“No one will dig old monkey bones to back up a theory that I was once a baboon,” former Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi tweeted on Saturday.
This led to a heated debate on Homo naledi, a new human ancestor discovered in the Cradle of Humankind.
When a follower countered that evolution is a proven science, Vavi responded: “Then prove that I was a monkey before – please don’t bring old baboon bones.”
The extraordinary new non-human species that buried its dead and lived in South Africa about two and a half million years ago was introduced to the world on Thursday.
The discovery was found in a remote, deep underground chamber of the Rising Star cave in October 2013, 1.5km from Sterkfontein, a warren of caves that have been providing many of the clues on how humans evolved.
Tourism Minister Derek Hanekom said on Friday he believed the discovery would prove to be a boost to tourism to the Cradle, which also happened after it was declared a World Heritage Site.
But Vavi tweeted he wanted more proof.
“I am no grandchild of any ape, monkey or baboon – finish en klaar. Now prove to me scientifically that I am,” he challenged.
@mrdowdeswell invited Vavi to visit the Origins Centre at Wits University.
“I’d be happy to join to try to convey the science there,” he offered.
But not everyone was as helpful.
“OK, and the world’s still flat and the sun revolves around us. Good luck and goodbye,” @mdefon replied.
Others agreed with Vavi.
“[This is] a lie. We were created as an image of God; there is no such thing called evolution,” tweeted @IMangokoana.
@sechabap added: “I was created in God’s image and not a baboon’s, monkey or ape’s.”
Premier Helen Zille also entered the fray. “We all derive from pre-historic hominids. Stop using Homo Naledi as an excuse to play victim. Marvel at evolution!”
When a follower responded that he agreed with Vavi, the former DA leader replied: “I’m sorry you feel victimised by science.” News24