"Reasonable Science" and the Antiquity of Man
A short time ago, a creationist wrote an article supporting the balanced treatment of creation and evolution in the public schools. However, he was very careful to distinguish himself and his peculiar brand of creationism from “young-Earth creationists,” and in the process, he dumped on them all the criticisms aimed at those who believe in a Grand Designer. He accused young-Earth creationists of attempting to “rationalize science to coincide with their interpretation of the Bible,” while making it clear that “science and other creationists” (including himself) find their attempts absurd. The primary charge he leveled against those who believe in a recent Creation comes from the discipline of anthropology (which he mistakenly called history). “Human history,” he claimed, “is also easily traced further back than the 10,000 years usually allowed by young-earth creationists” (Clayton, 2002, emp. added).
In the current intellectual climate, it hardly is surprising for someone to end up believing that man has been around for a long time (i.e., longer than 10,000 years). For example, when I open my college anthropology textbook, People of the Earth: An Introduction to World Prehistory, I am overwhelmed by a flurry of pictures, diagrams, and pictograms—and everything else imaginable—describing man’s first 5 million years. The details are fascinating: man, we are told, evolved in the sultry Olduvai Gorge of Africa during the Pleistocene Epoch, developed tools and fire, and finally matured into modern Homo sapiens sapiens during the Holocene Epoch some 45,000 years ago (Fagan, 2001, p. 34). Anthropologist Steven Mithen colorfully described the narrative as follows:
Six million years is vast span of time. In order to begin to comprehend it, to grasp its salient pattern of events, it helps to think of those events as constituting a play, a drama of our past. A very special play, for no one wrote the script: 6 million years of improvisation. Our ancestors are the actors, their tools are the props, and the incessant changes of environment through which they lived, the changes of scenery. But as a play, do not think of it as a “whodunit” in which action and ending are all. For we already know the ending—we are living it. The…Stone Age actors all died out, leaving just one single survivor, Homo sapiens sapiens (as quoted in Fagan, p. 29).
One archaeology textbook begins: “The earliest known remains of any human culture, dated to between one and two million years ago…” (Mazar, 1990, p. 35)
The dating of these “ancestral” humans is based almost exclusively on estimates of where certain fossils “ought” to be placed on the evolutionary ladder. Clues are gathered from ancient settlements (which are more like campsites) and the flint tools found at those locations. These flint tools actually play a most important role in tracing the history of modern man; often, a site produces no organic artifacts suitable for radiocarbon dating, and thus the relative complexity of the tool is the only available chronological indicator. Stone tools were used for hunting and food preparation, in addition to many other functions (see Exodus 4:25; Joshua 5:2). The most primitive tools are basically round rocks, with later implements being chipped and formed to increase efficiency. The oldest tool-assemblages were discovered by Louis and Mary Leakey at Olduvai Gorge in a community known by the name Oldowan, and were dated at between 1.5-2.6 million years old. These tools were so crude that “only an expert can tell them from naturally fractured rock, and experts often disagree” (Fagan, p. 62, emp. added; see also Oard, 2001, for a compelling example of this). This Oldowan “community” is considered to be a “proto-human culture” (p. 65). It was around this time, 2 million years ago, that the “first true humans,” Homo erectus and Homo sapiens allegedly appeared.
The fossils of these “hominids” are sometimes dated according to the shape of the tools found with the bones. Archaeological sites are assigned to a particular geological period according to the chipping of the flints. (This is still nothing complex; if you were to look at one of these primitive tools, you might think it was just an ordinary rock.) The invention of Acheulian hand-axe technology was a tremendous improvement over the old Olduwan flints—the hand-axe was a lump of rounded stone, defined by its “converging edges, which met at a point” (Fagan, p. 90). This technology supposedly was utilized by H. erectus all over the Old World from 1.5 million to 150,000 years ago. After over one million years of service, however, this technology was retired in favor of the Neanderthals’ Mousterian technology. These rocks were chipped away even more, resulting in even sharper and wieldier flakes that were capable of slicing through the tough hide of Middle Pleistocene mammals. In the last 30,000 years, so we are told, modern humans have continued to improve their tools, branching out and using wood, antler, and bone, in addition to their trusty flint. Evolutionists categorize all European artifacts after that point as Aurignacian, Gravettian, Solutrean, or Magdalenian, depending on the type and complexity of the technology.
This is the bulk of the evidence that humans lived prior to 10,000 B.C.—a pile of worn stones. There are a few other artifacts, of course—a piece of rope, a bit of clothing, or the remnants of a cooking fire—but these are all dated via evolutionary assumptions relating to the technology of the tools that are found with the artifacts, as well as by radiocarbon dating methods (radiocarbon dating is fraught with problems; see Major, 1993). In addition, there are the fossil bones; but they, too, are dated according to evolutionary presuppositions such as the geologic timescale and their more “primitive” or “advanced” position relative to other fossils, (for an in-depth treatment of human fossils, see Lubenow, 1995). It is the technology, however, that yields the most evidence of so-called prehistoric human activity; the more complex the tools, the larger the brain capacity, and therefore the more advanced humans were supposed to be. G.A. Clark, from the department of anthropology at Arizona State University, observed that Paleolithic archaeology, at least in Europe,
is based heavily on a typological systematics that emphasizes retouched stone tools. A cultural transition is usually demarcated by changes in the retouched tool components of archaeological assemblages, that is, the totality of archaeological remains contained in a site (1999, 283:2031).
Closer examination of the theories proposed by evolutionists destroys many of these assumptions. The rigid cultural categories scientists use to classify these Paleolithic and Mesolithic men are artificially separated and stretched to absurdity. The Solutrean culture of Western Europe, distinguished from other cultures by blades “formed in the shape of laurel or willow leaves and shouldered points,” is alleged to have lasted for some 4,000 years, between 17,000 and 21,000 years ago (see “Solutrean”). The Magdalenian culture that followed, and that was characterized by “small geometrically shaped implements,” burins, scrapers, borers, and “shouldered and leaf-shaped projectile points,” supposedly flourished for nearly 6,000 years (see “Magdalenian”). For perspective, 6,000 years represents the whole of recorded human history, going back to the earliest Mesopotamian civilizations. In that short time, humanity has built pyramids and airplanes, isolated DNA, and gone to the Moon. Yet our fully modern ancestors purportedly piddled around with flint hand-axes for 40,000 years, with the most significant change being the transition from unifacial points (flaked only on one side) to bifacial points (flaked on both sides). Any resourceful fellow from East Tennessee could develop the entire catalog of primitive tools in a single summer, yet we are told that it took the combined resources of the whole human race—New World and Old—a grand total of 1.2 million years?! Evolutionary anthropologist A.L. Kroeber has acknowledged that the current system does not mesh with our own practical experience:
If we allot 25,000 of this to the Mousterian, we have left 75,000 for the continuous Chellean-Acheulian bifacial-core tradition. This is a long time…a dozen times longer than the whole of documented, authentically datable human history. And what do we know to have happened in this time? Essentially just one thing: the improvements from roughed Chellean core flints to evener, symmetrical Aucheulian ones. That is, the technological tradition remained basically unchanged: it stood still except for some degree of refinement of finish. That is sure a tremendous lot of cultural stationariness to have lasted so long, in comparison with the changeability that characterized later prehistory and all history…. Even 4,000 years without basic change in methods of human living is really wholly beyond our experience to conceive (as quoted in Whitcomb and Morris, 1961, pp. 484-485, emp. added).
The dating of these stone tools and artifacts is established as follows: a cache of arrowheads or blades is discovered in one location (say, southern France). It then will be compared with other stone tools found in another location, such as eastern Germany. The set of tools that looks more primitive will be given the older date. European finds also are compared to American and Asian discoveries, the assumption being that modern humans evolved tool-making abilities at roughly the same time. This is pure speculation, however, as even our own experience tells us. In developed countries today, technology is abundant and frequently used, while in developing nations and poorer societies, basic, manual tools are still used (some cultures even persist in the use of “stone age” tools). In our own nation, there is a similar diversity. A well-endowed university has state-of-the-art facilities and equipment, and a smaller college in the same state or town may of necessity use “hand-me-downs.” If the world were destroyed today, and these same evolutionists examined our remains in the future, they would conclude that third-world countries predated the West by tens of thousands of years. Such is the foundation of archaeological dating of this sort.
