Re: Origins: Music of the ages

Gene Dunbar Godbold (
Tue, 22 Oct 1996 12:43:44 -0400 (EDT)

According to Garry DeWeese:
> On Mon, 21 Oct 1996, Glenn Morton wrote:
> > I don't think it is a stretch, unless you think non-spiritual apelike
> > hominids, with no soul, are able to make musical instruments. Remember this
> > flute is a multi-tone instrument like many (but not all) of the Upper
> > Paleolithic flutes. If that is your position, then I would have to disagree
> > that nonspiritual, apelike hominids have those capabilities. I simply do not
> > find it plausible to say that people who have the same capabilities that I do
> > are not descendants of Adam. ...
> I think, Glenn, that you are guilty of an equivocation here. Grant
> that early hominids made significantly complex musical instruments. Does
> that prove they were "spiritual" in the sense of having knowledge of God
> or being able to relate to God? Your evidence would only support a sense
> of "spiritual" meaning something like "able to express emotions."

The musical ability and the ochre mining/using would at least seem to
suggest that these critters had a sense of religious awe or symbolism that
is certainly human-like. Not going at this question from a paleological
angle, but rather from a literary one (I am thinking of some things that
C.S. Lewis wrote as well as his friend Owen Barfield's book "Poetic
Diction") the musical/artistic artifacts of these strange people place
them *with* us and against animals that seem to have no sense of spiritual
mystery. I doubt that music and body painting had functions that were
distinct from religion.

> The Venus figurine is of no help either. Isn't it possible that early
> hominids with a sufficiently evolved mind would do just what Christians
> are often charged with doing--"inventing" God? That these people "had
> religious beliefs"--still a conclusion only weakly supported by the
> evidence, in my opinion--does not entail that they "have the same
> capabilities as I do."

There is a question about what sort of evidence for their religious
beliefs and practices you might expect to find after thousands of years.
And our children don't have the same capabilities we do, but we wouldn't
call them animals for all of that. (Mentally handicapped folks, too, for
that matter. Our society seems to be getting dangerously close, IMO, to
designating certain folks of "limited capabilities" as having less of a
claim on the status of humanity than those with more capabilities. I
don't want to disenfranchise neanderthals! :-)

*That* they had religious beliefs entails nothing
> about *what* they believed. It is certaily possible to agree with you
> about their capabilities, and still deny that they were descendents of
> Adam, because we just don't know (and, in the nature of the case, very
> likely never will) *what* they believed. Idolatrous practice does not
> entail Adamic descent; I find nothing implausible about this.

They could be devil-worshiping hominids, but even that would go along with
Glenn's thesis that they were human. Such a spiritual discernment and
moral choice (even if the wrong one) points to something more than an
animal activity.

Just a thought.


Gene D. Godbold, Ph.D. Lab: 804 924-5167
Research Associate Desk: 804 243-2764
Div. Infectious Disease Home: 804 973-6913
Dept. Internal Medicine Fax: 804 924-7500
MR4 Bldg, Room 2115 email:
Charlottesville, VA 22908