‘Ardi’ ape simply disproves missing link

A “prehuman” fossil that some scientists claim gives new insight into human origins is likely nothing more than the remains of an ape and does not support evolutionary theory, scientists at Answers in Genesis say.

Answers in Genesis, the Christian Life which runs the Creation Museum near Cincinnati, Ohio, posted an analysis of the scientific find on its Web site, saying that the “Ardi” female fossil – which is short for Ardipithecus ramidus and which evolutionary scientists say is 4.4 million years old – poses no more threat to creationist belief than past fossils have.

“Given the number and scope of the papers presented this week on Ardi, it will take some time before creationists are confident in our conclusions on Ardi and her kin,” Answers in Genesis wrote in its News to Note weekly feature. “Based on our first look, however, the facts seem solidly behind the idea that Ardi was a quadrupedal ape with relatively little in common with humans … The key basis for the alleged Ardi–human link (which even the authors are hesitant to confirm) is the idea that it walked upright.

“… And we can’t forget that all of these conclusions are inferred from digital reconstructions and fallible reconstructions of bones that were in very bad shape.”

Answers in Genesis, which believes the earth is thousands and not millions of years old, also says the find does away with the “missing link” theory – a conclusion with which even evolutionary scientists have agreed.

The Ardi fossil was first discovered in 1992 in Ethiopia but took 15 years to reconstruct, largely because the remains had been crushed and were so fragile that they would “turn to dust” if touched, said National Geographic.

Scientists removed the fossils “along with their surrounding rock,” and then, in a lab, removed the fossil “millimeter by submillimeter.” The skull, also crushed, was scanned by computer and digitally put back together, National Geographic said.

National Geographic, in fact, was among those who said the Ardi fossil disproved the “missing link,” theory that a part-human, part-chimpanzee creature once existed.

“Instead, the new evidence suggests that the study of chimpanzee anatomy and behavior – long used to infer the nature of the earliest human ancestors – is largely irrelevant to understanding our beginnings,” wrote Jamie Shreeve of National Geographic.

Alan Walker, a paleontologist from Penn State University, told the magazine, “This find is far more important than Lucy [a supposed 3.2-million-year-old fossil found in the 1970s]. It shows that the last common ancestor with chimps didn’t look like a chimp, or a human, or some funny thing in between.”

Significantly, though, the scientists behind the findings won’t say whether Ardi – and similar fossils – are ancestors to humans.

“We will need many more fossil recoveries from the period of 3–5 million years ago to confidently answer that question in the future,” the scientists wrote in a briefing document, BBC News reported.
The findings were published in a special edition of the journal “Science” and challenge not only the “missing link” theory but other popular evolutionary theories.

For instance, according to the Los Angeles Times, evolutionary researchers previously believed that a human ancestor who lived around the time of Ardi would, “like modern chimps, be a knuckle-walker, using the knuckles for support while moving on all fours.”

Instead, Ardi “appears to have climbed on all fours on branches, but walked upright on the ground.” But Ardi, “did not have arched feet like us, indicating that she could not walk or run for long distances,” BBC News reported.

Yet, some evolutionary scientists are unconvinced by the theories posited by Lovejoy and others, particularly the notion that Ardi would have walked upright on the ground.

“This is a fascinating skeleton, but based on what they present, the evidence for bipedality is limited at best,” Stony Book University’s William Jungers told National Geographic. “Divergent big toes are associated with grasping, and this has one of the most divergent big toes you can imagine. Why would an animal fully adapted to support its weight on its forelimbs in the trees elect to walk bipedally on the ground?”

Answers in Genesis said creationists should “remember that – as with many fossils – the state of preservation is far less perfect than what media images and ‘reconstructions’ portray.”

National Geographic reported that the fossil was made up of “badly crushed and distorted bones” that were probably trampled on by animals such as hippopotamuses.

“We would point out that the scientists haven’t actually observed Ardi walking; their assertion is based on their reconstruction of the bones,” Answers in Genesis wrote. “… Without having a live ‘Ardi’ to observe, scientists will only ever be able to come to probabilistic conclusions.”

Copyright 2009, SBC, Baptist Press, www.BPNews.net.

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