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What are Christians to make of all this evidence? Are the criteria used to decide the level of developments of any fossil man valid? What are we to say about the dating of these fossils in the light of biblical teaching?
There are relatively few fossils and many are represented by a few fragments of bone. Some of the reconstructions of whole skeletons are based on the flimsy evidence of a collection of fragments from a wide variety of individual finds.
Reconstruction of soft parts, such as lips, nose, facial expression and hair, is highly speculative and has little or no scientific value. E.A. Hooten ('Up from the Ape', N.Y. 1946) points out that you can model on to a Neanderthal skull either the features of a chimpanzee or those of a philosopher.
Often remains may be scattered over a wide area. For instance, the original Pithecanthropus femur was found over 50 feet from the skull cap. Do they, in fact, belong to the same individual? It is merely assumed that they do.
Two criteria are used as 'measures of evolutionary development'. These are brain capacity and tooth structure. Increased brain capacity is believed to indicate evolutionary advance, since brain development is thought to be the crucial factor in human evolution. It is quite clear, however, that intelligence is not related to crude brain size, but rather to the number of folds and convolutions in the brain. A famous evolutionist, Ernst Mayr, is hesitant to use this as a criterion in the genus Homo. (Taxonomic Categories in Fossil Hominids, Cold Spring Harbour Symp. XV, 1950.) Men, for example, have larger brains than women. Are women less intelligent?
The position with teeth is even less satisfactory. Often, characteristic 'human' teeth have turned up in ape crania, and vice versa!
There are a number of problems associated with attempts to date fossils accurately. The first, and oldest, of the methods used is that of relating the fossils to the layers of rock in which they occur. It is fairly obvious that a fossil found in a lower layer will be older than that in an upper layer. Just how much older is another question. The geological column has been compiled from data collected over the whole world. Correlating the layers from different areas is done by choosing certain 'indicator' fossils and then saying that the rocks in which they are found are of the same geological period. Thus the rock layers, in the first instance, are dated by the fossils. Putting actual dates to the rocks is achieved by relating, for example, rates of sedimentation today to the thickness of layers formed in the past according to the principle of Uniformitarianism. Now when one wishes to now the age of a fossil, one simply dates it by the rock in which it is found. This circular type of reasoning is based on the prior (and unproven) assumption that:
(a) living things evolved, because there is no other scientific possibility,
(b) evolution must have taken millions of years, judging by present rates of change, and
(c) all past events must be explained in terms of present, observable phenomena.
The reasoning is based on belief in evolution. The facts are interpreted in the light of evolutionary faith.
The second method uses the fact that radio-active materials decay at a known rate. For example the amount of radio-active carbon in living tissues is proportional to the amount of radio-active carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Since the latter never varies, the former remains constant throughout life. At death the amount of carbon in the body is fixed and the radio-active part starts to decay, at a known rate. By finding how much has decayed since death, and comparing it with the amount present in life, the age can be calculated. This again depends on the assumption that the proportion of radio-active carbon in living tissues in the past never changed and was always the same as it is today. This can never be tested or proved.
In conclusion, we can say that the catalogue of dates both for rocks and fossils is based on unproved assumptions. Charts such as that given in the previous lesson are fanciful and misleading.
The Christian also comes to a study of nature with presuppositions which are scientifically unprovable. He believes that the Scriptures are the infallible Word of God. He believes, on the basis of faithful study by Christian exegetes, that the early chapters of Genesis are an historical account, in the fullest sense, of the origins of the world and man. He rejects the idea of evolution by chance mechanisms over vast periods of time. He rejects the validity of the dating procedures so far used to probe the past.
On this basis Christian scientists have been formulating theories to account for the evidence of fossil man in the light of the biblical record. Here is a brief outline of one such attempt.
Professors W. Frair and P.W. Davis in 'The Case for Creation'(Chicago, 1967) suggest the following:
[a] Australopithecines were not human; were not ancestral to man; they were not cultural animals, since their association with tools is in doubt and they lacked the ability to articulate speech (as a close study of the jaw shows).
[b] Pithecanthropines (Homo erectus) were true humans, but of a degenerate type as shown by the form of the skull. They had a material culture but as yet no evidence of religion has been found.
[c] Neanderthal man was a true human, with a developed religion and culture. They appear to have been an isolated race which showed some 'primitive' characteristics due to inbreeding and adaptation to a harsh climate.
[d] Cro-Magnon man was a modern human in every way with a well-developed culture.
