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WHAT IS MAN?

BIBLE READING: GENESIS 1.26-31

Question 10 of the Shorter Catechism asks "How did God create man?" The answer is given that "God created man, male and female, after his own image, in knowledge, righteousness and holiness, with dominion over the creatures.

1. Did Man Evolve?

Evolutionists give the following kind of scheme for the origin of man.

AUSTRALOPITHECUS ('Southern Ape') 1,OOO,OOO+ B.C.

JAVA MAN (H.erectus) 700,000 B.C.

NEANDERTHAL MAN 100,000 B.C.

(Homo Sapiens, subspecies neanderthalensis)

CRO-MAGNON MAN 10,000+ B.C.

(Modern Man) Homo sapiens subspecies sapiens.

The subject of evolution is important because what we believe about our origins affects what we understand to be the meaning of life and the destiny of man.

The idea of evolutionary progress, with its emphasis on a universe governed by chance, has gripped the thinking of men and now gives the basic framework for science, the humanities and even religion. School text-books and museum exhibitions treat evolution as a fact, not just another theory; sociologists talk of social problems disappearing as man 'progresses'; modernist theologians speak of 'man come of age'. Man, we are told, is evolving into a better creature.

It is significant that systems of thought opposed to biblical Christianity, such as Scientific Humanism, Communism and 'Death of God' Christianity, have all based their claims for validity on the supposed historical fact of evolutionary progress.

THE CLAIMS OF EVOLUTIONISTIC SCIENCE

It is claimed that all living things evolved from more primitive ancestors (and ultimately from primordial blobs of protoplasm) by processes of gradual change over hundreds of millions of years. We saw that God created .............. after their ............ (Genesis 1.21). Certainly it is true that new varieties of living things can arise with time, e.g. breeds of dog, cattle. New species, genera or even sub-families may arise. This process which is scientifically observable and demonstrable, is called micro-evolution and is evidently natural variation within the scope of the biblical kind. Obviously a new breed of dog is still a dog and not, for instance, a cat! Evolutionists claim, however, that major groups, such as phyla, classes and orders, gave rise to new major groups. This is called macro-evolution and it cuts right across biblical teaching on the special creation of distinct kinds of organism. This is the type of evolution that is supposed to have brought mankind from an ape-like ancestor.

We shall now examine this, with particular reference to the fossil evidence of prehistoric men. There are, of course, other categories of evidence for evolution. The fossil record is the most important and we will omit these others here. You can read a good elementary account in 'Evolution and the Modern Christian' by H.M. Morris.

At the beginning of the chapter you will find a list of the four major fossil types we are to consider...

Australopithecus.

In 1924 Prof. Raymond Dart discovered the skull of a young ape-like creature in a Bechuanaland quarry. A number of similar finds have since turned up in South Africa. These 'southern apes' were about four feet tall, walked upright, lived in open country and used simple tools. They had a small brain - about gorilla size - but possessed large human - like teeth. More recently L.S.B. Leakey has found pebble tools associated with an Australopithecine skull at Olduvai in Tanzania. Modern dating methods place their age at 1-2 million years and they are thought by many evolutionists to be fore-runners of man and transitional forms from an ape-like ancestor in the Miocene period, some 13 million years ago.

Homo erectus (formerly called Pithecanthropus)

Between 1890-1897 on the island of Java, a Dutch army physician, Dr Eugene Dubois, found the remains of a fossil man, which he called Pithecanthropus erectus, or 'upright ape-man'. He found a skull cap with brain capacity 914cc; a lower jaw fragment; three teeth, later shown to be from a fossil orang-utan; and a femur virtually identical to that of modern man, suggesting that Pithecanthropus walked erect. Later, in 1937, von Koenigswald discovered a number of similar fossils in Java, all now dated at 600,000 - 700,000 years old.

A variety of Pithecanthropus called Solo man, was found in Java in 1931. This had the range of brain capacity 1160cc to 1316cc, was dated more recently, and was apparently culturally advanced.

Other important Pithecanthropine fossils were found between 1927 and 1939 near Peking, in China. Hence their first name, Sinanthropus - 'man of China'. There are remains of over 40 individuals. The brain capacity ranges from 915cc to 1225cc with an average of 1075cc. The teeth are human in form as are other skeletal parts. They are now considered to be part of the same species as Java man, although they are dated somewhat later.

