November 18, 2020 | Jerry Bergman

Human Hands Are Designed, Not Evolved

Evolutionists finally admit Intelligent Design is valid!
(Not exactly, but close)

 

by Jerry R. Bergman, PhD

In my library are two dozen books that attempt to dispute the validity of Intelligent Design (ID) and argue that ID has been refuted by scientific facts. They contend that claims of the natural world everywhere giving evidence of ID are motivated by religion and are not supported by science.[1] Nature just looks like it was intelligently designed, they say, and we must keep in mind that it was not designed, in spite of its appearance of design. Richard Dawkins’ exact words were: “Biology is the study of complicated things that give the appearance of having been designed for a purpose.”[2] What we see is only “apparent design,”[3] they say. Nobel Laureate Francis Crick wrote: “Biologists must constantly keep in mind that what they see was not designed, but rather evolved.”[4]

Human hand bones (Wikimedia Commons)

Personifying Evolution

This attitude contrasts with that of the admission by University of Tübingen (Germany) professor Madelaine Böhme, founding director of the Senckenberg Centre for Human Evolution and Palaeoenvironment (SHEP). She did not use the phrase ‘Intelligent Design,’ but conveyed the idea in more superlative terms, namely “your hands… are… marvels ….Nature’s Masterpiece.”[5] Writing in Discover, the leading science magazine for the general public, she wrote that

our hands gave us tools, new skills and better communication. Take a moment to pay attention to your hands. It will be time well spent, because they are evolutionary marvels. Hold one up and examine it. Open and close it. Play with your fingers. Touch the tips of your four fingers with your thumb. Rotate your wrist. You should be able to turn it 180 degrees with ease. Ball your hand up into a fist until your thumb lies on top of and lends support to your index, middle and ring fingers. That is something no ape can do.[6]

Notice how the three authors of this article manage to attribute these marvels to ‘Nature’ as if evolution is a designing mind. They claim that evolution created “Nature’s Masterpiece: How Evolution Gave Us Our Human Hands… they are evolutionary marvels.” Human hands are just one of many examples of “Nature’s Masterpieces.” Why are they described as “evolutionary marvels” instead of just marvels? In addition, the authors admit that human hands are clearly superior to those of the apes (our putative closest living evolutionary ancestors). This personifying of evolution is all too common in the evolutionary literature. Evolution produces masterpieces, is smart, is a stern master, works hard to produce perfection, and produces marvels. These are all words and phrases commonly used to describe evolution’s wonders.

Human hand tendons (Wikimedia Commons)

Hand Design

The human hand is described by a Harvard-trained medical doctor who supports ID. He writes, “The design of the human hands displays an astonishing level of skill, flexibility, and durability, allowing us to accomplish tasks that otherwise would be impossible—tasks that clearly separate us from the animal kingdom” including apes.[7] Evolutionists ascribe this complex design to impersonal forces called Nature. The Harvard-trained medical doctor ascribes it to intelligent design. Which view makes more sense? No disagreement exists about the facts, but only about the cause. Are human hands the result of intelligent design, or thousands of mutations selected blindly? Making evolution into the creator has a serious problem: the vast majority of mutations are harmful or near-neutral. They would never add up to produce something with so many interlocking systems that can do so much.

Madeline Böhme adds to the problem by waxing eloquent about unique perfections of the hand. The marvel is not only the design flexibility of the

fully opposable thumb that makes the human hand so special, but also its extraordinary ability to feel and to touch. It operates almost like an independent sensory organ. We use it to feel the temperature of a breeze and of water. With its help we are able to fit a key directly into a lock, even in the dark. We can detect uneven surfaces with our fingers that we cannot see with our naked eye. With a little bit of practice, we can use our fingers to tell real silk from synthetic silk or real leather from fake leather, even with our eyes closed.[8]

Consider the achievements of the blind paleontologist Geerat Vermeij, well known for his marine mussel research. He has never seen a single fossil. He achieved this feat by feeling the “complex morphological structures of mussels and of the rocks in which they are found. With his fingers, he ‘sees’ details many sighted paleontologists miss.”[9]

Story Time

Professor Böhme proclaims that the hand’s incredible sensory skill is due to mutations, writing: “There is no doubt about it: Our hands are an exceptional development in the history of evolution.”[10] But then, these scientists ask the real question: “how did a precision tool like the human hand, a tool that seems to have been at least as important for the process of becoming human as our upright gait, develop?”[11] They avoid the details raised by the observation that a human can, with his fingers, see “details many sighted scientists miss”[12]. Instead, they presume that hands evolved when ape-like human ancestors came down out of the trees – a claim completely lacking in evidence.

