This March 2015 photo provided by National Geographic from their October 2015 issue shows a reconstruction of Homo naledi's face by paleoartist John Gurche at his studio in Trumansburg, N.Y. In an announcement made Thursday, Sept. 10, 2015, scientists say fossils found deep in a South African cave revealed the new member of the human family tree. (Mark Thiessen/National Geographic via AP) IMAGE MUST INCLUDE NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC LOGO; CROPPING NOT PERMITTED; MANDATORY CREDIT: "MARK THIESSEN/NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC"
This March 2015 photo provided by National Geographic from their October 2015 issue shows a reconstruction of Homo naledi's face by paleoartist John Gurche at his studio in Trumansburg, N.Y. In an announcement made Thursday, Sept. 10, 2015, scientists say fossils found deep in a South African cave revealed the new member of the human family tree. (Mark Thiessen/National Geographic via AP) IMAGE MUST INCLUDE NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC LOGO; CROPPING NOT PERMITTED; MANDATORY CREDIT: "MARK THIESSEN/NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC"
A planetary nebula is a phase of stellar evolution that the sun should experience several billion years from now. Picture: REUTERS/NASA
A planetary nebula is a phase of stellar evolution that the sun should experience several billion years from now. Picture: REUTERS/NASA

The discovery of Homo naledi has reignited debate about the origins of humankind, especially around the theory of evolution. Various religious groups we spoke to, accept it as a matter of faith that we are the product of some creation, with the method and some details differing here and there. However some, like author Michael Tellinger, believe our origins are somewhere out of this world

Alien Origins

Speaking from Bosnia, Michael Tellinger told the Sunday Tribune that the basis of his book Slave Species of the Gods is that every ancient civilisation recorded in some way that creation came from the skies.

While not wanting to get drawn into the meaning of the discovery of Homo naledi, Tellinger said: “The Europeans, in discovering the new world, separated other people from their culture and the great enslavement of the human race began.”

Were humans created by God as slaves? Was Abraham the first human spy? Was Jesus an accidental messiah?

In Slave Species of the Gods, Tellinger takes his readers on a remarkable odyssey of the true origins of humankind in which he:

* Draws clear and startling analogies between new discoveries in genetic engineering and ancient archaeological finds.

* Highlights emerging scientific information overlooked in the past.

* Unravels the Bible’s often obscure stories by linking these to their original forms in Sumerian clay tablets and other prehistoric writings.

* Provides explicit answers to why our modern world has become so senseless and chaotic by revealing the secrets of our prehistory.

While shattering myths about evolution and God, Slave Species of the Gods enables evolutionists and creationists to finally co-exist in one pond.

The arguments are compelling, simple and refreshing, retracing the path of human evolution from the murky distant past to the religious dogma that haunts humankind today.

The question of who we are and where we come from takes on a new meaning as we discover that our DNA may have been manipulated by our creator some 250 000 years ago to produce a less intelligent “primitive species”.

In fact, the book’s evidence shows that Adam and Eve were not the “apple” of God’s eye, as first suggested in Genesis. Tellinger presents the many arguments and evidence succinctly and convincingly, pointing out the difference between God and god.

How did this genetic manipulation affect humankind? How have we evolved in 250 000 years? Can we achieve immortality?

These are just some of the questions answered in this gripping and astonishing work, challenging all those who are looking for new answers in the 21st century.

JUDAISM

“Science takes things apart to see how they work. Religion puts things together to see what they mean.”

With these words former Chief Rabbi of the United Kingdom, Lord Jonathan Sacks, eloquently describes a Jewish perspective on the equally important role of both science and religion in understanding the world around us.

Although many modern Jews hold a similar stance to Sacks, an outlook termed “theistic evolution”, Jewish views on evolution include a continuum of opinions about topics such as evolution, creationism and the origin of life.

Classical Rabbinic teachings hold that God created the world nearly 6 000 years ago, shaping Adam and Eve from clay.

According to tradition, humankind was imbued with a special level of perception by God “breathing the breath of life into Adam’s nostrils” – what some see as the true moment of humankind’s creation.

This view, based on the chronology of events described in the book of Genesis, was already being challenged during medieval times when Jewish rationalist philosophers wrote against a literal reading of Genesis, stressing that Jews were obligated to understand the Torah in a way compatible with the findings of science.

