Part III: Establishing a Paleolithic I.Q.
TO MANY PEOPLE who have read this essay, there may be a number of confusing issues. It is well, therefore, to state very briefly what we do know with reasonable certainty about Early Man. In the first place, from the Christian view of history, there were strictly speaking “no prehistoric times.” Within Adam’s lifetime, men multiplied until there was sufficient population to support specialized industries, metallurgy, tent-making, music, agriculture, and indeed city life — for Adam’s son built a city. There is no doubt that the word “city” in this context means merely a small cohesive body of people living in a confined area with some measure of community life and a shared culture. Cities in those days often occupied only a few acres of land. This is one fact.
A second virtual certainty is that the same situation repeated itself after the Flood when the population had once again been reduced to a single family. Only, this time, every member of this family already had a certain cultural heritage which must have been quite advanced in nature.
A third assumption is that as this second start in populating the world was made, individuals, families, and splinter groups would break away from the central nucleus and begin the pioneering of the world. There is no reason to suppose that people were essentially different in this respect than they are today. There are always those who move out, who have the urge to explore, who seek to be free and alone. In spite of the hostile nature of the environment, an Eskimo young man will take his wife and head for open country and establish himself, perhaps hundreds of miles from any other fixed settlement. It is even more certain that men would do the same where the environment was temperate and pleasant, and offered every possibility of survival, just as it was inviting to those pioneers in the New World who felt the call of the wide open spaces. It is said that Daniel Boone, when he observed one morning smoke of a fire on the dim, distant horizon, said to his wife, “We’re moving on; it’s getting crowded.” And, as
pg 1 of 6
I have indicated, there is no reason to suppose that human nature has changed in this respect very much.
Thus, as the population at the centre gradually grew, individuals and families would undoubtedly move further and further out, seeking freedom from crowding or interference until both Europe and the Far East, and even the New World, would begin to receive its first-comers. As Kenneth Macgowan has pointed out, (75) a man could easily make the trip from China, across the Bering Sea, and well down into the New World in a period of twenty years.
But pioneers like this would inevitably be forced to surrender many elements of their cultural heritage. The circumstances are such, as we visualize it, that they would not only, in the very nature of the case, tend to lose those elements of culture which they had once shared at the centre but which no longer contributed directly towards their survival. But they would retain those elements which did contribute to their survival. And the basic character of these retained elements would naturally, at least at the beginning, show many similarities wherever men settled, for initially they sprang from the same pool of resources. This is precisely what is found: namely, that the shape and conception of many basic tools, weapons, and artifacts is remarkably similar in areas of the world as widely separated as Central Europe and South America. This has sometimes been attributed to the fact that the same tasks had to be performed by people of like ways of thinking, using materials which were everywhere the same. However, there are a very large number of parallelisms in structural form and embellishment which are not easily accounted for on this basis.
Now to my mind, for the most part it is with these early pioneering and adventurous individuals that we have to do when we are discussing Paleolithic Man. I realize only too well that this runs very much counter to the whole modern conception of what Paleolithic Man represents in terms of evolution and prehistoric processes generally. But I think it is easier in many respects to view the fossil remains of all individuals who are now generally classed as genuinely human as what might be called waifs and strays, fragments of a completely human population thriving at the centre and increasingly thinned out and reduced in cultural stature towards the periphery. (76)
One thing seems to me quite certain, and this is that it is impossible on the basis of the head shape or size, or on the basis of
75. Macgowan, Kenneth, Early Man in the New World, Macmillan, 1950, p.3 and map on p.4.
76. “A Study of the Names in Genesis 10,” Part II in Noah’s Three Sons, vol.1 in The Doorway papers Series..
pg.2 of 6
cultural remains however simple they may be, to say with any assurance that this is evidence of man in the making. It is just as likely to be, indeed more likely to be, man in the breaking. Certainly if we allow the present to speak with respect to the past, this is easy to substantiate, as this essay has shown. History provides us with no solid evidence that a human being or even a small family of human beings as reduced in circumstances as fossil man seems to have been, has ever by a natural process of evolution evolved into a highly cultured society. Yet there is no evidence, either, that people so reduced are potentially any less completely human than ourselves.
The simplest proof of this last observation is the testimony of missionaries over the past century or so, and this testimony serves also to provide us with a useful definition of what constitutes true humanness.
When Darwin visited the tip of South America, he found there groups of people living in an environment and under conditions so inimical, so restricting, and so full of discomfort that he found it difficult to understand why human beings, if they were truly human beings, would stay there, or indeed could survive. The Tierra del Fuegians were forced by circumstance to spend the larger part of their lives in open canoes in which the children grew up, the adults slept and cooked and spent their daily lives, and the aged died. These people, as a consequence, grew up deformed and with an extraordinarily limited experience. They seldom congregated in groups beyond the size of a family and their artifacts were simple in the extreme. Darwin himself being, of course, well-bred in the ways of the cultured European, was unable to see in these people the human qualities and the social “attainments” which later revealed themselves to a more perceptive student like Bridges. (77)
And since at that time, descriptions of the weird and wonderful ways of primitives from other parts of the world were much in vogue and were eagerly read by many people who felt vastly superior by the reading of them, there was a tendency to exaggerate a little bit and to present the picture of such people in the worst (or best — depending on how you look at it) possible light. Sir John Lubbock said of the Tierra del Fuegians: (78)
These poor wretches were stunted in their growth, their hideous
77. The Rev. Thomas Bridges, a Scottish missionary, arrived among these people in 1863 and spent the rest of a long vigorous life caring for them. Some of his perceptive writing on these people will be found in C. S. Coon A General Reader in Anthropology, Holt, New York, 1948, pp.84-116.
78. Lubbock, Sir John, Prehistoric Times, New Science Library, Hill and Co., New York, 1904, p.301.
pg.3 of 6
faces daubed with white paint, their skins filthy and greasy, their hair entangled, their voices discordant, their gestures violent and without dignity. Viewing such men, one can hardly make oneself believe they are fellow creatures and inhabitants of the same world.
Sir John Lubbock was, of course, expressing a secondhand view which allowed him a certain amount of liberty, but this was not true of Charles Darwin. In his Journal of Researches he wrote: (79)
It was without exception the most curious and interesting spectacle I ever beheld. I could not have believed how wide was the difference between savage and civilized man. Their very attitudes were abject. . . .
The language of these people, according to our notions, scarcely deserves to be called articulate. Captain Cook has compared it to a man clearing his throat!
We know now that such opinions were misrepresentations and resulted from a quite insufficient understanding of the true nature and character of these people and their language. Better acquaintance showed that these people were not at all inarticulate, their language containing probably as many words as Shakespeare was able to command. (80) And, of course, they were in full possession of one art which Coon believes to be the only absolutely open and shut mark of distinction between man and the animals, namely, fire. (81) Nevertheless, while we have today a much higher opinion of the intelligence of these primitive people, though they are very nearly extinct, yet it must be admitted that they remain among the most primitive people in the world.
It was not long before the challenge of such a community presented itself to Christian people, and a mission was organized. When Darwin heard of it, he must have smiled to himself for he was confident that such a mission was a fool’s errand; it could not possibly succeed. The story of what was achieved by the first missionaries is, in some respects, a little difficult to sort out precisely, because the events which followed have been presented to the public in two rather different, and in some respects, contradictory ways. We are told by anthropologists of how the pattern of living which these people had developed and by which they had found the way to survive was so disrupted that the whole moral fabric of the society was undermined. Those who had at first been received with open arms and whose ministry had led to a number of conversions were viciously turned
79. Darwin, Sir Charles, Journal of Researches, Ward, Lock and Co., New York, 1845, p.206.
80. Bridges (see ref.77) composed a dictionary of some 30,000 Tierra del Fuegian words.
81. Coon, C. S., Story of Man, Knopf., New York, 1962, p.63.
pg.4 of 6
upon and destroyed. According to some versions they were actually eaten by the natives.