As usual, the authors engage in just-so stories and an unsupported model of human evolution. (This model has been rebutted by Peter Line et al.[13]). With embellished imagination, they write:

The evolutionary ball started rolling, of course, when walking on two feet meant the hands were no longer needed for locomotion. They could then be used for a wide range of tasks: transporting food or offspring, scooping up water, gathering material to build a shelter or holding objects in one hand and manipulating them with the other to carry out specific tasks.

Their just-so story also,  according to the authors, becomes even more embellished. Next, they claim that it explains the evolution of our brain which evolved in lockstep after walking upright freed our hands. In short, the

balance between hand bones, tendons, muscles and nerves was constantly being refined, as were the hand’s increasingly sensitive sense of touch and the brain’s ever-more sophisticated oversight of motor coordination. The result is a multi-faceted tool that has helped us build, hunt, eat and communicate.[14]

Then the authors admit their story is just speculation, writing: “The development of the primate hand probably started with small ancestors that lived on the ground and gradually conquered the tree canopy as their new home. Those that could grasp small objects clearly had the advantage.”[15]

Human hand muscles (Wikimedia Commons)

Problems with human hand evolution

These hand-evolution just-so stories attempt to explain the hand’s many advantages, but ignore the fact of its uniqueness. In the animal world with its estimated 1.7 million species, why do only humans have this hand design? No other primate possesses this design which is in many ways obviously superior to all other hands. The researchers admit that chimpanzees “bonobos, gorillas and orangutans are also capable of communicating with gestures” but admit “their repertoire is extremely limited.”[16] A large gap exists between human hands and those of all other primates.

Neanderthal hands show no evidence of evolution

Our claimed evolutionary predecessors, the Neanderthals, also had fully human hands – not ape-like transitional hands that one would expect of less-evolved humans. Neanderthals (spelled Neandertals by some) lived between about 130,000 to 40,000 Darwin years ago. Assuming these dates for the sake of argument, an evaluation of their hands is one way to determine if any hand evolution has occurred during this time, as far back as 130,000 years ago.

Evolutionary anthropologists once commonly assumed that Neanderthal hands were designed for power, not precision (as are modern human hands). This assumption has now been thoroughly refuted. An article in Smithsonian Magazine says that our “early human ancestor, better known colloquially as the Neanderthal, has long been associated with brutish behavior, but a new study published in Science Advances adds to the growing body of literature that challenges this stereotype.”[17] The study reevaluated the “manipulative activities of Neandertals and early modern humans using a new three-dimensional (3-D) method of analysis of hand entheseal surfaces and a uniquely documented comparative sample.”[18] The study found that

Neandertal manual activities, as previously reconstructed from their robust hand skeletons, are thought to involve systematic power grasping rather than precise hand movements. However, this interpretation is at odds with increasing archeological [sic] evidence for sophisticated cultural behavior. …  a new and precise three-dimensional multivariate analysis of hand muscle attachments. … show[s] that Neandertal muscle marking patterns overlap exclusively with documented lifelong precision workers, reflecting systematic precision grasping consistent with the use of their associated cultural remains.[19]

Human hand nerves and arteries (Wikimedia Commons)

Specifically, they found that “[d]espite their brutish reputation, Neanderthals used their hands more like tailors than construction workers…. All of the Neanderthal specimens showed signs of precision gripping.”[20]

The contrast between ape hands and those of modern humans has been further documented by another study which found no evidence for the evolution of the human hand. In May 1964, paleoanthropologists Phillip Tobias, John Russell Napier, and Louis Leakey reported finding

remains, including many hand bones, of the first humans to make tools. … news of a humanlike hand that was 1.8 million years old caused a firestorm of interest. The hand fragments were one of the main reasons the researchers attributed the bone finds to an early human, …  that they called Homo habilis (Handy Man). That is controversial to this day … . What is not in dispute is the special nature of the hand bones, which show clear evidence of a hand that was already strikingly human in appearance, with a relatively long, quite flexible thumb…. their hands were definitely no longer the hands of an ape.[21]

