Part II: Primitive Cultures: The Problem of Their Historical Origin
and Some Conclusions
Even granting that his superior intelligence made up somewhat for other physical deficiencies in this unequal engagement, his energies must have been so completely occupied with the problems of mere survival that he could have had no more free energy for the creation of culture than his supposed modern counterparts among lower primitive peoples have had. Grahame Clark expressed this limitation very forcibly: (168)
The basic characteristic of savagery is dependence on wild sources of food supply with all the disadvantages that this implies. The idea that savages enjoy some advantage over civilized man through consuming only “natural” foods is very far removed from the truth, when in fact we find among them an “extremely wide prevalence of malnutrition, deficiency diseases, and a general lack of resistance to infection” (A. I. Richards, “Land, Labour, and Diet in Northern Rhodesia,” London, 1939, p.l), not to mention a low average output of energy. The ever-present fear of starvation causes the bulk of economic effort to be turned directly to the quest for food, the chief occupation of every active member of the community. This preoccupation with the basis of subsistence combined with a low average of vitality, is of itself sufficient to set narrow limits to the possibilities of cultural achievement under a state of savagery. . . .
168. Clark, Grahame, From Savagery to Civilization, Cobbett Press, London, 1946, p.28.
The low cultural status of savage societies can best be illustrated by considering the amount of energy at their disposal. . . Taking one man-power as the equivalent of one-tenth horsepower, and making due allowance for infants, the aged, and the sick, we arrive at one horsepower as a fair measure for the maximum energy of the largest social groups normally encountered under conditions of savagery. . . .
It has to be remembered also that not even this meager supply was adequately applied among men subject to a greater or lesser degree of malnutrition and incapable of long sustaining labor.
Hypothetical as such figures are, I think they are at least of the right order. In experimental work, my own findings are that one-sixteenth horsepower of work sustained for an hour or so requires a man to be in good shape. The figure of one-tenth horsepower given by Clark is, if anything, on the high side. Yet consider the average home as we know it. There may be at least one small electric motor of one-eighth horsepower and probably of one-quarter horsepower in a mixer or floor-polisher, and we employ this “to save ourselves the work involved,” even though we have all the food and rest one could ask for. In other words, with every advantage of modern living from the mechanical point of view, we still find mixing a cake or whipping cream a burden sufficient to justify the use of a power-source, and in the New World at least, a floor-polisher has now become almost a “necessity.” For all this, we may still find ourselves with hardly sufficient energy to sew on a button. Yet somehow we imagine that people who must be hunting for food perhaps 75% of their time would have all kinds of free energy to build a civilization by the continual improvement of their own circumstances, and this without the stimulation (or provocation) of the example of the “Jones” next door!
Lyell formulated the principle that in seeking to explain geological phenomena we ought not to make any appeal to the action of forces which cannot be shown to be operating at the present time. If this rule were to be applied to prehistory, we would be hard put to find anything within the historic period to support current reconstructions of the origins of civilization. One must conclude that such reconstructions are therefore figments of the imagination; philosophical concepts, not scientific ones. Yet virtually no one apparently feels there is really any difficulty in squaring current theories with known facts. Sir Francis Galton, in his justly famous work Hereditary Genius, had no hesitation whatever in asserting: (169)
My view is corroborated by the conclusion reached at the end of each of many independent lines of ethnological research ï¿½ that the
169. Galton, Sir Francis, Hereditary Genius, Watts, London, 1950 reprint, p.337.
And very few would quarrel with him today. The emphasis is laid on the superiority of man’s brain, though how this came about is not quite clear. But it is held that in this, and in this alone, lies the secret of the appearance of culture, that phenomenon of human activity which is uniquely his and entirely lacking among the animals. C. E. M. Joad argued that this intellectual superiority was more than merely a greater cleverness. (170) It included also man’s moral and his artistic sense; the former being important because man’s long childhood, so greatly to his advantage in extending his period of teachability and flexibility, was a great gain only because man was also capable of willingly making the necessary sacrifices for his children to advance themselves even beyond his own capabilities during this learning period. Animals permit their young to learn up to their level of learning, but not beyond this point if they can prevent it. As soon as an animal offspring shows any signs of having achieved superiority over the parents, the latter will if possible see to it that the process stops right there. For various reasons, man has the capacity of sacrificing his own interests and by this making progress of this kind possible. His artistic sense led to the development ultimately of symbolic forms of communication and opened the way for the introduction of writing, that great extender of knowledge and spur to cultural advance.
