Can the Biblical Account of Creation Be Reconciled with Scientific Evidence? – Program 1

By: Dr. Hugh Ross, Dr. Fuz Rana, Ken Samples; ©2002
How do evolutionary biologists think human evolution took place? How compelling is the information presented in our school textbooks?

From Ape to Man Via Evolution? – Or Was Man a Unique Creation of God?

Announcer: Today on the John Ankerberg Show why are astronomers talking about God? Does the big bang theory prove that a transcendent causal agent brought all matter, energy, space and time into existence? Our concept of the universe and how it originated shapes our entire worldview. If the universe has always existed and is nothing more than an accident then human life has no meaning. But, if the universe had a beginning and is created than the creator is the source of life who establishes purpose and meaning. What does the scientific evidence reveal? Do the words “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” accurately describe what science has discovered? My guests today are astrophysicist and astronomer Dr. Hugh Ross who received his PH.D in astronomy from the University of Toronto and did post doctoral research at Cal-Tech on Quasars, Mr. Fazale Rana who received his PH.D in chemistry at Ohio University, and Philosopher and Theologian Kenneth Samples of Biola University. We invite you to join us.
Dr. John Ankerberg: Welcome. We’re talking about a very interesting topic today: Did man originate from the apes? What do you think? Last week we were talking about: Does life originate from zippo? I mean, how do we get life in the first place? Is it molecules to man? Now we’re talking about and we’re zeroing in on, if it was molecules to man, there had to be ape to man, some of the evolutionary scientists say, and we’re going to examine that topic today.
My guests are Dr. Hugh Ross, astronomer and astrophysicist; Dr. Fuz Rana, who received his Ph.D. in chemistry; and philosopher and theologian Ken Samples. Guys, we’re glad that you’re here.
Let’s start right off, Fuz, here with a definition. What is the theory of human evolution right now? Define it for us.
Dr. Fazale Rana: Well, as presented in high school textbooks, it’s this idea that humans and chimpanzees and the great apes share a common ancestor that existed roughly five to six million years ago. And from this ape-like ancestor two evolutionary tree branches emerged – one leading to the great apes; one leading to modern humans. And the modern human pathway preceded through a variety of intermediary forms, like that Australopithecines and Homo erectus, Neanderthal…
Ankerberg: Alright, let’s show them what you’re talking about here. Here’s the current textbook, state of Tennessee, in California and New York and other places. And you’ve got one of these charts where you start off with a little ape-like creature, and boom!, you go up to man, alright? Then the other one has to do with the first ape-like creature that they think started the whole ball game, and that is Australopithecines. And you can see the branch over here, where you start with the branch and then you’ve got the different apes, and then you come down to man. So, that’s their idea. Now, what’s this based on? Why do they think this is the way it happened?
Rana: Well, what you’re seeing in textbooks is an over-simplified view of how evolutionary biologists think human evolution took place. When you actually get into the scientific literature, what you see is actually chaos. It’s very clear that there is a variety of different hominid forms that existed in earth’s past history, but evolutionists aren’t clear among themselves how many species there were and how those species could have related one to another. Nobody knows which of the Australopithecine species could have given rise to the homo hominids, the homo bipedal primate.
Ankerberg: Let’s make a list and put the list up on the screen for people to see. They’re saying the Australopithecine started the ball game off at about 4.4 million years ago.
Rana: Right. The first true Australopithecines, four and a half million years ago.
Ankerberg: And they’ve got different ones that they’ve found.
Rana: Right.
Ankerberg: So they’ve got different names on them. But that’s the first one.
Rana: Right. There’s a variety of species.
Dr. Hugh Ross: Isn’t there species even earlier?
Rana: Right. Prior to four and a half million years ago there are a handful of forms that have been recently discovered in the fossil record that predate the Australopithecines. These all seem to have the ability to walk erect, which is actually kind of curious, because as soon as these hominids appear, you see the ability to walk erect showing up immediately.
Ankerberg: We are using the word hominid to mean what?
Rana: These ape-like animals that have the ability to walk erect, to walk on two feet. Right.
