How? The burning question that runs through the minds of so many. How did humans come to be? It’s a question that we as a race debate over. Evolution? Creation? These two ideas, appeal to large demographics on both ends. The ideas are two sides of the same coin though. Creation uses faith and religion as a basis, while evolution uses science through observation and theories. Theories aren’t perfect however, as they are put through a cycle of being tested, rejected, reworked, and confirmed. Continuously, scientists form new theories, and through perseverance and determination have found in their studies of fossils, homology, anatomy, and molecular biology that humans may have come from a common ancestor long ago.
Primary evidence for evolution comes from fossils. It can be difficult to extract information with old and broken bones, but with the technology being developed scientists can extract more and more information from these ancient skeletons. In Dr. Alice Roberts’ book “Evolution,” she discusses “the fossil record for human evolution stretches back at least 7 million years. Early sites are now known from eastern, central, and southern parts of Africa, and later sites have been found across many parts of Europe and Asia. After nearly 150 years of scientific investigation, there is strong evidence for the general pattern of human evolution”. There were many different species that came before Homo sapiens and Roberts also mentions “The map of human evolution looks more like a tree, with several branches, for example Homo Habilis and Homo ergaster, living at the same time”. With fossil evidence of so many different species before the modern human it’s hard to deny the theory of evolution and that the modern human may have come from an ape-like distant ancestor.
Genetically speaking, science has made it known that apes and humans are close in terms of DNA. Roberts mentions “It is very difficult to draw the line between human and ape in the fossil record. DNA suggests that the common ancestor we share with chimpanzees lived about 7.4 million years ago”. Furthermore, Roberts continues to reveal that “By how much of their DNA do humans and chimpanzees differ? The percentage is different according to how it is calculated. In non-coding DNA (so-called “junk DNA”) it is about 1.2%, but in coding NDA (actual genes) it is, unexpectedly, less, only 0.6%”. Humans share more DNA with chimpanzees and gorillas than either animal shares with an orangutan. This startling fact puts it into perspective just how close apes and humans are related and that humans really could have descended from a common ancestor.
Another point scientists use to support the theory of evolution is homology. In Bill Nye’s book “Undeniable Evolution and the Science of Creation,” Nye talks about the bones in different species. “Look inside a bat’s wing and you’ll see it looks nothing like a fly wing. What is does look like is the bones in your arm. You have a humerus, radius, ulna, fiver carpals, five metacarpals, and fifteen phalanges. So do bats. And, get this, so do birds”. Nye then goes on to explain that “These bones are all in the same places in the arm and in the wings. It’s just that each bone appears to be stretched or smooshed to fit in with the other bones to form an arm or wing”. The bone structures Nye mentions are similar in look and pattern because the organism’s inherited them from a common ancestor. I believe that it is rather unlikely that such similar patterns would have been evolved autonomously in each species which makes it easy to believe that birds, bats, and humans could have all come from a very distant ancestor long ago.
Additionally, when looking into anatomy, the anatomical structures in organisms are not always perfect. This could be because the structure was inherited by the organism but not used in the same capacity like the ancestor before it. Stephen Gould explains in his book “The Panda’s Thumb,” that the panda’s thumb is not anatomically a finger, but is constructed from a bone called the radial sesamoid, which is normally a small part of the panda’s wrist. Gould then continues to describe “The panda’s true thumb is committed to another role, too specialized for a different function to become an opposable, manipulating digit. So the panda must use parts on hand and settle for an enlarged wrist bone and a somewhat clumsy, but quite workable, solution”. Gould’s scrutiny of the panda’s thumb shows how a former structure from a long ago ancestor can go unused yet the organism will adapt using what it has.
Ultimately creation and evolution both aim to explain how humans and the world came to be. Both have valid points and both should be respected. Even still, the question remains. Were we created by the designs of an almighty being? Or, have we come to be through the dauntless test of survival? With the evidence we have collected over the decades, the possibility that humans have come from a distant ancestor is probable. This common distant ancestor has split off into countless different species, each adapting differently according to the environment to form the tree that is humans evolution.