Google has a cool Doodle out today, commemorating the discovery of “Lucy,” the partial specimen of Australopithecus afarensis found by the American paleoanthropologist Donald Johanson and his colleagues 41 years ago.
Here’s the GIF:
On Facebook, I predicted last night that young-earth creation proponents would be lighting up their blogs this morning with their usual “It’s just an ape” nonsense, and of course, I was right, but I’m not going to link to any of them because I care about you and value your sanity.
Instead, I’ll give you a taste of exactly the kind of deceit and misinformation you will find on those blogs today, should you venture out to look for it. This is a 2007 article from the esteemed outfit Creation Ministries International, talking about a then-new study on the Lucy specimen.
A reader sent me a link to that article this morning and asked me to respond. The thing is basically just one, incredibly long, sustained fallacy. I mean, in that sense, it’s almost a thing of beauty. It would be impressive, you know, if it weren’t a horrifically misguided exercise in un-logic that does nothing but muddle the gospel, fuel culture war and spread disunity in the church.
I’ll just do one excerpt here, but feel free to click over if you wish:
Perhaps the most famous icon of human evolution in modern times may now have to be quietly discarded. For over the last thirty years, the supposedly 3.2 million year old Australopithecus afarensis specimen known as ‘Lucy’ has been boldly proclaimed as the ancestor of all humanity in magazines, television shows, books, newspapers, and museums. However, Tel Aviv University anthropologists have published a study casting serious doubt on Lucy’s role as mankind’s ape ancestor. Based on a comparative analysis of jaw bones in living and extinct primates, researchers concluded that Lucy and members of her kind should be ‘placed as the beginning of the branch that evolved in parallel to ours.’ In other words, by evolutionary reasoning, Lucy should no longer be considered to be our direct ancestor. Lucy’s demise falsifies thirty-three years of evolutionary hyperbole and propaganda.
Allow me to unpack this a bit.
As BioLogos’ Jim Stump so brilliantly explains in this post, finding a “direct ancestor” in the fossil record is never a sure bet. It’d be exactly like me trying to find one of my direct ancestors in a human cemetery: It’s very unlikely that I would find one, considering how many people have lived and died.
I might find some people who are more closely related to my actual direct ancestors than others, but ultimately, they would represent different lineages than my own.
This is exactly what the Lucy thing is all about. A. afarensis (Lucy’s species) may not be our direct ancestor, but there has never been any doubt in the scientific community that this species was closely related to the species that is our direct ancestor. We’re essentially talking about the difference between a great-great-great-(about a million times)-granduncle (or in this case, aunt) as opposed to a great-great-(etc.)-grandparent.
So what, right? So, Lucy is very, very closely related to our direct ancestor, rather than actually being our direct ancestor. THAT’s what CMI thinks equates to “Lucy’s demise,” and a “falsification” of evolution? Are you kidding me? It’s completely absurd. They should be ashamed of producing such misleading nonsense and false propaganda in the name of Christ.
That’s the kind of stuff “ministries” like CMI, Answers in Genesis and the Institute for Creation Research will spend their morning doing, and the worst part is the whole time they’ll be pretending they’re serving Jesus. And who knows — they may even really believe that’s what they’re doing, too.
Instead of wasting your time with that, I propose something entirely different. You see, it’s also the 156th anniversary of the publication of “On the Origin of Species,” by the way. So have a banana today (and make it good, in honor of our ancestry. You earned it. After all — 3.2 million years of evolution doesn’t happen every day.