Ross: And what’s the date for these creatures?
Rana: In the neighborhood of six to seven million years in age.
Ankerberg: Okay. So we go from that creature before australopithecines to what, Homo habilis?
Rana: Homo habilis is the first homo bipedal primate.
Ankerberg: Okay, two million years ago.
Rana: Right. And then 1.8 million years ago is Homo erectus.
Ankerberg: Okay. And then?
Rana: And then you have Neanderthal around 150,000-200,000 years ago, and some evidence indicates they may have actually persisted till around 40,000 years ago, in that neighborhood.
Ankerberg: Okay, and then after Neanderthals, that’s supposed to be the closest link to man; and then we have man showing up where?
Rana: There’s an explosion of modern human fossils in the 40,000-50,000 year time frame.
Ankerberg: Okay. Now, the first thing is that they’re saying the reason that there’s a link between all of these, the first basis is what, similarity of form? Is that right?
Rana: Right.
Ankerberg: Now, what’s good and bad about that?
Rana: Well, similarity of form, in a logical sense, doesn’t necessarily mean there was an evolutionary connection. Evolutionists interpret that as indicating shared ancestry, and again, in an evolutionary sense. But if you look to the way we do design, the way I worked in product development for a number of years, and the same designer will reuse the same design elements over and over again. And so that’s perfectly consistent with a Creator bringing these different forms into existence along with bringing humanity into existence as special divine fiat acts.
Ankerberg: But even if they go with similarity, the fact is, there are certain things; for example, we’ve got a hand and monkeys have, what would you call it, a paw? hand?…
Rana: Yeah.
Ankerberg: …that is similar, but there are differences, big time, with our human hand, isn’t there?
Rana: Right. Well, there are a variety of differences between chimpanzees and humans. The capacity to walk erect is a huge difference. I mean, to go from a knuckle-walking quadruped – using four limbs to walk – to a bipedal organism involves a complete rearrangement of the skeleton, the musculature; there has to be a rearrangement, even, of the inner ear bones in order to sustain that. So it’s not a trivial difference that you’re looking at, it’s an extensive difference anatomically and physiologically.
Ankerberg: Okay. Hugh, have the paleoanthropologists agreed on the pathway from ape to man in terms of the different ones? Is there an agreement?
Ross: Not yet. I mean, wide dispute.
Ankerberg: Why not?
Ross: I mean, for one, they have only a few fossil finds.
Ankerberg: That’s important for people to understand is that when we’re talking about the “evidence,” the evidence is very slim. How slim?
Ross: Well, if you took all the bones, excepting humans and Neanderthals, and put them into one space, they would fill a reasonably sized closet. So we’re talking a closetful of bones. In most cases you’ve got just tiny pieces of a specimen. The most complete are just 35 to 40 percent. I think there are only two cases that are that complete. And so anthropologists have a difficult time taking this very sparse database and trying to, you know, flesh out some kind of possible sequence.
Ankerberg: Yeah. You said that their proposed evolutionary relationships are highly speculative. What do you mean?
Ross: Well, maybe a better term would be that they’re highly differentiated. They can’t agree on what the pathways would be, because there’s a lot that is missing.
Ankerberg: Alright, if you can’t agree on the pathway, in other words, you can’t agree which one came first, how can they say that evolution is a fact?
Ross: Well, they really can’t. And I would argue, moreover, this very sparse database tells us that the population levels of the different species must have been quite low, and we know the time that they existed was relatively brief. Those are two prescriptions against any naturalistic evolutionary pathway. I mean, the smaller the population size, the shorter the time frame, the less chance you have for mutations to produce any significant change.
Ankerberg: Now, let’s go to the evidence that shows, even though that’s the proposed theory, the scientists are running into big-time blockades. In fact, they’ve been cut-off, if you want, in their path from ape to man. Let’s talk about some of the evidence that has cut them off. One has been the brain size. When they have measured the brain size of these ape-like creatures with man, before they had a kind of an old-fashioned way of measuring. Talk about that way of measuring, and then what’s happened in just the past few years.