This account is placed within the biblical record of a creation which took place some thousands of years ago. Our first parents, Adam and Eve, were created perfect, fell into sin, were expelled from Paradise and populated the earth with their offspring. Mankind degenerated so much that God destroyed all, save Noah's family, in a universal flood. The offspring of Noah later populated the earth. (A full account is given in Life, Man and Time, Prof F.L. Marsh, 1967, Outdoor Pictures, Escondido, California).
Is man merely 'a big-brained Primate' as Prof. Sir Solly Zuckerman has described him? Is he something more than just an animal, albeit a complex one?
[a] Fill in the blanks and notice the similar pattern of words used to describe how God creates both the inanimate and the animate world.
(i) _______ _______ _______ light.
(ii) _______ _______ _______ a firmament.
(iii) _______ the waters _______ gathered together.
(iv) _______ _______ _______ lights.
(v) _______ the waters ______ _______ the moving creatures.
(vi) _______ the earth _______ _______ the living creatures.
Things are created by God's fiat. He said ' _______ _______ _______' and it was.
[b] Notice the words used in connection with the creation of man.
_______ _______ _______ man. (Genesis 1.26)
Male and female _______ he them (Genesis 1.27).
God _______ man _______ _______ _______ (Genesis 2.7).
[c] Is it a scriptural possibility that the body of man evolved and that God intervened in this evolution in order to 'breathe' a soul into man? Study Genesis 2.7. What made man a living soul? Man, therefore, became animate at the same time that he received his soul.
[a] Man is superior to the animals in two ways. What are they? (Genesis 1.27,28). It is worth noting, in passing, the assertion of one biologist that if man's mental faculties were taken as a biological criterion, then man would need to be placed in a new 'Kingdom' in biological classification. The same writer points out that, on this basis, man is further from the gorilla than is the latter from a daisy! P.G. Fothergill, 'Evolution and Christians', Longmans, 1961(Roman Catholic).
[b] What is meant by the image of God? There are three words which explain this. _______ (Colossians 3.10) ________ and _______ (Ephesians 4.24)
(i) What is knowledge?
John 17.3 It is knowledge of _______ and _______ which is _______ ________.
Proverbs 1.7 Knowledge begins with _______ of the _______.
John 8.32 It is knowledge of ________ which makes us _______ .
(ii) Adam had a true knowledge of the created world.
How did he show it? He _______ the ________ (Genesis 2.19). Note that in Hebrew a name indicates the character of a person. After he had wrestled with an angel, Jacob's name, which means 'supplanter', was changed to Israel, 'prince of God'. To give the correct name one must know and understand that which is to be named...
[c] Are all men made in the image of God as described in Question [b]? Look at Romans 1:21,28 ________________________________.
What word in Colossians 3:10 indicates that the answer you have given is
correct? ___________ .
[d] Read carefully Genesis 9.6, Matthew 10.28, James 3.9. Then answer this question: In what sense is mankind in general made in the image of God? (clue: How does even fallen man differ from animals?)
This is often called the natural image, as distinguished from the moral image of God, which was polluted by sin in the fall.(see: Berkhof, A summary of Christian Doctrine, p.63).
[e] To summarise: What does the Bible say is the thing which makes a man a man? He is ___________________________ (Genesis 1.26) and is ___________________________ (Luke 3.38)
Reproduced by kind permission of the Banner of Truth Trust from Bible Doctrine (pp68-73)
"How did God create man? God created man, male and female, after his own image, in knowledge, righteousness and holiness, with dominion over the creatures."
Criteria, fragments, reconstructions, philosopher, femur, crucial, convolutions, correlating, sedimentation, probe, phenomena, proportional, presuppositions, catalogue, tissues, fanciful, isolate, articulate, degenerate, exegete, inanimate, intervened.
1. How many fossils relating to early men and animals like men have been found?
2. What two things are used as measures of evolutionary development?
3. How are rocks containing fossils dated? How are fossils contained in rocks dated?
4. What has to be assumed in connection with radio-active carbon dating?
5. What does the Christian take as being true when he comes to study nature?
6. For each of the following give the explanations of the fossil evidence given by Professors Frair and Davis: Australopithecines; Pithecanthropines; Neanderthal man; and Cro-Magnon man.
Study man as he is today in different parts of the world using a junior geography book and a world atlas.
Psalm 8.3-7 (common Metre)
"When I look up unto the heav'ns,
which thine own fingers fram'd,
Unto the moon, and to the stars,
which were by thee ordain'd;
Then say I, What is man, that he
remember'd is by thee?
Or what the son of man, that thou
so kind to him should'st be?
For thou a little lower hast
him than the angels made;
With glory and with dignity
thou crowned hast his head.
Of thy hand's works thou mad'st him lord,
all under's feet didst lay;
All sheep and oxen, yea, and beasts
that in the field do stray;"