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

John P. McKiness (
Sat, 22 Nov 1997 21:53:18 -0600

Note: I have eliminated everything I consider irrelevant to the discussion
or repeated, please refer to the original posts if my discussion seems out
of context.


At 02:06 AM 11/9/97 -0600, you wrote:
>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:
>and on 10:10 PM 5/28/97 -0500, John P. McKiness wrote:
>and At 02:55 PM 9/7/97 -0500, John P. McKiness wrote:
>and At 10:08 PM 9/8/97 -0500, John P. McKiness wrote

Back to you post At 02:06 AM 11/9/97 -0600, you continued:

>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.

I have gone over our past posts, you did a good job picking quotes to
establish my position, however I do not see the inconsistency you refer to.
I see instead overall poor writing skills on my part, and some bad examples
and digressions which were not adequately explained or necessary. I believe
you have misread what I have been saying all along, but I recognize that you
may have had problems with my inability to communicate my thoughts properly.

Also the discussion is about the relationship between revelation (and faith)
and science not religion and science. Hopefully we a both Christians and
not religionists. I will not extend this discussion of "religion" any farther.

Back to your post of Sun, 09 Nov 1997 02:06:34 -0600.

> Now to your post of today,
>At 01:34 AM 11/9/97 -0600, John P. McKiness 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.

Please refer to your statement, where was the clue that this "person" was
anything other than a normal modern human (of Homo sapiens)? Did you intend
for me to believe he was a Neanderthal (of Homo neanderthalensis)? If so I
am sorry I didn't understand that (I took him to be a survivalist).

>>>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 (John) 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.

Lets say for discussion that this man was a Neanderthal, I still do not see
your problem. Definitions change all the time, especially with some words,
that is why we have to pay attention to context. It is time we pay
attention to how we use "man" and "human," especially when we are dealing
with fossil hominids and trying to communicate with nonchristians and with
Christians who are unaware of the different definitions. My objection all
along has been that you have not recognized the definitional differences
that you must recognize if you believe in the evolutionary progression of
fossil primates from a science perspective.

As in our use of "man" (or "human" or "person)," "cow" can have multiple
meanings. The term cow can refer to mother bovine (Bos), moose, elk, rhino,
elephant, whale, walrus, etc., to some cattle illiterates as a bovine of any
sex or maturity level, or it can be as slang. Our discussion of "man" or
"human" here is somewhat comparable to the transition from the Miocene
ancestor of "cattle" to the modern dairy cow. Only with "cow" we do not have
a God revealed definition of "cow" to confuse you (but we might for
discussion sake substitute the platonic idea of The Cow as another confusing
use of the term.

Again, I do not believe I have mixed meanings as you suggest to this point,
but it may not have been clear to you as to how I was using the term (as on
reflection it to me what you meant by a "man" above).

However, with your introduction of a law case you have brought in another
meaning of the term from those we have addressed before. Our laws
concerning murder are based on the idea of a social contract which we
supposedly agree to by living in our respective states. Remember in a court
of law even a corporation is considered a person (comparabe to you - a
human) who can make contracts and be found guilty of crimes while a first
trimester fetus is not legally a person (human like you) in the U.S.
Therefore, in your case above, I "might be rightly tried" by human reason
using a legal definition of man, but not the definition seen in scripture
that you want to place on Neanderthals.

I am not sure though how we would define classic Neanderthals if we found a
group living in a traditional Neanderthal cultural setting in the U.S. I
think even Christians would have a dilemma. They would be man (as a general
term -- not sex related) by biological definition since they would be
classified to the genus Homo, but would they fit the legal and Christian
criteria necessary today (as many assume that to be man is to be Homo
sapiens). I don't think so presently. The courts and Congress would have
to decide their human status by law or constitutional admendment. But I

You continued as follows with a quote from my previous post.
>>Remember, I agree with you that organic evolution is the best explanation we
>>humans can come up by ourselves, using our reasoning abilities, for how 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 am unclear as to your point. The physical form is what the
paleoanthropologist has to work with. We would also expect a progression
from no culture to a our culture, but until the culture progresses to the
point where it leaves preservable remains (and scientists find those remains
and hypothosize about their meaning) there is no evidence of a progression.

