Missing Link between Man and Ape Found

Has the ‘missing link’ been found?

Ever since the notorious 1912 Piltdown Man hoax erupted into the biggest scandal in the annuals of anthropology, the Creationist camp has used it to vilify and mock the science of natural selection.

Darwin’s 1859 theory, like any valid theory or hypothesis, was an extrapolation of carefully observed data. During his lifetime he never addressed the so-called “missing link” issue. That came after his death.

The significance of a missing link reached a focal point in the infamous 1922 Tennessee ‘Scopes Monkey Trial.’ Modernists bucked heads with traditionalists over the validity of a state law outlawing the teaching of evolution in any Tennessee-funded educational facility.

Although the state won the case, eventually evolution was permitted to be taught in every school throughout America. Yet the ‘Monkey Trial’ was not without its fallout. Its chief legacy was the claim that Darwin’s theory was hogwash because scientists couldn’t find a missing link between human beings and apes.

In 1912 anthropologists were thrilled as they believed the ‘Piltdown Man,’ said to be discovered in a gravel pit in Piltdown, a village near Uckfield, East Sussex, England, vindicated Darwin and provided the much sought after link between Man and ape.

For more than forty years those opposed to the theory of evolution called it a fake and in 1953 they were proved correct when a forensic investigation of the remains revealed it as a deliberate forgery: the skull was that of a modern human cobbled together with the jawbone of an orangutan.

The cries of ‘missing link’ have been heard ever since.

Despite the fact that mitochondrial DNA has proved Mankind’s origins as having descended from a strain of great ape, the voices demanding proof with a missing link would not be silenced.

Now they will be silenced; what they clamored for has been found.

The cradle of humanity

The fossil that will rewrite the story of human evolution was discovered in a cave by Professor Lee Berger from the University of the Witwatersrand.

While exploring the region known in anthropological circles as “the Cradle of Humanity,”—the Sterkfontein region of South Africa— Berger decided to explore a cavern system.

The serendipitous decision led to unearthing an almost complete skeleton of a child more than 3 million years old.

Experts that have studied the skeleton agree that it has the same characteristics of Homo habilis, a 2.5 million year ancestor of Homo sapiens that is a linchpin of humanity’s evolution. But what is more important, the skeleton belongs to a previously unknown hominid, an early ancestor of man that predates Homo habilis and is the intermediate evolutionary stage between the ape and man.

“Wonderful” and “exciting!” is how Professor Phillip Tobias, an eminent human anatomist and anthropologist at the University of the Witwatersrand described the revolutionary discovery. Tobias  was one of the three experts during 1964 that first identified the Homo habilis as a new species of human.

Remarking on the relatively pristine condition of the skeleton and its completeness, he noted, “To find a skeleton as opposed to a couple of teeth or an arm bone is a rarity. It is one thing to find a lower jaw with a couple of teeth, but it is another thing to find the jaw joined onto the skull, and those in turn uniting further down with the spinal column, pelvis and the limb bones.

“The remains now being brought to light by Dr. Berger and his team are wonderful.”

The bridge between Man and ape

The completeness of a skeleton is important as it allows scientists to determine the characteristics of the hominid when it was alive—for instance, if complete limb bones and a pelvis are found scientists can determine the method of walking and even the  posture. While hand and finger bones enable clues to be garnered as to the capability of digital dexterity and ability to create and use tools.

The amazing fossil find was discovered amongst other partially complete fossils. All the fossils were sheltered by an encasement of sedimentary rock inside the limestone cave called “Malpa.” The encasement protected them from erosion by the elements.

Scientists have been able to trace the development of humans from apes back to apelike hominids called Australopithecus. They evolved in southern Africa approximately 3.9 million years ago and over time lost their apelike features and stood upright.

Eventually, their brains increased in size and capacity until about 2.5 million years ago when Homo habilis appeared.

This new fossil is the ‘missing link’ that scientists had known must exist. It’s the bridge between Australopithecus and Homo habilis.

It’s also the bridge between Charles Darwin’s theory of natural selection and evolution model as presented in his seminal work, “On the Origin of Species,” and modern science.

The controversy over a missing link has finally been laid to rest.