Tuesday, October 20, 2009

What's the Big Deal About Ardi?

Have you heard about Ardi? She is yet another new branch on the hominid tree. Since this particular species has received so much media attention, I thought it would be good to post some relevant links. It might make an interesting "science in the news"/current events study for some students who have interest in this sort of thing.

Here is the news article from the Associated Press - "Before Lucy came Ardi, new earliest hominid found." This is a fairly good synopsis of the data.

The AP has also posted a slide show of images of Ardi.

Ardi even has her own documentary on the Discovery Channel. Lots of interactive things to explore there.

And last but definitely not least, here is a link to the issue of Science in which a series of 11 papers were published about Ardi. This is a highly unusual situation, detailing 15 years of careful study by scientists from different disciplines. "Before 'Lucy,' there was 'Ardi': Oldest hominid skeleton provides new evidence for human evolution"

So, what's all the fuss about? Ardi is being touted as the "oldest human ancestor." This is largely because Ardi is a primate who walks on two legs (bipedalism) and this is viewed by scientists as a key feature of what defines a "human." Essentially, the bottom line here is that Ardi provides evidence that bipedalism developed about a million years earlier than Lucy.

Here is an artist's rendition of what Ardi may have looked like. Take a look at those hands. They're enormous (assuming they're drawn to scale).

Obviously, all of the above resources are written from an evolutionary point of view, where Ardi is viewed as being some kind of ancestor for modern humans. I can't emphasize strongly enough how important it is for Christians to take this kind of data seriously. We can't just engage in hand-waving, saying that scientists are in some kind of conspiracy to confuse us. This is a real skeleton of a real creature made by God long ago. The question is, how should Christians think about it?

Here is one perspective. Reasons To Believe has posted a podcast commenting on this discovery from an old-earth creation perspective. Fuz goes into many more details than what I've said here.

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