The scientific world was buzzing this week as the ancient bones of up to 15 skeletons were put on display at a South African university. Discovered in an almost inaccessible cave system requiring people to slither through tunnels no larger than 10 inches, the bones were removed and reassembled for study. Attending scientists believe the remains are that of man’s early ancestors, a branch of the human evolutionary tree, and named it “Homo Naledi.”
The strange thing about the skeletons is that they are ape-like in many ways (small brain, large shoulders, etc.), but also display human-like features. Some believe the skeletons are an ancient burial chamber. Early guesses peg the age of the bones anywhere from 10,000 years old to several million. Many newspapers and magazines are over the top with excitement, hinting that the theory of human evolution is further confirmed.
Some scientists are taking a more conservative approach to the discovery. They say that this may not be a burial site at all, but rather people – or apes – that may have simply died after becoming lost in the cave system.
Some Christians may be shaken a bit by these discoveries. Do they threaten the Bible’s teachings about creation? Genesis 3:20 declares that Eve “was the mother of all the living.” If the cave skeletons are human, they descended from her. If they are sub-human (ape-like creatures, etc.), they are part of the animal kingdom. Science tends to try to merge the two, but Genesis insists God made them separate – and man has a soul.
We’ll hear more about Homo Naledi in coming months – and it will be interesting. But it in no way threatens our faith in the Scriptures.
– Tim Johnson