By the way, are you going to define man strictly by chromosome number now?
If so what happens to your definition of man if the ancestral state of
anthropoids is someday found to be 46 or some modern "humans" are found with
48? Will every other organism on Earth that may be found (say a varity of
lettuce) to have 46 chromosomes be man?

I find the constraint from Scripture very true but not applicable to the
anthropological or biological definitions of fossil remains.

I continued with a digression in which I was not clear in what I meant.
>>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?

Glenn, you continually miss the entire point! I _do not_ look for the
theological definition of man in scientific data. I accept the
paleontological definition, the first skeletal remains in the geologic
record which meets the criteria for inclusion in the genus Homo is the first
"man." I _have not_ (AND WILL NOT) called that "person" Adam to this point.
For a common name lets call this first fossil man (him or her, sex is
irrelavent here) Charlie (for Charles or Charlene).

At some point God created a man by His definition and called that man Adam,
I do not believe we will ever figure out when this event occurred or how
Charlie relates to Adam, only God can reveal the relationship. I accept by
faith that Adam in part defines my relationship to God as revealed by God.

To the anthropologists I have read and studied under, the "golden spike" has
been driven at the point I have defined above -- that is, if the remains fit
the skeletal requirements of the genus Homo _it is man (therefore human)_.
God on the other hand, in Scripture has defined man (and humanity) in terms
of Adam and Jesus Christ. Again these are not necessarily the same and we
shouldn't make them the same in attempting conformity of Scripture with

What I was trying to point out (I admit ineptly) was that we agree on the
definition of man that God gives us but we do not agree on the relationship
of how that definition relates to the fossil record. I say from the top
that we cannot know, but it appears to me (by the curse Adam recieved and
that in part defines us) that he resembles a farmer more than a Neanderthal.
If that is inconsistency then I am sorry, you don't understand the delimma
we are in. I guess the dichotomy requires pragmatism but not a
inappropriate mixing of terms.

I continued by your last post,
>>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".

Yes, I agree with you last two statements. In my statement above I was only
offering my preferred guess where Adam might fit on the progression of "man"
from Charlie to us given what God reveals to us about Adam (he will pull
weeds). I certainly do not want anyone to try to save their faith in Christ
(or anyone else's) from doubt by applying my best guess of where Adam fits
on a cladistic/phylogenic tree of primates and I will argue against "my best
guess" with anyone who tries to apply it inappropriately. We should keep
the two separate, there is indeed a line of descent from Charlie to me as
there is a line of descent from Adam to me. I inherited my sinful nature
from Adam and it is that sinful nature which is part of God's definition of
man. Only God knows if Christ died for Charlie also.

I admit I should have introduced Charlie last time and I should not have
confused the issue with Adam above. (As an aside, as noted above, since my
last post I am no long convinced that Neanderthals should be classified as a
subspecies of Homo sapiens, therefore I 'm reverting back to the
classification of Neanderthals as being Homo neanderthalensis.)

you continued:
>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.

Yes, so what is your point? I admit that science is based on the rules of
western logic -- how does that relate to Scripture? It doesn't in my book.
God's revelation through Adam as faith in Christ is not based on the rules
of western philisophical thought -- it is not based on any form of human
formalized logic. Faith is always an irrational leap.

But communication between humans must rely on rational argumentation, we
must be pragmatic but not inappropriate. In our case, you are refusing to
recognize the gulf between the definition of "man" given by God in Adam and
Christ and the definitions given by anthropology/biology. They are not the

If you accept the evolutionary progression of hominids interpreted by
scientists from the fossil record, you must define the term differently than
God did, because your scientific definition must be based on skeletal and
cultural remains not our relationship with YHWH. Cultural adaptations may
or may not relate to the relationship of the organism with YHWH. But
relationship to YHWH is out of the realm of science and human logic and in
the realm of revelation and faith.

The reference above about "domestication" is my mistake, it was an unneeded
digression with a concept I failed to adequately explain. I deleted that
section of the discussion because it is irrelevant and you did not
understand what I was trying to say, it is not worth explaining at this
point. It was not an example of inconsistancy as you wanted to be and
hopefully you can understand that now.


The next part is just more repeat of the above but you jumped to quickly and
maybe I did not write clearly enough, but as I wrote my statement, which you
broke up, I did not mix definitions. Please refer to you post in the light
of what I have said so far in this post.


Your continued after my reply about the dichotomy hitting you,
>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.

Charlie and his/her cultural setting may or may not equal Adam and his
cultural setting, we can not tell using either science or Scripture.

