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Introduction

The Mystery of Homo Sapiens (continued)
By Alan F. Alford

Language Barriers

Many scientists believe that language is the key to mankind's great leap forward, since it uniquely enables us to communicate and transfer ideas and experiences from one generation to the next. Until recently, this leap forward was associated with the behavioural changes which swept Europe around 40,000 years ago. Then, in 1983, there came the shocking discovery of the 60,000-year-old Neandertal hyoid bone which proved that Neandertal could talk.

The origin of human language capability remains a controversial subject and raises more questions than answers. Daniel Dennett sums up the state of confusion:

    ... work by neuroanatomists and psycholinguists has shown that our brains have features lacking in the brains of our closest surviving relatives, features that play crucial roles in language perception and language production. There is a wide diversity of opinion about when in the last six million years or so our lineage acquired these traits, in what order and why.

Most scientists now believe that Homo sapiens had speech from its very beginning. Studies of human mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) suggest that, since speech is widespread today, it must have developed from a genetic mutation in 'mitochondrial Eve' (mtDNA Eve), nearly 200,000 years ago.

The pioneering work of Noam Chomsky has shown that newborn babies inherit genetically an innate and highly advanced language structure. According to Chomsky's widely-acclaimed theory of universal grammar, the child is able to subconsciously flick a few simple switches in order to comprehend and speak the language of its parents, wherever in the world it happens to be born. It is highly significant that Chomsky, the leading world expert in the science of linguistics, cannot see how the human language acquisition system could possibly have evolved by natural selection.

One of the foremost evolutionists, Stephen Jay Gould, acknowledges the difficulties with the evolution of language by effectively admitting that it was a freak or chance development:

    The universals of language are so different from anything else in nature, and so quirky in their structure, that origin as a side consequence of the brain's enhanced capacity, rather than as a simple advance in continuity from ancestral grunts and gestures, seems indicated. (emphasis added)

Why did man acquire such a sophisticated language capability? According to Darwinian theory, a few simple grunts would have sufficed for everyday existence, and yet here we are today with more than 26 alphabet sounds and an average vocabulary of 25,000 words.

Moreover, speech capability was not such an easy or obvious target for natural selection. The human ability to talk resides in both the shape and structure of the mouth and throat, as well as in the brain. In adult humans the larynx (voicebox) is situated much lower than in other mammals and the epiglottis (the flap of cartilage at the root of the tongue) is incapable of reaching the top of the roof of the mouth. Thus we cannot breathe and swallow at the same time and are uniquely at risk from choking. This unique combination of features can have only one purpose - to make human speech possible. In all other respects it is an evolutionary disadvantage. Apart from the risk of choking, it causes our teeth to become crowded, so that, prior to the advent of antibiotics, septic impacted molars would often have proved fatal. Just as it is difficult to reverse-engineer the development of the brain and its language acquisition capability, so it is also difficult to reverse engineer the development of speech capability.

Once again, we come back to the mystery of the human brain. We are expected to believe that, within a mere 6 million years, natural selection caused our brains to expand to the physical limits of the birth canal. That is quite an evolutionary pace. And, at the same time, the brain was to acquire an incredibly efficient design with capabilities light years away from man's needs for everyday existence. In the words of Arthur Koestler:

    The neocortex of the hominids evolved in the last half a million years... at an explosive speed, which so far as we know is unprecedented.

And here is the biggest mystery of all. We are not supposed to have become intelligent overnight and evolution is supposed to be very slow. Therefore, if we go back one or two million years we should find a semi-intelligent being, using its newly-found abilities to experiment with primitive writing, basic art, and simple multiplication. But there is nothing, absolutely nothing.

Without exception, all of the evidence shows that hominids continued to use the most basic stone tools for 6 million years despite an increasing cranial capacity. This is very strange and highly contradictory. We deserve a better explanation.

Against All Odds

Back in 1954, it was thought that the hominid leading to mankind split from the apes 30 million years ago, and that we evolved gradually into our present form. That period sets an unbiased benchmark of how long evolution possibly should have taken. Following the discovery that the split occurred only 6 million years ago, evolutionists have been forced to assume a much faster rate of evolution to explain our existence.

The other disconcerting discovery since 1954 is the shockingly slow evolutionary progress made by Homo erectus and his predecessors up to around 200,000 years ago.

In summary, the evolutionary graph has changed from a nice straight line into an overnight explosion (Figure 1):

 

Anthropologists have continually attempted to demonstrate a gradiented evolution from Homo erectus to Homo sapiens, albeit with sharp upward steps. However, their attempts to force the data to meet their preconceptions has been repeatedly exposed by new data.