A modern reappraisal of this, and other, fossil material has led some scientists to divide prehistoric man into two species of the genus Homo. Pithecanthropus Sinanthropus and a number of African finds are placed in the one species, Homo erectus, which is more primitive than (and is said to antedate) modern man, who is designated Homo sapiens.

The link between these two species of men is thought by some scientists to be represented by Heidelberg man, a jaw of which was found in Germany in 1907. The teeth are human but the jaw itself is ape-like in some respects. This is linked with another rather scanty piece of evidence; skull fragments of a human type found at Vertesszollos, Hungary, in 1965. Both these finds are given early dates and it is largely on the basis of their proximity in time and space that they are proposed as a link.

Homo sapiens (Modern man)

Neanderthal man (Homo sapiens neanderthalensis). Neanderthal man is now known from the remains of over 100 individuals, the first of which was found in the Neander valley, near Dusseldorf, in 1856. He is said to have flourished from 150,000 to 50,000 years ago. His average brain capacity was 1550cc, compared to1400cc of man today. He showed, however, the 'primitive' features of a sloping forehead, heavy brow ridges, a chin-less jaw and a projecting occiput (back of the head). It is a fiction that he was a brutish, hairy little fellow who walked with a stoop and had knock-knees. Nor is there much to suggest that he was less intelligent than modern man. He used well-made stone tools and evidently had a highly developed religious system, for he practised ceremonial interment of the dead.

Scientific opinion treats Neanderthal man as a sub-species of Homo sapiens. The 'primitive' physical features are thought to be due to isolation from the mainstream of humanity and adaption in the harsh conditions of Europe in the Ice Age. Neanderthals found outside Europe are of a more 'progressive' type and some are of doubtful affinity (Rhodesian man). They are not ancestral to modern man.

Modern man (Homo sapiens). Cro-Magnon is undubtedly a modern man. Originally discovered in Les Eyzies in Southern France in 1868, over a dozen skeletons have since been found. They were about six feet tall, with a brain capacity of 1660cc, a high forehead, a straight face, a definite chin and a well-developed nose. It was Cro-Magnons that are believed to have made the cave-paintings of Lascaux, in France.

The evolutionary explanation of man's origin has been made more complicated by the discovery of definitely human types dated even earlier than many of the more 'primitive' fossils. There is the Swancombe skull, found in Kent, which is dated earlier than Neanderthal man. Similar is the nearby Galley Hill find. Both had a brain capacity of about 1330cc.

Reproduced by kind permission of the Banner of Truth Trust from 'Bible Doctrine' (A workbook on the Westminster Shorter Catechism) pages 63-68.

2. Activities

TO REMEMBER

"The Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul." (Genesis 2.7)

WORDS TO LEARN

Destiny, sociologist, Humanism, validity, primitive, ancestors, primordial, variation, fossil, transitional, reappraisal, proximity, isolation, adaption, internment.

QUESTIONS TO ANSWER

1. How did God create man?

2. Why is the subject of evolution important?

3. Can we say that evolution is a fact?

4. State the difference between micro evolution and macro evolution.

5. How do evolutionists describe the southern apes?

6. Give the brain capacities of the pithecanthropus finds in Java and China. How do these compare with modern man?

7. Why do some scientists think that Heidelberg man is so important?

8. How is Neanderthal man described?

9. What is known about Cro-Magnon man?

THINGS TO DO

1. Show on a map the places where fossils have been found.

2. Use some liquid to measure out 1400cc.

3. Search for fossils in rocky areas and seek to identify any finds.

4. Visit a museum or site to learn how excavations are carried out.

BOOKS TO READ

Use junior Geography books to tell you more about the countries in which the fossil finds mentioned in this lesson took place.

PSALM TO SING

Psalm 148.5-6 (Common Metre)

Let all the creatures praise the name

    of our almighty Lord:

For he commanded, and they were

    created by his word.

He also, for all times to come,

    hath them establish'd sure;

He hath appointed them a law,

    which ever shall endure.