Maimonides, one of the great rabbis of the Middle Ages, wrote that if science and Torah were misaligned it was either because science was not understood or the Torah was misinterpreted.

In the past few years, the Rabbinical Council of America has maintained that evolutionary theory is not incompatible with belief in a divine creator or with the first two chapters of Genesis, while conservative Judaism embraces science as a way to learn “Judaism, as with the other major monotheistic religions is divided when it comes to viewing evolution, and especially human evolution, from within the religious context”.

Professor Barry Schoub, former executive director of the National Institute for Communicable Diseases, has a great interest in the intersection between Judaism and science.

He explains, “There is a very conservative standpoint from the ultra-orthodox community who totally reject evolution both animal as well as human and will only countenance a literal reading of Genesis – for which there is, of course, no scientific evidence”.

However, he continues, “The modern orthodox approach to evolution is one which accepts the scientific evidence, of which there is an enormous volume. There is literature from many of the Jewish religious greats and many others, who had no difficulty in reconciling Genesis with scientific evolutionary concepts.”

Ultimately, the Jewish take on the evolution versus creation debate is a personal matter.

Rabbi Hillel Avidan, of the Durban Progressive Jewish Congregation, explains his own view, “Whether we evolved from lower forms of life or not, God was the prime mover responsible for bringing all life into being.

“The manner of creation remains a subject of debate, but regardless of that manner I see no reason to deny the role of Creator to God”.

Instead of maintaining a dichotomy between science and religion, much of the teachings of the Jewish tradition call on us to embrace the wisdom that emerges from both and to use science and religion to become more compassionate and caring human beings that can put the principles of tzedakah (charity) and tikkun olam (repairing the world) into action. – Alana Baranov

Islam

The Islamic concept of the origin of man is encapsulated in the verse of the Quran, “The likeness of Jesus (in as far as his miraculous birth) in God’s sight is the same as Adam (the first man). He created Adam from earth and then He said to him, ‘Be!’ and he was.” (Quran Chapter 3, Verse 59)

Muslims believe that man’s origin stems directly from God’s creation. God created man and established him on the Earth to test man’s devotion and obedience to Him. Most religions more or less preach the same ideal.

The opposing view is of man coming into being by chance, somehow creating himself through a process of evolution, as advocated by atheists. There are a minority of theists that try to bridge this divide by proposing that God used evolution as a vehicle for man’s creation but this view finds little favour with religion or atheism.

Both positions are parts of a greater divide, that of God’s creation of the universe or the universe’s self-creation. And as much as atheists may wish to attribute their belief to scientific fact, both positions are matters of faith. It takes a lot of faith to believe that matter winks itself into existence and that the chaos of a gargantuan explosion, bereft of intelligence or guidance, formed the harmony, beauty and life that we are surrounded by. Logic and science informs us that order does not stem from chaos.

While people are at liberty to choose their beliefs, there are consequences that hinge on that choice. Religion provides a moral code and, a purpose in life.

The calm that settles over the heart of a praying person is undeniable. Depression, despondency and discontent come knocking, more often, at the door of those without religion in their lives.

Atheism denies man of any morality except that of his own making. Man is merely a fluke of existence, regulated only by the norms of society and the laws of the land. If tomorrow society condones sleeping with one’s mother, then why should it be questioned? After all, we are nothing more than another animal species. Besides ridding man of any ethical code it’s hard to think of what a person actually achieves by choosing atheism. Yes, atheism does provide a person with quite a chip on the shoulder. Armed with an array of scientific “facts”, atheists crusade relentlessly against those who believe in God.

Religion gives man a higher purpose and heavenly aspirations. Atheism gives man, well, the identity of an intelligent ape wearing clothes. – Mufti Moosa Salie of the Jamiatul Ulama KZN

HINDUISM

The latest discovery and conclusions are somewhat untested. Hinduism does not reject such discoveries and has always been willing to debate such issues.

Hinduism is a conglomeration of different philosophical views. As a result there is no single account of creation.

However, in order to understand the concept of creation from the Hindu point of view, it is necessary to consult the RG Veda, the basis of all Hindu teachings.

In particular, the Purusha Sukta of the RG Veda describes how life began.

