Humans: images of God
or advanced apes?

by Jonathan Sarfati, Ph.D., F.M.

First published in Refuting Evolution
Chapter 6

Humans are very different from animals, especially in the ability to use language and logic. Teaching about Evolution and the Nature of Science points out a number of contrasts between humans and apes on page 83. But Teaching about Evolution forcefully indoctrinates readers with the idea that humans have descended from a simple cell via ape-like ancestors.1 The arguments used involve alleged apemen and DNA similarities. This chapter analyzes the fossil record, and also discusses the large difference in genetic information content between apes and humans.

Fossil apemen

The best-known fossil apemen are the extinct australopithecines (the name means ‘southern ape’). Teaching about Evolution on page 20 illustrates a series of five skulls: Australopithecus afarensis (‘Lucy’), A. africanus, early Homo, H. erectus, and H. sapiens (modern man). However, many evolutionists disagree with this picture. For example, Donald Johanson, the discoverer of ‘Lucy,’ places A. africanus on a side-branch not leading to man.2 Anatomist Charles Oxnard performed a detailed analysis of different bones of A. africanus and concluded that it did not walk upright in the human manner and was more distinct from both humans and chimpanzees than these are from each other.3 More recently, Oxnard made the following comments about the australopithecines, including ‘Lucy’:

It is now recognized widely that the australopithecines are not structurally closely similar to humans, that they must have been living at least in part in arboreal [tree] environments, and that many of the later specimens were contemporaneous [living at the same time] or almost so with the earlier members of the genus Homo.4

Oxnard, an evolutionist, is one of several experts who do not believe that any of the australopithecines were on the human line.

Humans have always been humans

Marvin Lubenow, in his book Bones of Contention, also shows that the various alleged apemen do not form a smooth sequence in evolutionary ‘ages,’ but overlap considerably. He also points out that the various finds are either varieties of true humans (e.g. Neandertals, Homo erectus) or non-humans like the australopithecines, which probably includes the so-called Homo habilis. There are several lines of evidence to support this:

  • Mitochondrial5 DNA analysis of a Neandertal skeleton found that the sequence differed from modern humans in 22 to 36 places, while the differences among modern humans are from 1 to 24 places.6 Despite some statistically invalid claims that this makes the Neandertals a separate species, the differences are within the range of modern humans.7 Also, DNA is quickly broken down by water and oxygen, so under favorable conditions, DNA might last tens of thousands of years at the most.8 This raises serious questions about the 100,000-year ‘age’ that some scientists have assigned to this skeleton.

  • X-ray analysis of the semicircular canals of a number of apemen skulls showed that the Homo erectus canals were like those of modern humans, meaning they walked upright. But those of the A. africanus and A. robustus were like those of great apes. This shows they did not walk upright like humans, but were probably mainly tree-dwelling.9Homo habilis’ turned out to be even less ‘bi-pedal’ than the australopithecines.

Human and ape similarities?

Teaching about Evolution emphasizes physical and especially DNA similarities between human and other living organisms, and this is alleged to be evidence for evolution. However, again this is not a direct finding, but an interpretation of the data.

A common designer is another interpretation that makes sense of the same data. An architect commonly uses the same building material for different buildings, and a carmaker commonly uses the same parts in different cars. So we shouldn't be surprised if a Designer for life used the same biochemistry and structures in many different creatures. Conversely, if all living organisms were totally different, this might look like there were many designers instead of one.

Another good thing about the common biochemistry is that we can gain nourishment from other living things. Our digestive systems can break down food into its building blocks, which are then used either as fuel or for our own building blocks.

Since DNA contains the coding for structures and biochemical molecules, we should expect the most similar creatures to have the most similar DNA. Apes and humans are both mammals, with similar shapes, so have similar DNA. We should expect humans to have more DNA similarities with another mammal like a pig than with a reptile like a rattlesnake. And this is so. Humans are very different from yeast but they have some biochemistry in common, so we should expect human and yeast DNA to be only slightly similar.