For example, it was originally believed that anatomically modern Homo sapiens (Cro-Magnon man) appeared only 35,000 years ago and had thus descended from Neandertal who had died out at the same time. At that time, one of the most dramatic events in human history appears to have occurred. Cro-Magnon man suddenly arrived in Europe, building shelters, organising himself in clans, wearing skins for clothing, and designing special tools and weapons using wood and bones. It is to this phase of Homo sapiens that we attribute the magnificent cave art such as that at Lascaux, France, dated to 27,000 years ago.

But it is now accepted that, despite the behavioural differences, the European Cro-Magnons were no different anatomically from the Homo sapiens found in the Middle East 100,000 years ago. Both would be virtually indistinguishable from the population today if dressed in modern clothes. It is also clear that Homo sapiens did not descend from Neandertal as was previously thought. Several recent discoveries in Israel have confirmed beyond any doubt that Homo sapiens co-existed with Neandertal between 100-90,000 years ago.

What then is our relationship to Neandertal? We are used to seeing artists' impressions based on his known characteristics of clumsy limbs and crude features, but everything else, such as the liberal body hair, is pure supposition, designed to give us the impression of an evolutionary continuum. Recent discoveries have led to a major reappraisal of Neandertal. In particular, a 60,000-year-old Neandertal's remains were found at Kebara Cave, Mount Carmel in Israel, with an intact hyoid bone, virtually identical to our present-day hyoid. Since this bone makes human speech possible, the scientists were forced to conclude that Neandertal had the capability to speak. And many scientists regard speech as the key to mankind's great leap forward.

Most anthropologists now recognise Neandertal as a fully fledged Homo sapiens, who for a long time was behaviourally equivalent with other Homo sapiens. It is quite possible that Neandertal was as intelligent and human-like as we are today. It has been suggested that his large and crude skull features may have simply been a genetic disorder similar to that of acromegaly.

As a result of the conclusive dating of contemporary Neandertal and Homo sapiens remains, a new theory has emerged suggesting that both must have stemmed from an earlier 'archaic' Homo sapiens. Several fossils have been found, supposedly of this archaic species, which combine different aspects of primitive erectus and modern human anatomy. It is commonly cited in the popular press that these archaics emerged around 300,000 years ago. But it turns out that this is pure supposition based on a small sample size, preconceptions and guesswork.

What are the real facts? In 1989, an advanced seminar was held on The Origins of Modern Human Adaptations, dealing specifically with the archaic-modern interface. Summarising the results of the discussions, Erik Trinkhaus reported that:

    The key point of agreement in the course of the seminar was that sometime during the later Pleistocene [the last 1 million years], in a relatively brief period of transition, there was a transformation from archaic to modern humans - a transformation manifested in both culture and biology... the transformation from archaic to modern human witnessed not only the reorganisation of the brain and body and a shift in stone working from a simple, expedient technology to a complex and elegant craft, but also the first appearance of true art and symbolism and the blossoming of formal systems of language.

Erik Trinkhaus stated that the primary issue of the seminar was the distinction between late archaic and early modern humans, but on the timing of the transformation he had this to say:

    ... our control of fine chronology is inadequate for periods prior to the finite limits of radiocarbon dating (c. 35,000 years BP) and from there back through most of the Middle Pleistocene.

A further seminar in 1992 also focused on the question of the transition from archaic to modern. One of the papers presented included the following comment:

    The timescale of this transition lies beyond the dating range of C14 and therefore has necessitated the employment of a battery of new dating techniques.

The various papers presented at the seminar were published by Aitken, Stringer and Mellars in 1993 and focused particularly on improved chronological dating methods. Significant progress was reported in a diverse range of new dating technologies - uranium-series dating, luminescence dating (thermal or optical) and electron spin resonance (ESR) - but each suffered various limitations in different circumstances. Nevertheless, many reliable datings, based on these methods (rather than radiocarbon, C14) were presented. Significantly, it was reported that all of the fossils of the archaics were poorly dated and could not be vouched by any of the new technologies.

As for the moderns, the earliest definitive and reliable date was cited as 120-110,000 years Before Present (BP) at Qafzeh in Israel. None of the other dates, published by this esteemed group of scientists, was earlier than 200,000 years BP. The date of the emergence of the moderns could only be guessed at within a huge range from 500-200,000 years BP.

That is the true state of scientific knowledge on the subject. There is no proof that an archaic Homo sapiens existed 300,000 years ago and no proof that Neandertal dates back to 230,000 years ago. The fact of the matter is that Homo sapiens fossils appear suddenly within the last 200,000 years without any clear record of their origins. The Atlas of Ancient Archaeology sums up the situation as follows:

    The contemporary history of Homo sapiens (sapiens) remains bafflingly obscure... so little do we know about the approach to one of the great turning points of our global history.

Meanwhile, Roger Lewin, writing in 1984, stated:

    The origin of fully modern humans denoted by the subspecies name Homo sapiens (sapiens) remains one of the great puzzles of palaeoanthropology.

