Writing about the news, this week, of the discovery of a previously unknown human species, dubbed Homo floresiensis, Desmond Morris includes this provocative comment:
[T]he existence of Mini-Man should destroy religion, but I can already hear the fanatics claiming that he has been put on earth by the Devil simply to test our faith.
This seems to me to be something of a non sequitur, but presumably Morris is referring to the more fundamentalist versions of religious faith, and whether his inclusion of all religion in the comment is deliberate or accidental, it is surely the case that the existence of other human species is something that most Christians have almost taken for granted over the last hundred or so years.
As Morris notes, the intriguing question is whether the newly-discover species would be able to communicate with us in a spoken language:
When it comes down to it, being able to talk is really what defines humanity
and Christians should have little problem with that either. Speech enables us to communicate; speech enables us to think and to apply our brains to complex problem-solving; speech enables us to tell the truth and to lie, to influence and mislead. In short, it is language which separates us from other creatures — in this world, creatures which can speak are creatures which have, in the parable of the book of Genesis, fallen.
Scientific discoveries such as this should indeed be another nail in the coffin of fundamentalist religion, but sadly I suspect that those who deny the possibility of evolution will deny the logic of this discovery too.
That we should accept and even welcome the obvious conclusions about our ancestry does not seem a big thing to me. The message of kingdom of God, proclaimed by Jesus of Nazareth, is neither strengthened nor weakened by such news — it is true regardless.
Update 1 November
Morris’s article referred to above has drawn a lot of comment on the BBC website. The BBC has also published this response by David Wilkinson, lecturer in theology and science at Durham University, and council member of the Evangelical Alliance