Ardi: The New Human Ancestor

Ardipithecus Ramidus
Ardi Fossil Reconstruction

National Geographic News is announcing that scientists have found the oldest “human” skeleton which, according to the scientists involved in the discovery, refutes the view that there was a missing link in the evolutionary chain. Below is part of the report published by National Geographic:

October 1, 2009–In 1994 a research team led by Tim White of the University of California, Berkeley; Berhane Asfaw, former director of the National Museum of Ethiopia; and Giday WoldeGabriel of the Los Alamos National Laboratory announced the discovery of the first fossils of a new human ancestor, Ardipithecus ramidus. The researchers presented tantalizing evidence that the species was a biped living in woodland conditions more than a million years before the famous “Lucy” fossil of the species Australopithecus afarensis.

The research, to be published in an October 2, 2009, special issue of the journal Science, reveals that our earliest ancestors underwent a previously unknown phase of evolution, shedding new light on the nature of the last common ancestor of chimpanzees and humans.

An artist’s reconstruction of the face of Ardipithecus ramidus was made possible by a digital reconstruction of skull parts from two individuals. The face of “Ardi” did not project as much as those of modern apes, but was not as flat and massive as the later australopithecines. Researchers who studied the species suggest this difference is related to the small size of the species’ incisor teeth compared to those of chimps. Based on the relatively small size of its brow ridge and canine teeth, scientists suggest this fossil is of a female.

Other scientists disagree that Ardi is the fossils of a new human ancestor.

Esteban Sarmiento of the Human Evolution Foundation in East Brunswick, N.J., wrote in the new analysis that he’s not convinced Ardi belongs on the evolutionary tree branch leading to modern humans.

Instead, he said in an interview, he thinks it came along earlier, before that human branch split off from the ancestors of chimps and gorillas.

The specific anatomical features of teeth, the skull and elsewhere that the researchers cited just don’t make a convincing case for membership on the human branch, he argued. Some, like certain features in the wrist and where the lower jaw connects to the skull, indicate instead that Ardi arose before humans split off from African apes, he said.

The controversy between science and Scriptures is an issue that will not go away anytime soon. Scientists continue to affirm that there was an evolutionary process in which a common ancestor became the progenitor of all human beings. First it was “Lucy,” now it is “Ardi.”

Evolution also argues that through a process of descent, a basic common ancestor became the progenitor of all forms of life on Earth. Thus, evolution teaches that all forms of life on this earth are related: humans are related to oak trees, birds, and other animals. The evolutionary process excludes God from the process of bringing life into existence.

Christians believe that all forms of life on this earth are the work of a God who is the creator of the universe, and that human beings are a special creation of God, because human beings were created in the image and likeness of their creator.

Although scientists are saying that “Ardi”refutes the view that there was a missing link in the evolutionary chain, the Bible teaches us that there was a time when the beast became human and that time was when God “breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and the man became a living being” (Genesis 2:7).

If there was evolution, God was involved in the process. Because Christians believe human beings were created in the image and likeness of God, human beings are different than the animals. And honestly, when I look at the recreation of “Ardi” above, I do not see any family resemblance.

Claude Mariottini
Emeritus Professor of Old Testament
Northern Baptist Seminary

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7 Responses to Ardi: The New Human Ancestor

  1. Chris says:

    >I must point out several inaccurate assumptions in this blog post.1 – The scientists have not claimed that they have found 'the oldest human skeleton'. If National Geographic has printed this they have printed a misunderstanding. The skeleton is not human, it is possibly a human ancestor.2 – It does not refute a 'missing link', but it does add detail to the evidence for the process.3 – There really is no 'controversy between science and Scriptures', there is a controversy between science and creationism – a quite different matter.4 – The fact that I am related to an oak tree does not 'exclude God from the process of bringing life into existence'. Biology cannot investigate spiritual matters and does not pretend to do so.5 – The evidence suggests both Ardi and Lucy are our ancestors, not that one has somehow replaced the other.6 – There is considerable resemblence between Ardi and a human. Much more than between human and horse or duck or oak.I make these comments both as a professional postgraduate biologist and as a follower of Jesus. I do not see the two as incompatible in any way.These comments are not intended as criticism of Prof Mariottini, simply a statement of my own position concerning some points made in the post.

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  2. >Chris,Thank you for your comment. Let me answer some of the issues your raised in your comments. This is what the National Geographic reported (their heardlines): Oldest "Human" Skeleton Refutes "Missing Link". My post was a veiled criticism of what National Geographic was reporting in their headline. I believe that God was in the whole process of creation. The controversy between science and Scripture exists because scientists tend to exclude God from the creation process. If God is included in the process, then, I agree with you, there is no conflict between science and Scripture. And let me say that I believe that there is no conflict.Although I also agree that biology cannot explain spiritual matters, I believe that it is important to believe that human beings are a special creation of God. I do not deny evolution, but at some time in the evolutionary process, we must include God. If human beings are only the result of a process that does not include a Creator, then human beings are no different than animals and that deny the Biblical teaching that human beings are also spiritual beings.Thank you for you thoughtful comment. As a follower of Jesus, I also do not see the incompatibility between science and Scripture if we include God in the process.Claude Mariottini

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  3. Chris says:

    >Thank you, Claude, for your thoughtful reply. It seems we are in almost full agreement after all. I could write a further response but it would no longer be a comment on your blog post. I might write something on my own blog, and if I do I'll send you a link.Grace, peace and joy in and from the Lord Jesus – always!Chris Jefferies – Web: http://chris.scilla.org.uk/

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  4. >Constant,Your comment has been deleted because of the foul language you used. When you can submit a comment that uses conversational English, I will consider publishing it as submitted.Claude Mariottini

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  5. >Chris,I visited your site and found it very interesting.Thank you for your insightful comments.Claude Mariottini

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  6. Gary says:

    >Why did Jesus have to die on the cross? It was because Adam sinned. The NT talks about Adam as a real historical person, right?If there was not a real Adam then the Bible is only a book of stories and Jesus did not have to die on the cross for our sins. No plan of salvation was needed.Evolution is not perfect science. It is a theory and a type of religion that I believe takes more faith to believe in than Christianity.

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  7. Greg says:

    >Hello Claude,I enjoyed your post and completely agree with you except where you said that God would have been involved in the process of evolution. I don't hold to the teaching that evolution and the Bible are compatible. I noticed that your blog about Ardi bumped my blog down on the google search, but I am not complaining. I have been discussing Ardi on my blog as well, but I am not as polite as you are. But, it is nice to see other people discussing some of the issues regarding this fossil so keep up the good work.

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