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13 Myths about Evolution

Human evolution – is a rapidly and loudly developing scientific field. Currently, thanks to the advancements of science, it became possible to study many aspects of our distant past, which seemed like an unbelievable fantasy just some time ago. New discoveries take place almost every month. Every discovery, every new finding is much-publicized in mass media and attracts attention of millions of people. Unfortunately, as it often happens, public interests do not follow the pace of genuine scientific development...  Science is heading into the future at a fast pace, but misconceptions are unshakable.

Following popular books, authors in mass media (e.g. see here analysis of Ilya Stogov book ) direct and incite audience to recreate the same myths regarding human evolution over and over again. A story of some of these legends can be tracked back for decades.

Некоторые находки неандертальцев, сделанные к 1974 году.
Некоторые находки неандертальцев, сделанные к 1974 году.



MYTH # 1 : Anthropologists have found very few ( and very fragmented ) fossils which “Darwinists use to base their assumptions on”


Quote: “All fossil evidence of “human evolution” can be placed in a small box the size of a small coffin


Serafim Rouz, “Orhodox view of evolution” , SVETOSLOV publisher, Saint-Petersburg, 1997 

The quoted line from hieromonk Serafim Rouz’s letter was written in 1974. The cited statement was not true already at that time, almost 40 years ago, (oh well! It is excusable for a priest), but a comparison with a “small coffin” is still regularly used as an argument in debates with Darwinists. (Just as an example, on September 27 2012 Google search listed 179 documents citing the aforementioned quote). 

In reality, by 1974 scientists already had numerous (and some in very good condition) findings of:

  • Neanderthals (we would need a decent-sized cemetery to bury only these human “cousin grand grandfathers”;
  • Pitekantrops  at Java, Europe, China, Eastern, Northern and South Africa; 
  • Homo heidelbergensis in Europe, Africa and Asia;
  • Australopithecus in Southern and Eastern Africa;
  • Homo habilis in Eastern and South Africa;
  • and so on

In order to present all “fossil evidence” found since 1974 we would need to build a separate decent- sized museum… 

 ANTROPOGENEZ.RU catalog currently contains information of around 400 findings (note, that this is only a fraction of all material with some sections (e.g. on Neanderthals) being under preparation for publication). 

MYTH №2: Majority of human evolution fossil evidences are falsifications…


Yes, a falsification «of human evolution fossil evidence” is well-known. But only one. It is a famous Piltdown cranium, which story ended in 1953, although many specialists questioned its authenticity from the very beginning (as it was way too different from other known findings; see e.g. a list of quotes from old soviet books). Not a single anthropologist uses the Piltdown cranium for analysis for more than 50 years. What for? Other findings are more than numeral (see Myth №1) The Piltdown cranium story is continuously used by “those who attack Darwinism”. Why? There is nothing else to offer as an example...

I am asking those who keep talking about multiple «falsifications of fossil evidence», to give a second example of such a hoax. One can search for it in our catalog.

Реконструкции ископаемых гоминид, выполненные М.М.Герасимовым. Фото любезно предоставлены  Татьяной Сергеевной Балуевой специально для портала Антропогенез.РУ.
Реконструкции ископаемых гоминид, выполненные М.М.Герасимовым. Фото любезно предоставлены Татьяной Сергеевной Балуевой специально для портала Антропогенез.РУ.

MYTH №3: Reconstructions of human ancestors’ appearance is based solely on “scientist’ sick fantasy”.  

You can spell out this statement in the following way: “I do not understand how facial reconstructions are made, and since I do not understand the process, it is nonsense». 

Well, let us deal with this misconception. Methodologies of human appearance reconstruction based on bone remains were consistently developed by scientists since the 19th century. In Russia such research is associated with a name of a famous anthropologist and sculptor М.М. Gerasimov.  Michail Gerasimov studies modern humans and primates and uses vast statistics, educed patterns of head soft tissue formations depending on particular properties of bones. In particular, he had discovered that these patterns are not different in principle for humans and primates. This means they can be applied to ancient hominids. This is exactly what Gerasimov did creating classic reconstructions of our ancestors – from Australopithecus to ancient Homo sapiens. Gerasimov’s method was consistently tested in experimental conditions: researcher had to reconstruct the appearance of a person whose looks were known (by photos that obviously had not been shown to Gerasimov) using only the person’s cranium. The result was the following: reconstructions performed by Gerasimov were very similar to the original person.

Interestingly,  a member of the Academy of Sciences Boris Raushenbach notes , that the first field accepting Gerasimov’s method was ... forensic crime investigation (and criminologists are serious people, you cannot “buy” them with “sick fantasies”). Gerasimov’s method is successfully being used in forensic medical evaluation since 1939. In particular, reconstructions allowed identifying missing people by the remains numerous times.


Example (1939): «Human remains with wild carnivores’ teeth marks were found at the territory of Leningrad oblast’ (region) far from residential areas. Investigation showed that these remains belonged to a boy of about 12-13 years old. 

Gerasimov used the cranium and reconstructed the portrait which was photographed from different perspectives. To make it more convincing the reconstructed body was dressed in a coat and hat. Sadly, a father of the deceased immediately recognised his son, despite that his son never had such a coat.

Source: http://www.kunstkamera.ru/exhibitions/ 


Thus, if you have a chance, try to persuade officers of Forensic Criminology Expertise center of the Russian Federation police cervices that “anthropological reconstructions are hoaxed».

MYTH №4: Information on dating of ancient bones (“All these millions of years”) are acquired by questionable methods “out of the blue” and by usage of “untestable approximations”  

Usually, when people talk about controversy around “millions of years”, they foremost mention radiocarbon dating method, which is already quite ignorant, as one cannot get “millions of years” from radiocarbon method. It is used for dating much more recent findings.


Numerous methods of determining the age of “ancient bones” were developed for the last 50 years. This is an incomplete list of most commonly used methods:  

Do you remember your school calculus course? How can you check a solution for a quadratic equation? By finding equation roots «using discriminant», and solve the equation again using Vieta theorem. Solutions acquired by different methods should concur!

In a similar manner, the reliability of fossil dating is supported by using different methods by independent specialists, in different laboratories. 


Example:  samples of material layer, under which a famous Australopithecus Lucy skeleton was found, were sent to two experts, one of whom used potassium-argon method, and another one – fission track method to determine the age. The fission track method gave the age of 2.58 myo, and potassium-argon method gave 2.63 myo. The results were almost identical! This means Lucy cannot be “younger” than 2 million years.  (For details see: Johanson, Donald; Maitland Edey (1981). Lucy: The Beginnings of Humankind. New York: Simon and Schuster. ISBN 0-671-25036-1) 

If you compare time shown by your watch with time shown by a watch of a stranger on a street, what is the possibility that both would show the identically incorrect time? 

MYTH №5: Every ancient human ancestor was described by a single questionable finding. 

Everybody remembers the first human in space. And who was the third one? The tenth one? The one hundred tenth one? Human memory is limited and that is why “the first human in space effect” works just fine in everyday life. (I like 1-2 brands of ketchup... etc.)Thus, anthropology is also distant from interests of an ordinary man’slife. 


As a result, the mind of an ordinary person, all the vast knowledge about Australopithecus rolls up to a “little monkey Lucy” image, that a person “has heard of or read something about some time ago”.


In the reality “Lucy” – is one of the first, and thus most well-known finding of Australopithecus afarensis remains discovered in 1974. However, thegeneral amount of Australopithecus fossils findings excel hundreds (some are presented here )

Elizabeth Cotton, Lady Hope. Sourсe: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/
Elizabeth Cotton, Lady Hope. Sourсe: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/
MYTH №6: Charles Darwin “rejected his theory” at the end of his life. 

This is an example of a typical “urban legend” – a story of heretic’s repentance. Charles Darwin did not escape such destiny.


If during a debate on “did humans evolve or not” your opponent will say that even Darwin at the end of his life “became doubtful and returned to faith” - ask your opponent about the source of such a claim. With a 99% probability you will not get a coherent answer.


Let us clarify that. The story of “Darwin’s abnegation» first appeared many years after the scientist’s death, in 1915. This sententious story «of spiritual transformation of a great skeptic» was published in the American Baptist Publication of Evangelist and Missionary Elizabeth Hope (allegedly, Darwin himself confessed his doubts to her at his deathbed…). 

