From Archaeology to Apes

Question from Kristi:
What is R. Dawkins’ view on Biblical archaeology? Scientists use fossils as artifacts, dinosaur bones, etc., yet when archaeologists find relief carvings of the Hebrews being taken into captivity by the Assyrians? Manfred Bietak has uncovered Semitic people’s remains dating back to time of the Famine around 1880 B.C, which would align with the information in the Jewish records and with the Biblical records of Genesis. Should not any artifact be considered scientific?

If we evolved from a complex organism such as the egg first then later to simpler organism such as the chicken, why are we not evolving anymore unless we are evolving into robots? Do you foresee the human race as fading out and becoming intelligent machines? We were once apes so would it be too much to believe we will re-evolve to something else?

Answer by SmartLX:
Richard Dawkins doesn’t seem to have made a public statement about Biblical archaeology as a whole, except to say there is no good evidence for any of the supernatural claims in the Bible, archaeological or otherwise. Evidence for non-supernatural elements of the Biblical narrative are another matter. There is plenty of evidence for the Assyrian captivity as you say. There were Israeli tribes about, no doubt, and they did leave their mark, but nothing in the archaeological record points to direct intervention by a deity with the interests of the Hebrews specifically at heart. Just because not everything in the Bible is untrue doesn’t mean the important bits for today’s believers are true.

Present-day human evolution is much like evolution at any other stage: so slow that any given generation doesn’t notice any major differences. We may be in the process of evolving into a very different form of organic life, but the process would take millions of years at least and research into the changes over the last few decades won’t give us much insight into that far future. Any transition to a machine or part-machine race is likely to be the result of deliberate self-alteration as a species, not Darwinian evolution.

Incidentally we are still apes. Leaving evolution and genetics aside completely, we meet the physical criteria to be classified as a “great ape”. Here’s a museum article.

3 thoughts on “From Archaeology to Apes”

  1. Apes? Evolving so slowly? Come on! There has been enough time going by to have a continual evolution of some organism to come about.
    From the time that the simple organism started on its transformation, there should have been some kind of evolution happening every second, minute, hour, day, week, month or year. Or was it only that one organism, that got the idea, that it was not satisfied as it was, and it decided to better itself. Why aren’t there more one cell organisms, doing this ” moving on up to the East side” evolutionizing
    especially since it is proving so beneficial to the first organism.
    Don’t you see, you are ignoring the obvious, just to continue to believe the impossibility of the error, you are blindly believing.
    There have been no organisms doing anything more than being what they have always been. Sure, it seems that some how there is room for an adaptations of some sort, which appears to have been written into there genetic makeup, but as far as becoming an entire new species, there is no evidence of this happening, except in the imaginations of those who want it to be so.
    Just like there are humans who are short and tall, who are of different shades of skin color, whose hair comes in wide variations of texture, and color, along with eyes of different shapes and color, ears and mouths, of various shapes, still unless there is a genetic hiccup of some kind, our eyes and ears and arms and hands and what not, our bodies always come as they have been meant to be, according to the imprintation of what has been placed on our DNA.
    The same is shown with wide variation of all the other species, flying, swimming, walking, running, clunking, crawling, oozing, or wallowing, on this earth from the beginning of its time.
    And like it or not, there is much too much, organization, and order in our make up ” talking about all species on this earth that can be attributed to a mere accident or two. So, like it or not, An Intelligence behind it all is more probable than the blind, unthinking, “I think I can” ability of a one cell organism, that is able to sense its future needs and calculate in some weird, innate ability, a way to improve itself, and develop the machinery it will need later on that would help it to better itself in some small way, let alone become human.
    Truly it takes more faith, to remain an Atheist, than to break down, and humble ones self and say, ” how great Thou art”

    1. Gerald, once again I cannot let you get away with your attempts to misrepresent science. It’s unfair on those who sincerely wish to further their knowledge.

      “Why aren’t there more one cell organisms, doing this?”

      They are. Real-time, directly observable evolution of unicellular organisms to multicellular organisms that act in cooperation, reproduce in unison and are able to split into genetically identical colonies has been observed in laboratories since 1998. Creationists usually claim that this is due to a natural tendency in some unicellular organisms for ‘clumping’ under certain environmental conditions. This is a fatuous argument because ‘clumping’ does not result in a cooperative multicellular organism in which all the daughter cells are genetically identical. Also, the evolution of unicellular to multicellular organisms has been observed in organisms with no previous genetic predisposition to ‘clumping’ and no multicellularity in any ancestor colonies. I highly recommend you read this paper:

      Ratcliffe, W.C., et al. (2013). Experimental evolution of an alternating uni- and multicellular life cycle in Chlamydomonas reinhardtii. Nature Communications, 4: 2742

      I highly recommend this paper. It’s available for free online.

      “There have been no organisms doing anything more than being what they have always been.”

      A demonstrably untrue statement. I could give you hundreds of examples. Here are a couple of that directly contradict your claim:

      A population of a species of Australian skink lizard has been observed over a number of years (in real-time) to be transitioning from egg-laying to giving birth to live young. The egg shell is gradually becoming thinner and the time spent in utero is gradually increasing. In the last report I read, about 20% of all births were live births with no shell at all, just a vestigial thin membrane covering:

      Stewart, J.R., et al. (2010). Uterine and eggshell structure and histochemistry in a lizard with prolonged uterine egg retention (Lacertilia, Scincidae, Saiphos). Journal of Morphology., 271: 1342–1351.

      A number of plant species such as the common dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) reproduce asexually but still exhibit vestigial sexual reproductive parts (e.g., flowers with self-fertilising ovaries) because they used to reproduce sexually. As in sexually reproducing plant species, the bright yellow petals of dandelions used to attract pollinating insects ; they now serve no purpose:

      Baarlen, P., et al. (2000). Meiotic recombination in sexual diploid and apomictic triploid dandelions (Taraxacum officinale L.). Genome, 43: 827-835.

      “as far as becoming an entire new species, there is no evidence of this happening except in the imaginations of those who want it to be so.”

      I cannot believe , in an era of never-more widely available information, that there are people who still believe myths like this. The creation of an entirely new species, formerly not existing, has been observed literally thousands of times, in all three domains of life, both in the wild and in the lab. It’s become so common that in most cases it’s not even considered a major research finding any more. A search of the Pubmed database today reveals that 435 papers have been published in the past five years reporting ‘sympatric speciation’ alone; nearly two per week.

      “able to sense its future needs and calculate in some weird, innate ability, a way to improve itself, and develop the machinery it will need later on….”

      I couldn’t agree more. That would indeed be a completely ludicrous and ridiculous method of organising a biological system. And ‘improve itself’? What does that even mean? By far, the most successfully thriving organisms on this planet are unicellular.

      It’s a good job, then, that evolutionary theory DOES NOT and NEVER HAS posited such a teleological notion. Where did you get this idea? It wasn’t from an evolutionary biology textbook was it?

  2. First off, fossils are not “artifacts”. That is a misuse of the word. I’ll let you look it up for yourself to see what an “artifact” is.

    A fossil is the remains or impressions of a living thing. Science does not “use” fossils as dinosaur bones. Dino bones ARE fossils.

    Artifacts, which are NOT fossils, are also used in scientific investigation, by archaeologists for example. As LX pointed out, there is plenty of evidence for things like the Assyrian conquest. Artifacts help us determine this. As conquests are a mundane, ordinary occurrence in the course of human lives, and there is no supernatural aspect to it, the Assyrian conquest was entirely plausible even before evidence was discovered backing the historical claim. What there is no evidence for, not even a scrap of data, is any supernatural claim ever made about any god creature that humans have ever worshipped. None.

    As for your evolution comments, I have to say that I think you have a lack of knowledge about the topic. For instance, a fertilized chicken egg and a chicken are both chickens, just at different stages of their life. Going from a chicken egg to a chicken is not evolution, it’s just growing up. May I suggest you brush up on the scientific theory of evolution some and then come back with more pertinent questions on the topic…

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