Thinking Anglicans

Homo floresiensis

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

Notify of

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Simon Richardson
19 years ago

I think the important thing to remember is that Desmond Morris treats his atheism like any other fundamentalist treats their religion. When he says that “the existence of Mini-Man should destroy religion” he is expressing his desire, not stating any kind of logical or factual position.

Maciej Henneberg
Maciej Henneberg
19 years ago

WHY THE ‘HOBBITT’ MAY NOT BE A NEW SPECIES OF HUMANS Three days ago the world was stunned by the announcement of a discovery of a new species of humans who survived until, perhaps, historical times. A skeleton of diminutive person was unearthed in Liang Bua limestone cave on the Indonesian island Flores by an Indonesian-Australian team of scientists. In the same cave were found small fragments of skeletons of a few other humans, sophisticated stone tools and bones of animals that were apparently hunted and eaten by inhabitants of the cave. Occupation of the cave extended from over 38… Read more »
19 years ago

They found seven skeletons

Maciej Henneberg
Maciej Henneberg
19 years ago

No, they DID NOT find seven skeletons. They found small fragments of bone belonging to some six individuals, plus LB1 that is the only reasonably complete skeleton. My comment stands.

Paul Thompson
Paul Thompson
19 years ago

Prof Henneberg, The fundamentalist creationist organisations have now picked up on your comments regarding Homo Floresiensis. Your comments are being presented as an authoritative statement from a leading scientist in the field that evolution does not take place, thus proving Biblical Creation. Please will you comment on this. Please will you also give an indication of your religious beliefs. I understand from 3rd party sources that you accept a continuous human evolution and that observed fossil specimens are all examples of a single species from different time periods. Please will you extrapolate backwards through the evolutionary development of Homo Sapiens… Read more »

Would love your thoughts, please comment.x