act as well. That being the case, the strongest evidence that the Neanderthals were, in fact, human, is that at four different sites where Neanderthal fossils were found, Neanderthals and modern humans were buried together! As Lubenow noted: “That Neandertals and anatomically modern humans were buried together constitutes strong evidence that they lived together, worked together, intermarried, and were accepted as members of the same family, clan, and community. ...If genuine mtDNA was recovered from the fossil from the Neander Valley, the results have been misinterpreted” (1998, 12[1]:89). Archaeologist Randall White, of New York University, said regarding the Neanderthals: “The more this kind of evidence accumulates, the more they look like us” (as quoted in Folger and Menon, 18[1]:33). Indeed they do, and so they should!

MITOCHONDRIAL DNA—
LAWRENCE HASN’T READ THE OBITUARY

Lawrence’s chapter eight is spent discussing “migratory Eve.” Unfortunately, for the students in Australia, Lawrence did not present current information regarding the scientific literature on mitochondrial Eve. The original scientific article that caused all the commotion—“Mitochondrial DNA and Human Evolution”—appeared in the January 1, 1987 issue of Nature, and was authored by Rebecca Cann, Mark Stoneking, and Allan C. Wilson (see Cann, et al., 1987). These three scientists announced that they had “proven” that all modern human beings can trace their ancestry back to a single woman who lived 200,000 years ago in Africa. This one woman was nicknamed “Eve” (a.k.a., “mitochondrial Eve”)—much to the media’s delight. An article in the January 26, 1987, issue of Time magazine bore the headline, “Everyone’s Genealogical Mother: Biologists Speculate that ‘Eve’ Lived in Sub-Saharan Africa” (Lemonick, 1987). A year later, that “speculation” became a major Newsweek production titled, “The Search for Adam and Eve” (Tierney, et al., 1988). The provocative front cover presented a snake, tree, and a nude African couple in a “Garden of Eden” type setting. The biblical-story imagery was reinforced by showing the woman offering an apple to the man.

Things change rapidly in science. What is popular one day is not the next. While Lawrence was quick to comment, “this result helps confirm that Africa was the birthplace of the human race” (p. 58), she has not been truthful regarding mitochondrial DNA. Theories come, and theories go. And so it is with mitochondrial Eve. She once was in vogue as “the woman of the moment,” so to speak. Now, she has become virtually the “crazy aunt in the attic” that no one wants to admit even exists.

But it was not forbidden fruit that caused her demise. The “passing” of one of evolution’s most familiar icons is due to new scientific facts that have surfaced since her introduction in 1987. If humans received mitochondrial DNA only from their mothers, then researchers could “map” a family tree using that information. And, if the mutations affecting mtDNA had indeed occurred at constant rates, then the mtDNA could serve as a molecular clock for timing evolutionary events and reconstructing the evolutionary history of extant species. The “ifs” in these two sentences are the problem.

Mitochondrial Eve is alleged to have lived in Africa at the beginning of the Upper Pleistocene period (between 100,000 and 200,000 years ago). She has been described as the most recent common ancestor of all humans on Earth today, with respect to matrilineal descent. The validity of these assertions, however, is dependent upon two critically important assumptions: (1) that mtDNA is, in fact, derived exclusively from the mother; and (2) that the mutation rates associated with mtDNA have remained constant over time. However, we now know that both of these assumptions are wrong!

First, consider the assumption that mtDNA is derived solely from the mother. In response to a paper that appeared in Science in 1999, anthropologist Henry Harpending of the University of Utah lamented: “There is a cottage industry of making gene trees in anthropology and then interpreting them. This paper will invalidate most of that” (as quoted in Strauss, 1999, 286:2436). Just as women thought they were getting their fair shake in science, the tables turned. As one study noted:

Women have struggled to gain equality in society, but biologists have long thought that females wield absolute power in a sphere far from the public eye: in the mitochondria, cellular organelles whose DNA is thought to pass intact from mother to child with no paternal influence. On page 2524 however, a study by Philip Awadalla of the University of Edinburgh and Adam Eyre-Walker and John Maynard Smith of the University of Sussex in Brighton, U.K. finds signs of mixing between maternal and paternal mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) in humans and chimpanzees. Because biologists have used mtDNA as a tool to trace human ancestry and relationships, the finding has implications for everything from the identification of bodies to the existence of a “mitochondrial Eve” 200,000 years ago (Strauss, 286:2436, emp. added).

One year later, researchers made this startling admission:

Mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) is generally assumed to be inherited exclusively from the mother. Several recent papers, however, have suggested that elements of mtDNA may sometimes be inherited from the father. This hypothesis is based on evidence that mtDNA may undergo recombination. If this does occur, maternal mtDNA in the egg must cross over with homologous sequences in a different DNA molecule; paternal mtDNA seems the most likely candidate…. If mtDNA can recombine, irrespective of the mechanism, there are important implications for mtDNA evolution and for phylogenetic studies that use mtDNA (Morris and Lightowlers, 2000, 355:1290, emp. added).

In 2002, a study was conducted that concluded:

Nevertheless, even a single validated example of paternal mtDNA transmission suggests that the interpretation of inheritance patterns in other kindreds thought to have mitochondrial disease should not be based on the dogmatic assumption of absolute maternal inheritance of mtDNA…. The unusual case described by Schwartz and Vissing is more than a mere curiosity (Williams, 2002, 347:611, emp. added).

And now we know that these are more than small “fractional” amounts of mtDNA coming from fathers. The August 2002 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine contained the results of one study, which concluded:

Mammalian mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) is thought to be strictly maternally inherited…. Very small amounts of paternally inherited mtDNA have been detected by the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) in mice after several generations of interspecific backcrosses…. We report the case of a 28-year-old man with mitochondrial myopathy due to a novel 2-bp mtDNA deletion…. We determined that the mtDNA harboring the mutation was paternal in origin and accounted for 90 percent of the patient’s muscle mtDNA (Schwartz and Vissing, 2002, 347:576, emp. added).

Ninety percent! And all this time, evolutionists have been selectively shaping our family tree using what was alleged to be only maternal mtDNA!

As scientists have begun to comprehend the fact, and significance, of the “death” of mitochondrial Eve, many have found themselves searching for alternatives that can help them maintain their current beliefs regarding human origins. But this recombination ability in mtDNA makes the entire discussion a moot point. As Strauss noted:

Such recombination could be a blow for researchers who have used mtDNA to trace human evolutionary history and migrations. They have assumed that the mtDNA descends only through the mother, so they could draw a single evolutionary tree of maternal descent—all the way back to an African “mitochondrial Eve,” for example. But “with recombination there is no single tree,” notes Harpending. Instead, different parts of the molecule have different histories. Thus, “there’s not one woman to whom we can trace our mitochondria,” says Eyre-Walker (see Awadalla, et al., 1999, 286:2436, emp. added).

My thoughts on the matter exactly.

CONCLUSION

While Colin Groves may not want to admit it, human beings are special—we are extraordinarily unique. The fact remains that there are numerous different aspects that man possesses—which animals do not. And each of those aspects not only is significant, but also serves to separate man from the animal kingdom in a most impressive fashion. Consider, for example, just a few of the examples that Lawrence did not care to discuss:

  • First, man is capable of speaking and communicating his thoughts via language.
  • Second, man can improve his education, accumulate knowledge, and build on past achievements.
  • Third, man is creative, and can express himself via art, music, writing, etc.
  • Fourth, closely related to man’s creative ability is his gift of reasoning.
  • Fifth, included in man’s uniqueness is his free-will capacity to make rational choices.
  • Sixth, only man lives by a standard of morality, and has the ability to choose between right and wrong.
  • Seventh, only man possesses a conscience.
  • Eighth, only man can experience heart-felt emotions.
  • Ninth, man alone possesses a unique, inherent religious inclination; i.e., he has the ability to worship.
  • Finally, and very likely most important, is the fact that man bears the spiritual imprint of God due to the fact that he possesses an immortal soul.

Lawrence remained utterly silent in these important areas. Instead, she relied on scraps of bones, a few teeth, and an evolutionary timeline, in an effort to connect humans to ape-like creatures. It is not just an adequate explanation for the origin of life that eludes evolutionists like Lawrence. Nor is it merely the missing evidence from the fossil record. Lawrence also must wrestle with the absence of a rational explanation for such critical components of the evolutionary theory as:

  • Gender and sexual reproduction
  • The origins of the brain and mind
  • The origin of human consciousness
  • The origin of skin color and blood types

Individuals seeking the truth are not afraid to investigate these areas. Those wanting to lift the iron curtain of evolutionary theory, in order to examine the facts behind the dogma, are invited to read The Truth About Human Origins (written by Brad Harrub, Ph.D. and Bert Thompson, Ph.D.). Lawrence told readers that she was after the pursuit of truth. Well, the time has come for the truth to be told.

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Folger, Tim and Shanti Menon (1997), “...Or Much Like Us?,” Discover, 18[1]:33, January.

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Krings, M. A. Stone, R.W. Krainitzki, M. Stoneking, and S. Pääbo (1997), “Neanderthal DNA Sequences and the Origin of Modern Humans” Cell, 90:19-30, July 11.

Lawrence, Helen (2003), Making Friends With Fossils (Tasmania, Australia: Maygog Publishing).

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Lemonick, Michael D. (1987), “Everyone’s Genealogical Mother,” Time, p. 66, January 26.

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Morris, Andrew A. M., and Robert N. Lightowlers (2000), “Can Paternal mtDNA be Inherited?,” The Lancet, 355:1290-1291, April 15.

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Spoor, Fred, Bernard Wood, and Frans Zonneveld (1994), “Implications of Early Hominid Labyrinthine Morphology for Evolution of Human Bipedal Locomotion,” Nature, 369:645-648, June, 23.

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