Our earliest known ancestor is believed to have been uncovered in Chad in 2002. The skull is dated at 6 to 7 million years old. Originally thought to be more closely-related to the ape, many scientists now believe Toumai leans on our side of the family.
This kind of thing always makes me wonder just what exactly goes through the mind of a biblical literalist (there are more of them than you would think) upon hearing this kind of information. Do people who believe life is roughly 7,000 years old (and that Noah lived to be 950), or whatever the going calculation is now, think that the carbon dating system is just profoundly inaccurate? A rather inconvenient contemporary failure in light of the truth laid out in Genesis? Or do they think that fossils are God's way of testing our faith? In other words, are today's scientists inept, or are they involved in a grand anti-God conspiracy, or are they just being actively fooled by the Big Man himself, who no doubt chuckles as they dig down and "uncover" more and more stuff they think is really really old?
And, a student recently brought up a "scientific study" that claimed that the human gene pool "bottlenecked" just at the time of "the great flood." (I deftly sidestepped that minefield..). Seriously, what are they thinking? How does the inner logic work? All humans were wiped out except for some on a boat with all of the animals? That's a bit more severe than a "bottleneck", wouldn't you say? Nevermind the more important question...where the hell do they think all the water came from? There's only so much water on the biosphere that is Earth. It doesn't come to us from outer space. If there was enough water to cover all land, wouldn't water in fact be covering all land? I mean, sure, if the icecaps completely melt, and every cloud empties out all of its moisture, I wouldn't want to be in any proximity to the coast, or the Mississippi River. And New Orleans would be pretty well screwed. But, all the humans and the animals wiped out? I don't think so. Anyway, didn't the recent tsunami teach us that animals have a way of anticipating and getting out of the way of such things? Wouldn't God have been in on that feature?
I don't much mind creationists on principle. There's nothing logically inconsistent with believing in evolution and believing that some intelligent being created all life. It's the belief that the big guy must have done it in the way, and time scheme, laid out in The Book that seems so crazy to me. The beginning of Genesis is so clearly a 5-act play. A metaphor. A tradition. An amalgam of ancient stories. So what's the problem? Why is it impossible for a beautiful (or at least interesting) mythology to be worthy of sacred text? Jesus (their favorite) seemed to like passing on the capital-T Truth through story-telling. Why could he not have picked this up from his Dad?
I just don't get the insistence that God went to such pains to tell his story of creation through first and oral and then a written tradition, passed down through translation of language and custom, but then decided to muddy up the system with these pesky fossils. If I sat down with a literalist for an hour or so, could I at least understand the logic that tries to hold that all together? Does anyone have a clue what that structure of beliefs might look like?
UPDATE: Nevermind, I did a little googling, and now I'm kind of sorry that I asked.