Verses 5 to 15 of the Purusha Sukta explains the creation of the entire universe – humans, animals, plants, trees. According to the Purusha Sukta, from the Adipurusha or original Supreme Being was born the Viratpurusha, or the immense universal form.

The Viratpurusha has been regarded as the substratum out of which Brahma was born. Later Brahma multiplied himself and created this Earth and then the bodies of living beings.

The RG Veda, elsewhere, reminds us that the Hiranyagarbha (golden embryo) is the source of creation of the universe.

Hindu scriptures are clear that creation, preservation and dissolution are the responsibility of God.

The Bhagavad Gita (7:6) states: “All created beings have their source in these two natures (matter and spirit). Of all that is material and all that is spiritual in this world, know for certain that I am both the origin and the dissolution”.

Lord Krishna confirms further in Bhagavad Gita (7:10) that God is the seed of everything. In Hinduism, there is a strong belief that the entire cosmic order is under the control of God. – South African Hindu Maha Sabha president, Ashwin Trikamjee

christianity

How does one explain the Homo naledi archaeological discovery from a biblical standpoint? Some Christian scholars offer an explanation of theistic evolution.

This acknowledges the involvement of a divine creator, who set in motion the process of evolution, implying that God created the universe in an initial sense.

He then allowed it to evolve from that point onward. Millard J Erickson, Christian theologian, ventures to explain the origin of humanity by differentiating between what he terms deistic and theistic evolution.

He refers to deistic evolution as God beginning the evolutionary process and then stepping back from it, in order to allow for self-development.

The biblical view of the origin of humanity delineates several points to consider. Firstly, humanity is the result of the specific thoughts and intents of a divine creator, and not the product of arbitrary processes. This intimates that because humanity has its origin in God, there must follow a resultant purpose that God intended for humanity to possess.

Secondly, God was under no compulsion or obligation in creating humanity.

The origin of humanity rests solely on his benevolence as creator and is an act of his free will. God is neither dependent on, nor does he require, self-actualisation through the creation of humanity.

Thirdly, the resident image of God that has been bestowed as an inherent and central part of humanity is what defines humanity as a unique part of creation.

God did not create humanity, as he did in his previous creative acts in Genesis 1:1-25. All of the previous creative acts were de novo or created afresh.

Before humanity was created, God had already set forth the pattern and purpose of the human being.

What follows God’s decision was the actual process of creating man.

We are told that God created man in his own image and that he formed him from the dust of the ground. Man was constituted as a living being when the breath of God entered him.

Arising from this biblical account, it is believed that God created Adam and Eve as the first pair of human beings.

When God created Adam, he placed him in a natural world and gave him stewardship over it.

Humanity was not placed in a vacuum, but in the context of a dynamic and living planet.

We should not see ourselves as separate from the world, but as part of it. – Pastor Randlee Reddy

science

Advanced forms of life existed on Earth at least 3.55 billion years ago.

In rocks of that age, fossilised imprints have been found of bacteria that look uncannily like cyanobacteria, the most highly evolved photosynthetic organisms.

Carbon deposits enriched in the lighter carbon-12 isotope over the heavier carbon-13 isotope attest to an even older age.

However, it is believed our planet remained inhospitable to life for about half a billion years after its birth. There’s a window of 200-300 million years for the appearance of life – once considered too short a period for the emergence of something as complex as a living cell.

So it was suggested germs of life might have come to Earth with cometary dust or even on a spaceship sent out by some distant civilisation.

No evidence in support of these proposals has emerged.

It’s now widely agreed that if life arose spontaneously by natural processes it must have arisen fairly quickly, in a matter of millennia or centuries.

Even if life came from elsewhere, we would still have to account for development. So we might as well assume life started on Earth.

How this event happened is highly conjectural, though no longer purely speculative.

The clues come from the Earth, outer space, laboratory experiments and, especially, life itself.

The history of life on Earth is written in the cells and molecules of existing organisms

Thanks to advances in cell biology, biochemistry and molecular biology, scientists are becoming increasingly adept at reading the text. An important rule in this exercise is to reconstruct the earliest events without assuming they proceeded with the benefit of foresight.

Christian de Duve from an article which originally appeared in the September-October 1995 issue of American Scientist.

Sunday Tribune