At the end of the 1600s, the chimpanzee first became known to western science when a specimen was dissected and described by English physician Edward Tyson. He recognized the similarities of chimpanzee and human anatomy as evidence of God’s creation. Despite these similarities, there are numerous significant differences between chimpanzees and human beings.
Up until the mid-nineteenth century, the only variations among humans (or human-like creatures) that we knew about were the traditional ethnic groups alive today. Even with that diversity, though, some scholars had already begun doubting Adam and Eve. Most famously, La Peyrère proposed that the diversity of human forms could not have descended solely from Adam and Eve. Instead, La Peyrère argued that God created “humans” before Adam and Eve. Other scholars were troubled by human cultural diversity discovered during the Age of Exploration. Most obviously, how did people get to the Americas? And why did some tribal people not have a sense of shame at their own nudity, as the Bible taught (Gen. 3:7)? Despite these minority voices, though, the majority of scholars through the nineteenth century assumed that Adam and Eve were the historical progenitors of all humanity.
With the discoveries of Neandertals in 1856, Homo erectus in 1891, and Australopithecus in 1924, opinions began to change. Darwin’s and Huxley’s ideas about human evolution seemed to be confirmed by these discoveries, and over the next century, even more such creatures were found in the fossil record. Though young-age creationists remain committed to the recent creation of Adam and Eve as the exclusive human ancestors, the question remains: What are these other fossils?
A recent discovery in the Rising Star Cave in South Africa revealed yet another form of hominin, Homo naledi. The anatomy of H. naledi presents a peculiar combination of traits.
Even more surprising is where Homo naledi was discovered and the circumstances of its burial. In this video, Kurt Wise of Truett-McConnell College discusses these details.
Is it possible that Homo naledi is actually an accidental combination of different species altogether? Could these remains be bones of humans and animals? That is extremely unlikely for a very good reason: there is a huge sample of these bones, and there’s no evidence in that large sample that there is more than one form. Homo naledi is most likely a single form of creature.
With all this diversity, how can creationists claim that humans and apes are distinct? It appears that fossil hominins really do seem to bridge the gap between human and non-human, but we don’t have to settle for what “appears” to be so. With new techniques pioneered by creationist researchers, we can test whether hominins show an unbroken connection between animals and humans or whether there are persistent differences between the two.
For scholarly resources on hominins and creationism, see the following articles.
- Journal of Creation Theology and Science 2016 special issue on human genesis
- Todd Wood. 2010. Baraminological Analysis Places Homo habilis, Homo rudolfensis, and Australopithecus sediba in the Human Holobaramin. Answers Research Journal 3:71-90, PDF.
- Todd Wood. 2011. Baraminology, the Image of God, and Australopithecus sediba. Journal of Creation Theology and Science 1:6-14.
- Kurt Wise. 1994. Australopithecus ramidus and the fossil record. Creation Ex Nihilo Technical Journal 8(2):160-165, PDF.
- Kurt Wise. 2005. The Flores skeleton and human baraminology. Occasional Papers of the BSG 6:1-13.
See also these general resources:
- Lucy was buried first, Kurt Wise
- Homo sediba? Todd’s Blog
- What can we learn about Homo naledi? Todd’s Blog