Watch: Homo naledi – science, religion, and racism tackled

The discovery of Homo naledi has been met with much criticism – particularly from sectors which denounce the concept of evolution and any idea that humans, especially black Africans, “evolved from monkeys”.

The topic was recently covered on an episode of the SABC’s Question Time, where ANC official Dr Matole Motshekga, from the Kara Heritage Instute, went head to head with Dr Patrick Randolph-Quinney, from the Wits School of Anatomical Sciences, on the matter of humanity’s origins.

Speaking on the show, Dr Motshekga dismissed the Homo naledi discovery, saying it was an attempt by Europeans to reinforce racial stereotypes and extend the narrative of Africans being sub-human.

In turn, Dr Randolph-Quinney explained that the discovery was intended to have the opposite effect, by linking all humans to a common ancestor and removing racial profiling where one race was seen as superior to another.

Scientists spent years researching and retrieving some 1,550 fossils from a cave in The Cradle of Human Kind. The bones, although not yet dated, could provide insight in the the homo genus for as far back as 2.8 million years.

Dr Motsheka’s view has been echoed many by people who have since drawn racial lines in the discovery, compounded further by a religious belief that man came from a Christian God, or religious equivalent.

Despite Dr Randolph-Quinney’s scientific view, Dr Motshekga remained unmoved, saying that black Africans already knew where they came from and it was the white Europeans who were late to the party.

Acccording to Dr Motshekga, Africans have already traced their origins and the origins of the universe, making reference to a number of books, including The Heremetica.

The Heremetica, or The Corpus Hermeticum, is an ancient set of texts containing Egyptian and Greek wisdom, dating back to the 2nd and 3rd century AD.

The texts purport to represent a non-Christian lineage of Hellenistic Gnosticism – a pre-Christian origin story from the Hellenstic period (300 BC).

Africa's true ancestor, according to Dr Matole Motshekga
Africa’s true ancestor, according to Dr Matole Motshekga

“Africa has a picture of the oldest, most ancient human beings that originated on this continent – and that human being is claimed to have been in the image of God, and he’s not a chimpanzee.”

“Europeans don’t have a record of their history and their ancestors – they’re looking for their next ancestor, and they found their ancestor in the baboon.”

“They want us to share that ancestor. We can’t share that, because we have our ancestor.”

When asked if God features in the science, Dr Randolph-Quinney opted to sit on the fence. “I’m agnostic… you cannot prove or disprove,” he said.

You can watch the full segment in the video below.

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Watch: Homo naledi – science, religion, and racism tackled