Man the Evolutionary Misfit

The appearance of Homo sapiens is more than a baffling puzzle - it is highly improbable, and close to impossible, according to the fundamental principles of Darwinism. Allow me to highlight the scale of these improbabilities.

If we use an ape as the starting point, it is widely agreed that a significant number of big evolutionary jumps are necessary to evolve into a man. It is also widely agreed that mutation is the mechanism by which natural selection works. However, scientists point out that the vast majority of mutations are bad. They also point out that macromutations - mutations which produce big changes - are particularly dangerous to a species and thus unlikely to survive. Furthermore, they accept that even if a positive mutation does take hold in a species, it will do so only in the right circumstances when a small population becomes isolated. In summary, the mutational mechanism must take a long, long time.

It is the combination of these improbable factors and the relatively short period of six million years allowed for man's evolution from the apes, which has caused such discomfort to leading evolutionary scientists such as Roger Penrose, Noam Chomsky and Stephen Jay Gould.

The great power of Darwinism, according to its proponents such as Richard Dawkins, is that, given enough time, natural selection can explain anything and everything. But when it comes to mankind, the lack of evolutionary time becomes a major problem. What are the odds against mankind benefiting from not one but several macromutations in the course of only six million years?

The problem can be looked at another way. One of the central principles of Darwinism is that 'nature never over-endows a species beyond the needs of everyday existence'. So, why was it that, in the complete absence of an intellectual rival, Homo sapiens did acquire a brain which was light years beyond its requirements for everyday existence?

How did the hominid known as Homo erectus transform itself 200,000 years ago into Homo sapiens, with a 50 per cent increase in brain size, together with language capability and a modern anatomy?

According to the orthodox scenario, Homo sapiens emerged suddenly c. 200,000 years ago, and yet made little use of his huge brain for 160,000 years. Then, 40,000 years ago, Homo sapiens seemingly underwent what we might call a transition to modern behaviour. Having swept northwards, he expanded through most of the globe by 13,000 years ago. After a further 1,000 years he discovered agriculture, 6,000 years later he formed great civilisations with advanced astronomical knowledge, and here we are after another 6,000 years sending space probes into the furthermost depths of the Solar System.

It is a scenario which seems utterly implausible and flies in the face of our understanding of evolution as a slow and gradual process. Common sense would suggest at least another million years for Homo sapiens to develop from stone tools to using other materials, and perhaps a hundred million years to master such trades as mathematics, engineering and astronomy. We shouldn't even be dreaming of space probes.

Returning to the study of Sir Arthur Keith, mentioned earlier, how do we reconcile his conclusions with the scientific evidence which shows a 98 per cent genetic similarity between man and the chimpanzee? I would now like to turn this ratio around and ask how a 2 per cent difference in DNA can account for the astonishing difference between man and his primate 'cousins'. After all, a dog shares 98 per cent of its genes with a fox, yet the two animals closely resemble each other.

Somehow we must explain how a mere 2 per cent genetic difference can account for so many 'value added' features in mankind - the brain, language, modern anatomy and sexuality - to name but a few.

Furthermore, it is a strange fact that Homo sapiens has only 46 chromosomes compared to 48 in chimpanzees and gorillas. The theory of natural selection has been unable to suggest how the fusing together of two chromosomes - a major structural change - should have come about in such a short time scale.

Clearly everything is not 'hunky dory' with Darwinism. Yes its general principles are of great value in explaining the evolution of animals and specific organs such as the eye, but severe doubts surround its practical application to man.

These doubts have been continually understated for the simple reason that scientists regard Darwinism as the only alternative to the anathema of Creationism. And since Darwinism must therefore be the key to the existence of Homo sapiens, scientists have forced the theory to fit the facts and vice versa.

But might there be another alternative - a scientific rival to Darwinism? Might it be possible that millions of years ago, or perhaps hundreds of thousands of years ago, an intelligent extraterrestrial species migrated to the Earth (perhaps due to the explosion of its home planet - now the Asteroid Belt) and intervened in the course of human evolution? Might such a species have hybridised itself with an existing hominid on Earth? After all, the scientific evidence does seem to suggest that an unknown hand upgraded Homo erectus with a series of deliberate, focused improvements.

Perhaps now is the time to reconsider Darwinism as it applies to mankind. If Darwinism cannot explain the scientific evidence, then it must, like the species which are its subject matter, adapt or die.


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'These pages are the copyright of Eridu Books 2004. The images and diagrams are the copyright of Alan Alford or of other photographers, where indicated. Eridu Books welcomes the reproduction and dissemination of these pages, in original, unaltered form, for non-commercial purposes, but permission must be sought for any other usage, other than 'fair dealing' quotations.'

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