Saturday, January 29, 2011

Science Teachers and Creationism

Alice C. Linsley

In a Live Science piece by Jennifer Welsh (28 Jan. 2011) some high school biology teachers are accused of lack of knowledge - that is, ignorance of their subject - because about 13 percent teach creationism in their classrooms. According to Welsh, these teachers believe that humans appeared on the surface of the Earth about 10,000 years ago.

Michael Berkman, co-author of the study, told Livescience: "Our general sense is they lack the knowledge and confidence to go in there and teach evolution, which makes them risk-averse."

Showing her own ignorance, Jennifer Welsh defines all who believe that God created the Earth as biblical literalists. She writes, "Creationists broadly believe God created Earth, its inhabitants and the universe, with Christian creationists taking a literal interpretation of the Book of Genesis in the Bible. However, scientific evidence says evolutionary theory, the idea that all organisms evolved from some common ancestor, by means of natural selection, explain the planet's diversity of life. Some of the earliest life on Earth dates back to 3.7 billion years ago."

I believe that God created the Earth and I also believe that the earliest life on Earth appeared billions of years ago. I know that the oldest human fossils are about 3.4 million years and that they show the same anatomical range as modern humans. When Jeremy DeSilva, an anthropologist, compared the ankle joint, the tibia and the talus of fossil "hominins" between 4.12 million to 1.53 million years old, he discovered that all of the hominin ankle joints resembled those of modern humans rather than those of apes.

The earliest human fossils show a range of anatomical features yet all these features are found among humans today. The nearly complete skulls of people who lived 160,000 years ago are, in the words of paleontologist Tim White, "like modern-day humans in almost every feature."

Some of the australopithecine fossils dating between 700,000 and 2.4 million years are recognized as "early human fossils". Although classified as "ape of the South", some are recognized as having had human dentition, bipedalism and stone tools.

With DNA samples from 2400 individuals from more than 100 modern African populations, researchers have identified a panel of 1327 sites of genetic variation across the entire genome. Analysis of the data suggests that modern Africans are descended from 14 ancestral populations, which correlate with known linguistic groups. Comparative linguistics and genetics are moving to similar conclusions when it comes to the question of human origins. The evidence in both fields indicates flux, but no essential change.

In other words, there is no evidence to support the macro-evolutionary theory of change from one kind into another kind. The physical evidence indicates that humans appeared as humans and unheralded by sub-human ancestors more than 4 million years ago. Kenneth H. Roux admits, "Evolutionary convergence at the molecular level is presumed to be widespread, but is poorly documented."

Welsh's claim that the theory of evolution -  "the idea that all organisms evolved from some common ancestor" has been proven is simply false.  There are plenty of evolutionary scientists who question the theory.  I've mentioned a few already.

The battle ground is the book of Genesis, which few in this debate understand. Genesis isn't a scientific record of the beginning of life.  It really isn't about human origins.  It is about the origins of Messianic expectation.  But that's another subject for another day.

Related reading:  Genesis and Genetics; Genesis: Is it Really About Human Origins?; Oldest Human Fossils;
Theories of Creation; Evangelical Colleges Battle Over Creation and Evolution


Anastasia Theodoridis said...

"But that's another subject for another day."

I, for one, wish that day would be tomorrow! I'd love to see this topic expounded some.

If you think Genesis is about the origins of Messianic expectation (which I won't dispute), don't you think human origins is a part of that picture? I ask because it seems to me the first three chapters, at least, are about human origin.

Anastasia Theodoridis said...

P.S. Your whole blog is just fascinating! I really enjoy it.

Alice C. Linsley said...

Thanks, Anastasia. I appreciate that.

Genesis portrays the creation of the world from chaotic dark waters and the hierarchy in the created order with humans just under the heavenlies, made in the image of the Creator. That alone is to be pondered long and deep.

Then we find the Creator making a promise to the people who lived long before Abraham about a woman (not Eve) in their bloodline who would bring forth the Seed who will crush the serpent's head and restore Paradise (Gen. 3:15). That is the beginning of Messianic expectation among Abraham's ancestors, and the theme of the entire Bible.

Karl said...

See, this is why you cannot trust what people tell you.

You quote Jeremy DeSilva (a partial quote) to make it appear that he was saying humans did not evolve from apes, but that is NOT what he was discussing, nor what he was implying. Here is the actual quote, in context.

To try to get a leg up on the issue, Jeremy DeSilva, an anthropologist at Worcester State College in Massachusetts, filmed wild chimpanzees as they scaled trees in Uganda's Kibale National Park. He found that when pushing off from a tree branch, chimps flex their ankles (raise their foot) about 45 degrees from the normal resting position. Modern humans, on the other hand, flex their ankles a maximum of 15 to 20 degrees when walking and suffer serious injury if their ankles are bent much further.

DeSilva then compared two primary bones of the ankle joint--the tibia in the lower leg and the talus in the foot--in great apes and fossil hominins ranging from 4.12 million to 1.53 million years old. DeSilva found that all of the hominin ankle joints resembled those of modern humans rather than those of apes, suggesting that this joint took on its current configuration early in human evolution. In a report published online this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, DeSilva concludes that if early hominins were engaging in any substantial amount of tree-climbing, they certainly were not doing the kind of ankle-flexing that chimpanzees do today.

DeSilva doubts that early hominins could have been good at walking and climbing trees at the same time. That means full bipedalism would have evolved relatively rapidly as tree-climbing ability declined. But he concedes that his study will not end the debate. It is possible that the common ancestor of chimps and humans climbed trees without flexing its ankle as much as chimps do today, and thus early hominins might have been tree climbers, too.

Alice C. Linsley said...

I read the report, Karl. Da Silva's point is exactly as you state: early humans couldn't have been good climbers since their anatomy was NOT like apes.

After 86 years of frantic searching for a missing link or a common ancestor to humans and apes, none has been found.

Anastasia Theodoridis said...

Thanks for the clarification, Alice. Now that I see we're definitely on the same page, I will continue with my series on Genesis as Icon. Next section will be the Genesis accounts as an icon of the origins of Man.