In the 42 years that this journal has been in existence, there has been a long series of “spectacular finds” of the remains of ancient men or apes. Media hype has always been extensive about the latest find, and magazines like National Geographic have capitalized on public interest in the claims. Neanderthal man has been a major focus of interest over the years, and in 2009 there were several detailed articles on Neanderthal man in several popular publications.

In October of 2009 a major publicity campaign was conducted on a 1994 find named Ardipithecus ramidus which has been nicknamed “Ardi.” Grandiose claims have been made in the press and on TV about this find and its significance. The fossil skeleton found in Ethiopia consists of 125 pieces and is said to be 4.4 million years old based on radiometric dating of the volcanic ash layers where it was found.

The interest in Ardi may have been tweaked by the tour of “Lucy” that was going on throughout the country. Lucy was the most complete specimen ever found of an early primate and she is significant for that reason. In spite of the hype, Lucy is pretty much 100 percent monkey. Her brain size was 421 cc (a chimp is 525). Her mandible (jawbone) was V shaped instead of C shaped like a human or box shaped like a gorilla. Her humerus (upper arm bone) and femur (upper leg bone) were the same size—typical of a monkey. Lucy’s finder (Donald Johanson) has a theory that apes became erect and that later the brain developed, becoming human. That view is supported by some indications that Lucy may have been able to walk in an erect position.

Ardipithecus is older than Lucy. Again there is some evidence that this animal may have traveled in an erect position. Instead of having a thumb that was down on the wrist which is helpful for living in the trees, this animal’s thumb is like ours—near the fingers. The pelvis and hip of Ardi show that the gluteal muscles were positioned so that the animal could walk upright. Everything else about the specimen is pure monkey, like Lucy—small brain (smaller than a modern chimpanzee), V-shaped mandible, limb ratios identical, etc.

The excitement among evolutionists in the scientific community is that it may add some more information to the debate about the theory of how man became man. The message for all of us is that there may have been monkeys in the past which could live on the ground and travel on two legs. Some evolutionists like Dr. Owen Lovejoy of Kent State University believe that is all that is needed to qualify the specimen as an ancestor of man. Lovejoy said “When you get to the very bottom, it is simply bipedality that becomes the defining character of being human.” The idea is that after apes became erect and started living on the ground, the brain size increased, ultimately leading to man.

The name Ardipithecus ramidus means “root of the ground ape,” indicating that the animal may help detail the changes that have occurred in the ape family. It does not mean that this is an ancestor to man. The idea that there is a single link that connects man to the apes is a massive exaggeration. There is a whole series of major differences between man and other primates. On the earth today there is but one species of man. A pygmy can interbreed with a Swede and produce fertile offspring. As Acts 17 says, “We are all of one blood,” and we all have common ancestors which the Bible names Eve and Adam. There are many species of monkeys. That is because monkeys do not have a recent common ancestor. There has been a great deal of genetic drift and specialization among the various primates on this planet. This new find will complicate the picture more, but all of this is really not a major issue for those who believe the Bible is the Word of God.

The Bible defines human beings in completely different terms than does the physical anthropologist. The scriptures do not tell us what Adam looked like (in spite of massive numbers of art works that show a Caucasian, blue-eyed, blonde-haired, modern human without body hair). The biblical definition is that man is that being created in the image of God. All animals have life, but only humans were created in the image of God. We see that uniqueness displayed in man’s capacity to worship, to create art and music, to feel guilt, to be sympathetic, and to have a concept of self. Even though chimpanzees have over 90 percent of the same genes that we have, we do not see these capacities displayed even in part in any monkey or ape. This is in spite of many attempts that have been made to relate these functions to the brain.

The body in which man is housed is not an issue in the biblical definition. How long ago our ancestors lived is not given in the Bible, and all methods of trying to determine when God created man are based on so many assumptions as to be of no use. It is also an assumption to believe that all that makes up man’s spiritual nature is produced by natural processes.

Ardi is an interesting specimen, and gives us more information about how diverse the various primates have been throughout time. It will be interesting to watch those who wish to deny man’s unique nature as a spiritual being try to integrate Ardi and Lucy into a model that will satisfy them. The Bible gives no information about how God “formed man of the dust of the Earth” (Genesis 2:7). Those who believe it was an instantaneous, manual creation should not feel threatened by investigations of ancient primates or by the theories of evolutionists as to how the changes might have led to modern man. Those theories will always be just imaginative proposals, and will never really explain what makes us spiritual human beings and not just mechanically driven robotic animals.
--John N. Clayton

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