However, if we allow Darwin to speak, it would appear that in the comparatively brief interval between the first coming of the missionaries and the final influx of the White Man’s pagan civilization, some remarkable changes for the good were effected among these people. Some years later, Darwin wrote to Admiral Sir James Sullivan who was greatly interested in the Tierra del Fuegian Mission: (82)
I had never heard a word about the success of the Tierra del Fuego Mission. It is most wonderful and shames me, as I had always prophesied utter failure. It is a grand success. I shall feel proud if your Committee think fit to elect me an honourary member of your Society.
With all good wishes, and affectionate remembrances from ancient days,
Believe me, my dear Sullivan,
your sincere friend,
The missionary efforts undertaken by Bishop Stirling are enthrallingly set forth in a book by his son, A. M. W. Stirling, entitled Life’s Little Day. Here is revealed how impossible Darwin felt it would be to humanize these natives but Stirling records the fact, which we have already noted, that subsequently Darwin became an annual subscriber to the orphanage of the South American Society. (83) The true humanness of these lowest and most primitive of people is proved beyond doubt by the fact that they could respond to the claims of Jesus Christ, the only perfect Human Being we have knowledge of. When Captain Cook visited one particular island, he named it Savage Island because the people were so fierce that it was impossible for him to land among them. Later a John Williams tried to evangelize them but was driven off. But in due time, a converted Samoan made a journey of three hundred miles to try to win them for Christ. Within twelve years, out of the 5,000 inhabitants of the island, only eight remained actively heathen. The people as a whole became transformed into a proverbially kind and hospitable community and, according to accounts, they sent every year the sum of £400 (over $1000 ) to the London Missionary Society. When a ship was required for a New Guinea Mission, costing £500, they voluntarily undertook to raise the whole amount. When a Home Missionary Group sent £50 to them to meet some extra expenses, the islanders sent it back with thanks, preferring to complete the work themselves. By that
82. This letter is from the biography of Darwin written by his son, Sir Francis.
83. C. W. H. Amos, D.D., in a letter to the Editor, The English Churchman and St. James’ Chronicle, Jan. 16, 1959, p.9.
pg.5 of 6
time thirty married teachers had gone out from that island to New Guinea. (84) Once again, the transforming power of the gospel was proved among people who must have seemed otherwise lacking in humanness and utterly savage.
Here, then, we have the basis for a definition of man. Man is the one creature on earth who can respond to the love of God in Christ and be redeemed, knowingly, effectively, transformingly, and gloriously. Man is the only creature capable of sainthood, the only creature in whom the perfect Man, Christ Jesus, can appropriately re-incarnate Himself in a measure. This is the answer to the question, What is Man? It makes no difference how ugly, how deformed, how ignorant, how progressive, how backward, how anything, a creature is. If he is redeemable, he is man. And man’s identity as man and his true potential does not depend upon his I.Q., the nobility of his countenance, the complexity of his culture, or the period of world history in which he was born, but on whether the Lord Jesus Christ, the only Perfect Man, can, with dignity and propriety, take up residence in his heart. All other standards of judgment are hopelessly inadequate. Until we know, which we cannot yet, whether Paleolithic Man was redeemable, we cannot know whether he was truly man. This is the simple truth of the matter and every effort to establish the status of fossil man by any other terms of reference will suffer from uncertainty until the Day of Judgment. But in the meantime, we should be very careful not to misjudge by using standards which it can be shown are quite inadequate.
84. Orr, James, God’s Image in Man, Eerdmans, Grand Rapids, 1948, p.164.
pg.6 of 6
Copyright © 1988 Evelyn White. All rights reserved
Previous Chapter * End of Part III * Next Chapter (Part IV)
Comments are closed.