However, this “soul-saving” story is not supported by any facts. Neither Darwin’s autobiography written before his death, nor memories of his family have any indication that the greatest naturalist had any doubts concerning his views. Moreover, Charles Darwin’s children (son Francis Darwin and daughter Henrietta Litchfield) confirmed that Lady Hope had never met their father and thus, this story is a pure fiction, fudged by the missionary upon her return to the US. 

МYTH №7: Eugene Dubois at the end of his life confessed that he had found a “giant gibbon” at Java island, not a pitekantrop. 

So, it’s a famous story that can be found on the Web in millions of versions, which basic content can be described as the following: A dutch military doctor Eugene Dubois  went to Java, where in 1890 – 1891 he found the remains of pitekantrop – cranial roof, femur and teeth. . Eugene Dubois proclaimed to the whole world that he had found a monkey-like-human. Not a single serious scientist believed him, and after certain discussions had decided that the remains belong to a giant gibbon. 

Dubois persisted, but after many years eventually confessed that he had found a giant gibbon...

Having heard/read such a story you should ask 2 questions:


1. How exactly did Dubois «confess»? Did he announce it by radio? Did he wheeze it out before death? Did he write it in his Will? 


Quite certainly you will hear some incoherent «hem and haw». In reality, some sources for this topic sometimes mention a certain article published in Nature, in August 1935. We’ve done the search and eventually found that issue. It contains NO «repentance and confession» of Dubois.  (For details of investigation – see here). 


2. Has anyone (beside Dubois) ever found remains of a “giant gibbon” at Java or anywhere else?


No, there are no findings of any giant gibbon. Apparently, the reason is, the giant gibbons never existed. But starting from 1930’s multiple remains of pitekantrops  (or commonly known as remains of Homo erectus) were discovered at Java, Southern Europe and Africa. According to ANTROPOGENEZ.RU, remains of at least 250 individuals were discovered) ... 

MYTH №8: A theory of human’s primate ancestry is based on “physical resemblance between a human and a monkey”. 


  • Physical resemblance was used for classification of living organisms many decades ago – the reason a whale (a mammal) was considered to be a fish due to “external similarities”.


    Multiple evidence of human and apes relatedness can be divided at: 

1 - Australopithecus afarensis. 2 - Australopithecus africanus. 3 - Homo rudolfensis. 4 - Homo ergaster. 5 - Homo ergaster. 6 - Homo erectus (Java). 7 - Homo erectus (Sinanthropus). 8 - Homo heidelbergensis (Spain).
										9 - Homo heidelbergensis (Greece). 10 - Homo helmei. 11 - Homo sapiens idaltu. 12 - Homo sapiens sapiens.
1 - Australopithecus afarensis. 2 - Australopithecus africanus. 3 - Homo rudolfensis. 4 - Homo ergaster. 5 - Homo ergaster. 6 - Homo erectus (Java). 7 - Homo erectus (Sinanthropus). 8 - Homo heidelbergensis (Spain).
9 - Homo heidelbergensis (Greece). 10 - Homo helmei. 11 - Homo sapiens idaltu. 12 - Homo sapiens sapiens.

МИФ №9: Найденные ископаемые, выдаваемые за предков человека - это «просто древние обезьяны» (либо «просто древние люди»).

Formally speaking it is correct. Indeed, some time ago our ancestors were not yet humans, but ancient apes. Till a certain time, the differences seemed to be obvious for any scientist. However the “line” separating “ancient humans” from “ancient apes” became more and more vague with the rising amount of excavated findings....   

Just suggest to your opponent (who started talking about “humans” and “apes”) to look at these pictures (see on the right) to check out where exactly ancient apes “end” and humans “begin”... Ask your opponent to justify the answer. Most likely, a person will stop to argue overconfidently and start THINKING…

Изменения объема мозга гоминид за последние 5 миллионов лет.
Изменения объема мозга гоминид за последние 5 миллионов лет.

МИФ №10: Найденные ископаемые, выдаваемые за предков человека - на самом деле «деграданты», деградировавшие люди. 



It is easy to believe in such a statement. We do not see monkeys turning into people, but we can easily see humans turning into monkeys; just go out at night in any typical neighborhood of any typical Russian town.


Everything would be fine if paleoanthropology would not correlate with chronology. If you put the findings on a time scale – unfortunately you cannot observe any degradation. The picture is quite the opposite. We have given an illustrative example before. 


