Book review: Adam, Apes and Anthropology

Bill Hamilton (
Tue, 05 May 1998 09:55:46 -0400

The following review has been sent to Perspectives on Science and Christian
Faith. At the time I asked Richard Ruble, the book review editor if it was
ok to post the review on the ASA reflector. He didn't respond, but since
the subject has come up in the discussion, I will take the liberty of
posting it.

Richard said he made a few stylistic changes. Here it is, unvarnished...


"Adam, Apes and Anthropology:  Finding the Soul of Fossil Man" by Glenn R.
Morton.  Dallas, DMD Publishing Co., 1997.  195 pages, index.  Paperback,
$20.00 + $2.00 P&H ISBN 0-9648227-2-5

How should an archaeologist decide whether hominid remains are human remains? In the debate between those who hold that the human race is no older than 40,000 years or so and those who attribute earlier origins to man , the question of how you identify man is crucial. In this book, Glenn Morton argues that, to identify humanness, one should look for evidence of activities typically associated with humans, including speech, religion, art, burial, decoration, toolmaking, planning and care of the injured. This book reports data from published literature showing that ancient hominids did many of the things we associate with humanity as long as 1.8 million years ago. Biblically man is the image-bearer of God. The image of God doesn't fossilize, but fossil evidence that ancient hominids did things we consider uniquely human would suggest strongly that these individuals were human.

Speech, associated with brain regions called Broca's and Wernicke's areas, is a uniquely human activity. Animals such as monkeys have Broca's and Wernicke's areas, but do not use them for speech. Man's very large Broca's area makes a recognizable impression in the skull, and this feature in a fossil skull indicates an individual with speech capability. Morton cites literature showing the presence of Broca's area in 2 million year-old homo habilis skulls, as well as later h. erectus and Neanderthal skulls.

Ancient hominid technology provides further evidence of their humanity. For example, men utilize space differently from animals, dividing living spaces into areas for functions such as sleeping and food preparation. Neanderthal and other ancient hominids organized their living spaces as humans do, rather than the undifferentiated dens of animals. While no ancient hominid clothing has survived, plenty of indirect evidence exists, such as sewing needles and scrapers for cleaning hides. These evidences go back 26,000 years. Furthermore, there is evidence that h. erectus lived in Siberia and Germany 300,000-400,00 years ago and in Georgia 1.6 million years ago, and these locations require winter clothing.

While it might seem difficult to find evidence of man's soul in the fossil record, some evidence is available if "soul" is defined as self-awareness. Morton studies evidence of planning depth and compassion for the injured on the part of ancient hominids. Neanderthal's planning depth -- the ability to plan ahead -- extended to days or months, as evidenced by the distance they transported tool and weapon raw materials. Chimpanzees' planning depth runs at most to minutes. There is evidence Neanderthal and h. erectus treated their incapacitated with compassion more than 40000 years ago and 1.7 million years ago respectively. Morton relates the story of KNM-ER 1808, a dying h. erectus woman whose remains were discovered in 1973. KNM-ER 1808 was cared for and protected by companions during her last days, approximately 1.7 million years ago in Kenya. The woman's remains were found with evidence of bone growth caused by hypervitaminosis A. This growth would have taken many days to form, during much of which she would have been incapacitated. Someone brought her food and water and protected her from predators. Morton notes that Jane Goodall's studies of chimpanzees' treatment of an injured tribe member show that such compassionate treatment is not common among apes.

When new evidence contradicts our understanding of Scripture, we can 1. Reject the evidence 2. Reject Scripture 3. Reinterpret Scripture to fit the evidence 4. Search for an interpretation that honors both

Morton presents a strong argument for the fourth alternative, and a warning to evangelicals to avoid the damage to Christian credibility that results from the first. The careful logic and extensive references provide an excellent starting point for anyone wanting to investigate the humanity of fossil hominids.

Reviewed by William E. Hamilton, Jr., General Motors Research and Development Center, 30500 Mound Road, Warren, MI 48090-9055

---------------------------------------------------------------------------- ----

Bill Hamilton ------------------------------------------------------------------------------ William E. Hamilton, Jr., Ph.D. 1346 W. Fairview Lane Rochester, MI 48306 (810) 652 4148

---------------------------------------------------------------------------- Bill Hamilton, Staff Research Engineer Chassis and Vehicle Systems, GM R&D Center Warren, MI / (home)