Geologist Casey Luskin spoke at the 2021 Dallas Conference on Science & Faith about “The Unique Origins of Human in the Fossil Record.” He also appears in the latest episode of Science Uprising, a different take on the same subject.
At the Dallas conference, Dr. Luskin offered one of the clearest explanations I’ve heard of why human origins remains, if we’re honest, a great mystery. Did our genus, Homo, arise through unguided evolution from ape-like ancestors, the australopithecines? That’s the official story, what many people think of when they hear the word “evolution,” but it’s open to serious question. During his PhD work in South Africa, Dr. Luskin had the opportunity to investigate fossil sites comprising what’s been called the Cradle of Humankind. His study of the scientific literature tells a story not of a gradual transition but an abrupt “Big Bang,” a saltation at odds with expectations derived from Darwinian theory: “We see that the fossil record provides ape-like australopithecines before and human-like Homo after the supposed transition, but not actual fossils documenting a transition between them. In the absence of intermediates, we’re left with inferences of a transition based strictly upon the assumption of evolution.”
In other words, evolutionary imagination, rather than the remarkably sparse fossil record, is what fills the gap between ape and man. The idea of a Big Bang is suggestive, too. It recalls the challenge to atheist and materialist schemes posed by the cosmic Bang that got the universe going ex nihilo. That there would be something unique about the origins of Homo isn’t what you would expect based on evolutionary assumptions, but it is what you might well expect based on the common sense observations of profound human exceptionalism with which Luskin concludes his discussion. You can watch the full talk here: