Sean McDowell | August 4, 2015

Five Key Points about Human Origins

Recently I decided to re-read Science & Human Origins by Ann Gauger, Douglas Axe, and Casey Luskin. I have expressed my doubts about Darwinian evolution elsewhere, but I wanted to revisit one of the most concise and helpful books written by some experts in the field regarding human evolution. And for the record, I have read many books by Darwinists such as Why Evolution is True and The Greatest Show on Earth (which were both helpful and insightful).

One thing I appreciate most about Science and Human Origins is that, although the authors are “Darwin doubters,” they rely upon research from prestigious journals such as Nature and scholars from universities such as Harvard, Oxford, and Cambridge. They clearly have a bias (as we all do), but they write with charity towards those with whom they disagree. Even if you don’t believe in intelligent design, this is a book worth coming to grips with (not to mention its short!).

They note five key points about the state of the evidence regarding Darwinian evolution in regards to human origins. None of these “prove” evolution is false. But they are important facts that often get overlooked or ignored by the rhetoric and intensity that often surrounds debate about our origins:

  1. Individual fossils are rare and incomplete. Ann Gauger observes, “Ancient hominin fossils are rare, and they typically consist of bone fragments or partial disarticulated skeletons obtained from different locations around the world and from different geologic strata. They fall into two basic categories: ape-like fossils and Homo-like fossils. This discontinuity between fossil types is well known. Nonetheless, the hominin fossils have been interpreted as historical, physical evidence of our common ancestry with apes (p. 17).
  2. There is little time for the necessary mutations. Ann Gauger observes, “Is there enough time to get sixteen anatomical changes by a neo-Darwinian process? Each of these new features probably required multiple mutations. Getting a feature that requires six neutral mutations is the limit of what bacteria can produce. For primates (e.g., monkeys, apes, and humans) the limit is much more severe. Because of much smaller effective population sizes (an estimated ten thousand for humans instead of a billion for bacteria), and longer generation times (fifteen to twenty years per generation for humans vs. a thousand generations per year for bacteria), it would take a very long time for even a single beneficial mutation to appear and become fixed in a human population” (p. 24).
  3. Humans and chimps have significant genomic differences. Douglas Axe notes, “A comparison of the complete human and chimp genomes has identified twenty distinct gene families, each with multiple genes, that are present in humans but absent from chimps and other mammals” (p. 41).
  4. The fossil record is quite sparse. Casey Luskin observes, “While virtually the entire hominin fossil record is marked by incomplete and fragmented fossils, about 3-4 mya we see ape-like australopithecines appearing suddenly. When the genus Homo appears around 2mya, it also does so in an abrupt fashion, without clear evidence of a transition from previous ape-like hominins…There are many gaps and virtually no plausible transitional fossils that are generally accepted, even by evolutionists, to be direct human ancestors” (p. 74).
  5. Adam and Even have not been disproven by population genetics. Regarding the reliability of the studies that purportedly disprove the plausibility of Adam and Eve, Ann Gauger notes, “The equations used to reconstruct these trees, and to calculate ancestral population sizes, depend on simplifications and assumptions to make the mathematics tractable… These explicit assumptions include a constant background mutation rate over time, lack of selection for genetic change on the DNA sequences being studied, random breeding among individuals, no migrations in our out of the breeding population, and a constant population size. If any of these assumptions turn out to be unrealistic, then results of a model may be seriously flawed” (p. 112).

Sean McDowell, Ph.D. is a professor of Christian Apologetics at Biola University, a best-selling author, popular speaker, and part-time high school teacher. Follow him on Twitter: @sean_mcdowell, TikTok, Instagram, and his blog: