Living by our assumptions (was Re: What's human?)

Glenn Morton (
Sun, 09 Nov 1997 02:06:34 -0600

Hi John,

Since you raise the issue of the dichotomy between Science are Religion
below, I am going to go back to a statements you made since last May as a
review of your position. I don't mean this to sound harsh but your post was
too full of irony to let this go by.

At 07:39 PM 5/27/97 -0500, John P. McKiness wrote:

>It is because of my past 30 years training (in geology, history,
>anthropology, and theology/philosophy) that I believe an attempt to
>harmonize the Bible and science is doomed to failure. We either accept that
>the flood of Genesis (the Trinity, the virgin birth of Jesus Christ, etc.)
>occurred by faith or we don't, and neither science nor the Bible can be used
>to prove to a skeptic either that it occurred or it didn't. That is the
>nature of these two different forms of knowledge. We live in a dichotomy
>when we live by faith.

and on 10:10 PM 5/28/97 -0500, John P. McKiness wrote:
>I believe this is part of the problem, in order for there to be
>harmonization both faith and science would need to agree on "truth and
>falsity." They cannot because they originate from different sources.
>Science is based on the rules of western thought and experience (a human
>source). Our Christian faith is based on our acceptance of the truth of
>God's revelation, via The Holy Spirit on us using scripture, church
>tradition, and our personal experiences.
>Truth is based on God. Science knows nothing of truth; at best it can only
>verify or deny a hypothesis. I believe the best that human thought (unaided
>by the Spirit) can do is summarized by Pilate when he asked "what is truth?"

and At 02:55 PM 9/7/97 -0500, John P. McKiness wrote:

>Religion is not rational by the standard of human reason.


>My approach is to admit that I see no possibility of reconciliation between
>the works of man and God (I do not believe that even God can do that).
>There is no evidence of a flood (regional or total) that conforms to the
>Genesis account. There is no evidence (except hear-say) of the
>resurrection. There is no evidence of God except that which can be see by
>the eyes of faith.

and At 10:08 PM 9/8/97 -0500, John P. McKiness wrote

>There is God's truth which comes via
>revelation from Him and knowledge which comes via human thought (including
>the processes of observation and interpretation). Human thought can only
>produce an approximation of "reality."
>I have a problem with the idea that we can mix the two "knowledges" and that
>is why I accept the dichotomy.


> As a scientist I cannot make statements about God or His activity because I
>do not have the means to observe Him. As a Christian it is inappropriate
>for me to make science statements based on my faith. This is the dichotomy
>we must live with and enforce.

Using today's post, I am going to show that you are not living by your
dichotomy--two forms of separate knowledge (science and religon) that can't
be mixed. You are busy mixing the two. I would argue that it is impossible
for you not to mix them. Now to your post of today,

At 01:34 AM 11/9/97 -0600, John P. McKiness wrote:

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

Here we go. :-)

I wrote:
>>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.
You replied
>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.

So, if a definition of man today does not apply to the past, then we have a
temporally changing definition? What kind of definition is one that changes
over time? Can we define a cow as a cow today and as a chicken yesterday?
Surely truth is fixed.

>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).

As I have said many times, I do beleive that there has to be a break in the
human/ape line but not in the physical form. The physical form means
nothing. (but there is a break in the chromosome number apes have 48 and we
have 46 chromosomes) Our bodies show relationships to the apes in the
pseudogenes but the Scripture clearly says that the creation of man was due
to divine involvement. I discovered a way to unite those two different
constraints. I know that you don't find the constraint from scripture very
constraining, but I do.

>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.

That is part of the issue. Where is evidence of the first man in the
archeological record?

If you are looking for a golden spike for humanity, you are being
inconsistent with your statement that the bible and science are two separate
forms of knowledge emanating from two separate sources. Why look for the
theological defintion of man in science or scientific data?

>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.

There are several points to be raised here. First, if we are not to look for
conformity between science and Religion, why are you citing conformance
between the agricultural revolution and the Scriptural account of Adam?
This makes no sense. Under your assumption the two do not need to conform.
Nor should you "mix the two knowledges".

Also if "Religion is not rational" then why are you using rational
argumentation in support of your position? Remember you said:

>Science is based on the rules of western thought and experience (a human
>source). Our Christian faith is based on our acceptance of the truth of
>God's revelation.

The rules of western thought are rational argumentation.

Secondly, there is early evidence of "domestication" But a discussion of it
mixes science and religion. The evidence for seed grinding technologies
appears prior to the advent of anatomically modern men on earth. Fagan writes

"Game meat was not their only source of food. Without question, wild
plant foods collected by the women were of paramount importance, perhaps eaten
more frequently than animal flesh. By 130,000 years ago, plant grinders and
pounders were in widespread use, so less-palatable meat and vegetable foods
could be processed, then cooked, before consumption. everything points to a
more efficient hunter-gatherer lifeway, one based not only on game and plants,
but in places on fish, shellfish, and some sea mammals as well."~Brian M.
Fagan, The Journey From Eden, (London: Thames and Hudson, 1990), p. 61

Are we not to consider this as evidence of "domestication"? I would say
yes.But more importantly, thirdly, I would deny that "domestication" is what
the Bible is talking about in the creation account. To satisfy your demand
that Adam be in an agricultural setting (which is inconsistent with your
statement that attempts at harmonization are doomed to failure and in which
attempts you are now engaged by harmonizing Adam's position as
agricultural), one only has to have there be a prior agricultural period
than the one that began about 10,000 years ago.