But, true though all this may be, it does not really solve anything, because virtually all authorities are also agreed that the human brain evolved by very small stages and therefore in the beginning when the test was most severe, the superiority would also be exceedingly slight. Everything might work out very reasonably once the first critical period was over, but how did man survive this period? Somewhere there had to be a first man and a first woman who were of the species Homo sapiens. If they were evolved, these two, what were they like when they first arrived on the scene as newborn infants?
It is possible, of course, that some kind of half-man and half-ape creature might have wandered away from his immediate family and “parental” influences, and thereafter have continued his evolution alone thus establishing a new species, Homo sapiens. But this is surely a very hypothetical and unlikely event. Quite apart from the fact that speciation involves a chromosomal change and that such a
170. Joad, C. E. M., For Civilization, Macmillan War Pamphlets, no.7, 1940, p.3 especially and pp.4-7.
change must have taken place at the same time in at least two such creatures, there are equally serious difficulties to be faced in another direction. Suppose we assume that a baby was born to some primate family whose brain was like that of a man but whose body was also essentially human (because it is increasingly apparent today that a human brain in an animal body would be a monster and not a man): what chances of survival would such a strange creature have in such a setting? Are we to imagine that the ape-family is going to make a supreme effort to keep this new man-child alive despite the fact that he must be warmed, fed and guarded for so much longer a period of time than his own generation of “brothers and sisters” who remained apes? And having survived this unusual circumstance and been raised by the extraordinary “forbearance” of all the rest of the band, did he then chance to find that another primate group somewhere nearby had produced, conveniently for him, an equally unusual female child with whom he could mate and thus propagate a new species, the race of man? Probably such a reconstruction would strike most evolutionists as completely absurd. Yet the break had to be made somewhere and no one, as far as I know, has actually attempted seriously to visualize what the first steps would be. The effect of mutations is sudden and if man’s qualitatively different brain was suddenly changed, a new situation such as we have postulated seems inescapable at some point along the line. (171) The child who suddenly thought to arm himself with weapons would presumably also think to use them against his own family when food was scarce. Such a child would surely invite disaster and would need to have not only an inventive mind capable of devising a new way of increasing his own fighting strength but also a superior cunning to survive the immediate reaction of a host of contemporaries. It is a mistake to assume that if man had just the right kind of brain at the beginning he could have overcome his other physical deficiencies. So he might, after a period of learning. But the question is whether he could survive while he learned. His brain made him teachable in a unique way, but we cannot look for this first teacher among the animals.
Granted that a body of knowledge and fund of wisdom and experience is at hand, man is beautifully equipped to make the best use of it. But at the beginning this fund did not exist. How did it arise? As we have already noted, primitive people do not tell us much, for they are not progressive. Such people may not be like our
171. It is generally agreed that the possession of language, that “Vehicle of Culture,” which is man’s peculiar creation, was the result of a “lucky mutation.” See on this, A. L. Kroeber, Anthropology, Harcourt Brace, New York, 1948, p.71; and Ernst Cassirer, Essay on Man, Yale, New Haven, 1948, p.30.
