FANTASIA 2014: A Response to Yuval Harari’s “Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind”

FANTASIA 2014: A Response to Yuval Harari’s “Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind”

© 2014, by John Tors. All Rights Reserved.

When I was a young boy living in Montreal, my dad took me to a local theatre to see a re-release of Disney’s FantasiaFantasia, made in 1940, features eight animated sequences set to classical music.  The sequences didn’t all have the same impact on me; I didn’t care much for the Dancing Hippo sequence or the Greek Mythology sequence.  The three that most impressed me were the Sorcerer’s Apprentice sequence with Mickey Mouse, the sequence with evil spirits on Bald Mountain, and the Evolution sequence, depicting the formation of the universe through to the end of the dinosaurs, set to music by Igor Stravinsky.

It didn’t occur to me at the time that this animated movie is the perfect setting for this Evolution sequence, as Fantasia is, after all, a compendium of fairy tales, which is what the theory of evolution is.  It has the same claim to reality as an anthropomorphic rodent casting magic spells, and a good deal less than dancing hippos.  (Hippos, presumably, can be trained to dance after a fashion.)

This fact was driven home to me again as I read through a book excerpt published in today’s National Post, “Genus: Homo, Species: Sapiens. In a new book, Yuval Harari sets out the long, fascinating history of how modern human beings came to be.”[1]

Harari begins by telling us,

About 13.5 billion years ago, matter, energy, time and space came into being in what is known as the Big Bang.”[2]

How this happened, Harari doesn’t tell us.  No wonder, that, for it would require the spontaneous creation of matter/energy, something that actual science, specifically the First Law of Thermodynamics, says is impossible:

Matter/energy can never be created or destroyed, but only changed from one form to another.

In other words, “nothing” cannot hiccup and give you “something.”  And giving the futile claim that this did happen anyway a cool name – the “Big Bang” – does not make it become possible.  Or did Mickey just wave his wand?

Harari goes on to tell us that,

About 3.8 billion years ago, on a planet called Earth, certain molecules combined to form particularly large and intricate structures called organisms.

That, too, is scientifically impossible.  As the Second Law of Thermodynamics enunciates, all natural processes tend towards disorder, not order.  In other words, complex structures naturally decay into their component elements, but simple elements never spontaneously combine to form complex, ordered structures.  (For example, a house left along long enough will spontaneously decay into a pile of bricks and rubble, but a pile of bricks and rubble will never spontaneously self assemble into a house, no matter how long we wait.)  Specified complexity, then, of the sort exhibited by protein molecules, RNA, DNA, and complete cells, can never form through undirected natural processes – so the “certain molecules” needed to form an organism could never have spontaneously “combine[d] to form particularly large and intricate structures called organisms.[3]  Such spontaneous self-assembly is what the theory of evolution requires, but that is what actual science tells us can never happen.

Harari then paints a delightful picture of “a familiar cast of human characters” – by which he means “archaic humans” – in “East Africa 2 million years ago”: “anxious mothers cuddling their babies and clutches of carefree children playing in the mud; temperamental youths chafing against the dictates of society and weary elders who just wanted to be left in peace; chest-thumping machos trying to impress the local beauty; and wise old matriarchs who already had seen it all.”  This is every bit as charming as the sequence with the unicorns, centaurs, cupids, fauns, and winged horses playing in the colourful fields in the Greek Mythology sequence in Fantasia but no more real.  It should be obvious that no one was around 2 million years ago[4] to know what creatures were doing then, and “archaic humans,” in the sense of ape-like creatures who eventually evolved into modern humans, are, as we shall see, as fictitious as centaurs.

Next, Harari turns his attention to the classification of organisms, telling us that

Animals are said to belong to the same species if they tend to mate with each other, giving birth to fertile offspring.

Specimens of two different species, on the other hand, cannot mate and produce fertile offspring, he notes, so that mutations in the DNA of one species can never cross over into another species.

Harari then asserts that

Species that evolved from a common ancestor are bunched together under the heading “genus”.

And here we are back into the realm of fairy tale.  This system of classification, including genus and species, was created by the Swedish scientist Carl Linnaeus in 1735 – a full one hundred and twenty-four years before Charles Darwin published The Origin of Species, which means that “genus” could not have been based on supposed evolutionary ancestry.  In fact, it was based on phenotypical similarities.

