Our society maintains a deep thirst for history, especially when it comes to our ancestors. We like to peruse websites and documents that trace our ancestry, hoping to find some hidden revelation about ourselves; maybe we’re related to George Washington or Abraham Lincoln, or some royalty in another country, or perhaps somebody famous. We possess an innate curiosity as we ask the ultimate question, “Who are we, and where did we come from?”
Therefore it’s not surprising that we would ask that same question on a larger scale when it comes to the entirety of the human race. This question pierces to the heart of the debate surrounding the origin of modern humans, and paleoanthropologist David R. Begun examines these questions in his book, The Real Planet of the Apes.
The original movie, Planet of the Apes in 1968, was a favorite of mine, and it hints at the future evolution of apes and the devolution of man. But now David Begun, from the University of Toronto, is building a case for his own theory, captured in an article by The Scientist.
One dominant theory for the evolutionary origin of man is found in the Out-of-Africa model. According to this theory, the earliest known fossils of humans and their relatives are found in Africa, and therefore it’s accepted that modern apes and humans evolved in Africa. Mitochondrial DNA studies are considered further evidence to support this theory. So most secular scientists accept that modern humans evolved in East Africa between 200,000 and 60,000 years ago, and that sometime between 125,000 and 60,000 years ago they began to migrate out of Africa.
However there are plenty of scientists who disagree and have reached different conclusions based on a different interpretation of the evidence. Begun has concluded that our human origins actually began in Europe.
Begun points to all the discoveries of European ape fossils, and even enlists Darwin’s suggestion that Europe may have been the origin of humans based on Dryopithecus, an ape fossil found in France and other European countries. Two other apes- Rudapithecus and Ouranopithecus– resemble African apes and modern gorillas, and were also taken into consideration.
And while apes were supposedly common in Africa 18 million years ago (mya), Begun argues that these apes dispersed into Europe around 17 mya, and when severe climate changes occurred between 16 and 12 mya, these apes, for the first time, were forced to respond to seasonal climates (rather than the usual subtropical climates they were used to); they responded by evolving mobile upper limbs, an upright posture, and large brains, setting the stage for human evolution.
I find many problems with either scenario quite frankly. Whether it’s the Out-of-Africa model, Begun’s Out-of Europe model, or any other origin of man, they’re all based on speculation and unprovable assumptions about the past. The idea that apes evolved into man cannot be substantiated based on any experiment. We have modern apes and monkeys today, but we don’t see any of them evolving human traits, despite the assumed 18 plus million years they’ve had. Conversely, modern humans have supposedly evolved from non-humans (Australopithecus) about 3 million years ago. So we have a tremendous amount of time where no evolution is occurring in apes, while we’ve been human since possibly Homo Erectus. The bottom line is that such evolution can’t be repeated experimentally.
Further, I would dispute all these great ages because dating techniques are unreliable and can’t be substantiated.
Now I can’t definitively say where modern humans originated, but I can offer another popular theory I agree with- and that’s called the Out-of-the-Ark theory. The Bible offers what I believe is a more accurate origin of human history. And while we can’t pinpoint any particular date, we can roughly speculate that a global flood occurred around 6,000 years ago, and that all life on land was wiped out. The only survivors were on board the ark that God commanded Noah to build, and when they finally stepped off the ark and onto dry land, that’s the time and location of the origin of all modern humans and land animals- just over 4,000 years ago. This timeline matches well with ancient civilizations, including the history and founding of Egypt by one of Noah’s grandson’s, Mizraim, around 2188 B.C.
We don’t know the exact location of Noah’s ark, although the Bible tells us that it settled on the Mountains of Ararat– not necessarily Mt. Ararat itself, which is located in modern-day Turkey. The Bible also tells us mankind settled on a plain in the land of Shinar, and that’s where Babel was located. It was there that mankind was dispersed across the face of the earth; God had commanded Noah and his sons to be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth, but they didn’t obey that command. Therefore God confused their language, dispersing them.
So that’s where modern man originated. Our ancestors came from somewhere in the plains of Shinar, but it’s difficult to find that location. Some believe Babel was a territory in south Mesopotamia, perhaps located in Babylon; others believe it was located in what’s now northern Syria in the Khabur river triangle. Therefore western Asia is the most likely place of our origin.
But the main point is that we haven’t evolved at all, and our origin didn’t take place millions of years ago. When Noah and his sons came off the ark, mankind eventually dispersed and filled the earth, just as God intended. The routes they took aren’t known, but it’s interesting to ponder, and hopefully future archaeological excavations will resolve some of these mysteries.