So the general pattern of similarities need not be explained by common-ancestry evolution. Furthermore, there are some puzzling anomalies for an evolutionary explanation—similarities between organisms that evolutionists don't believe are closely related. For example, hemoglobin, the complex molecule that carries oxygen in blood and results in its red color, is found in vertebrates. But it is also found in some earthworms, starfish, crustaceans, mollusks, and even in some bacteria. The α-hemoglobin of crocodiles has more in common with that of chickens (17.5 percent) than that of vipers (5.6 percent), their fellow reptiles.10 An antigen receptor protein has the same unusual single chain structure in camels and nurse sharks, but this cannot be explained by a common ancestor of sharks and camels.11

Similarities between human and ape DNA are often exaggerated. This figure was not derived from a direct comparison of the sequences. Rather, the original paper12 inferred 97 percent similarity between human and chimp DNA from a rather crude technique called DNA hybridization. In this technique, single strands of human DNA were combined with DNA from chimpanzees and other apes. However, there are other things beside similarity that affect the degree of hybridization.

Actually, even if we grant that degree of hybridization entirely correlates with similarity, there are flaws. When proper statistics are applied to the data,13 they show that humans and chimps have only about 96 percent similarity. But we frequently hear larger figures bandied about—the alleged similarity grows in the telling!

A point often overlooked is the vast differences between different kinds of creatures. Every creature has an encyclopedic information content, so even a small percentage difference means that a lot of information would be required to turn one kind into another. Since humans have an amount of information equivalent to a thousand 500-page books, a 4 percent difference amounts to 40 large books (again, even if we assume that the hybridization data really correlates to gene sequence similarity).

That is, random mutation plus natural selection is expected to generate the information equivalent of 12 million words arranged in a meaningful sequence. This is an impossibility even if we grant the 10 million years asserted by evolutionists. Population genetics calculations show that animals with human-like generation times of about 20 years could substitute no more than about 1,700 mutations in that time.14

Embryo similarities?

Teaching about Evolution states on page 1:

As organisms grow from fertilized egg cells into embryos, they pass through many similar developmental stages.

Teaching about Evolution has no embryo drawings. However, many evolutionary books have drawings purportedly showing that embryos look very similar. They are based on the 1874 embryo diagrams by Ernst Haeckel, Darwin's advocate in Germany, whose evolutionary ideas were instrumental in the later rise of Nazism. However, in 1997, a detailed study by Mike Richardson and his team,15 including actual photographs of a large number of different embryos, showed that embryos of different kinds are very distinct (see illustration below).

Thus, the only way for Haeckel to have drawn them looking so similar was to have cheated. This study was widely publicized in science journals16 and the secular media, so a book published in 1998 has no excuse for being unaware that the idea of extensive embryonic similarities is outdated and based on fraud.17

More recently, Richardson and his team confirmed in a letter to Science that they still believe in evolution, and that the marked dissimilarities are consistent with this.19 But this contradicts the usual textbook20 prediction from Darwinism that embryo development should go through similar stages as Haeckel's faked drawings illustrate. If evolutionary theory predicts both similarities and differences, then it doesn't really predict anything! On the basis of Richardson's letter, evolutionists have claimed he really believes that Haeckel was ‘basically right.’21 But Richardson confirmed in a later letter to Science:

The core scientific issue remains unchanged: Haeckel's drawings of 1874 are substantially fabricated. In support of this view, I note that his oldest ‘fish’ image is made up of bits and pieces from different animals—some of them mythical. It is not unreasonable to characterize this as ‘faking.’ ... Sadly, it is the discredited 1874 drawings that are used in so many British and American biology textbooks today.’22

A good account of Haeckel's embryonic fraud was published in Creation magazine.23

Mitochondrial Eve

Teaching about Evolution says on page 19:

According to recent evidence—based on the sequencing of DNA in a part of human cells known as mitochondria—it has been proposed that a small population of modern humans evolved in Africa about 150,000 years ago and spread throughout the world, replacing archaic populations of Homo Sapiens.

This evidence deals with comparing the DNA from mitochondria. This DNA is inherited only through the mother's line. The similarities indicate that all people on earth are descended from a single human female. Even evolutionists have called her ‘Mitochondrial Eve.’

While this is consistent with the biblical account, we should note that it is not proof. Evolutionists contend that ‘Mitochondrial Eve’ was one of a number of women living. The mitochondrial line of the others would have died out if there were only males in any generation of descendants.

Evolutionists believed they had clear proof against the biblical account, because ‘Mitochondrial Eve’ supposedly lived 200,000 years ago. However, recent evidence shows that mitochondrial DNA mutates far faster than previously thought.24 If this new evidence is applied to ‘Mitochondrial Eve,’ it indicates that she would have lived only 6,000–6,500 years ago.25 Of course, this is perfectly consistent with the biblically indicated age of the ‘mother of all living’ (Gen. 3:20),26 but an enigma for evolution/long age beliefs.

Interestingly, there is a parallel account with males: evidence from the Y-chromosome is consistent with all people being descended from a single man.27 The data is also consistent with a recent date for this ‘Y-chromosome Adam.’28


Teaching about Evolution aims to indoctrinate students with the belief that they are evolved animals and ultimately are, in effect, nothing more than a chance re-arrangement of matter. A senior writer for Scientific American had this inspiring comment:

Yes, we are all animals, descendants of a vast lineage of replicators sprung from primordial pond scum.29

What this leads to is aptly shown by this dialog between two evolutionists. Lanier is a computer scientist; Dawkins is a professor at Oxford and an ardent Darwinist and atheist:

Jaron Lanier: ‘There's a large group of people who simply are uncomfortable with accepting evolution because it leads to what they perceive as a moral vacuum, in which their best impulses have no basis in nature.’

Richard Dawkins: ‘All I can say is, That's just tough. We have to face up to the truth.’30

References and notes

  1. Teaching about Evolution goes to great pains to ‘investigate the misconception that humans evolved from apes,’ pointing out that evolutionists believe that humans and apes share a common ancestor (p. 57, 62, 83). However, a leading atheistic evolutionary paleontologist, the late G.G. Simpson, called this sort of pedantry ‘pussyfooting.’ He wrote: ‘In fact, that earlier ancestor would certainly be called an ape or monkey in popular speech by anyone who saw it. Since the terms ape and monkey are defined by popular usage, man's ancestors were apes or monkeys (or successively both). It is pusillanimous [mean-spirited] if not dishonest for an informed investigator to say otherwise.’ The World into Which Darwin Led Us, Science 131:966–969; cited in W.R. Bird, The Origin of Species: Revisited, Vol. 1, (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1991), p. 233.

  2. D. Johanson and T.D. White, Science 203:321, 1979; 207:1104, 1980.

  3. C.E. Oxnard, Nature 258:389–395, 1975.

  4. C.E. Oxnard, The Order of Man (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1984).

  5. Mitochondria (singular mitochondrion) are the structures within cells that help produce energy. They have their own genes which are passed down the female line with the occasional mutation.

  6. A group led by Svante Pääbo analyzed one 379-unit sequence (cf. a total of 16,500 base pairs in intact human mitochondrial DNA) from an upper arm bone from a Neandertal skeleton supposedly 30,000–100,000 years old. M. Krings, A. Stone, R.W. Schmitz, H. Krainitzki, M. Stoneking, and S. Pääbo, Neandertal DNA Sequences and the Origin of Modern Humans, Cell 90:19–30, 1997.

  7. M. Lubenow, Recovery of Neandertal mtDNA: An Evaluation, CEN Tech. J. 12(1):87–97, 1998.

  8. T. Lindahl, Instability and Decay of the Primary Structure of DNA, Nature 362(6422):709–715, 1993. Pääbo himself has found that DNA fragments decay a few hours after death into chains 100–200 units long, that water alone would completely break it down by 50,000 years, and that background radiation would eventually erase DNA information even without water and oxygen, Ancient DNA, Scientific American 269(5):60–66, 1993.

  9. F. Spoor, B. Wood, and F. Zonneveld, Implications of Early Hominid Morphology for Evolution of Human Bipedal Locomotion, Nature 369(6482):645–648, 1994.

  10. H.M. Morris and G.E. Parker, What is Creation Science? (Green Forest, AR: Master Books, 1987), p. 52–61. See also M. Denton, Evolution: A Theory in Crisis, (Chevy Chase, MD: Adler and Adler, 1986), chapters 7, 12.

