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Apologetics Press :: Sensible Science

Ardipithecus ramidus kadabba or “What Bone is the Toe Bone Connected To"?
by Brad Harrub, Ph.D.

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The banner on the front cover of the July 23, 2001 issue of Time announced somewhat authoritatively, “How Apes Became Humans,” and claimed that a new hominid discovery tells “scientists about how our oldest ancestors stood on two legs and made an evolutionary leap.” Yet those empty cover-words become almost secondary as readers find themselves captivated by the “ape-man” drawing that blankets the entire cover. Unfortunately, many readers may never make it to page 57, where staff writers Michael Lemonick and Andrea Dorfman admit that the discoverers of the fossils under discussion, Yohannes Haile-Selassie and his colleagues, “haven’t collected enough bones yet to reconstruct with great precision what kadabba looked like.” That fact, however, did not prevent the magazine’s editors from putting an intimidating, full-color spread of this new creature on the cover—an image that becomes somewhat laughable in light of the actual facts. A thorough investigation of this “scientific discovery” reveals that this creature was “reconstructed” from only 6 bone fragments (and a few teeth)—of which, the only bone that might provide the artist with any structural information of the head is a piece of the right mandible.

In their article, “One Giant Step for Mankind,” Lemonick and Dorfman invite the reader to “meet your newfound ancestor, a chimplike forest creature that stood up and walked 5.8 million years ago” (p. 54). This new creature has been named Ardipithecus ramidus kadabba (kadabba—taken from the Afar language—means “basal family ancestor”) and lived, according to evolutionists, between 5.2 and 5.8 million years ago. This beats the previous record holder by nearly a million-and-a-half years, and according to evolutionists’ estimates, puts them “very close to the time when humans and chimps first went their separate ways” (p. 56). Lemonick and Dorfman went on to comment: “…[N]o one has yet been able to say precisely when that first evolutionary step on the road to humanity happened, nor what might have triggered it. But a discovery reported last week [July 12—BH] in the journal Nature has brought paleontologists tantalizingly close to answering both these questions” (for the original Nature article, see Haile-Selassie, 2001). That’s a pretty tall statement, considering the fact that researchers had only the following bone fragments to discern all of this information: fragment of the right mandible, one intermediate hand phalanx, left humerus and ulna, distal humerus, proximal hand phalanx fragment, left clavicle fragment, proximal foot phalanx, and a few teeth. Additionally, these bones were not laid out neatly in typical skeletal format, all grouped together just waiting for researchers to dig them up. No indeed. These few bones took researchers 5 years to collect, and came from 5 different locations! And so, from a fossilized toe, a piece of jawbone, a finger, arm bones, a clavicle, and a few teeth we have this incredible “ape-man” telling us “how apes became human.”

Prominently displayed in the center of page 59 of the Time article is a tiny fragment of a toe bone. Lemonick and Dorfman wrote: “This toe bone proves the creature walked on two legs.” Amazing, is it not, what one can discern from a single toe bone! The human foot contains 26 individual bones, (see Netter, 1994, p. 492), and yet evolutionary scientists claim that they can distinguish walking characteristics from just a single bone? That bold caption also fails to inform the reader that this toe bone was found in 1999, is “chronologically younger” than the other bone fragments, and was found in a separate location from the rest of the fossils. In fact, the bone fragments that make up this new specimen came from five localities of the Middle Awash in Ethiopia: Saitune Dora, Alaya, Asa Koma, Digiba Dora, and Amba East (Haile-Selassie, 2001, 412:181). Lemonick and Dorfman admitted: “Exactly how this hominid walked is still something of a mystery, though with a different skeletal structure, its gait would have been unlike ours” (p. 57). But that did not stop the authors from speculating that “kadabba almost certainly walked upright much of the time” and that “many of its behaviors undoubtedly resembled those of chimpanzees today” (p. 57). Interesting speculation, especially in view of the fact that the ages of the fossilized bone fragments composing kadabba vary by hundreds of thousands of years, even using the evolutionists’ own dating schemes.

In contemplating the origin of “two-leggedness,” the authors of the Time article suggested that these animals were rewarded with additional food for their bipedal mobility. The writer then go into painstaking detail to describe the environment in which researchers believe these creatures lived—an environment that, in their view, necessitated that animals walk upright. Meave Leakey, head of paleontology at the National Museums of Kenya, wife of Richard Leakey, a well-known member of the world’s most famous fossil-hunting family, stated: “And if you’re moving into more open country with grasslands and bushes and things like this, and eating a lot of fruits and berries coming off low bushes, there is a [expletive deleted] of an advantage to be able to reach higher. That’s why the gerenuk [a type of antelope—BH] evolved its long neck and stands on its hind legs, and why the giraffe evolved its long neck” (p. 59). Yet even staunch evolutionists such as Stephen Gould cringe at statements like that. In fact, in an article titled “The Tallest Tale” that he penned for the May 1996 issue of Natural History, Dr. Gould began by stating: “The tallest tale is the textbook version of giraffe evolution—a bit of a stretch.” Gould went on to state:

Giraffes, we are told, got long necks in order to browse the leaves at the tops of acacia trees, thereby winning access to a steady source of food available to no other mammal. Lamarck, the texts continue, explained the evolution of long necks by arguing that giraffes stretched and stretched during life, elongated their necks in the process and then passed the benefits along to their offspring by altered heredity. This lovely idea may embody the cardinal virtue of effort rewarded, but heredity, alas, does not operate in such a manner. A neck stretched during life cannot alter the genes that influence neck length and offspring cannot reap any genetic reward from parental striving (pp. 19-20).

In commenting on why this example of evolution with the giraffe’s neck is bad science, Gould wrote:

If we choose a weak and foolish speculation as a primary textbook illustration (falsely assuming that the tale possesses weight of history and a sanction in evidence), then we are in for trouble as critics properly nail the particular weakness and then assume that the whole theory must be in danger if supporters choose such a fatuous case as a primary illustration (p. 56).

Creationist Luther D. Sunderland further reiterated the foolishness of this line of thinking when he stated: “Evolutionists cannot explain why the giraffe is the only four-legged creature with a really long neck and yet everything else in the world [without that long neck—BH] survived. Many short-necked animals, of course existed side by side in the same locale as the giraffe” (1988, pp. 83-84). And so, as Leakey herself pointed out, the evolutionists theories regarding bipedalism “are all fairy tales really because you can’t prove anything” (Lemonick and Dorfman, p. 60). Fairy tales indeed!

While Ardipithecus ramidus kadabba undoubtedly will stir controversy among evolutionists as to exactly where it fits into the “evolutionary family tree,” it does little to answer the questions of “how apes became human,” or when and why these creatures became bipedal. Given the small measurements of the fossilized bones collected, kadabba is very likely to find itself relegated to the same branch as the infamous Lucy (Australopithecus afarensis)—simply a fossilized ape.


Gould, Stephen Jay (1996), “The Tallest Tale,” Natural History, 105[5]:18-23,54,56-57, May.

Haile-Selassie, Yohannes (2001), “Late Miocene Hominids from the Middle Awash, Ethiopia,” Nature, 412:178-181, July 12.

Lemonick, Michael D. and Andrea Dorfman (2001), “One Giant Step for Mankind,” Time, 158:54-61, July 23.

Netter, Frank H (1994), Atlas of Human Anatomy (Summit, NJ: Ciba-Geigy Corporation).

Sunderland, Luther D. (1988), Darwin’s Enigma (San Diego, CA: Master Books).

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