Summary

The enormous complexity and precision design of the human hand is widely acknowledged by all observers. The question is: ‘Did it evolve by mutations or was it intelligently designed?’ The literature shows that the first human hand in the fossil record is a fully-modern hand. There is no evidence that it evolved. The chimpanzee hand is designed very differently than the human hand. It has longer fingers and a palm but a shorter thumb, designed for climbing. There are no transitional forms to indicate that one evolved into the other type. Our putative closest relatives’ hands actually are functionally more similar to their feet than they are to human hands. They do not have two hands and two feet but rather four paws that serve as feet.

References

[1][1] Examples include the following popular titles: Not Very Intelligent Design: On the origin, creation and evolution of the theory of intelligent design; The Not-So-Intelligent Designer: Why Evolution Explains the Human Body and Intelligent Design Does Not; Intelligent Design and Fundamentalist Opposition to Evolution and Creationism’s Trojan Horse: The Wedge of Intelligent Design.

[2] Dawkins, R. The Blind Watchmaker: Why the Evidence of Evolution Reveals a Universe Without Design. W.W. Norton and Company, New York, N.Y., p. 1, 1986.

[3] Dawkins, 1986, p. ix.

[4] Crick, F. What Mad Pursuit, Basic Books, New York, NY, p.138, 1988.

[5] Böhme, M., Braun, R., and Breier, F., Nature’s Masterpiece: How Evolution Gave Us Our Human Hands, 2020. https://www.discovermagazine.com/health/natures-masterpiece-how-evolution-gave-us-our-human-hands

[6] Böhme, M., Rüdiger, B., and Breier, F.,  Talk to the Hand, Discover 41(6):56-61, December 2020.  [Website title: “Nature’s Masterpiece: How Evolution Gave Us Our Human,” 13 September 2020. https://www.discovermagazine.com/health/natures-masterpiece-how-evolution-gave-us-our-human-hands]

[7] Guliuzza, R., et al., Made in His Image. Institute for Creation Research, Dallas, TX, 2005.

[8] Böhme et al., 2020, p. 58.

[9] Böhme et al., 2020, p. 58.

[10] Böhme et al., 2020, p. 58.

[11] Böhme et al., 2020, p. 58.

[12] Böhme et al., 2020, p. 58.

[13] Bergman, J,, Line, P., and Tomkins, J., Apes as Ancestors: Examining the Claims About Human Evolution, Bartlett Publishing, Tulsa, OK, 2020.

[14] Böhme et al., 2020, p. 58.

[15] Böhme et al., 2020, p. 58; emphasis added.

[16] Böhme et al., 2020, p. 61.

[17] Solly, M., Neanderthals Used Their Hands for Precision, Not Just Power. Smithsonian Magazine, 2018. https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/neanderthals-used-their-hands-precision-not-just-power-180970422/.

[18] Karakostis, F.A.,  Evidence for precision grasping in Neandertal daily activities, 4(9):eaat2369, 2018. https://advances.sciencemag.org/content/4/9/eaat2369.

[19] Karakostis, 2018.

[20] Cantwell, M., Neanderthals used their hands like tailors and painters, Science, 26 September 2018. https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2018/09/neanderthals-used-their-hands-tailors-and-painters.

[21] Excerpted from Ancient Bones: Unearthing the Astonishing New Story of How We Became Human by Madelaine Böhme, Rüdiger Braun and Florian Breier (foreword by David R. Begun), Greystone Books, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, 2020.


Dr. Jerry Bergman has taught biology, genetics, chemistry, biochemistry, anthropology, geology, and microbiology for over 40 years at several colleges and universities including 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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Comments

  • ozwedge says:

    How does evolution explain that 2 separate hands, that are symmetrical and operate independently and cooperatively, were created at exactly the same time through a series of single random mutations ? Or do they propose that one hand evolved first and later the other ?

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