If one beleives that there was an anthropologically universal flood which
left only 8 people alive, I would suggest that this would require a loss of
all technology in the lives of the descendants. They would be reduced to
savagery and would have to re-invent everything. This could take millions of
years. Technology requires a large population. The 4000 Tasmanians lost much
of the Australian aboriginal technology after their island was cut off from
the mainland about 8000 years ago. Their technology was so poor that it was
compared with that of chimpanzees in an infamous anthropological article.

>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.

Once again, you are trying to mix religion with science. If religion and
science have nothing to do with each other, then why are you looking for the
definition of man in the fossil record at all? Why are you looking for
evidence of man that lived before Adam? Adam is a religion figure with
theological implications; Neanderthal is a scientific object of study.

But if we can mix science and religion, then here is my answer. In the
computer world when they try to define what an artificial intelligence is,
they use the Turing test. If you can communicate with a computer and not
tell that it is not another human on the other end of the keyboard, then you
have created an artificially intelligent being. In other words, if it walks
like a duck quacks like a duck, it must be a duck. I would apply the same
technique to the fossil record. And you did also with my example above. You
admitted that you would be convicted of murder. Since one can only be
convicted of murdering a human, you have used a Turing-type test to
determine humanity. The artifacts from the fossil record are not difficult
to evaluate. We know what a flute does, we know what a grain grinder does,
we know what jewelry is for. My cat doesn't make any of these things, but
then she isn't human. Neanderthal made them all.

>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 :-(

That is your dichotomy, not mine. And you are not living by your dichotomy
because you keep discussing the relationship betweeen science and theology.
When you consistently live by your dichotomy, you should not be able to
mention Adam in the same breath as any science statement.

However, I disagree entirely that science and religion should be separated.
And I am NOT constrained by your dichotomy, that is your problem. The
dichotomy is not intuitively obvious and indeed, is counterintuitive. Thus I
categorically reject the notion that the two knowledges can't be mixed. And
by your actions, I don't think you do a good job of separating your science
from your religion. I think what you are trying to do is quite impossible as
you are demonstrating. But since I don't agree with it, I am not bound to
try to live by it. So citing your own self-imposed dichotomy as a reason my
views can't be correct is not a very strong argument.

If the two things are totally separate, what are you doing looking at the
agricultural revolution for evidence for Adam as you do at the top of this
post. What are you doing looking at the fossil record to see if humanity can
be derived from it? Even counter evidence as in the case of the wolves cited
below mix science and religion which you say should not be done. You are
not able to live by what you believe in this regard. Here is what you said

>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.

Adam comes from the Bible and knowledge of the horticulturalist revolution
comes from science. You are mixing things together just as I am. But I
admit it.

>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?

Here you are trying to disprove the ability to determine religion via
scientific observation of howling canids. That also is mixing science and

But if we can mix science and relition then I would say that wolves don't
pile bones up in artistic fashions, man does. Your analogy fails because
howling is not the same as building something. Remember that Neanderthal was
the first being to bury his dead flexed (tightly bound with knees drawn up
to the chest and arms bound. In many modern cultures this is done to
restrain the dead man's spirit. (Alexander Marshack, "Early Hominid Symbol
and Evolution of the Human Capacity," in Paul Mellars, The Emergence of
Modern Humans, (Ithica: Cornell Univ. Press, 1990), pp 457-498, p. 489)

Since Neanderthal was doing what we do (and I am not constrained by your
dichotomy), why should I interpret his activities differently? Doesn't that
lead to racism if I interpret the very human activities of another racial
group differently than I interpret those same activities among my group?

> (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.)

Once again, you are inconsistently trying to discuss religion by means of
scientific data. Behaviors come from observational science and according to
you should not be mixed with religion.

But if we can mix science and religion then I will answer your point. It is
true that habilis is a skeletal definition. But Homo habilis is also the
first being that had the enlarged Broca's area and brain asymmetry both of
which are associated with speech! Only man speaks.

>>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.

I thought evidence had nothing to do with religion. I thought we weren't
supposed to mix religion and science? If Religion and science are from two
worlds why are you discussing Adam (a theological being) in the same
sentence with Ramapithecus (a scientific creature)?

I didn't mean to sound harsh abouve but I couldn't avoid pointing out this
amazing inconsistency that runs through your post. For someone who often
says we can't mix religion and science, you spend a lot of time mixing the two.

With respect,


Foundation, Fall and Flood