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Discovery Magazine 10/1/2009

“Lucy” Is Not Your Aunt—or Your Uncle

In 1974, a fossil hunter named Donald Johanson was digging in the burning hot sun in Ethiopia. He was looking for fossilized bones of ape-like creatures that he thought had evolved into humans. During his digging, he found a small skeleton that was about 40% complete. This find was very unusual, because most fossils that are supposedly ape-like creatures are extremely rare. Many times only a single tooth, one jawbone, or a small fraction of the skull is found. Johanson was so excited by this discovery that he had a celebration in his camp. During that celebration, an old Beatles song named “Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds” was playing on the radio. When Johanson heard the song, he decided to name the creature he found, Lucy.

The technical, scientific name of Lucy is Australopithicus afarensis. Let’s break that name down so that we know what it means. The prefix “australo” means “southern.” The term “pithecus” means “ape” and the term “afarensis” means “from the Afar region in Ethiopia.” So, Lucy’s technical name means “Southern ape from the Afar Region of Ethiopia.” What is so special about Lucy? For many years, evolutionists claimed that Lucy was the link between humans and apes. They claimed that this fossilized skeleton proved that humans had evolved from lower life forms. Their claims, however, are simply not true. Lucy is not your relative.

In the first place, Lucy was said to be a female hominid. The term hominid simply means a creature that is supposed to be related to humans. After more research on the skeleton of Lucy, however, many scientists now believe that Lucy cannot be a female. Because of the very narrow hip structure, it seems that Lucy did not have big enough hips to give birth. Lucy was most likely a male, which means we might should rename Lucy as Larry or Leroy. Therefore, for the rest of this article, we will simply call the creature Lucy/Larry. It sounds a little confusing, but not nearly as confusing as calling the creature Lucy when it was most likely a male.

Furthermore we know that Lucy/Larry was not a human ancestor because the other bones of Australopithicus afarensis that were found, including finger bones, are different from humans. The finger bones of the creature are long and curved like tree-living apes or monkeys, not like human finger bones. Lucy/Larry spent much of its time swinging from trees, not learning to make spears or turning the pages of books. Also, the creature’s wrist-bone could be locked in place like knuckle-walking apes. These wrist bones are much more like those of a chimpanzee than a human. In addition, Lucy/Larry had a small skull. Its skull was about one-third the size of an average human’s skull. This skull size fits well into the range of an average chimpanzee, but it does not fit well into human range.

In truth, Lucy/Larry does not look anything like a human. Its small head, curved fingers, small hips, and knuckle-walking wrists fit perfectly with some type of ape, like a chimpanzee. So why would a person ever try to identify Lucy/Larry as a human ancestor? There are several reasons a person would try to do this. First, governments all over the world spend millions of dollars on supposed “hominid” fossils, but they are not too interested in fossils of chimpanzees. Second, a fossil hunter can become famous overnight for finding a “missing link” in human evolution, but finding a monkey or ape fossil does not make anyone famous. Third, some people really believe that humans evolved from lower animals. When they find a fossil like Lucy/Larry, they want it to be a human ancestor so badly that they do not look at all the evidence. They force it to be something that it is not.

We should all let Lucy/Larry be a lesson to us. We should never try to make something be what it is not, just to get money or become famous. Neither should we let wrong ideas we may have push us into trying to make something “prove” a false idea. We should follow the words of the apostle Paul, when he said that we should “test all things; hold fast what is good” (1 Thessalonians 5:21). When we test the idea of human evolution, we can see that it is not “good,” and we should get rid of it.

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*Please keep in mind that Discovery articles are written for 3rd-6th graders.

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