The old picture of human evolution is in tatters again.
“Your face is probably more primitive than a Neanderthal’s.” That surprising headline on the BBC News summarizes the radical change in thinking of leading evolutionary paleoanthropologists about so-called ‘modern’ humans: i.e., those members of our genus Homo that have been unblessed by the self-serving species name sapiens (“the wise”). If you read Richard Gray’s article without the assumption of evolution, you may find yourself questioning the sapience of some moderns.
- Paleoanthropologists are changing the stories they have told the public for decades. They now think “our distinctive facial features may be far older than many anthropologists originally believed.”
- Chris Stringer of London’s Natural History Museum used to believe that Homo heidelbergensis was intermediate between Neanderthals and modern humans. He and other evolutionists have changed their mind.
- Evolutionary paleoanthropologists, faced with contradictory evidence from fossils in Spain they dubbed Homo antecessor, ignored it. “At first, this apparent contradiction was hand-waved away.” This ‘species’ was dated far too early — up to 1.2 million Darwin Years ago. Scientists aren’t supposed to ignore evidence with hand-waving.
- Some of the discoverers of H. antecessor have “since become more cautious about their identity.” That’s because “It is still difficult to make direct comparisons between hominin skulls. For one thing, many are incomplete.” This allows fossils to be used as props for storytelling.
- “But even setting that aside, a phenomenon known as allometry means that changes in size also lead to changes in shape, because different body parts grow at different rates.”
- Jean-Jacques Hublin of the Max Planck Institute believes that Neanderthals are “more evolved in their own direction than modern humans.” This implies that our faces are primitive by comparison. “In other words, the faces of modern humans may not be all that modern at all.” How’s that for a turnaround in evolutionary thinking?
- But then Hublin says, “The term ‘modern’ is somewhat misleading.” It could mean either ‘more primitive’ or ‘more evolved.’ If that is the case, does the word mean anything at all? Such a flexible adjective can mean anything an evolutionist wants it to mean, making it useful for propaganda purposes.
- The Neanderthal face appeared to continue growing, in contrast to the ‘modern’ human face that resorbs bone to present a flatter appearance. Now, though, this also appears to have been the case with Homo antecessor, which preceded the Neanderthals. No evolutionary trend, therefore, appears in the fossil record.
- The contradictory findings are leading some evolutionists to envision each ‘species’ of Homo evolving in its own direction, at its own rate. That new vision destroys any neat picture of ancestry. It also forces paleoanthropologists to make up mythical ancestors not represented by tangible fossil bones.
- Heidelberg Man now appears to have had a weaker bite than expected. Paul O’Higgins of the University of York thinks that Neanderthals’ large noses gave them a stronger bite force.
- But then, Gray writes, Chris Stringer published research proving that the sinuses of Neanderthals did not lie outside the range of those in modern Europeans. How different, then, were Neanderthals from us?
- Natural selection may have had nothing to do with the evolution of the human face. “Instead, it appears the large noses seen in H. heidelbergensis and later Neanderthals may have appeared ‘by accident’ through genetic drift [see “Stuff Happens Law” in the Darwin Dictionary], after they split from their common ancestor with modern humans” — that is, if they indeed split. How much of this labeling is a kind of historical racism, lumping any human who looked different from us in some way into a different ‘species’?
- In regard to Neanderthals’ prominent brow ridges, evolutionists have changed their story once again. O’Higgins now feels that brow ridges “provide no structural advantage.” This implies once again that natural selection had nothing to do with the trait.
- O’Higgins’ new story is that brow ridges signaled dominance, and that the lack of brow ridges gave modern humans a more flexible way of making facial expressions by raising their eyebrows. Paul Gray ends with this suggestion. But clearly this is just-so storytelling. Neanderthal women had brow ridges, too. Besides, there are many ways to signal dominance, such as greater height or larger muscles, or through behaviors that cannot be deduced from fossils. Even today, some dominant-looking males can behave like perfect gentlemen (Tim Tebow, for example), and small guys (or gals) can be fierce. For all we know, these ‘other’ members of Homo were kind, responsible members of loving families. We could be the brutes.
In his new book Darwin’s House of Cards, veteran journalist Tom Bethell relates conversations he had with leading evolutionists. In chapter 12, he argues that ancestry cannot be determined from fossils, because we cannot witness family records, but only individual data points. Colin Patterson said, “The concept of ancestry is not accessible by the tools that we have.” Bethell had several important meetings with Richard Lewontin — a famous evolutionist, staunchly atheist and anti-creationist, yet honest enough to admit weaknesses in evolutionary theory. Bethell writes about his view on this point:
In his book Human Diversity (1982), Harvard’s Richard Lewontin lent support to this idea [by Patterson]. “Despite the excited and optimistic claims that have been made by some paleontologists,” he wrote, “no fossil hominid species can be established as our direct ancestor.”
When I discussed this with Lewontin, he brought up a little noted contradiction in the search for ancestors: “If it is different enough from humans to be interesting, then you don’t know whether it’s an ancestor or not,” he said. “If it’s similar enough to be human, then it’s not interesting.” His argument, of course, applies to all fossils, not just to hominids. [Bethell, p. 140]
Carried to its logical conclusion, evolutionary paleoanthropology becomes little more than divination with bones.
Bethell’s point is worth pondering. Fossils don’t tell stories; people do! I highly recommend Darwin’s House of Cards. Bethell has had many personal conversations with leading evolutionists, from Karl Popper to Stephen Jay Gould and many others. He knows the Darwin literature well. He writes for the layman. This is a great compilation of evidence that Darwinian theory is all bluster and no substance.