Sometimes an ape is a 4.4 million-year-old fossil that sheds light on the evolutionary origins of human beings, and sometimes… an ape is just an ape.
In the case of "Ardi," the ape-like fossil recently discovered in Ethiopia and already being celebrated as the oldest found relative of modern human beings, the final determination depends on who is doing the talking.
In one camp are evolutionary scientists who last week published and hailed the discovery of an upright walking ape named Ardipithecus ramidus, or "Ardi" for short, who made Ethiopia her home nearly 5 million years ago.
But despite the excitement from the paleontology community, another group of researchers, many of them with advanced degrees in science, are unimpressed by Ardi, who they believe is just another ape -- an ape of indeterminate age, they add, and an ape who cannot be an ancestor of modern man for a range of reasons, including one of singular importance: God created man in one day, and evolution is a fallacy.
"What creationists believe about human origins we get from the Bible," said David Menton an acclaimed anatomist and also a creationist. "The creation of the world takes place on page one of the Bible. If you throw out the first page of the Bible you might as well throw out the whole thing. If you can't live with the first page then pitch out the remaining thousand pages."
And so for creationists, this latest piece in the puzzle of human evolution is just more bunk, Godless claptrap wrapped in the language of science and all too conveniently rolled out on the 200th anniversary of Charles Darwin's birth and the 150th anniversary of his seminal work "On the Origin of Species."
"In 'The Year of Darwin,' this is a concerted campaign to capture the public mindset and say the 'jury is out' and relegate the Christian view to the trash bin," said Gary Bates, CEO of Creation Ministries International.
In a deluge of Web postings, articles and lectures, creationists have -- with scientific language and precision -- set out to debunk the importance of Ardi and have collectively asked, "What's the big deal?"
"This is not the latest and greatest discovery. We have a different interpretation of the facts, and that is that Genesis is the real view of the creation of man. There is nothing Christians need to worry about," Bates said.
"This is a meaningless discovery of another ape. As far as the creationist community is concerned, this is a big yawn. There is nothing about Ardi that has anything to do with the evolution of man," said John Morris, president of the Institute for Creation Research in Dallas.
That's a tone significantly different than the one C. Owen Lovejoy, an anthropologist at Kent State University in Ohio, struck in a recent interview with ABCNews.com, when he called Ardi perhaps "the most important specimen in the history of evolutionary biology."
For Morris and other creationists, the approach to handling new discoveries like Ardi by evolutionary scientists is twofold: fight the science and promote the Bible.
"People are talking about Ardi. It's all over the news, so we have to explain it and answer people's questions. We're not making a theological argument, but a scientific one. The science of evolution is so flawed we have to be opposed to it," Morris said.