A cache of newly discovered fossils from an ancient human species, says a biologist associated with the intelligent design movement, underscores the inadequacy of materialistic evolution to explain human origins.
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A Southern Baptist paleontologist claims the fossils, discovered in South Africa, fit well with biblical chronology, representing a human species alive shortly after God dispersed men and women from the Tower of Babel in Genesis 11:1-9.
Remains of a species dubbed Homo naledi were first discovered in 2013-14. An article published this month in the journal eLife revealed scientists now have unearthed remains of at least 18 Homo naledi, a species said to stand about five feet tall, weigh 100 pounds and possess small brains and curved fingers as well as many features that resemble modern humans.
Lee Berger, the article’s lead author, told The Guardian the fossilized remains seem to have been deliberately buried after death and date to approximately 300,000 years ago. Because the remains were located in deep underground chambers, he suspects Homo naledi were able to control fire and utilize it for illumination.
The May 9 eLife article noted “no paleoanthropologist anticipated that a species like H[omo] naledi existed in this region during” its time period.
Jonathan Wells, a biologist at the Seattle-based Discovery Institute, told Baptist Press (BP) evolutionary scientists’ surprise at Homo naledi is a significant aspect of the discovery. The Discovery Institute advocates the theory of intelligent design, which argues the universe is the product of intelligence rather than chance.
“Human origins are as mysterious now as they have ever been,” Wells, author of Zombie Science: Icons of Evolution, said in written comments. “Science educators tell materialistic stories about how we are accidental byproducts of unguided evolution, and the stories are illustrated with iconic drawings of apes morphing into humans.
“But the stories came first; fossils were plugged in later. As Yale paleoanthropologist Misia Landau once wrote, stories of human evolution ‘far exceed what can be inferred from the study of fossils alone,’ so fossils are placed ‘into preexisting narrative structures,’” Wells said.
The alleged “story of human evolution,” Wells said, seems to become less clear as additional fossils are discovered.
Kurt Wise, professor of natural history at Truett McConnell University and a Harvard-trained paleontologist, told BP Homo naledi were “descendants of Adam and Eve” who lived some 4,100 years ago.
Wise, who believes the universe was created by God’s direct action approximately 6,000 years ago, claimed “radiometric dates” calculated by scientists to be 100,000-800,000 “radiometric years are found on fossils actually dating” more recently.
A clue to the dating of Homo naledi fossils, Wise said, is their discovery in the types of caves likely formed during or immediately after Noah’s flood.
He reasons Homo naledi were humans “because humans are the only organisms known to cache or bury the bodies of their dead. Since it is unlikely that humans would go to all this trouble to bury non-humans, Homo neledi are humans, and the chambers of the cave with Homo neledi fossils are almost certainly burial chambers,” Wise said in written comments.
“Since the fossils date from after the Flood and are found in South Africa – a very long way from wherever Babel was located – these fossils must date from after the dispersion of people from Babel,” Wise said.
The fact that “their skeletal structure is markedly different from modern humans,” Wise said, suggests “that the human population at the time of Babel and soon afterward was much more diverse than the present human population.” Homo naledi are “different enough” from modern humans “to warrant a different species name.”
The eLife article noted in a similar vein, “Subequatorial Africa appears to have been a source of biological diversity and innovation” among species related to modern humans.
In summarizing the findings, eLife’s editors wrote, “The existence of a relatively primitive species like H[omo] naledi living this recently in southern Africa is at odds with previous thinking about human evolution.”
The full eLife article is available online and titled “Homo naledi and Pleistocene hominin evolution in subequatorial Africa.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – David Roach is chief national correspondent for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)