Rana: Sure. Well, the old approach would be primarily to have partially deformed, partially missing skulls and from physical features try to make measurements and then infer brain size through the use of some model which never would have been fully validated. And a few years ago a new approach was attempted, and this is essentially to do CAT scan imaging and generate millimeter images of slices of the brain, and then through computer graphics technology to fill in the missing parts, the correct deformations, and then to calculate brain volume. And what emerged from that work was it seemed as if the brain volume was actually over-estimated in many cases.
Ankerberg: Yeah, you have a fancy word for it: “What CTI technology and rapid-prototyping stereo-lithography show about the cranial capacity.”
Rana: Right. And that’s a neat technique where you can take the computer graphics and actually, in rapid time, generate a three-dimensional structure from plastics using lasers to super-heat the plastics and to get it to cure. And from those casts you can actually make very robust measurements of brain volume and brain size.
Ankerberg: And what did they find out? What was the conclusion?
Rana: The volumes were over-estimated. And so instead of having this gradual increase in brain size, it seems as if the brain size from Australopithecines to modern humans would have had to ramp very rapidly toward the appearance of modern humans. So instead of a gradual trend, it was more a discontinuous trend where you have significant leaps. But the final leap in brain size was quite dramatic where modern humans appear on the scene.
Ross: Dramatic and recent.
Ankerberg: Yeah. Hugh, what do you do in terms of these ape-like creatures from a biblical point of view? Where do they fit into the creation scenario?
Ross: Well, the thing you see in the Bible is that birds and mammals are closely related to humans;[1] and what the biologists tell us is that half the land mammals have gone extinct since human beings showed up on the scene; half the bird species have gone extinct. We’ve had a huge deleterious effect on the birds and mammals on this planet. God, knowing that in advance, I think would be wise enough to create a few species of bipedal primates, each more progressively capable in hunting birds and mammals, as a way to help these birds and mammals adapt to the coming future shock of these super-intelligent….
Ankerberg: Another way of saying it is, you’re saying God created some very distinct animals.
Ross: Right. For a purpose.
Ankerberg: And the fact is, they are there, but they weren’t men.
Ross: They weren’t men. Right.
Ankerberg: Okay. I want to give you a quote here, Hugh, that the National Science Teachers Association stated just recently: “There is abundant and consistent evidence from astronomy, physics, biochemistry, geochronology, geology, biology, anthropology and other sciences that evolution has taken place.” Now, everything that we’re showing is that’s not the case. How come they’re making these statements?
Ross: Well, they could make that statement if they mean that evolution is simply “evidence for change with respect of time.” But clearly, they’re implying a lot more: that is, change with respect of time without divine miraculous intervention. You know, in the first few episodes we were looking at the simple sciences of astronomy and physics where you can describe things with differential equations. And there we see overwhelming evidence for design. Now, as you move from simplicity to complexity, we would expect that that evidence for design would increase. And in fact, that’s what we’re seeing. The problem is, if you ignore the simple sciences, sometimes you can’t see the forest because of the trees. In other words, scientists sometimes aren’t able to look deep enough, because of their narrow perspective, to see the design that’s there.
Ankerberg: Yeah. There’s certain change, Fuz, that we’ll accept in terms of species changing, but only a certain extent. You’ve got to have a species to begin with to have something to change, and that’s one of the problems. We don’t have a mechanism of how to get the species into existence, number one. And number two is, when you have that species, there’s only so much change that you can have, okay? We don’t have what? You explain it.
Rana: That’s exactly right. I mean, we would all say variation takes place within a species. And it’s variation in the genetic material that’s operated on by natural selection. We don’t dispute that mechanism. But what we argue is that there’s no way that that mechanism can actually generate new species; that there’s no demonstration experimentally or observationally that you can extrapolate those types of changes beyond the species level.
Ankerberg: Yeah. Stephen Jay Gould that just died recently, he, therefore, looking at the fossil record said, “Boy, we’ve got to come up with a new theory;” and said, “Let’s try punctuated equilibrium,” which is what?
Rana: It’s basically a description of the way the fossil record is. It doesn’t explain how evolution could have occurred that way.