On this diagram (see on the right) the changes in hominid brain volume (our predecessor) are shown throughout time. You can see about 300 points here. Isn’t it a pretty peculiar degradation, accompanied by fast brain growth?


Undoubtedly, brain volume is not the only one characteristic of human remains, but it is sufficient enough to see that the idea of “degradation” (“involution”) is very hard to believe in... 

МИФ №11: Древние «предки человека» жили одновременно, а не происходили одни от других.


This argument is usually supported by known findings of ancestral species and offspring species that synchronise in time. For example, various findings of Homo habilis are dated in a range from 2.3 myo to 1.5 myo, and Homo ergaster, who is assumed to evolve from Homo habilis, lived about 1.8 myo. As you can see, these species’ time frames partly overlap (but not entirely!). This situation is not unusual at all. A new species usually evolve from one isolated population of predecessor species and never «substitute» the former ones completely and immediately. As a result, the predecessor species can exist simultaneously with its offspring species for some time. Moreover, it can give rise to more than one new specie (as it happened, for example, with Australopithecus afarensis which apparently gave a start to several groups of hominids - see here). 


Finally, nobody is surprised with a simultaneous coexistence of wolves and dogs, although it is well-known that wolves are the ancestors of our modern pets... 

Родословная млекопитающих на основании молекулярно-генетических данных. Видно, что свинья отстоит от человека дальше, чем мышь, кролик и дикобраз.
												Источник: William J. Murphy et al. Using genomic data to unravel the root of the placental mammal phylogeny. Genome Res. 2007 17: 418.
Родословная млекопитающих на основании молекулярно-генетических данных. Видно, что свинья отстоит от человека дальше, чем мышь, кролик и дикобраз.
Источник: William J. Murphy et al. Using genomic data to unravel the root of the placental mammal phylogeny. Genome Res. 2007 17: 418.

МYTH №12: A human is genetically closer to a pig than to an ape (no wonder we can transplant swine organs to humans...)


Our readers were asking about pig genome so often that some time ago we asked 3 experts in genetics to give comments and clarify this information. Their answer is definitive: the mentioned statement is absolutely incorrect (details see here). From genetic and anatomical perspective, a human is a primate (not an artiodactyla). Moreover, if we are talking about genetics, a MOUSE is genetically much closer to a human, than a pig is (by the way, mice stem cells – not pig ones! – are now used to create artificial human skin).


«But why do we than transplant swine organs to humans? »

First of all, we have to disappoint you; so far these procedures are limited solely to transplantation of swine heart valves. Whole organ transplantation, apparently, is a not a close future perspective.

Second of all: I do not know, our dear readers, if you eat pork, but many of our countrymen do that. Ask any of them - would he/she like to try some... chimp soup. How much such soup could cost is a different question.

Genetic similarities are not the only issue here.  For mass organ transplantation (which is transplantology’s ultimate goal) we need a donor-animal that is:

  • well studied (preferably with a long and widespread history of domesticated breeding and with no surprising pathologies);
  • easy to breed in captivity;
  • suitable by size;
  • cheap;
  • along with continuous experiments and research which is not protested by the public....

Any ape is losing this battle to a pig by most parameters (details see here).


Fact: Several millions of pigs are slaughtered worldwide every year. To compare: general population of gorillas is about 100 thousand animals, and chimps - about 300 thousands. 

МYTH №13: Majority of scientists have “disproved ape ancestry to humans claim a long time ago...”

«Majority of scientists» - is just as real as “majority of fruits” or “majority of athletes”. Fencing champion is not likely to perform well in martial arts. And expert in linguistics is wishing to conduct a study on linguistics and genetics – invites a geneticist as a consultant. Otherwise factual mistakes and inconsistencies are almost inevitable. 

Many people like to speculate on the human evolution topic. But in reality (ANTROPOGENEZ.RU editor had to face this situation), the number of real experts (specialists who are professionally involved in the area and have results of their scientific work) in Russia is very limited.


 This is exactly the very “minority,”  whose opinion on the subject really matters.


Fact: these specialists (anthropologists, geneticists, archeologists, primatologists) might debate on numerous details, but not on basic things such as: reality of evolution, human’s descent from ancient apes, Africa being the cradle of humanity. These fundamental statements are not debated in a scientific community.   


Дальше: Myth №14: Missing link is not found yet...

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