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Apologetics Press :: Sensible Science

Simon Says, “Touch Your Nose with Your Toes”
by Brad Harrub, Ph.D.

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On February 16, 2001, the Aggie Daily website at Texas A&M University posted a review of a lecture by famed evolutionist Paul Sereno. During his presentation, Dr. Sereno showed a series of three slides of fossils discovered in China, and suggested that they demonstrated an evolutionary process in which precursors to birds lost both their teeth and wing “fingers,” and eventually developed opposable “thumb-toes” on their claws. “This would be the first bird capable of grasping a perch,” he said, gripping his own forearm to emphasize the point. [See the full report of his lecture from the Aggie Daily website.] What Sereno did not realize was that the moment he grabbed his forearm, he dealt a crushing blow to the logical sequence to which evolutionists like to point.

What does it mean to have a finger or toe that is “opposable”? The ability to oppose a digit means that it can rotate around and touch the pad of another digit (i.e., you can use your opposable thumb to touch your index finger). Evolutionists have hailed opposable thumbs as a key milestone in human development. Many researchers believe that bipedalism and opposable thumbs represent features that necessitated larger brains and thus allowed humans to separate themselves from other animals. Evolutionists largely attribute the increase in the size of human brains to the fact that opposable thumbs allowed us to use tools and grasp objects so that we could manufacture things.

Where did we get this ability to grasp objects? Evolutionists would have us to believe that it is a trait inherited from our supposed ancestors, the primates. They are quick to point out that primates needed to possess opposable digits so they could grasp, and quickly swing from, tree branches. Of course, when pressed about the origination of this characteristic, evolutionists simply reply that it evolved due to the need for primates to quickly get away from their enemies in trees. They refer to this ability as a “selective advantage.” However, they omit one very curious fact. Primates also possess opposable toes (halluces)! Many biology books mention this only briefly, and attribute it as a “necessary” feature in these tree-dwelling animals.

What happened to this opposable toe? Can you take your big toe and use it to touch the pad of your index toe? Humans do not possess opposable toes! Did this “selective advantage” just conveniently disappear? In his 1999 paper published in the Journal of American Podiatric Medical Association, R. Kidd described the evolution of the feet as follows: “The evolution of the human foot presents an obfuscation: explanations for its occurrence and the exact nature of the mechanisms of change are still not fully understood.” Obfuscation indeed! Why would animals “evolve” opposable toes, only to then later “devolve” them? Evolutionists would have you to believe that this trait was “given up” with the advent of bipedalism, but this begs the question. If it was a “selective advantage” for primates, why didn’t more animals evolve it? And why did humans lose it?

Going from an ape-like foot to a human foot is no easy task. As R.L. Susman pointed out in a paper in the Foot Ankle Journal: “Over the course of the human career the human foot has evolved an elaborate plantar aponeurosis, strong plantar ligaments, longitudinal arches, an enlarged musculus flexor accessories, an adducted (non-opposable) hallux, a remolded calcaneocuboid joint, a long tarsus, and shortened toes (II to V)” (1983). After spending many years working with human cadavers in a medical school setting, I would add to these already impressive features a reorganization of the neuronal innervation and blood vascularization. That’s the extent of what must have occurred to our feet in order to go from having an opposable toe to losing it.

Realize, too, that this means the fossil record should bear out these “intermediate” changes. Clearly it does not! Susman’s article points out that fossil foot bones of Homo habilis (dated 1.76 million years ago) are “remarkably” like those of modern humans, while foot bones identified as those of another alleged hominid from Hadar, Ethiopia (dated around 3.5 million years ago), are remarkably chimpanzee-like. This narrows the window of time to about 1.74 million years for evolutionists to get our supposed ape-like ancestors out of trees, evolve human feet (along with many other features such as brain size, cranial features, loss of body hair, etc.), and have us up and walking. This time line does not fit with the fossil reports of others such as J.T. Laitman and W.L. Jaffe (1982) who discussed the evolution of the human foot from our “bipedal” ancestors walking around “3.5 million years ago.”

Now, in fly the birds. Sereno and others point out that some birds have opposable toes! However, birds are supposedly from an entirely different “lineage” according to the evolutionary theory. Sereno’s statement indicates that evolutionists must believe the following is a logical progression in the chronological ancestry of animals:

Evolution of the toe diagram

Adding birds into the picture means that the evolution of opposable digits must have occurred twice in two separate species, and that this trait then “devolved” in humans. That’s a whole lot of changing going on…and we are only talking about toes!


Kidd, R. (1999), “Evolution of the Rearfoot. A Model of Adaptation with Evidence from the Fossil Record,” Journal of American Podiatric Medical Association, 89[1]:2-17, January.

Laitman, J.T., and W.L. Jaffe (1982), “A Review of Current Concepts on the Evolution of the Human Foot,” Foot Ankle Journal, 2[5]:284-290, March.

Susman, R.L. (1983), “Evolution of the Human Foot: Evidence from Plio-Pleistocene Hominids,” Foot Ankle Journal, 3[6]:365-376, May-June.

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