Books Worth a Look

By Bill Buckman


This is hopefully the beginning of a series of book reviews. These reviews will be on works whose authors present their ideas through “knowledge filters” that are different from the standard filters of our present society. Almost all of us use knowledge filters everyday, whether we realize it or not, to process the information that comes to us.  This is a necessary function. These could also be called “mindsets”. We use them to interpret our world and live in it. Maybe we should reevaluate our basic knowledge filter or mindset occasionally. Some of the books reviewed here may help the reader to do that.


One of the most prominent knowledge filters of our day is the so-called theory of evolution. It appears to some that those who use this theory do so to filter facts to support the theory. Some facts are ignored, some are underemphasized, and some are misleadingly overemphasized. Our first author takes a look at many of the same facts that evolutionists use, but analyzes them through a different knowledge filter. In this case, that filter is the Bible. Not all the books to be reviewed here will use a biblical viewpoint, but they will challenge a current standard of thinking. The reviewer hopes the readers will find this series of value.


Bones of Contention:

A Creationist Assessment of Human Fossils

By Marvin L. Lubenow

Baker Books

© 1992 by the author


Paleoanthropology! What a word! A dry and boring subject? Certainly, the subject materials are very dry: very old bones. But in this book, Marvin Lubenow definitely does not present the subject in a boring way. He uses logic and humor to convey his creationist view of paleoanthropology and to point out some of the weaknesses in the evolutionary understanding of the subject.


Just what is paleoanthropology? Paleo- (old), anthropo- (man), -logy (study of). It is not the study of men who have lived a long time, but rather of human beings who supposedly lived multiple thousands of years ago. More concisely, it is a study of their skeletal remains and the physical environment of those remains.


Lubenow states the main thrust of the book in his preface: “The purpose of this book is to demonstrate that even when the human fossils are placed on time charts according to the evolutionist’s dates for these fossils, the results do not support human evolution but conflict with it.” To illustrate his point, he does exactly this in several detailed charts throughout the book.


When this book was written, Marvin Lubenow was professor of Bible and apologetics at the Christian Heritage College in El Cajon, California. The book was written after 25 years of research on the subject. He discusses many of the famous human and nonhuman fossil discoveries, including “Lucy”, the Neanderthals, Java Man, Peking Man, the Australopithecines and others.


In chapter 4, “Monkey Business in the Family Tree”, Lubenow points out the frequent lack of self-correction in modern science and particularly in Paleoanthropology. He tells how, for 44 years, the very faulty reconstruction of Neanderthal’s remains was allowed to stand. “Not only did it take forty-four years for the original mistakes regarding Neanderthal to be corrected, it took the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago, one of the great natural history museums of the world, another twenty years to correct their own Neanderthal display.” “It was not until the mid 1970’s that the field museum removed their old display of the apish Neanderthals and replaced it with the tall, erect Neanderthals that are there today. What did they do with the old display? Did they throw it on the trash heap where it belonged? No. They moved the old display to the second floor and placed it right next to the huge Brontosaurus...dinosaur skeleton where more people than ever--especially children--would see it. They labeled it ‘An alternate view of Neanderthal.’ It was not an alternate view. It was a wrong view. So much for the self-correcting mechanism in science as far as Neanderthal is concerned” (p. 39).


In the remainder of this chapter, Lubenow traces the history of the infamous “Piltdown Man”. “Piltdown Man was a combination of a late-model human cranium and a piece of the lower jaw of an orangutan. The teeth of the orangutan mandible had been filed down to make them look human and to match those in the upper jaw of the cranium” (p. 16). The original “finds” were made between 1908 and 1915. It wasn’t until 1953 that these were shown to be outright frauds. Many people have been implicated in this hoax, including the creator of Sherlock Holmes; but it has never been proven who the real culprit was.


In chapters 8-11 Lubenow tells the story of Eugene Dubois and Java Man. “Before the turn of the [19th] century, a Dutch anatomist, Eugene Dubois, went to the Dutch East Indies (now Indonesia) in search of the “missing link” between apes and humans. In 1891, he found a skullcap that seemed to him to have a combination of human and ape features. A year later, about fifty feet away, he found a thighbone (femur) very human in appearance, that he assumed belonged with the skullcap.” Dubois had found his “missing link”. He called it Pithecanthropus erectus, meaning erect ape-man. This is now an obsolete term. This and other similar fossils are now classified as Homo erectus, erect man. The skullcap and femur were dated at half a million years old (pp. 86-87). “...[T]hey became for many years the primary evidence for human evolution” (p. 90). Lubenow goes on to show how shaky this dating and understanding of Java Man really are. “The Java Man skullcap and femur are evidence that the distinction between Homo erectus and Homo sapiens is an artificial one, that these two forms are both truly human, and that they lived as contemporaries. The differences attributed to evolution are instead evidence of the wide genetic variation found in the human family.” (p. 99) In the telling of this story Lubenow also shows that, for some evolutionists, not all the evidence and not all scientific reports are “created equal”.


It is true that in many of these fossils there is a variety in the size and shape of skulls differing from modern man. Lubenow proposes a non-evolutionary explanation for this: they can be seen as disease-caused deformities. He also accepts the Biblical account of a worldwide flood: “It was the severe disruption of the global climate by the Genesis Flood that caused the Ice Age to develop immediately afterward” (p. 146). “It is significant that the book of Job, with its setting after the Flood (Job 22:16) and probably before Abraham, has more references in it to snow, ice, and violent weather than any other book in the Bible.” He theorizes that “the human responses to the harsh climate of the Ice Age would have been (1) to seek out natural shelters such as caves, (2) to construct shelters out of whatever material was available, and (3) to wear heavy clothing, probably animal skins, to cover much or all of the body. The lack of access to sunshine because of the heavy cloud cover, their need for shelter, and the wearing of heavy clothing would have predictable results: rickets.” Lubenow concludes, “The only significant sources of vitamin D are fatty fish and egg yolk. The archaeological record gives no evidence that Homo erectus, archaic Homo sapiens, or Neanderthal peoples consumed these foods except sporadically. On the other hand, the Cro-Magnon people, with their very modern morphology, give evidence that fish contributed substantially and routinely to their diet. Further, by Cro-Magnon times, the Ice Age would have been in its final stages with relatively cool oceans, less cloud cover and volcanism, a dryer climate, and more sunshine” (p. 149).


Lubenow is not the first to propose disease as the cause of skeletal deformities. “When the first fossil human was discovered (the original Neanderthal) several competent medical authorities stated that the peculiar apish shape of the bones was caused by rickets. In 1872, Rudolph Virchow published a carefully argued and factual diagnosis that the original Neanderthal individual had been a normal human who suffered from rickets in childhood and arthritis in adulthood. Virchow’s diagnosis has never been refuted. It was ignored...” (p.150).


On page 141, Lubenow states, “Almost every basic style of tool has been found with almost every category of human fossil remains.” In other words, there was no slow technological progression from simple to complex. In the pages following this evidence, he discusses the so-called Acheulean hand ax. However, there is a problem with this designation for this tool. “The assumption is that it was some type of chopper; hence its name. The problem is that since it is sharp all around, it could do as much chopping on the hand using it as it did on the object being chopped.” Lubenow goes on to report that Eileen M. O’Brien of the University of Georgia came up with a better idea for the use of this tool. “Her experiments led her to conclude that the hand ax was actually a flying projectile weapon, thrown discus style and used in the hunting of large game.”


The book concludes with 20 pages of endnotes and an index divided into three categories: persons, fossils, and topics. It also contains an appendix entitled “The Dating Game”. In it, Lubenow recounts the history of the dating of one famous fossil. In so doing, he illustrates how theory wins out over true science: “The pigs won. In the ten-year controversy over the dating of one of the most important human fossils ever discovered, the pigs won. The pigs won over the elephants. The pigs won over K-Ar [potassium-argon] dating. The pigs won over 40Ar-39Ar dating. The pigs won over fission-track dating. They won over paleomagnetism. The pigs took it all. But in reality, it wasn’t the pigs that won. It was evolution that won. In the dating game, evolution always wins.” To find out how pigs ultimately dated a human fossil, read the book.


As Marvin Lubenow found, the house of evolution is on very shaky ground. Apes are apes and men are men—,and each has always been distinct from the other. They are not genetically related. This book illustrates that Christians need not be intimidated by the pronouncements of evolutionists; rather Christians should be encouraged to look closely at the real facts.


This reviewer found Lubenow’s book to be very entertaining and informative reading.