What's human? (was: Did Meanderthal make baskets?)

John P. McKiness (jmckines@blue.weeg.uiowa.edu)
Sun, 9 Nov 1997 01:34:34 -0600

Hi Glenn,

I think we are at it again, oh well here goes:

At 07:15 AM 11/8/97 -0600, you wrote:
>Hi John,

>Let's look at it this way. Suppose you took a gun and shot a 5' 4" stocky
>man who was very ugly. The police investigated and found: he lived in a
>tent, made baskets, played the flute, hunted game, built walls, made
>clothing from animal skins, buried his granny in a grave with grave goods
>(as well as burying his dead child), made and wore a bone necklace and
>worshipped bears.
>Question: Do you think you would be convicted of murdering a person who fits
>this description? If the answer is yes, then you have killed a human. You
>don't want me on your jury.

I agree today that is the case and it should be so, (I notice you use the
term man above while we are discussing the meaning of the term) but I do not
agree that at all points in the past that would be a valid assumption.
Remember, I agree with you that organic evolution is the best explanation we
humans can come up by ourselves, using our reasoning abilities, for now the
organic universe works. I think you would agree that there was a
progression from nonhuman to human during the late Cenozoic (unless you
believe in the special creation of the physical form). I believe we are just
disagreeing on where to drive the "golden spike" in the primate line to say
that above the "spike" is "man" as we define the term today as Christians.

I have been saying all along that I do not think we can make the distinction
in the fossil record. But I think we can tell when man was domesticated and
that comes much later than Neanderthal and all the evidence for "humanness"
you have been pointing to. The traits of domestication are seen in H.
sapiens sapiens in skeletal characteristics and agriculture in cultural
traits. Too me Adam fits closer to the end of the Pleistocene then to the
middle Pleistocene (or the Pliocene) as
the Biblical (historical ?) description of Adam fits a horticulturists or
agriculturalist better than a hunter/gatherer as I read it.

>>I would suggest that sin is part of the definition of "human" now and that
>>will be devilishly hard to find in the fossil record if "man" existed prior
>>to Adam.
>Forget this "man existed prior to Adam" business. That begs the question.
>I would say no man existed prior to Adam because Adam lived millions of
>years ago.

I will forget this " 'man existed prior to Adam' business" when we agree on
the definition of man and human when it comes to the fossil record.

I believe we agree on the definition of the term "man" that God has given us.

I don't believe the two are necessarily the same (remember the dichotomy I
keep bringing up; it has hit you again). I believe that when we are
talking about the fossil record or the anthropological interpretations of it
we are making science statements. It is inappropriate to mix science
statements with revelation definitions; the two do not have common ground.
Sorry :-(

>I can cite evidence of religious activity for Neanderthal and H. erectus. I
>can't find any earlier evidence of religion but that may merely be due to
>the difficulty of finding it. Just today I ran across this for a Neanderthal
>site in Lebanon.


We know that wolves and dogs will howl at the rising sun, and howl more
under a full moon then no moon; may this not also be interpreted as evidence
of worship in a species without material culture? (I know some new agers
that think so.) It may very well be that at some point in the scale of
awareness, organisms come to believe that they can manipulate the universe
by certain behaviors or that they may become aware of something greater than
themselves who must be honored; this does not make them "human." But given
the choice and choosing self over God makes a primate "human" by a Christ
centered definition, while the skeletal characteristics which define the
genus Homo define "man" in the biologic sense. (Remember Homo habilis is
defined by skeletal traits not cultural even among anthropologists.)

>I could not accept that. You seem stuck with the presupposition that Adam
>was a recent creation. He couldn't be or problems like you suggest arise. I
>would suggest that you move Adam back in time like I do.

No Glenn, I am not stuck on that hypothesis, but I accept it as a
possibility just as I accept that Adam was more like Ramapithicus then Homo
habilis. As scientists we must think in terms of multiple working
hypotheses, not stuck on protecting one to the death as we make statements
that the evidence does not support.

Have a good day in Christ, He is Risen from the dead.

John P. McKiness jmckines@blue.weeg.uiowa.edu
P.O. Box 5666
Coralville, Iowa 52241 (319) 338-5605