Mythos 5 – Creation v. Evolution

 

The concept that humans evolved from animals has been around for thousands of years, along with the chief competing theory that humans were creations of gods or other creatures from the sky. Evolution, once called Development, was known in ancient times within the materialism philosophy. Materialism was known in Ancient India from around 2,600 years ago in the works of Ajita Kesakambali, Payasi, Kanada, and the proponents of the Cārvāka school of philosophy. Around 2,300 years ago materialism was known in China in the works of Xunzi a Confucian philosopher. In Greece several early philosophers developed materialist thought including Thales, Anaxagoras, Epicurus, and Democritus since at least 2,500 years ago.

Artists impression of Homo Heidelbergensis and Homo Erectus

Artists impression of Homo Heidelbergensis and Homo Erectus

The alternative theory has been more prevalent throughout human history as it was integrated into almost all religions and mythologies. The Greek myth of creation was centered on the Titan Prometheus, who created the first humans.(1)Hesiod (circa 700 BC) Theogony The idea was also found in the Akkadian Epic of Atra-Hasis, in which the first humans were made by the Anunnaki, after the previous workers on the Earth refused to continue working for them.(2)A. R. Millard (1967) “New Babylonian ‘Genesis’ Story” Tyndale Bulletin, Volume 18, Pages 3-18 The oldest known copy of the Epic of Atra-Hasis can be dated by scribal identification to the reign of Hammurabi’s great-grandson, Ammi-Saduqa circa 3,600 years ago. The concept was built on by the Babylonians in their creation epic Enuma Elish, in which the creator of the gods Nammu, created humanity to labor for the Anunnaki after their former slaves the Igigi, refused to continue working. Ultimately the concept of a creator God was integrated into the Jewish,(3)Torah, Bereishit 1:26-30 and subsequently Christian,(4)Bible, Genesis 1:26-30 Islamic,(5)Quran, Sura 96:1-2 and Baha’i religions, to which 54.1% of the world currently adheres.(6)The CIA’s World Factbook – Estimated 2013

Evolution has made a come back since 1859 AD with the publication of Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species, in which he argued for the idea of the evolution of new species from earlier ones. Darwin’s book did not address the question of human evolution, saying only that:

Light will be thrown on the origin of man and his history- Charles Darwin(7)Charles Darwin (1859) On the Origin of Species. Chapter 14

The first major modern debates about the nature of human evolution arose between Thomas Huxley and Richard Owen. Huxley argued for human evolution from apes by illustrating many of the similarities and differences between humans and apes, particularly in his 1863 book Evidence as to Man’s Place in Nature. Darwin applied the theory of evolution and sexual selection to humans when he published The Descent of Man in 1871.(8)Charles Darwin (1871) The Descent of Man, and Selection in Relation to Sex

A major problem at that time was the lack of fossils. Neanderthal remains had been discovered in a limestone quarry in 1856, three years before the publication of the Origin of the Species, and Neanderthal fossils had been discovered in Gibraltar even earlier, but they were originally believed to be diseased human remains. Despite the 1891 discovery by Eugène Dubois of what is now called Homo erectus at Trinil, Java, Indonesia, it was only after the 1920s when similar fossils were discovered in Africa, that intermediate species began to be documented.

Lucy represents the most complete skeleton found from her time.

Lucy represents the most complete skeleton found from her time.

During the 1960s and 1970s, hundreds of fossils were found, particularly in East Africa in the regions of the Olduvai gorge and Lake Turkana. The driving force in the East African research was the Leakey family, with Louis Leakey and his wife Mary Leakey, and later their son Richard Leakey and daughter in-law Meave Leakey being among the most successful fossil hunters and palaeo-anthropologists. From the fossil beds of Olduvai and Lake Turkana they amassed fossils of australopithecines, and Homo erectus. In the 1980s, Ethiopia emerged as the new hot spot of palaeo-anthropology as “Lucy”, the most complete fossil member of the species Australopithecus afarensis, was found by Donald Johanson in Hadar in the desert Middle Awash region of northern Ethiopia. This area would be the location of many new hominin fossils, such as Ardipithecus ramidus, by teams led by Tim White in the 1990s.

During most of the Pleistocene Epoch, a process of encephalization was believed to be taking place, within the successive species: Homo habilis, Homo ergaster, Homo erectus, and Homo heidelbergensis, however with these species now appearing to be one expanded Homo erectus linage, the encephalization does not seem possible. Encephalization is defined as the amount of brain mass related to an animal’s total body mass. Quantifying an animal’s encephalization has been argued to be directly related to that animal’s level of intelligence. Around 2,350 years ago (335 BC) the Greek philosopher Aristotle wrote:

Of all the animals, man has the brain largest in proportion to his size- Aristotle(9)Stuart Russell and Peter Norvig (2003) Artificial Intelligence: A Modern Approach

Around 150 years ago (1871 AD) Charles Darwin followed up with:

No one, I presume, doubts that the large proportion which the size of man’s brain bears to his body, compared to the same proportion in the gorilla or orang, is closely connected with his mental powers.- Charles Darwin (10)Charles Darwin (1871) The Descent of Man, and Selection in Relation to Sex, Page 145

Even though the theory of human evolution is the general scientific consensus, it does have a fairly large problem. Whether Homo erectus is Homo heidelbergensis or not, Paleo-anthropologists claim Neanderthals evolved from Homo heidelbergensis.(11)Donald Johansson and Blake Edgar (2006) From Lucy to Language, Page 38 As Homo rhodesiensis is now regarded by many scientists as another name for Homo heidelbergensis,(12)Chris Stringer (2011) The Origin of our Species, Page 202 and is too similar to Neanderthals to be a direct ancestor of Homo Sapiens,(13)Erin Wayman (2012) Homo antecessor: Common Ancestor of Humans and Neanderthals? what did Modern-Humans evolve from?

References   [ + ]

1. Hesiod (circa 700 BC) Theogony
2. A. R. Millard (1967) “New Babylonian ‘Genesis’ Story” Tyndale Bulletin, Volume 18, Pages 3-18
3. Torah, Bereishit 1:26-30
4. Bible, Genesis 1:26-30
5. Quran, Sura 96:1-2
6. The CIA’s World Factbook – Estimated 2013
7. Charles Darwin (1859) On the Origin of Species. Chapter 14
8. Charles Darwin (1871) The Descent of Man, and Selection in Relation to Sex
9. Stuart Russell and Peter Norvig (2003) Artificial Intelligence: A Modern Approach
10. Charles Darwin (1871) The Descent of Man, and Selection in Relation to Sex, Page 145
11. Donald Johansson and Blake Edgar (2006) From Lucy to Language, Page 38
12. Chris Stringer (2011) The Origin of our Species, Page 202
13. Erin Wayman (2012) Homo antecessor: Common Ancestor of Humans and Neanderthals?