Ankerberg: Yeah, in other words, what they’re saying is, before you had gradual evolution, we were supposed to look at a fossil record and see all these different modified forms going up to man. Okay, they didn’t find that. All of a sudden they found, boom, certain mammals, certain animals, man, in the fossil record. And there’s no intermediate forms.
Rana: Right.
Ankerberg: And so they had to say, something – the genetic code – had to change real quick. So we had this punctuated equilibrium that went for a long period of time. What’s wrong with that?
Rana: There’s no mechanism that says that evolution could occur that way. It’s really a hand-waving explanation without really a scientific mechanism to undergird that.
Ankerberg: Okay. And further reinforcing that, let’s come back to “ape to man,” the fact is, if we can show that there is no connection between the apes and man, if there is no “missing link” here, the fact is you just had the animals that show up and you have man that shows up relatively recently ago, the fact is, you’ve got a big problem in the evolutionary theory. Let’s talk about one of the evidences that you scientists have actually found and that’s the DNA, and specifically, the mitochondrial DNA of women all over the world. What’s that all about?
Rana: Well, instead of using fossils to try to understand the origin of humanity, anthropologists are now turning their attention to the genetic make-up of human populations by looking at similarities and differences. To the extent of similarities and differences they can basically address questions like: When did humanity originate? What was the original population size? How did humanity spread? And what they discovered is a remarkable result. First, looking at mitochondrial DNA, which traces the origin of humanity through the maternal lineage, through the female lineage. And what they discovered is humanity must have originated from a small population of women in a single region, a single geographical region, and from there rapidly spread to fill the earth. Interestingly enough, all of humanity’s mitochondrial DNA genetic fingerprint can be traced back to a single female individual, which is referred to as “Mitochondrial Eve” by the scientific community.
Ankerberg: And what’s the date?
Rana: In the scientific literature the date comes in under 150,000 years ago. Now, those dates have broad error bars: 20,000, 30,000, 40,000 years, plus or minus. But there’s some more evidence that indicates that actually that date should really be adjusted downwards towards the 50,000 year range.
Ankerberg: Okay, Hugh, we’ve got another one and that’s the genes of men have been analyzed. The “ZFY” gene on the “Y” chromosome passed down from father to son. What’s that all about and what did they find?
Ross: Well, what they’re finding there is that the men on planet earth appear to be descended from one or just a few individuals at one location with a date that comes in at between 37,000 and 49,000 years ago.
Ankerberg: How does that square with the biblical record?
Ross: Well, it squares very well. I mean, you can take the Genesis 11 genealogy, and there’s two individuals there that we can independently calibrate. Abraham from historical records lived about 4,000 years ago. The world was divided in the days of Peleg. Peleg is halfway through the Genesis 11 genealogy [Gen. 11:16]. And Carbon-14 dating establishes the breaking of the Bering land bridge which, I believe, is a reference to the world being divided in the days of Peleg. That comes in at 11,000 years ago. You take those two dates; you presume that the life spans in Genesis 11 are proportional to the passage of time. That gives you a date for the Flood in the neighborhood of 25,000 to 35,000 years ago. And when you add on to it the genealogy of Genesis 5, you get a date for Adam and Eve in the neighborhood of 40,000 to 50,000 years ago. So, the biblical date is consistent with the mitochondrial DNA date, which is consistent with the Y chromosome date. And all three of those dates are consistent with the big bangs of art, language, jewelry and technology.
Ankerberg: Ken, what do you make of all this?
Ken Samples: Well, you clearly have no viable pathway that you can connect between the bipedal primates and modern humans. You have excessive speculation with this regard; problems in DNA; and clearly, you have a big problem – and that is, the human beings in every conceivable way are different in kind, not in just degree but different in kind from the hominids.
Ankerberg: Okay. Fuz, if the Neanderthals are cut off, we don’t have a link between us and the apes. And scientific research, in terms of the genetics of the Neanderthals now has cut them off from being that link. Tell us why.
