Steven L. Peck on extremely ancient genealogy

09.14.2015 | Guest

This guest post is from Steven L. Peck, an associate professor of Biology at Brigham Young University. His book Evolving Faith: Wanderings of a Mormon Biologist comes out October 27, but you can pre-order your copy today.—BHodges

I once gave a talk entitled “Have You Really Done Your Genealogy if You Haven’t Found Your Fish Grandmothers?” For some reason our ancient ancestors continue to fascinate me; they whisper something deep about our nature as embodied beings. Maybe it’s the spirit of Elijah working in me. This is why I was so excited to read last week about an entirely new hominin species, Homo naledi, found in a cave in South Africa. Here are the details. ((Jamie Shreeve, “This Face Changes the Human Story. But How?National Geographic, September 10, 2015.))

This story is especially worth reading about to understand both how this important discovery was made and what its implications are. The arrangement of the burial grounds of this ancient species suggests that the bodies were placed there intentionally. This may be the oldest ritualized burial by a humanoid species ever discovered. This is deep genealogy!

As Latter-day Saints we may wonder and ponder about who exactly these people/creatures were, but the fact that they existed and apparently thought familiar thoughts seems fairly clear. I’m reminded of Hugh Nibley’s wise words:
Do not begrudge existence to creatures that looked like men long, long ago, nor deny them a place in God’s affection or even a right to exaltation—for our scriptures allow them such.” ((Hugh W. Nibley, “Before Adam,” in Hugh W. Nibley, Old Testament and Related Studies (Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book Company; Provo, Utah: FARMS, 1986), 82–83.))

I’m thrilled that the Maxwell Institute is publishing my new book Evolving Faith in which I explore the relationship between science and religion and directly examine questions like these. I’m honored to be a part of the “Living Faith” book series.