Harari then treats us to more bald assertions that he makes no attempt to prove, viz. that humans are not set apart from animals[5] but are part of the same family as great apes, and that there have been several different human species in existence in the past, of which we, Homo sapiens, are just one.  He tells us that

Just 6 million years ago, a single female ape had two daughters.  One became the ancestor of all chimpanzees, the other is our own grandmother.

I have to admit that this has now become far more imaginative than The Sorcerer’s Apprentice ever was.

You see, there is an obvious problem with all this.  The human being is vastly different from a chimpanzee, not only phenotypically but also genotypically.  For example, the human genome contains almost 800 million DNA “letters” that are not matched in the chimpanzee genome.[6]  Where did all of this extra, meaningful coded data come from?  The evolutionist can only appeal to random mutation combined with natural selection, but mutation can only change information that is already there (since there must be DNA there to be mutated); it cannot create new information out of nothing.  And since there are countless ways to degrade information by changing it and few if any to improve it, this method utterly fails to account for the qualitatively different genetic information in human beings.[7]

One could postulate that the genome of this wonderful “single female ape” had all of the DNA for both humans and chimps, and that the descendants of each line both lost some through the ages in order to have their respective differences come to the fore, but this doesn’t begin to solve the problem, since then one must explain where the complex coded genetic information in this wonderful “single female ape” came from.  Since random mutation combined with natural selection cannot explain it (since only DNA that is already there can be mutated), where did it come from?

The bald assertions continue.  Harari then avers that

Humans first evolved in East Africa about 2.5 million years ago from an earlier genus of apes called Australopithecus, which means ‘Southern Ape.’  About two million years ago, some of these archaic men and women left their homeland …

Which is it, Harari?  Was the Australopithecus an “ape” or an archaic man?  It can’t be both.

And has Harari heard of the Laetoli footprints?

These are fossilized footprints found in Laetoli, Tanzania, in 1976 that evolutionists date as being 3.8 million years old[8] (the time at which Australopithecus supposedly flourished), yet are identical to modern human footprints in both morphology[9] and gait characteristics.[10]  Evolutionists, recognizing the problem for their theory, risibly claimed that Australopithecus must have had feet just like those of modern humans.  However, actual foot bones of Australopithecus were finally found in 1995, and they showed that the feet of this creature had an opposable big toe (see illustration to the bottom right) and so was nothing like the feet of modern humans.[11]  The only creature, then, that could have made the Laetoli footprints is modern man, and so these footprints stand as irrefutable proof that modern man lived contemporaneously with his supposed ancient ancestor, Australopithecus, and so obviously did not evolve from it, or from any later putative archaic human.  This knocks Harari’s entire case into a cocked hat.[12]

Harari then mentions Neanderthal Man, Homo neanderthalensis, supposedly a different species from us, who was “bulkier and more muscular than us Sapiens.”  Yet it is now universally recognized that Neanderthal Man interbred with us and produced fertile offspring:

Appropriately enough given the commonalities between anatomically modern humans and the Neandertals, genetic studies have shown that the two groups interbred – frequently enough that genomes of non-African people today are up to 3 percent Neandertal.  And because different people carry different bits of Neanderthal DNA, the sum total of Neandertal genetic material that persists in modern-day folks is much higher than that: at least 20 percent, according to recent calculations.[13]

Yet Harari has already correctly told us that specimens of two different species cannot mate and produce fertile offspring, so that mutations in the DNA of one species can never cross over into another species.  This means that beyond any doubt Neanderthal Man was not a separate species from modern man; he was indeed Homo sapiens.[14]  How evolutionists can insist that Neanderthal man is a separate species while telling us how he interbred with modern humans is difficult to understand.

Harari then goes through a list of other supposed different species of humans, including Homo soloensis, Homo floresiensis, Homo denisova, Homo rudolfensis, and Homo ergaster, and tells us that “all of them belong to the genus Homo.  They were all human beings.”  Wrong.  In fact, human beings have a huge range of phenotypic and genetic variation

So nothing significant can be said about a supposed human species unless there are enough specimens available to determine typical characteristics about them, any more than one can describe the average modern human by studying only, say, the former NBA basketball player, 7’6” Yao Ming.

Yet evolutionists ignore this fact, and proclaim new human species on the basis of completely inadequate evidence.  Denisovan Man, for example, was proclaimed into existence on the basis of one “fossilized finger bone”!  And Denisovan Man, too, interbred with modern humans,[15] so it was not, in fact, a separate species.