The dichotomy constrains us all and it should be obvious to those who
recognize our present position before God because our logic is flawed to an
extent we cannot measure by sin and our "knowledge" is limited by the
constrain of our limitations. This is why I believe that both your position
and that of "creation scientists" are similar, both are misleading, and
inappropriate. If you insist in trying to conform science with Scripture
or Scripture to science you will not help yourself or others struggling with
the science vs. faith issues. We must recognize the barrier between the
two ways of "knowing" or your faith and those who follow your example will
remain under attack by scientific evidence and human logic and will
eventually be relegated to the dung heap. Faith has no ground to stand on
when attacked by human logic especially by moderns or post-moderns. We must
admit that faith is illogical by human standards, we must admit we cannot
defend God, and we must be willing to admit that we have no scientific
evidence for God's past or present activity because He and His activity are
beyond human measurement and reason. We must be able to turn to God and say
"I do not know about these things but I accept throught the knowledge of
Christ that You You have given me that You are God and You are trustworthy
and I seek You and You Love." This is the childlike faith that is required
of us.

You continued with,

See above, we only repeated ourselves but this time on the sidetrack.

You continued
>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 was trying to point out that religious activity may be more in the eye of
the beholder than in the data in these cases and it may not relate to Adam
at all. Notice I pointed out that other species, which do not have material
human culture, may be doing something Charlie (or Charlie's descendants) did
with his/her material culture. Charlie's material, cultural remains may be
found, but you have to be present to see, hear, and smell the wolf's
"cultural" activity. It really does depend on the observers interpretation
of what is "religion," only God knows what was/is really going on in the
case of the a fossil hominid and a wolf.

What fossil hominds did with their dead, art, tool, etc. may have more to do
with crossing a threshhold of awareness and consciousness than with God's
revelation/creation to/of Adam. It is through Adam that God gives us our
awareness of Himself and it is through Adam that we became sinners. And
being sinners is part of God's definition of man. (In dealing "religion" we
many be mixing terms again -- I do not want to go into that digression. I
do not remember using that term as synonomous with revelation and faith -- I
hope I didn't -- it was a slip if I did.)

I hope this was clear this time.

You continued with
>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.

Sorry, but now you have started a new definitional problem. What do you
mean by speech? I _do not_ hold that "man" by any definition is the only
group whose individuals communicate vocally nor do I believe that the
Broca's area is required for speech (or the many other methods organisms
have to communicate) in other species just because it is for us. It would
appear by our discussions that we may communicate with each other.

Maybe only silence remains as an option of us.

However, in hope that communication is still possible between us I will

You continued with
>>>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)?

Revelation (and faith) and science, not religion and science, is where the
dichotomy lies, but you missed the point again.

I can just as easily accept that Adam was a Ramapithicus or a Homo
whateverensis. It makes no difference to me because paleoanthropology can
not deal with Adam as it cannot deal with God, but it can deal with Charlie.

>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

Don't take this too harshly, but I believed you have missed the point
throughout our many exchanges. As a science student, I believe you misuse
scientific data and interpretations to make science support your concept of
how God accomplished what He does not reveal, and as a Christian I don't
like your (or any apologist"s) mix of human reason to prove the validity of
Christian faith. You have changed you story from your YEC days but not your
crusading spirit or methodology. We are called Christians because of our
position before God in Christ not because of our current scientific
understanding of fossil hominids and how someone dovetails that
understanding with scripture. YECs are going to be convinced by anything
you say. If they are serious about science they are going to have to have a
conversion experience that only the Holy Spirit can bring them to as He did
for us. We all must "work out" our faith "with fear and trembling" (I know
that is out of context and that Lutherans are not supposed to know about
that verse and that I have equated salvation with faith).

Christians and others need to understand what faith is and what its true
requirements are before they enter any classroom. Having the understanding
that all "knowledge" is one is wrong, there are two forms of knowledge and
they do not overlap. One is revealed by God, the other is rationalized by
man; the fate of a faith may depends in part on the value placed on each
type of knowledge. If you place a higher value on human reason and
scientific evidence (as I believe you do) than on an "irrational" faith in
Christ, then heaven help you.

I hope I have clarified my position this time. If you still believe I am
inconsistent that is to bad I cannot explain it any better than I have in
this post.

In Christ's Love,