July 22, 2019 | Jerry Bergman

More Big Problems with Human Evolution

Fossil discoveries keep “rewriting” or “overturning” accepted ideas about human evolution. Here are two more recent examples.

by Jerry Bergman, PhD

Several new research studies have been recently adding to a growing number of problems with the evolutionary theory of human origins. This topic is important because the concern over evolution has been primarily with human evolution, not the evolution of reptiles or birds. It is human evolution that has been the main focus of the evolutionary debate from Darwin’s day to today. This is one reason why Darwin deliberately avoided the topic in his 1859 book titled On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life.[1] However, much scuttlebutt existed among Darwin’s readers and critics about whether or not evolution explained the origin of  humans.[2]

Then, in 1871, Darwin responded to the human evolution undercurrent and released his long-awaited book, The Descent of Man and Selection in Relation to Sex. This book was specifically about human evolution.[3] Even the 1925 Scopes Trial, often called America’s Most Famous Trial[4] was only about human evolution. The Butler Act, which was the focus of the trial, only prohibited teaching human evolution, not evolution in general. The act is as follows:

Section 1.  Be it enacted by the General Assembly of the State of Tennessee, That it shall be unlawful for any teacher in any of the Universities, Normals and all other public schools of the State which are supported in whole or in part by the public school funds of the State, to teach any theory that denies the story of the Divine Creation of man as taught in the Bible, and to teach instead that man has descended from a lower order of animals.[5]

The interest in human evolution has also resulted in much research on this topic. Probably more books have been written on human evolution than on the evolution of any animal, vertebrate or invertebrate. Evolutionists claim that the interest in human evolution is one reason we have more fossil evidence for human evolution than for almost any other vertebrate except dinosaurs.[6]  One scientist claimed there are so many human-evolution fossils that no one knows the exact number.[7] He added the pace of discovery of fossils related to human evolution “now is too fast to track. Each year for the last decade, anthropologists have unearthed hundreds of fossil specimens from extinct hominin species and populations.”[8] Hawks added that by the year

2012, the Sima de los Huesos hominin assemblage, near Burgos, Spain, numbered more than 6500 specimens from at least 28 individuals. Many more fossils are recovered in every field season. In South Africa, the Rising Star hominin sample today numbers more than 2000 specimens from at least 18 individuals. This deposit of hominin fossils was completely unknown until 2013. From just two caves, that is nearly 9000 fossil hominin specimens.[9]

The problem is, the more fossils that are unearthed, the more problems that arise against the consensus theory of human evolution. I will review just two recent examples. One is an “analysis of a 160,000-year-old archaic human molar fossil discovered in China [which] offers the first morphological evidence of interbreeding between archaic humans and Homo sapiens in Asia.”[10] Evidence of interbreeding between archaic humans and Homo sapiens indicates the so-called archaic humans are fully human, given the common definition of species: namely, if two creatures can interbreed, they are by definition the same species or ‘kind’ of creature. The best example is the once-assumed evolutionary link between our primate ancestors and modern humans, the so-called Neanderthals, are now regarded as fully modern humans – just a different ethnic group.[11]

The tri-rooted molar (Max Planck Institute)

The Three-rooted Lower Molar Finding

The three-rooted lower molar study centers on a three-rooted human lower molar, which is a rare trait found primarily in modern Asians. It was previously believed to have evolved after H. sapiens dispersed from Africa. Almost every human’s 3rd molars have two roots. The molars and premolars crush the food and are held in the gums by two roots. The three-rooted lower molar was located on a hominin lower mandible of what was considered an archaic human who lived in Asia more than 160,000 Darwin years ago, but it also exists among modern Asians. The tooth was part of a discovery made in 1980 on the Tibetan Plateau in Baishiya Karst Cave in Xiahe, China.[12] The researchers concluded “The trait’s presence in the fossil suggests both that it is older than previously understood and that some modern Asian groups obtained the trait through interbreeding with a sister group of Neanderthals, the Denisovans.”

In a previous study, published in Nature, Bailey and her colleagues concluded that the Denisovans occupied the Tibetan Plateau long before Homo sapiens arrived in the region. Denisovans, or Denisova hominins, are believed to be an extinct species or subspecies of archaic humans in the genus Homo. Bailey described the implications of their fossil find as follows:

In Asia, there have long been claims for continuity between archaic and modern humans because of some shared traits … But many of those traits are primitive or are not unique to Asians. However, the three-rooted lower molar trait is unique to Asian groups. Its presence in a 160,000-year-old archaic human in Asia strongly suggests the trait was transferred to H. sapiens in the region through interbreeding with archaic humans in Asia.[13]

The Proceedings of the National Academy of Science article summarized the research as follows:

It has long been thought that the prevalence of 3-rooted lower molars in Asia is a relatively late acquisition occurring well after the origin and dispersal of H. sapiens. However, the presence of a 3-rooted lower second molar in this 160,000-year-old fossil hominin suggests greater antiquity for the trait. Importantly, it also provides morphological evidence of a strong link between archaic and recent Asian H. sapiens populations.[14]

In other words, the archaic human thought to be 160,000-years old possesses a trait common only in modern Asians and no other ethnicity. The major question of why is answered by the possibility of interbreeding, indicating that the once assumed primitive evolutionary ancestors, the Denisovans, and modern Chinese are the same species as are the Neanderthals and modern man! Another possibility is that they were, or are, sub-ethnic Asians, or another Asian population that had ethnic features interpreted as primitive, just like the Neanderthal example.

Another Example

The second example illustrates once again how tentative evolutionary stories can be. A headline in The Independent exclaims, “300,000-year-old skulls that look shockingly like ours could rewrite the human origin story.”[15] The article admits the fact that when and where our species emerged is a question that “anthropologists have struggled with … for decades, and scattered clues had suggested the answer lay somewhere in sub-Saharan Africa about 200,000 [Darwin] years ago.”[16] New evidence published in the journal Nature challenges this dominant hypothesis. The study by paleoanthropologists described recently-discovered remains indicating the first Homo sapiens appeared 150,000 years earlier than once thought, and in a location on Earth that is very different than sub-Saharan Africa—namely, in a land that is known today as Morocco. Thus, modern humans appeared 350,000 years ago, meaning some of our supposed ancestors could not be our ancestors because they lived contemporaneously with modern humans!

The Find

In 1961, a mining crew was plowing into a hilly region when they noticed a nearly-complete skull. Thinking it was a recently deceased person, the miners turned it over to their field doctor. They later uncovered several pieces of jaw and an arm fragment. Scientists then estimated the fossils were roughly 40,000 years old.

About 40 years later, anthropologist Jean-Jacques Hublin and his associates excavated a half-dozen layers of soil beneath the land where the skull and arm bones were originally discovered. They found remains of at least five individuals, along with flint blades which gave evidence of being used to start cooking fires. By measuring the radiation built up in the flint since it was heated, Hublin estimated the bones belonged to people who lived roughly 300,000 to 350,000 years ago. Thus the age has progressed from 40,000 to as much as 350,000 years old, or almost 9 times older!

Modern Tibetans have Denisovan DNA (Discover Magazine)

A Striking Resemblance

Instead of the robust features on the faces of ancient human ancestors like Homo erectus or Homo heidelbergensis, this face bore a striking resemblance to our own. Homo erectus skulls have a single protruding brow ridge, but these newly discovered individuals possessed the modern smaller, separated brow ridges. Rather than a large face and a flattened skull typical of putative ancient pre-humans, these people had the modern small faces and rounder skulls. Their brain case size were between an ancient human ancestor and a modern human, albeit slightly more similar to those of our archaic ancestors.

These advanced and archaic features in one person suggest to the evolutionists that the individual was either an evolutionary intermediate between modern and ancient humans, or may have been a small-statured human who had a proportionally small head. Nonetheless, the find openly contradicts the prevailing anthropological view that humans evolved somewhere deep in sub-Saharan Africa, then gradually moved to other parts of the world. Instead, Hublin and his team argued that their fossils indicated Homo sapiens living in Morocco. And according to Sonia Zakrzewski, associate professor of archaeology at the University of Southampton, “Hublin’s discovery could encourage other archaeologists to change the way they think about human origins. ‘It really sets the world alight in terms of the possibilities for understanding the evolution of Homo sapiens….  we need to rethink our models.’”[17]

Summary

As more fossil finds are located and analyzed, the evolutionary story of human origins grows more complex and is more difficult to interpret in an evolutionary framework. One should note that, in both of the accounts briefly noted above, the evidence which the authors imply will revolutionize the story of human evolution consists of a minor tooth variation and two minor facial features: a brow ridge and small faces on rounder skulls. That minor details such as these can overturn previous evolutionary conclusions says reams about the evidence, or lack of evidence, that the original evolutionary stories by paleoanthropologists were based on.

References

[1] Charles Darwin. 1859. On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life. London, UK: John Murray.

[2] John Dupré. 2003. Darwin’s Legacy: What Evolution Means Today. New York, NY: Oxford University Press, p. 63.

[3] Charles Darwin. 1871. The Descent of Man and Selection in Relation to Sex. London, UK: John Murray.

[4] Charles River Editors. 2015. The Scopes Monkey Trial: The History of 20th Century America’s Most Famous Court Case. CreateSpace (published by the author: Charles River Editors).

[5] Ginger, Ray. 1958.  Six Days or Forever?  Tennessee versus John Thomas Scopes.  New York, NY: Oxford University Press, p. 3.

[6] Niles Eldredge. 1982. The Monkey Business: A Scientist Looks at Creationism. New York, NY: Washington Square Press, Chapter 3, pp. 41-50.

[7] John Hawks. 2017. How much evidence have scientists found for human evolution? https://medium.com/@johnhawks/how-much-evidence-have-scientists-found-for-human-evolution-355801dfd35c

[8] John Hawks, 2017.

[9] John Hawks, 2017.

[10] “Ancient Molar Points to Interbreeding Between Archaic Humans and Homo Sapiens in Asia.”

Analysis Gives New Continental Bite to Evolution. July 8, 2019. New York University.

[11] New York University. 2019. “Ancient molar points to interbreeding between archaic humans and Homo sapiens in Asia: Analysis gives new continental bite to evolution.” Science Daily, July 8. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/07/190708154036.htm>.

[12] Shara E. Bailey, Jean-Jacques Hublin, and Susan C. Antón. Rare dental trait provides morphological evidence of archaic introgression in Asian fossil record. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2019; 201907557 DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1907557116.

[13] Science Daily, July 8.

[14] Shara E. Bailey, et al., 2019,p. 1.

[15] Erin Brodwin. 2017. 300,000-year-old skulls that look shockingly like ours could rewrite the human origin story http://www.independent.co.uk/news/science/archaeology/skulls-found-morocco-human-origins-discover-archaeology-a8047906.html.

[16] Erin Brodwin, 2017, p. 1.

[17] Quoted in Erin Brodwin, 2017, p. 1.



Dr. Jerry Bergman has taught biology, genetics, chemistry, biochemistry, anthropology, geology, and microbiology at several colleges and universities including for over 40 years at Bowling Green State University, Medical College of Ohio where he was a research associate in experimental pathology, and The University of Toledo. He is a graduate of the Medical College of Ohio, Wayne State University in Detroit, the University of Toledo, and Bowling Green State University. He has over 1,300 publications in 12 languages and 40 books and monographs. His books and textbooks that include chapters that he authored, are in over 1,500 college libraries in 27 countries. So far over 80,000 copies of the 40 books and monographs that he has authored or co-authored are in print. For more articles by Dr Bergman, see his Author Profile.

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