In fact, Harari’s entire list of different human species is nothing of the sort.  In reality, Homo neanderthalensis, Homo erectus, Homo denisova, and Homo ergaster and Homo soloensis (which are really subgroups of Homo erectus) were all racial variants of modern human beings.[16]  In the case of Homo floresiensis, the single specimen found seems most likely to have been simply a developmentally abnormal human, perhaps suffering from Down Syndrome, not a separate species.[17]  Homo rudolfensis, on the other hand, was not a human at all, but an Australopithecine ape.[18]

After this, Harari gives us a description of why the large brains and bipedalism of humans developed through the millennia.  Wisely, he doesn’t attempt to explain how this happened, which would be much more interesting inasmuch as it is scientifically impossible.  Such developments would require the generation of vast quantities of qualitative new genetic data by undirected natural processes, something that we have already seen is scientifically impossible.  Harari’s description, then, is nothing more substantive than another Fantasia sequence.

Yet even within this sequence there are “continuity glitches,” or troubling inconsistencies.  Harari tells us that

Another singular human trait is that we walk upright on two legs.  Standing up, it’s easier to scan the savannah for game or enemies, and arms that are unnecessary for locomotion are freed for other purposes, like throwing stones or signalling. The more things these hands could do, the more successful their owners were, so evolutionary pressure brought about an increasing concentration of nerves and finely tuned muscles in the palms and fingers.  As a result, humans can perform very intricate tasks with their hands.

It’s almost as if evolution can produce optimum adaptations on demand.  Yet we then read that

Adjusting to an upright position was quite a challenge … Humankind paid for its lofty vision and industrious hands with backaches and stiff necks.

One wonders why this great magician “evolutionary pressure” didn’t solve this problem.  Did Mickey’s wand break, perhaps?

Or this:

Women paid extra.  An upright gait required narrower hips, constricting the birth canal – and this just when babies’ heads were getting bigger and bigger.  Death in childbirth became a major hazard for human females.

Harari implies that the Great Magician Evolutionary Pressure did now step in:

Women who gave birth earlier, when the infant’s brain and head were still relatively small and supple, fared better and lived to have more children.  Natural selection consequently favoured earlier births.  And, indeed, compared to other animals, humans are born prematurely, when many of their vital systems are still underdeveloped.

Yet death in childbirth remained a major hazard well into the 20th century.  Why didn’t the Great Magician select for women to give birth even more prematurely, as kangaroos do?  Is the Great Magician so capricious, or is it simply a case of evolutionists looking at what actually is and then spinning evolutionary “just so” stories to match out of whole cloth?

It gets worse.  Harari tells us that increasing brain size was a “jumbo drain on the body,” consuming large amounts of energy, which led to the atrophying of the muscles.  He admits that

It’s hardly a foregone conclusion that [developing large brains] is a good strategy for survival on the savannah.  A chimpanzee can’t win an argument with a Homo sapiens, but the ape can rip the man apart like a rag doll.

He is understating the problem, for, as he then admits,

For more than 2 million years, human neural networks kept growing and growing, but apart from some flint knives and pointed sticks, humans had precious little to show for it.

Uh-oh!  Unless Harari can show us that he can take out a tiger or a grizzly bear with a flint knife and a pointed stick, it seems clear that in his Fantasia sequence the human race was retaining mutations that were a disadvantage to survival, which is the exact opposite of how evolution is supposed to work, and was doing so for more than 2 million years!  Small wonder, then, that when he ponders how this could have happened, he concedes,

Frankly, we don’t know.

But the answer is actually quite simple; it didn’t happen, so it requires no explanation.

In conclusion, then, it seems that Disney had it right way back in 1940, when his evolution sequence in Fantasia was lumped in with other fairy tales.  Today, seventy-four years later, it is clear that that is still exactly where the theory of evolution belongs.


Endnotes

[1] Harari, Yuval.  “Genus: Homo, Species: Sapiens. In a new book, Yuval Harari sets out the long, fascinating history of how modern human beings came to be,” National Post, November 6, 2014, pp. A12-A13.

[2] Unless otherwise noted, all quotations are from the article in Footnote 1.

[3] See Tors, John. “A Primer on Entropy (The Second Law of Thermodynamics)” at https://truthinmydays.com/a-primer-on-entropy-the-second-law-of-thermodynamics/.

[4] Actually, the earth is a maximum of 7,680 years old.  See Hardy, Chris and Robert Carter. “The biblical minimum and maximum age of the earth.” Journal of Creation 28:2 (2014), pp. 89-96.

[5] Actually, humans are fundamentally different from animals.  Animals are bipartite beings, with a body and “soul” (i.e. life force), but humans are tripartite, with a body, soul, and spirit (see Genesis 1:1, 1:21, 1:27).  This latter is what makes us in the image of God and is capable, inter alia, of worship and moral responsibility.

[6] Buggs, Dr. Richard. “Chimpanzee?” Posted on https://www.digibron.nl/search/detail/012dbecf3769c65345425d22/chimpanzee/0.  As Dr. Buggs points out, the claim that humans and chimpanzees are 98.5% genetically identical, which was made as far back as 1964, was made long before either genome was sequenced.  When the chimpanzee genome was finally sequenced in 2005, it was found to be probably less than 70% identical to the human genome.  Evolutionists tried to write off the extra DNA in the human genome as useless “junk” DNA, but that concept has been thoroughly debunked.

[7] For a brief but excellent overview of this insurmountable problem for the theory of evolution, see Meyer, Stephen C. “The Cambrian Explosion and the Combinatorial Problem,” The American Spectator 47:1 (January-February 2014), pp. 14-16.  The same issue contains an attempted rebuttal of Meyer’s article titled “Occasionalism Isn’t Science,” by John Derbyshire.  For a complete demolition of Derbyshire’s rebuttal, see Tors, John. Letter in “Odds & Ends,” The American Spectator 47:3 (April, 2014), p. 7.  For a more in-depth look at this issue, see, for example, Gitt, Dr. Werner. In the Beginning Was Information. Bielefeld, Germany: Christliche Literatur-Vertreitung, 1997.

[8] Leakey, Mary. “Footprints in the Ashes of Time,” National Geographic 155 (1979), pp. 446-457

[9] Tuttle, Russell, “The Pitted Pattern of Laetoli Feet,” Natural History 99 (1990), pp. 60-65

[10] Raichlen DA, Gordon AD, Harcourt-Smith WEH, Foster AD, Haas WR Jr (2010) “Laetoli Footprints Preserve Earliest Direct Evidence of Human-Like Bipedal Biomechanics.” PLoS ONE 5(3): e9769. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0009769

[11] Wilford, John Noble. “Tiny Foot Bones May Show a Giant Leap for Mankind.” New York Times, July 28, 1995, pp. A1, A6

[12] Evolutionists continue to insist that the Laetoli footprints were made by Australopithecus (see, e.g. Wilford, John Noble. “Prints Show a Modern Foot in Prehumans.” New York Times, February 27, 2009, p. A12), though this is clearly impossible.

[13] Wong, Kate. “The Human Saga: Evolution Rewritten.” Scientific American 311:3 (September 2014), p. 39.  “Neandertal” is a trendy alternate spelling for “Neanderthal.”

[14] Like other modern people groups, Neanderthals had their own distinctive physical characteristics, as Watusi are tall and Pygmies are short.

[15] Wong, op. cit.

[16] Lubenow, Marvin L. “Alleged Evolutionary Ancestors Coexisted with Modern Humans.” http://www.icr.org/article/alleged-evolutionary-ancestors-coexisted-with-mode/.  See also Woodmorappe, John. “The non-transitions in ‘human evolution’—on evolutionists’ terms.” Posted at http://creation.com/the-non-transitions-in-human-evolutionon-evolutionists-terms.  For more details, see Lubenow, Marvin L. Bones of Contention: A Creationist Assessment of Human Fossils.  Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1992.

[17] Henneberg, Maciej et al.  “Evolved developmental homeostasis disturbed in LB1 from Flores, Indonesia, denotes Down syndrome and not diagnostic traits of the invalid species Homo floresiensis.” PNAS, 2014; DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1407382111; and Eckhardt, Robert B. et al. “Rare events in earth history include the LB1 human skeleton from Flores, Indonesia, as a developmental singularity, not a unique taxon.PNAS, 2014; DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1407385111.  Cited at “Flores bones show features of Down Syndrome, not a new ‘Hobbit’ human.” Posted at http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/08/140804151510.htm

[18] Woodmorappe, op. cit.

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