  11. Proceedings of the National Academy of Science 95:11, 804; cited in New Scientist 160(2154):23, 3 October 1998.

  12. C.G. Sibley and J.E. Ahlquist, DNA Hybridization Evidence of Hominoid Phylogeny: Results from an Expanded Data Set, Journal of Molecular Evolution 26:99–121, 1987.

  13. D. Batten, Human/Chimp DNA Similarity: Evidence for Evolutionary Relationship? Creation 19(1):21–22, December 1996–February 1997. This article has much important information about this matter.

  14. Discussed briefly in chapter 5; for full details, see W.J. ReMine, The Biotic Message (St. Paul, MN: St. Paul Science, 1993), chapter 8.

  15. M.K. Richardson et al., There Is No Highly Conserved Embryonic Stage in the Vertebrates: Implications for Current Theories of Evolution and Development, Anatomy and Embryology 196(2):91–106, 1997.

  16. E. Pennisi, Haeckel's Embryos: Fraud Rediscovered, Science 277(5331):1435, 5 September 1997; Embryonic Fraud Lives On, New Scientist 155(2098):23, 6 September 1997.

  17. There is a related idea called embryonic recapitulation, or ‘ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny,’ that embryos allegedly pass through stages representing their evolutionary ancestry. This was thoroughly discredited decades ago, and no informed evolutionist uses this ‘evidence.’ In particular, no ‘gill slits’ ever form in mammalian embryos; rather, structures called pharyngeal (throat) arches form, and they have no relation to breathing. This idea was based on other fraudulent embryo diagrams by Haeckel.

  18. These embryo photos used in this article were kindly supplied by Dr. Michael K. Richardson. They originally appeared in M.K. Richardson et al., footnote 15, © Springer-Verlag GmbH & Co., Tiergartenstrasse, 69121 Heidelberg, Germany. Reproduced here with permission.

  19. M.K. Richardson et al., Haeckel, Embryos, and Evolution, letter to Science 280(5366):983–986, 15 May 1998.

  20. B. Alberts et al., Molecular Biology of the Cell, (New York: Garland, 1994), p. 32–33.

  21. E.g., the pretentiously named National Center for Science Education, the leading U.S. organization devoted entirely to evolution-pushing—NCSE Reports 17(6):14, officially dated Nov/Dec 1997.

  22. M.K. Richardson, Haeckel's Embryos, Continued, letter to Science 281(5381):1289, 28 August 1998.

  23. R. Grigg, Fraud Rediscovered, Creation 20(2):49–51, 1998; see also R. Grigg, Ernst Haeckel: Evangelist for Evolution and Apostle of Deceit, Creation 18(2):33–36, 1996, which documents other known frauds by Haeckel.

  24. T.J. Parsons et al., A High Observed Substitution Rate in the Human Mitochondrial DNA Control Region, Nature Genetics 15:363–368, 1997.

  25. L. Loewe and S. Scherer, Mitochondrial Eve: The Plot Thickens, Trends in Ecology and Evolution 12(11):422–423, 1997; A. Gibbons, Calibrating the Mitochondrial Clock, Science 279(5347):28–29, 1998.

  26. C. Wieland, A Shrinking Date for ‘Eve’, CEN Tech. J.12(1):1–3, 1998.

  27. R.L. Dorit, Hiroshi Akashi, and W. Gilbert, Absence of Polymorphism at the ZFY Locus on the Human Y-Chromosome, Science 268(5214):1183–85, 26 May 1995; perspective in the same issue by S. Pääbo, The Y-Chromosome and the Origin of All of Us (Men), p. 1141–1142.

  28. D.J. Batten, Y-Chromosome Adam? CEN Tech. J. 9(2):139–140, 1995.

  29. J. Horgan, The New Social Darwinists, Scientific American 273(4):150–157, October 1995; quote on p. 151.

  30. Evolution: The Dissent of Darwin, Psychology Today, January/February 1997, p. 62.

This chapter from the book Refuting Evolution, published and graciously provided at no charge to Answers in Genesis by Master Books, a division of New Leaf Press (Green Forest, Arkansas).

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