Human Origins Part 4: Some Evidence for a Unique Human Origin

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بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم، وصلوات الله وسلامه على أشرف المرسلين

In the name of God, Most Gracious, Most Merciful.

So far (in parts one, two and three), I have analyzed the evidence brought forward to support human-chimp common ancestry. Taking a bird’s eye view of the situation, it’s apparent that the idea of common descent with chimps is essentially a hypothesis and not a proven fact. If you’re trying to answer the question of human origins, and restrict what you look at to purely materialistic explanations (i.e. that we originated from within this universe itself), then it may be the best hypothesis out there, and this is why many scientists have accepted it.

That being said, the evidence brought forward in its favor can have other explanations. Here’s a quick summary of this evidence, as mentioned in the past 2 articles, with the other explanation after the colon:

  • Human-chimp similarities: we were created for a common environment and our bodies need to carry out similar functions
  • Non-functional similarities: these are actually functional, and the above argument applies
  • The fossil record: no evidence for an ape-to-human transition
  • Population genetics: based on unprovable assumptions
  • Evolutionary psychology: anecdotes, speculation and bad science
  • Neanderthals etc: they’re either races of humans, or similarities are due to function

In the next section, I will point out specific empirical evidence which is better explained by humans having a unique origin, than by humans being descended from another species.

Note: This Is Not A Scientific Theory

A quick clarification: I’m not putting forward a scientific theory that humans are descended from Adam and Eve who came down from Heaven. Rather, I’m pointing out certain pieces of evidence that are more compatible with this than they are with human evolution. Compatibility with something isn’t necessarily direct evidence for that thing, but it’s still worth thinking about.

Someone who believes in both God and human evolution can say that these lines of evidence are compatible with human evolution also. For example, for the case of the intelligibility of the universe, they might say that humans evolved from a common ancestor with apes, but at some point God created within humans the ability to understand the universe around them.

This is a form of the God-of-the-gaps fallacy. You have a scientific theory, human evolution, and this theory fails to explain certain things, e.g. intelligibility, so God’s actions are proposed as something that can fill the gap. In contrast, here we have a previously-existing account of human origins, found in the Abrahamic religions. We’re not filling gaps in a scientific theory, rather we’re looking at pieces of evidence that are more compatible with the Abrahamic account than with human evolution.

Certain Findings in Genetics

Pro-evolution scientists like to emphasize the similarities that exist between human DNA and chimp DNA. However, there are some major differences that don’t make sense even under the paradigm and assumptions of evolutionary theory. One example is that primate DNA contains certain retroviruses, which are a type of virus that inserts itself into the genome to replicate, that human DNA doesn’t. This doesn’t make sense if you assume common descent.

Furthermore, there are similarities between humans and species other than chimps, such as pigs, which don’t exist in chimps. If we assume that humans are related to chimps more closely than they are to other species, this doesn’t make sense. Of course, evolutionists can try to come up with ad-hoc explanations for this, the above retrovirus example, and any other example in this category, but it doesn’t negate the fact that a lot of the evidence from genetics is leading away from human evolution and not towards it.

Language

It’s difficult to understate how important this is. Our ability to communicate complex ideas with each other is what drives collective learning and the continuous advancement of knowledge. Each generation can pick up where the previous one left off, and doesn’t have to rediscover for example Newton’s Laws by themselves. Whereas in the animal kingdom, their speech is much more limited.

Furthermore, language is actually a system of thought, not just communication which is in fact secondary. Noam Chomsky, one of the highest authorities in the world on linguistics, mentions this here:

He says:

[It’s believed that] language is primarily a means of communication and that it evolved as a means of communication. Probably that’s totally false. It seems that language is evolved and is designed as a mode of creating and interpreting thought; it’s a system of thought…

Yes language can be used to communicate, but it doesn’t seem to be part of its design. Its design seems to be radically different and in fact even seems to undermine communication. If you look carefully at the structure of language, you find case after case right at the core of language design where there are conflicts between what would be efficient for communication and what is efficient for the specific biological design of language. And in every case that’s known the communicative efficiency is sacrificed.

So how does one explain this? There’s a lot that can be said here, but I’ll quote an article from Yaqeen Institute, with emphasis mine and reference brackets removed:

The language faculty is thought to have emerged in evolutionary history between 70, 000 to 100, 000 years ago, but identifying a mechanism has been a tremendous stumbling block. One approach has been to reduce language to just one fundamental capacity, namely that of recursion (basically words referring back to other words), in order to explain how it could have suddenly emerged through a single genetic alteration in an individual. Biological anthropologist Terrence Deacon has argued that this appeal to such a solitary “lucky genetic accident” is tantamount to an argument for miracles. Moreover, it has been argued that this neglects other relevant unique human linguistic capacities (such as phonology, morphology, or the massive lexicon humans acquire) and that some form of incremental process must have taken place—although this of course reduces language to its communicative functions while its central function of elaborating thought becomes a mere incidental bonus. Ongoing empirical investigation and debate on this subject is healthy and necessary while also acknowledging that part of this question will forever lie beyond our epistemic horizons, since the object of study is the emergence of a capacity which existed in the minds of humans hundreds of thousands of years ago and has left little in the way of tangible artifact or fossil.

The fact that we humans have come to possess this extraordinary gift of language, this incredible capacity for limitless expression and understanding, cries out for explanation. Language is an articulation of meaning, and meaning is immaterial and metaphysical, reaching beyond the confines of our physical realm to latch on to universal truths and conceptualize reality. Why on earth would a biological organism have the capacity to conceptualize cosmic truths? Islamic theology uniquely provides the ontological grounding and metaphysical context within which to situate this capacity. In the first story mentioned in the Qur’an, the angels ask God why place human beings on earth when they will inevitably spread bloodshed and corruption while the angels glorify God. Human beings would not be directly in God’s presence like the angels, and hence subject to an epistemic distance between them and God (they do not witness God directly), and prone to worldly temptations. The response later in the passage is seen when God favors Adam over the angels with an extraordinary gift: “And He taught Adam the names of all things” (Qur’an 2:31). Exegetes have pondered this phrase and interpreted it in various ways, but one understanding that encompasses the others has been connecting this with humankind’s unique capacity for language, furnishing a capacity for conceptualization and abstraction that stretches the epistemic horizons of the most knowledgeable human beings beyond even those of the angels. Thus, despite being on Earth, human beings are able to understand and appreciate the Divine names and attributes—that God is Merciful and loves those who show mercy, they understand the abstract concepts of good and bad, truth and falsehood, and so on. This all emerges from the natural capacity for conceptualization rooted in the primordial nature of human beings. Language is thus not some unintended “lucky accident,” but a critical part of the spiritual apparatus that defines human purpose in life.

In summary: the empirical evidence on the development of language, while limited, lines up more with the Islamic account of human origins than it does the evolutionary one.

Intelligibility Of The Universe

According to human evolutionary theory, the human species evolved using the same process of mutation and natural selection as the other species. “Survival of the fittest” is the engine which drives this process. The traits that get selected for and passed on are the ones that allow an individual to have a higher chance of mating and passing on its genes.

There is no survival advantage that comes from being able to understand quantum mechanics, multivariable calculus, or the periodic table of elements. Yet, humans somehow have this ability. Thus, it’s a strong indicator that our origin is different from that of the other living things, and we did not evolve from them.

In fact, our ability to understand the world around us suggests that we were purposefully created with that ability, and that it wasn’t an accident or afterthought. It’s indicative of a broader purpose of our existence beyond just material pleasure. We’re meant to ponder and explore and question. Some food for thought!

Consciousness

The concept of biology being reducible down to chemistry and physics is at the heart of common interpretations of Darwinian Evolution. But if life is reducible down to chemistry and physics, then our thoughts, feelings, emotions, etc are all just chemical reactions. However, it’s conceivable that the chemical reactions should exist without the experience that comes along with them. Imagine a living thing that was a robot, a lump of molecules essentially, that went around eating, drinking, reproducing, etc simply because it was following what the physical/chemical reactions inside it made it do. Such a robot would not have any consciousness or subjective inner experience.

Yet the opposite is true in reality. We’re not just lumps of molecules reacting with each other and with our environment. We have an inner experience, a consciousness, a feeling of being alive. There’s no reason for the motion of molecules inside of us to produce this experience. Yet it exists. Furthermore, consciousness is a core feature of what it means to be a human: any attempt to explain how humans came about must also explain how consciousness came about, otherwise it’s inadequate by definition. The Abrahamic account of human origins is more compatible with this than human evolution.

Stay tuned for Part 5!

3 thoughts on “Human Origins Part 4: Some Evidence for a Unique Human Origin

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