06 October 2009

In the Beginning....was Ardi. (connections 1)

I've been reading and noting and jotting and scanning and wikipedia-ing for a while now on origins. The Beginning. Genesis. The Big Bang. Adam and Eve. Evolution.

It all started when I was doing some landscaping in our back yard this past summer. My friend Tony and I dug out some old mulch and did some weeding, and then put up a nice retaining wall and filled the space with gravel. Eli was fascinated with the rock pile in our driveway, and began to pick some of the brighter ones out to hand to my Bride and I. All three of us ended up poring over the rock pile in our driveway, no doubt looking rather strange to our neighbors as we picked out fossils, sandstones, granite, quartz, all from the pile delivered to us from Belmont.

It amazed me, that I would be looking at the remnants of a hillside in Belmont sitting in my driveway in Jenison. The hillside in question was formed about 10,000 years ago as the Wisconsin glaciation retreated, leaving all sorts of boulders and rocks and sand and dirt that was further shaped and formed by the Grand River as it moved and eroded the glacial till away to Lake Michigan.

It further amazed me that these rocks themselves were formed when the ground we stand upon was largely underwater in some sort of marine environment, and the shells and fossils I can see were once living creatures at the bottom of this ocean. They were then covered and compressed under different layers of silt and sand, and the whole works became the different strata of rock that we can see as we look at something like the Grand Canyon, or Niagara Falls.

I can't help but get the feeling that whatever time scale is involved, this whole place was prepared just for us...

Last week, an international team of paleoanthropologists went public with their findings on "Ardi", the name they've given to the species they've discovered and researched for 15 years. Turns out, Ardipithecus ramidus, the species in question, is about 4.4 million years old, and is now the oldest hominid yet discovered. What bones and fragments the researchers have suggest that Ardi walked upright, but could still probably swing through the trees with the best of them.

Ardi's dental record is absent of longer fangs, like chimps, gorillas and other primates, suggesting a less aggressive, more cooperative lifestyle not dependant on long sharp teeth and violence to survive.

Her hands were more human-like than ape-like, ready to grasp and use tools when she learned how to make them.

It is far too soon to make any sort of concrete claims as to how Ardi fits into our family tree, but what struck me about this is that the researchers are surprised at how "human" Ardi seems.

It is a far more complex picture than the "us from chimps" story that some would have us believe. In fact, Ardi seems to make the opposite claim: she is more human than chimp. It's more like "chimps from us". As if we were created special, we were given certain traits that then over time manifested themselves in different ways.

Is anyone else hearing Genesis 1 thundering through their head, or is it just me?

We are all connected. To each other, to our history, our environment, our societies and our cultures, to the Creation, and ultimately, to the Creator. I hope to explore these connections in further detail. I don't know how many posts my random jottings will ultimately create, but for now, let's just enjoy the ride.



Ted M. Gossard said...

Yes, Wingnut. That was a fascinating find which Deb and I saw a television documentary on (though I fell asleep unfortunately). But interesting to hear your own thoughts on it. Not sure I hear Genesis 1 in it, because Genesis 1 simply says that God created all things in proper relation to each other and in regard to their functions (as a recent book by John Walton in his fascinating book, The Lost World of Genesis One: Ancient Cosmology and the Origins Debate.

The Wingnut said...

Ted, when I was reading that article, what struck me was that the scientists seemed rather surprised as how "human-like" Ardi was. And when I read that, all I heard was Genesis 1:26-31.

It just struck me that even however many millions of years ago, there was still something special about humanity, whether it be Ardi, or Lucy, or Neanderthal, or us.


BigMama said...

The problem is that there is no "us from chimps" theory. The idea of a line is simply not what Darwin ever posited. It's certainly what some creationists would have us believe, but it just never was. It's not that humans descended from chimps, but rather that we all share a common ancestor.

The Wingnut said...

Hi BigMama! Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment!

I realize that the "us-from-chimps" phrase is a bit simplistic and perhaps misleading to some.

What I wanted to do was to contrast the "No Science Only Bible" camp with the "No Bible Only Science" camp.

Frankly, I think both sides of this issue could learn a tremendous amount from one another, and if they would stop with the politicking, they would be open to deeper insights on Creation and Our Creator.