Human Evolution? The Ardipithecus Ramidus

Recently, a number of publications came out on fossils that were discovered in the early 1990s of a creature named Ardipithecus ramidus. So, what does this find tell us about human evolution? AiG weighs in on the matter.1

Despite claims of its evolutionary significance, one of the scientists who studied Ardi noted, “It’s not a chimp. It’s not a human.” That is, instead of looking like the hypothesized “missing link” (with both chimpanzee and human features), Ardi’s anatomy—as reconstructed by the scientists—shows it to have been distinct from other apes as well as from humans. The researchers have consequently shunned the notion of a missing link: “It shows that the last common ancestor [between humans and] chimps didn’t look like a chimp, or a human, or some funny thing in between,” explained Penn State University paleontologist Alan Walker (who was not part of the study).

The first question creationists have to answer is just what Ardi is. We can quickly eliminate important things that it isn’t: it’s not a human fossil, nor is it a complete fossil. In fact, even referring to “it” is deceptive, because Ardi is a partial skeleton put together based on a smattering of bones linked with at least 36 A. ramidus individuals. Dated at 4.4 million years old, the first bones were found in the early 1990s in Ethiopia. The delay in publishing an analysis was in part due to the poor state of the remains. “It took us many, many years to clean the bones in the National Museum of Ethiopia and then set about to restore this skeleton to its original dimensions and form; and then study it and compare it with all the other fossils that are known from Africa and elsewhere, as well as with the modern age,” said the University of California–Berkeley’s Tim White.

The post goes on to say that the researchers don’t even know if the creature was a human ancestor or just an extinct species of ape. The post concludes with:

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. 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 (i.e., no more than most apes); the key basis for the alleged Ardi–human link (which even the authors are hesitant to confirm) is the idea that it walked upright—an idea that even evolutionists have criticized. 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.

Without having a live “Ardi” to observe, scientists will only ever be able to come to probabilistic conclusions about its characteristics. As far as we’re concerned, the evolutionary “threat” to creationists from Ardi is no more than that posed by Ida: viz., none.



One Response

  1. Scientists will only ever be able to come up with probabilistic conclusions about anything. It’s the nature of science. We come up with hypotheses based on evidence. To publish this evidence we go through the peer-review process and our methods get tightened up and hypotheses become more sound. We go along with the knowledge we accumulate until scientific knowledge, obtained by the same highly scrutinized and falsifiable methods, change the current model of the question at hand. What is the “evolutionary threat” that Ardi poses? That is was found in sediments dated older (4+ million years older) than the 6000 year old earth that creationists tout? That it poses as many questions as it does answers, unlike the absolute infallibility of The Bible? That it proves to any extent that anything can be proved that we come from more primitive ancestors and not from Adam and Eve?

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