The origin of mankind has always been one of the ultimate questions in science. Charles Darwin’s book On the Origin of Species paved the way for many scientists to reject the idea that God created everything. Pro-evolution scientists have long struggled to find a satisfactory explanation for the origin of humans.
Darwin hypothesized that the closest common ancestor of humans to the present day was from Africa. Since then, many similar explanations have been proposed. A few years ago, scientists generally believed that Homo sapiens (or humans) emerged in Africa about 200,000 years ago and gradually spread around the world over the past tens of thousands of years.
Recent archaeological discoveries, however, may completely overturn this theory.
For example, a recent paper published in the journal Nature announced the discovery of evidence of Stone Age tools in China more than two million years ago.
In a recent review in the journal Science, the authors review the major discoveries about human origins in the 150 years since Darwin’s theory of evolution. They conclude that those studies are “a mess.
“When you read the narrative of human origins, it’s a mess and there’s no consensus,” said Sergio Almécija, the review’s lead author and a senior researcher in the museum’s anthropology department, in a statement.
The authors argue that fossils are essential for studying the evolution of apes and humans.
There are two main approaches to studying human origins. One is the “top-down” approach, which relies on the analysis of extant apes, especially chimpanzees, and the other is the “bottom-up” approach, which focuses on the fossils of mostly extinct apes.
In their review, the authors discuss the limitations of relying on only one of the two approaches to studying the origin of man.
In the statement, they say that “top-down” studies sometimes ignore the fact that extant apes, including humans, chimpanzees, gorillas, orangutans and gibbons, may have come from larger families, except that other family members have become extinct and they are the only survivors.
On the other hand, “bottom-up” studies tend to give fossil apes a preconceived role in evolutionary history, the statement added.
However, the authors conclude overall that most explanations of human origins are inconsistent with the fossil record.
“The extant ape species are special species, surviving species of a larger group of now extinct apes. When we take all the evidence into account, that is, the extant and fossil apes and hominids, it becomes clear that the doctrine of human evolution based on the theory of a few extant ape species is really a hole in the wall.” Ashley Hammond, one of the authors of the review and an assistant curator in the museum’s anthropology department, said in a statement.
The authors conclude that the evidence obtained by studying extant apes alone is insufficient.
“The various current theories about the evolution of apes and humans would be better supported if Miocene (beginning 23 million years ago to 5.33 million years ago in geological time) apes were targeted for study along with early humans and extant apes.” Almessiha said in the statement, “In other words, fossil apes are crucial to reconstructing the ‘starting point’ of human and chimpanzee evolution.”
While serious disagreements between “top-down” and “bottom-up” approaches are not new in the history of science, they often indicate fundamental problems in their presentation of scientific questions and can lead to major theoretical revolutions.
The article was published May 7 in the journal Science.