supposed Paleolithic ancestors, but the reason they are denied this privilege is not because they are “primitive” (which our distant ancestors are also assumed to have been), but because they are found to be as intelligent and as fully human as the rest of us which our earliest ancestors are assumed not to have been. But if they were less intelligent than our primitive contemporaries and if the latter do not today show any progressive tendencies, what likelihood is there that they would have or could have created culture in the first place? A superior child has only an advantage in the presence of a superior teacher. Without any teacher whatever such a child is at a disadvantage, as we know from the few authenticated instances of infants deserted by their parents who nevertheless by some strange circumstance survived the experience and were later “captured” as feral children. They have proved conclusively that being human does not mean automatically creating a culture appropriate to human status. All cultured behaviour is learned, and in the absence of this learning ï¿½ in the absence of a teacher ï¿½ a human being turns out to be something almost less than an animal. Ruth Benedict pointed this out: (172)
Not one item of man’s tribal social organization, of his language, of his local religion, is carried in his germ cell. In Europe, in other centuries, when children were occasionally found who had been abandoned and had maintained themselves in forests apart from human beings, they were all so much alike that Linnaeus classified them as a distinct species Homo ferus, and supposed that they were a kind of gnome that man seldom ran across.
He could not conceive that these half-witted brutes were born human, these creatures with no interest in what went on about them, with organs of speech and hearing that could hardly be trained to do service, who withstood freezing weather in rags and plucked potatoes out of boiling water without discomfort. There is no doubt, of course, that they were children abandoned in infancy, and what they had all of them lacked was association with their kind through whom alone man’s faculties are sharpened and given form.
But this is exactly what must have been the position of the first child to be born a human being of animal parents.
Rightly understood, this one fact disqualifies from serious consideration any other view of human origins than the biblical one. How is it that anyone can imagine some evolutionary process accidentally casting up a creature so unlike its parents that it would almost certainly be ejected from the band the very moment its “differentness” was recognized by the rest of the family, promptly going out and finding a mate with whom to create a new order of society on a human level…when such feral children as have been authenticated could hardly be deserving to be called human at all and were
172. Benedict, Ruth, Patterns of Culture, Mentor Books, New York, 1951, p.11.
What I argue is that all nature has a beauty and perfection and fitness of its own exhibited in every element and in every plant and every animal, save man; we are bound from analogy to argue that as the ant, the bee, the spider, the beaver, the elephant, the dog, have each their peculiar and marvelous instincts and intelligence adapted to their nature and place in creation, so man — when originally created — would surely in like manner come perfect from the hand of the Creator with an intelligence and an enlightened reason adapted to his superior place in creation. If not, we should have a solecism in nature: in other words, it is unnatural and irrational to come to such a strange conclusion.
Reddie continues by pointing out that man is now a solecism and only because the very quality which constitutes his superiority in creation is, in his present state, the cause of most of his anxieties. In other words, man realizes his superiority only if he is willing to listen to a superior Teacher. By nature he no longer has any claim to this higher status, it being a potential rather than a real one. At the very beginning it was entirely real, but because of his fallen condition he has continually tended to lose it by degeneration. At the first the Creator gave him sufficient instruction to provide the initial impetus for him almost immediately to take steps towards achieving his appointed dominion over the earth. That his brain could easily have been capable of receiving such instruction in spite of the simplicity which must have characterized his culture at first is admitted by some of the best authorities. The earliest prehistoric men were not essentially any different in this respect from ourselves. Robert Briffault put it: (174)
It may be doubted whether the modern civilized individual differs greatly as regards inherited capacities from his ancestors of the Stone Age; the difference between savagedom and civilization is not organic (i.e., it is circumstantial). The increase in our knowledge of ancient types of man has, in some respects, accentuated rather than attenuated the abruptness of the transition from animal to human: the oldest human remains and the tools associated with them indicate a brain capacity which is not markedly, if at all, inferior to that of existing races.
In a similar vein Goldenweiser remarked, “Broadly speaking, there is no such thing as a primitive mind: primitive man is potentially like modern man or any other kind of man.” (175)
173. Reddie, James, “On Civilization: Moral and Material,” Transactions of the Victoria Institute, London, vol.6, 1872-73, p.23 and 24.
174. Briffault, Robert, “The Evolution of the Human Species,” in The Making of Man, edited by Calverton, Modern Library, New York, 1931, p.763.
175. Goldenweiser, A., Anthropology, Crofts, New York, 1945, p.407.
It may be exclaimed, But you don’t really mean that prehistoric man is to be accounted for in this way? What about the time factor? You postulate a few thousand years for all this, whereas we ‘know’ that man is at least half a million years old. But do we? It is not yet time to say with absolute certainty that radioactive dating methods are completely sound. Are we quite sure that the same atmospheric conditions existed prior to the Flood? It could make all the difference if the answer were no.
Suppose for the sake of argument that there was very little conversion of nitrogen to C-14 in the upper atmosphere prior to the Flood, due either to some change in the earth’s magnetic field or to a greatly increased percentage of carbon dioxide in the earth’s atmosphere, reducing the relative proportion of radioactive carbon dioxide. At present the proportion of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is about 0.04%, but this might easily have been considerably greater before the Flood. Or suppose the atmosphere had in some way been blanketed against neutron bombardment, then once more the percentage of radioactive carbon dioxide would be greatly reduced. The end result is the same in either case: and we would have the following situation — an organism dying one year before the Flood might have an extremely small amount of radioactive carbon dioxide. By C-14 decay-counting methods, the sample would be estimated to be very, very old, let us say, 30,000 years. On the other hand, an organism dying two years later, that is to say, one year after the atmosphere had been modified somewhat as a side-effect of the Flood, might be found by radiocarbon dating to be only 4,500 years old. Thus the two objects separated in actual fact by only two years, would by C-14 dating methods be separated by 25,000 years.
Of course, radiocarbon dating is not the only method used to establish the chronology of prehistory: but tree-ring counting is limited to 2,000 to 3,000 years as a rule, and verve counting, though sometimes considered useful up to 10,000 years, is challenged by some very excellent authorities who would limit its usefulness to little more than half this period. These three are virtually the only “absolute” means of dating the past, and they may well be limited in their validity or feasibility to post-Flood times.
Besides these three methods, we have only relative means based on associated flora and fauna, etc., which are tied in with climatic changes related to the glacial and interglacial periods. Datings based on the recession of the Niagara Falls, the erosion of river beds, or the silting up of deltas have proved rather indeterminate. Lyell has allowed 30,000 years for the recession of Niagara Falls, which is
believed to have begun when the ice retreated north of the Niagara Escarpment. This figure had served to establish approximately the time since the last great advance of the ice sheet over North America. But more recent studies have consistently reduced this to 10,000 years or even to 8,000 years. Such revisions of dates downwards are very frequent, as we show in another Doorway Paper. (176) And some of these revisions are quite extraordinary. (177)
It may be objected that such a suggestion runs so completely counter to everything we have been taught for the last fifty years that there is not the slightest possibility of its obtaining a sympathetic hearing. The theory of evolution is so widely accepted and has proved so useful in the ordering and systematizing of modern knowledge, especially in the life sciences, that a few fragments of contrary evidence will not undermine it, no matter how serious these contradictions are. But in spite of all this, the historical evidence stands clearly against its basic postulate of continuous progressive development, and in the end it will be found necessary to abandon it just as social anthropologists have abandoned it as a key to the history of art, language, religion, and many human institutions. The alternative, the Scriptural view, is far more consonant with the findings of archaeology as well as what we know from more recent historical events.
Now, as we have seen, two things stand out in even a cursory reading of the first few chapters of Genesis. The first is the exceedingly rapid development of civilization. The other is the exceedingly rapid development of wickedness. Two individuals are singled out who happen to have been contemporaries since both were the seventh generation from Adam: one of these was Lamech and the other was Enoch. In the brief reports which have been preserved for us of these two men, we have on the one hand a picture of a vicious and revengeful man threatening to murder any one who dares to oppose him, and on the other hand an individual whose saintliness was so outstanding that God took him home without permitting him to see death. The one has left a record of vengefulness which apparently became a proverb among men, and the other a record of godliness
176. “Fossil Remains of Early Man and the Record of Genesis,” Part I in Genesis and Early Man, vol.2 in The Doorway Papers Series. LINK
177. For example, Kenneth Macgowan (Early Man in the New World, p.187) gives a series of such cases, involving a reduction from 4,000 B.C. to an A.D. figure! He mentions one authority who has now argued that man came into the New World not as a primitive paleolithic 25,000 years ago, but as fairly civilized at the beginning of the Christian era! A. L. Kroeber believes that chronologists have been far too free with years (Anthropology, 1948, p.654). He says, “One can believe the (Milankovitch-Zeuner dating system): but one does not have to” (p.655, footnote 9) .
which was recalled with wonder 3,000 years later in the New Testament. In either case we have the feeling that developments, for good or for ill, were greatly accelerated.
When, a thousand years after Enoch, the earth had become so full of violence and corruption that the wickedness of man knew no restraints, only one patriarch was left whose heart was still right before the Lord and whose family seemed worthy to be saved. The catastrophe of the Flood, destroying the whole race probably still concentrated in a comparatively limited area, reduced the family of man to eight people only; and we have a unique circumstance in history. Here was now a small society of cultured and technically trained individuals, inheritors of a great proportion of all that had been achieved in the past two or three thousand years, making a new start under conditions which may well have been in many respects ideal. For one thing, all the immediate dangers from wild beasts and from unfriendly neighbours had been completely removed. (178) Well supplied with stock and probably with food, such a small group with the experience of the past to guide them, could make progress very rapidly, especially with the structure of the Ark at hand to supply them with many building materials already prepared. But the population of this first settlement would in time increase to the point where, for various reasons, the ties of close association began to be broken. Possibly Noah and his wife remained as a kind of focal centre but each of the three sons, Shem, Ham, and Japheth, presumably began to spread apart in different directions. (179) What happened thereafter has been by implication the subject of this Paper. The phenomena which resulted in the course of time from this initial circumstance are of a very specific nature and can be summarized as follows:
(1) In the Middle East progress from the first evidence of settlement to the appearance of cities was exceedingly rapid.
(2) A circle of slightly lower but obviously derived cultures surrounded the central core within a few centuries as population pressures increased.
(3) There was a gradual loss of shared cultural elements as the circle widened, until contact was lost almost entirely in the more marginal areas where much lower cultures arose. At the extreme margins all culture contacts ceased.
(4) The most primitive of all fossil remains are those found
178. This may seem a small matter, but actually it may not have been so. It was such a danger that lay behind the statement in Deuteronomy 7:22 apparently.
179. The early existence of these three groups as distinct communities has recently been substantiated for the Middle East Area (cf. V. G. Childe, What Happened in History, Penguin Books, Eng., 1946, p.81).
at the extreme edges of this radial pattern with less primitive remains a little nearer to the centre and transitional-to-modern forms within the Middle East area itself (as in Skuhl and Shanidar finds).
(5) Modern types of man (Fontechevade and Swanscombe) in some cases antedated more primitive types in Europe where migrants who had more recently left the central area reached distant points quite by chance but failed to establish themselves, and died out leaving the territory to earlier settlers who were already there.
(6) Primitive cultures which lost vital contact with the mainstream steadily degenerated but never to the extent of losing the power of speech and a well-developed language.
(7) Where complete isolation of adult individuals occurred, it is probable that extreme physical degeneration was experienced, accounting for some exceptionally primitive fossil remains (Pithecanthropus, Sinanthropus, etc.). In more recent times where complete isolation in childhood (ferals) has occurred, all cultural elements are lost including language.
(8) Occasionally old cultures re-established vital contact with the mainstream in a beneficial way and achieved a notable revival to a much higher level (China, for example). Upon rare occasion, a culture was established in a highly favourable environment surrounded by many smaller societies developing independently, and because of its central position a high civilization arose (as in Central America, for example).
(9) High cultures are susceptible to complete breakdown, as in the case of the Minoan, thus demonstrating that civilization is a plant of delicate growth rather easily withered.
(10) The contact of high cultures with low ones is apt to be detrimental to the latter. One particular circumstance, to be considered later, may prevent such ill-effects.
It is very difficult to account for these things by any other than the biblical view of man’s origin and early history. There is one aspect of pre-Flood times which has often been commented upon and considered to be quite exceptional — the extraordinary rapidity with which civilization developed in the first three or four generations, considering the fact that no precedence existed and every cultural element had to be engineered from scratch. Several factors may account for this, provided that we allow the biblical record to speak for itself. These are:
(1) The great age to which man lived.
Let us examine these very briefly. There is a tendency by many to question whether men really did live to such extraordinary ages. The evidence that the record here has not been tampered with but is sober history is the subject of another Doorway Paper. (180) This evidence, to my mind, is very satisfying. Consider what it would mean for most of us if we could extend the period of research and learning in a normal lifetime by ten or fifteen times. Even as it is, most of us are impressed with our older colleagues who have an advantage over us of as little as ten years. What if they had the advantage over us of 900 years! Moreover, communication takes time and for many of us the weeks are not long enough to allow us to keep up with what is being done elsewhere even in our little fields of inquiry. Just suppose for one moment that we had the time to discuss with Leonardo da Vinci or with Isaac Newton or with any of the “greats” of a few hundred years ago, not merely what they were doing for a few fleeting years but what they have been doing ever since. The situation is one which is so outside our experience that it is even hard to conceive its implications. But surely there is no question that if everyone was surviving for centuries, the cumulative effect of man’s inventiveness and curiosity would be fantastic ï¿½ both for good and for ill. Longevity must have contributed enormously to the process of speeding up the development of civilization even in those first few generations. The fact that Scripture not only records that men lived to be very old but also that within two generations of Adam city life and art and technology were already highly developed, is evidence of its reliability, for the one finds its most logical explanation in terms of the other. And if either were true, the other is most likely to have been also.
The second factor is perhaps less certain, namely, climatic uniformity. We do not know that such uniformity really existed. But I think that the most logical way to interpret the events associated with the Flood and, more particularly what may perhaps have been the first appearance of a rainbow, as meaning that rain as we understand it had not fallen previously since the creation of Adam. It has been suggested that the atmosphere was in some way different and that man may have lived, protected from certain types of cosmic radiation
180. Custance, A. C., “Longevity in Antiquity and Its Bearing on Chronology,” Part I in The Virgin Birth and the Incarnation, vol.5 in The Doorway Papers Series.
in a kind of hothouse that was not oppressive but did contribute to his longevity.
The third factor is the uniformity of language which may be assumed since the break-up of languages did not occur until after the Flood. The very circumstance of the judgment which took place at Babel is sufficient indication of how uniformity of language could contribute to the acceleration of man’s cooperative efforts, for it was this very factor which evidently made such an enterprise feasible, and by its reversal the enterprise was abandoned. One of the bugbears of our own highly technical civilization is the curse of specialization which has led to the development of technical jargons constituting so many different languages that a man trained in one discipline can scarcely understand or be intelligible to a man trained in another discipline. As a matter of fact, William Temple suggested that God had had a hand in this and brought it about in order that He might once more prevent men from achieving sufficient unity of purpose to attempt the erection of a second “Tower of Babel.” (181) It is interesting to find that Dante interpreted the events at the building of the Tower of Babel as being just this (182) ï¿½ the rapid rise of technical jargons which made communication between tradesmen difficult.
The fourth factor is the concentration of population, which allows for the maximum exchange of ideas with the least possible delay. This, again, is one of the critical factors in our own generation since, in spite of our means of rapid communication, distances are still great enough to prevent the immediacy of verbal exchange which comes with personal contact. This is one of the enormous gains of scientific conferences where almost as much is achieved in conversation vis-à-vis over a cup of coffee as is achieved by the formal presentation of papers. As we have already seen, isolation almost inevitably leads to stagnation. Sir Flinders Petrie stressed the importance of contacts between cultures when developing his cyclic view of history, attributing every renaissance to fresh culture contacts. (183) Ernst Kretschmer arrived at the conclusion, with regard to the share which the Nordic race had in Western culture, that their most marked
181. Temple, Archbishop William, “Babel and Pentecost,” in The Church Looks Forward, Macmillan., London, 1944, pp. 174 ff.
182. On Dante, see Alexander Gode, “The Case for Interlingua,” Scientific Monthly, Aug., 1953, p.83.
183. Petrie, Sir Flinders, Revolutions of Civilization, Harper, London, 1911, p.114. He commits himself to the statement that in every case it was the result of an infiltration of a new people. J. C. Curry held that this stimulus is more often than not due to an Aryan infiltration (“Climate and Migrations,” Antiquity, Sept., 1928, p.301), and this opinion was not due to any sense of racial superiority on his part.
contributions were developed only in those regions where it had been exposed to an intense mixture with other races. (184) Fenton Turck credited the initial vitality of American civilization to the fact that the population formed an amalgam of people from so many different cultural traditions. (185) Such an amalgamation means the sharing of new ideas which would otherwise have remained the property only of their originators. When ideas are wedded there is a tendency not merely for a kind of “hybrid” to result but for entirely new ideas to appear which were not latent in either of the originals when considered alone. The process tends to be multiplicative rather than additive. Where the original population was still compact we may assume, especially in view of longevity, that the total wealth of ideas resulting from a vastly extended range of experience would be compounded in ways which are not known today.
And finally, there is the matter of man’s original endowment. This is a subject which really requires (and receives in other Doorway Papers) (186) much fuller treatment than can be afforded at this point. It is my conviction that man has three kinds of capacity: inventive, philosophical, and spiritual, and that at the time of the Flood God distributed these three capacities in a special measure between the three sons of Noah respectively. Shem was made responsible for the spiritual welfare of mankind, Ham for the physical welfare of mankind, and Japheth for the intellectual welfare of mankind. When race mixture or culture contacts have brought together these three contributions in a balanced way, there has always resulted a great advancement of civilization. But when any one of these three contributions has been either neglected or over-emphasized, the civilization which resulted from the amalgam has begun the process of decay.
I believe that in Adam and his descendants, until the Flood brought an end to the old world, these three capacities were by and large combined within each person individually though, of course, not always in exactly the same measure, just as not everyone now has the same level of intelligence. But each man carried within himself a threefold potential which after the Flood was very greatly reduced and more often than not was limited to a capacity chiefly in
184. Kretschmer, Ernst, quoted by Franz von Weidenreich, Apes, Giants and Man, Chicago, 1948, p.90.
185. Turck, Fenton B., “The American Explosion,” Scientific Monthly, Sept., 1952, p.191.
186. Custance, A. C., “The Part Played by Shem, Ham, and Japheth in Subsequent World History,” Part I in Noah’s Three Sons, vol.1 in The Doorway Papers Series.
one direction. In another work, the thesis has been examined rather carefully that science results only where philosophy (the contribution of Japheth) is wedded to technology (the contribution of Ham), just as theology only arises where philosophy is wedded to spiritual insight based upon revelation (which was the specific contribution of Shem). On the whole, those who are highly inventive and mechanically minded are rarely of a philosophical turn of mind, and philosophers tend to be rather impractical. Whenever these two capacities do happen to appear in one man, we have the scientific individual. Unfortunately, scientifically minded people tend to be somewhat indifferent about spiritual things that are matters of faith. And since man is primarily a spiritual creature, science has often tended to be one-sided and inadequate, sometimes rather futile, and frequently dangerous because it encourages a skeptical attitude. But consider what would happen if every man had within himself a large capacity for invention and could extend the application of his own inventiveness as greatly as scientists have recently extended the basic technology of the previous 6,000 years of civilization. The progress of the past 100 years might have been crowded into the first few centuries of human history, and Adam’s grandson might have seen the development of city life, the erection of very large buildings, the appearance of the arts including all kinds of music, the extended use of metals, and the establishment of cattlemen and farmers on a large scale ï¿½ as evidently Cain’s children did (Genesis 4:17-22).
But, as always seems to have been the case, man’s spiritual capacity tended to suffer from disuse, or even abuse, and the evil in man was fortified very rapidly to an extraordinary degree by the exercise of his other capabilities, until the Lord looked down from Heaven and saw that it was too dangerous for the individual to be endowed so fully. After the Flood, what had been combined in Adam was thenceforth divided between Shem, Ham, and Japheth. During pre-Flood times, however, it seems that the capacity of the individual was so much greater that the processes of civilization were all enormously accelerated.