The actual facts, however (as opposed to the interpretation of the facts), support the Bible. Even though these artifacts and fossils are given late dates, the gradual evolution of culture that evolutionists expect is missing. Instead, cultures burst onto the scene, fully formed, with no trace of evolution. Henri Frankfort admitted: “We do not know [how] the change from old to new, from Old Stone Age to New Stone Age came about, for nowhere has a series of continuous remains covering the transition been recognized” (as quoted in McCone, 1972, p. 127). The famous cave drawings of Altamira, Lascaux, and Grotte de Chauvet appeared suddenly in the historical record, yet were so advanced as to be compared to the “greatest masterpieces of all time” (Wendt, 1956, p. 329). Art was not an isolated endeavor in parts of Europe or America; it appeared worldwide by 25,000 B.C. (according to evolutionary figures). Richard Klein and Blake Edgar refer to the period as the “big bang” of human consciousness (2002), and rightly so; seemingly all at once, humans began painting, constructing and playing musical instruments, and fashioning clothing and jewelry. “Only after about 30,000 years ago, during the Ice Age, did rapid cultural change take hold in all parts of the world” (Fagan, 2001, p.126). Similarly in North America, the Clovis culture appeared suddenly all over the continent around 11,200 B.C. At that time, “the archaeological record suddenly mushrooms from nothing to a well-documented scatter of locations from coast to coast in North America…” (Fagan, p. 164, emp. added).
Human history actually is not “easily traced back further than 10,000 B.C.,” as John Clayton suggested. Instead, humans and their attendant culture appeared on this Earth quite suddenly—and quite recently. Evidence of humanity is practically nonexistent until 10,000 B.C. (again, using evolutionists’ dates), and is meager between 3,000-4,000 B.C., when humans began recording events in writing. Anything dated prior to 3,000-4,000 B.C. is speculative, and is based on evolutionary assumptions of “the way things should have progressed.” Clark, an evolutionist, freely admitted as much.
On the surface, the voluminous literature on the MHO [modern human origins—AB] debate paints a picture of informed and sophisticated interdisciplinary research in which data are absorbed and digested, arguments assimilated, and methodologies understood, compared, and evaluated. I suggest, however, that this is a gross oversimplification of a much more complex reality. We are, in effect, consumers of one another’s research conclusions, but we select among alternative sets of research conclusions in accordance with our biases and preconceptions (1999, 283:2031, emp. added).
Despite the best attempts of those who desire to compromise the biblical record, the evidence stands alone. Human history can be traced back less than 10,000 years. It began when God placed man in the Garden, and the archaeological record begins when Noah and his family stepped off the ark onto dry land to repopulate the Earth. Accepting these facts as history is not an act of blind faith, but the exercise of reason and intelligence coupled with true science and a steadfast belief in God’s revelation.
Clark, G.A. (1999), “Highly Visible, Curiously Intangible,” Science, 283:2029-2032, March 26.
Clayton, John (2002), “Should We Teach Reasonable Science or Naturalism or Creationism?,” [On-line], URL: http://doesgodexist.org/SepOct02/
Fagan, Brian (2001), People of the Earth: An Introduction to World Prehistory (Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall).
Klein, Richard and Blake Edgar (2002), The Dawn of Human Culture (New York: John Wiley & Sons).
Lubenow, Marvin (1995), Bones of Contention (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker).
“Magdalenian” (1997), Encyclopaedia Britannica (Chicago, IL: Encyclopaedia Britannica).
Major, Trevor (1993), “Dating in Archaeology: Radiocarbon & Tree-Ring Dating,” Reason & Revelation, 13:73-77, October.
Mazar, Amihai (1990), Archaeology of the Land of the Bible (New York: Doubleday).
McCone, R. Clyde (1972), “The Origins of Civilization: Archaeological Data and the Problems of Evolutionary Explanation,” Symposium on Creation, ed. Donald Patten (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker).
Oard, Michael (2001), “Controversy over ‘early Paleolithic’ stone ‘tools’ in Canada continues,” [On-line], URL: http://aig.smartbusiness.org/docs2001/0801news.asp.
“Solutrean” (1997), Encyclopaedia Britannica (Chicago, IL: Encyclopaedia Britannica).
Wendt, Herbert (1956), In Search of Adam (Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin).
Whitcomb, John and Henry Morris (1961), The Genesis Flood (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker).