Reviewed by Maurice A Williams
The Upright Ape
A New Origin of the Species
by Dr. Aaron G. Filler
New Page Books
2007, ISBN-13: 978-156414-933-6, 288 pages, $24.99
Dr. Filler proposes a fascinating new hypothesis about the evolutionary development of apes and humans. He is well qualified on this subject. He has degrees in anthropology and in medicine and is both a respected anthropologist and a world famous neurosurgeon specializing in spinal disorders. An anthropologist friend asked his opinion about a twenty-two million year old fossil that eventually became the inspiration for The Upright Ape. Filler easily recognized the fossil as the mid lumbar vertebrae from an ape-like animal that stood upright, and the fossil dates from a time fifteen million years earlier than any paleontologist would claim an upright posture for a hominoid.
The fossil given Dr. Filler had its origin in a volcanic region along the Uganda-Kenya border that was rich in fossils from the Miocene era, twenty-two million years ago. Filler realized, based upon his expertise in spines, that this fossil is evidence for a revolutionary new idea: the common ancestor of both humans and apes already had an upright stance. It walked on two legs unlike modern apes that use their knuckles to assist in locomotion. Current theory holds that humans are the only hominoids that walk erect on two legs and that upright humans evolved from non-upright apes.
Further study convinced Filler that these lumbar vertebrae belonged to an entirely new genus among the hominoids, really an entirely new kind of animal. This animal not only stood erect: it could not comfortably walk in a stooped-over position as modern apes do. Modern apes evolving from an upright ancestor is not the general understanding of the Theory of Evolution. Filler points out that there have been many spectacular new discoveries in the past twenty-five years that warrant a new appraisal of how evolution progressed. He makes his book interesting by outlining an overview of how scientists in previous years evaluated the fossils they found and developed their theories of how new species develop and earlier species die out. He tried not to be too technical. I propose to make my case by proceeding simultaneously in both the formal academic arena and in the broader sphere of access provided by a book written for the general public. He succeeds to some extent, but the book is still pretty technical.
Up to this time, the general consensus on evolution is that upright posture and walking on two legs arose from an ancestor that did not have an upright posture. From that ancestor, several lines of hominoids evolved including humans and chimpanzees. Filler claims that there is no definitive fossil evidence at all to support this conviction. All the fossil evidence actually points the other way. These lumbar vertebrae came from a primate that not only stood erect, but could not walk comfortably with its back in a horizontal position. There are presently four great hominoids on our planet: Orangutan, Chimpanzee, Gorilla, and man. Only man has an upright posture.
Filler argues that both Sahelanthropus and Orrorin fit the description of being human; both may be reasonable candidates for ancestry of the chimpanzee lineage as well. He goes on to say that if this evidence for an upright bipedal, hominiform lineage is accepted, then either of the two above species can be seen as a human ancestor for the chimpanzee. Filler writes: What we have mistaken for humanity is, indeed, just language and technology. And so we have a new possibility: a first human child, born to an ape parent, awkward and erect, and always at a loss to keep up with its quadrupedal proconsulid siblings, but nonetheless the harbinger of a new and remarkable species. The first upright ape was also the first human. In the millions of years that followed, new species branched off and abandoned their upright posture to descend to what we now call ‘ape.’
Evolutionists have always proposed that higher forms of life have evolved from lower, simpler forms. Filler’s proposing that apes and chimpanzees evolved from early humans before modern humans evolved turns the accepted evolutionary theory upside down. He is an eminently qualified anthropologist whose opinion carries much weight, but I think he spoiled his scholarly work on anthropology by crossing over into religion and theology and spending too many pages trying to refute the tenets of biblical creation.
For, example, here is what he writes about the Christian religion: In fact, Christian belief and narrative seems to owe a great deal to the ancient Egyptian creation myth. Isis bore a son by Immaculate Conception. Christ’s resurrection and the Roman Cross make much more sense when it is appreciated that for thousands of years in the Middle East, erection of the [ancient] Egyptian cross, with the top leg being a loop supposed to resemble a vertebrae, was the symbol of resurrection of Osiris, king of the afterlife. Neither the Hebrew religion nor the Roman religions of the early centuries had a significant formal orientation toward an afterlife. I think Fuller laid his impeccable credentials in anthropology and medicine on the line when he ventured into fields he is not so well trained in. I think he will live to regret statements he should have put into a different book and not spoil his impressive objectivity on anthropology in this scholarly book The Upright Ape.
One big question left unanswered by Filler is what makes a human human. I think it is more than language and technology as Fuller states, and it is certainly more that the structure of the spine. Never the less, Fuller’s book is very interesting and well worth reading. His evaluation of this mid lumbar vertebrae fossil may well become the watershed opinion guiding future understanding of evolution. I highly recommend The Upright Ape.
About the reviewer: Maurice A. Williams is an author of inspirational articles and poems and has published a book: Revelation, Fall of Judea, Rise of the Church. Prior to his retirement, he was Director of Research and Development for a firm that did business all over the world. He has traveled to many countries himself. He is also author of technical articles in scientific journals and chapters in technical books. He has four children and six grandchildren, and lives at home with his wife. You can visit his Web Site http://www.mauriceawilliams.com