By themselves, representatives of any one of these three branches of the race have always suffered cultural stagnation or degeneration. Association is essential for progress, and it is this association which stamps the main stream for what it is. In isolation, man is still a special creature of God but his capacity is enormously reduced. Nevertheless, how ever far down he goes, he remains ï¿½ unlike the animals ï¿½ essentially a human being. Of the few cases of feral children who might almost be an exception to this, we know far too little to be
certain. But we do know that the most isolated and exceedingly primitive of peoples are quite capable of responding to education. We know something more than this, namely, that unless this education has a very clear and spiritual component capable of leading to a full assurance of faith, the educative process is only partially effective, and may even be highly detrimental.
When the Dutch were forced out of Formosa and could not carry the education of the natives further, those natives returned to a more serious kind of barbarism than they had known before. One of the Tierra del Fuegians, named Jeremy Button, who was taken by Darwin and educated in England was later returned to his own people apparently without any evidence of conversion and subsequently became even more barbarous than they. (187) But when missionaries with a vital Scriptural faith — who during this Age of Grace stand in the world community for a season in the place of Shem (Genesis 9:27) undertake to contribute their vital part in the education of such people and succeed in communicating that faith to them ï¿½ their condition is changed for the better in a striking and lasting manner, as Darwin himself was only too willing to admit of the Tierra del Fuegians. (188) It is true that with the missionary come also other less happy influences from Western Culture and not a few of its diseases so that in the end such cultures have not always benefited as a whole. Education without this spiritual component has surprising limitations. On the other hand, Herman Merivale, (189) one-time Professor of History at Oxford, after a careful study of the effects of colonization and education of native peoples, came to the conclusion that history could point to no single successful attempt to introduce civilization to “savage tribes in colonies except through the agency of religious missionaries.”
Thus it appears that only so long as the light of true spiritual faith, the basis of which is the Word of God, forms an essential
187. Jeremy Button ended up many years later as the instigator of the subsequent massacre of a small congregation of natives who had been converted and were, with the white missionary, in the act of worshipping in a half-finished church building (Lincoln Barnett, Life, June 1, 1959, p.87).
188. Charles Darwin, according to the biography by his son Sir Francis Darwin, in later years wrote personally to Admiral Sir James Sulivan asking permission to be elected as an honorary member of the Mission to the del Fuegians, the South American Missionary Society, which he had “prophesied would be an utter failure” but had been a “most wonderful success.” James Orr, in his God’s Image in Man, Eerdmans, Grand Rapids, 1948, reprint, p.164, gives an equally striking case of what true missionary effort may ultimately do to a whole primitive society.
189. Merivale, Herman, Colonization and the Colonies, p.294, quoted in Transactions of the Victoria Institute, vol.19, 1885, p.128.
element of a culture can it lay any claims to being or becoming a part of the main stream; and only so can it hope, therefore, to preserve itself against or recover itself from, the invidious processes of degeneration. The main stream is only “main” so long as the Christian faith is contributing to its current in a vital way. This may not always engender its advance, indeed it probably never does specifically, but it does prevent its degeneration. In this sense the church of God in so far as it supports this true faith has the preservative qualities and function of “salt” (Matthew 5:13).
If we may revert once more to our opening thoughts, we see that there is neither automatic cultural evolution nor automatic cultural devolution. The deciding factor is whether vital contact has been retained with the main stream which is only so by reason of the fact that it represents a composite of spiritual, intellectual, and technological enlightenment sustained thus by Shem, Japheth, and Ham. This circumstance did not arise by chance evolution but by the direct creative activity of God at the beginning; and high civilizations which have passed away, and primitive people ï¿½ living and extinct, and even feral children ï¿½ all bear witness to the fact that in the absence of any one of these essential components of truly human, as opposed to animal, society, man must inevitably suffer degeneration. Civilization is a phenomenon which arose at the very beginning only because man was not evolved but was created by God with the necessary endowment, an endowment which even in his fallen state is still permitted to find expression according to the forbearance of God in very remarkable ways.