Reasons to Believe

Lucy Falls out of Family Tree

Ever since the discovery of the skeletal remains of a female hominid several decades ago, Lucy has been widely publicized as a significant branch in the evolutionary tree of human ancestry. We've all seen the compelling textbook sketches and authoritative descriptions.

However, new jaw-dropping evidence appears to have pushed Lucy out of her tree. Fuz Rana reports in detail on Creation Update (and also provides a summary of the breakthrough in Today's New Reason To Believe, April 29)that Australopithecus afarensis (Lucy's Latin biological name) is now considered "at best" a dead end or side branch. The evolutionary paradigm holds that A. afarensis lived about 3.3 million to 2.5 million years ago and gave rise to Homo habilus, from which modern humans ultimately emerged. Again, Fuz explains all the nomenclature, who gave rise to whom, but the point here is to note that a group called the robust australopithecines emerge as an evolutionary side branch from A. afarensis. In other words, the robust australopithecines are not part of the supposed human lineage.

The original Lucy specimen discovered in 1974 included 40 percent of a complete skeleton but not much of a jawbone. However, scientists recovered an A. afarensis jawbone in 2002 and recent analysis of the specimen shows that it resembles a gorilla rather than a human. Another way to say it is that this "derived" jawbone anatomy would be expected if the family belonged to the line that gave rise to the robust australopithecines, meaning that it's a dead end. Thus, the fossil record shows no evolutionary connection between Lucy (A. afarensis) and modern humans. For evolution to be considered factual there must be an evolutionary pathway. Proposed transitional intermediate forms demonstrating such a pathway in the fossil record seem to disappear as science progresses. Where then is the human lineage? Do we need to wait around for more data? That might help but we already have models that attempt to explain nature's record. Which one best fits the facts? It seems self-evident that when looking at a model comparison, scientific advance continues to hack away at the roots of the human evolutionary tree and, therefore, of its model. Conversely, such evidence fits a biblical creation model that places these creatures in the animal realmremarkable in their own right but distinct from human beings who alone bear the image of their Creator.

Subjects: Lucy and Other Hominids