Rana: This is actually an incredible piece of science that has taken place over the last four or five years where now in five separate Neanderthal specimens scientists have isolated DNA and amplified it and sequenced it – this is mitochondrial DNA – and have shown in every case – and each time they do this, two independent labs carry out the studies to corroborate one another’s result – but in each case they have shown that there is no way that Neanderthals have a genetic connection to modern humans, and therefore they can’t have an evolutionary connection. They now are considered to be an evolutionary side branch. And so, this traditional “missing link” that shows up in high school and college biology texts is really now an evolutionary side branch from an evolutionary perspective.
Ankerberg: Okay. So, if you have the Neanderthals cut off, you’ve got no connection to man. What does that mean, Hugh?
Ross: Well, evolutionists are now trying to claim that maybe Homo erectus gave rise to both Neanderthals and the humans. But now you’re looking at a radically different species morphologically in terms of our bone forms than humans. And it’s not that much time. And therefore the evolutionary model can’t explain the movement in those two different directions that rapidly.
Ankerberg: Fuz, haven’t some of the scientists also taken some of those intermediate forms of the apes out of the categories in terms of progression and pushed them all the way back to the beginning? Can you tell us about that?
Rana: Well, many of the hominids that are part of this “evolutionary pathway” are considered to be side branches. A number of the Australopithecine specimens are considered to be side branches that couldn’t have given rise to humanity. Last summer there was a discovery of something called the “Toumai Man” that dates around six to seven million years in age, and the features of “Toumai Man” seem to be remarkably modern compared to the Australopithecines. And there are some anthropologists who are even suggesting maybe all the Australopithecines really are a side branch. What does that mean? That means that everything that is in the textbooks now is really not, from a scientific perspective, valid any longer. And so this is just an example of the chaos that exists where every time a new fossil is discovered, all the evolutionists run out and redraw their trees – but none of them agree with one another.
Ankerberg: Hugh, look, when we are talking cosmology, if all of the evidence points to God, okay, and if you have the scientific evidence showing that man just shows up, and the apes are by themselves, and you’ve got whales and you’ve got other things, some of these things going back a long time, and no intermediate forms, when does enough evidence pile up that a person that’s an atheist or an agnostic ought to put their faith in the Lord?
Ross: Well, there are two kinds of atheists that I talk to. There are those that say, “No amount of evidence will ever persuade me that a God exists.” There then are those that say, “Show me enough evidence and I’ll change my mind.” I typically discover as you take a group of 1,000 atheists, about one third are in the camp where no amount of evidence will make any difference. Two-thirds can be reached with that kind of evidence. And usually what it takes in that case is an adequate database. In this case we argue we have more than an adequate database to show that human beings must be the product of special creation.
Ankerberg: Alright, we’ve done nothing but talk about the scientific evidence in all these different categories. Next week we’re going to change our focus. We’re going to take the biblical information and see if the scientific information we’ve been talking about fits. Right there, every time the non-Christian or the atheist seems to talk, when these folks talk about creationists, they characterize us in a certain way and that’s not true. Give us the biblical model that we’re going to talk about in the next three weeks of time.
Ross: Sure. I mean, there are many different biblical models. People read the Bible and come up with different interpretations. The model we’re talking about at Reasons to Believe is what you call an “old earth creationist model.” We believe that the literal reading of the creation days in Genesis 1 is six consecutive long periods of time. But our whole appeal is, we can put our model to the test. And so to the atheists we would say, let’s wait a few months and see if the evidence strengthens our model and weakens your model. We could say that, too, to creationists who take different positions from ours. You’ve got a model; we’ve got a model. Let’s put it to the test and see what future scientific and biblical discoveries will support. That way nobody has to fight. We just let the new discoveries settle the disputes.
Ankerberg: Alright. All of those of you that are Christians and you look at the Bible, you’re going to want to listen next week because we’re going to start with Genesis 1:1 and we’re going to go through the six different days and find out, “How does this compare with what the scientists know?” It’s going to be fascinating information. I hope you’ll join us then.

Notes

  1. Here Dr. Ross is speaking of the close emotional relationship that humans have with birds and mammals. He is not speaking of an ancestral relationship.

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