By now, you would think I should quit being surprised. Yet, I still find myself constantly being amazed at people’s abject ignorance. Far too many people are just plain gullible, accepting whatever nonsense comes down the pike. If a little knowledge is a dangerous thing, then a little misinformation coupled with tons of ignorance must have the same potential as a hydrogen bomb!
Let me tell you what started all this personal shock and ire. I was reading something I had written a few years ago. It concerned a revealing conversation that Sue, my darling bride, became involved in. Revealing in the sense that the conversation exposed people’s innate capacity to believe foolishness. My wife’s field of expertise is education, especially the education of those with learning problems. She has spent many years studying and teaching children (and adults) who have learning disabilities. She knows her stuff. So she was intrigued, and a little frustrated, to become involved in a group conversation that dealt with the subject of dyslexia. One person present was pontificating on a theory that attempts to explain away dyslexia in terms of social evolution. This theory holds that one category of people learns one way, and another category learns completely differently, based on whether they are hunter-gatherers or farmers by nature. Dyslexics, according to this theory, are hunter-gatherers. And, of course, the poor, misunderstood hunter-gatherers are castigated and denigrated by the more numerous and socially acceptable farmer learners. Alas, poor hunter-gatherers! How preposterous! Sue was appropriately irritated by this folderol.
When Sue was discussing this theory with me, I was equally irritated—not only by this idiotic concept posing as educational theory, but also by the unstated but assumed underlying social theory. What do I mean? Simply this—what we have here is the common presupposition that all humanity has undergone a certain specific type of social evolution. This social theory applies Darwinistic principles to our understanding of anthropology and asserts that our cultural evolution went something like this…
• We began as brute beasts who gathered berries and roots for survival, just a step above chimps and baboons.
• Gradually we worked our way up to hunting (I guess fishing too, for all you anglers out there).
• Then finally we developed rudimentary agricultural skills, eventually becoming… (Tah-dah!) farmers. Yea!
Thus, it is posited, just as we see the organic evolution of species in all of nature, so in the course of history we have seen the social evolution of human patterns, functions and skills.
My estimation of Darwinian social theory? In a word: HOGWASH!
If we are to believe the Bible as historically accurate, then we must reject this theory without hesitation. Let’s go back to the beginning. In Genesis 2:15 we see Adam in the Garden of Eden. He is given instruction by God to “dress and keep” the garden (or “work it and take care of it” as the NIV renders it). In the curse that God placed on Adam after the Fall, God specifically mentions man’s painful toil in working the ground (see Genesis 3:17-19). When Cain and Abel brought their offerings to the Lord, Cain brought fruits and vegetables, while Abel brought a sacrifice from his flocks (Genesis 4:2-4). All these passages indicate that farming and raising livestock both were practiced by the earliest human beings. Agriculture was not something that developed over many millennia of human progress. It has been a common feature of human society since the beginning (see also Genesis 4:20).
While we are in Genesis, note that the biblical account of man’s early history records another interesting fact. This is that the building of cities came soon after the Fall (see Genesis 4:17). Civilization was not a late development that only occurred after hundreds of generations of organic and social evolution. Instead, the tendency for urbanization came very near the beginning of human history.
One other pertinent fact is worth noting. The commonly accepted social evolutionary theory asserts that men were first hunter-gatherers, and then developed agricultural skills. (“Ugh, deer and berries good!” came first. Only afterwards came: “Mmm! Dear, the biscuits and gravy were delicious!”) But according to the Genesis record, man was not even allowed to hunt and kill animals for food until after the Flood (see Genesis 9:2-3). This was over 1000 years after the Creation.
The conclusion then is obvious. The secular anthropologists and humanistic sociologists are wrong—backward in fact. Mankind was first a farmer, and then a hunter.
But (I hear you ask it) what about all that anthropological evidence? How do we explain cave men, Neanderthal and Cro-Magnon man? Do we not even today see people in the jungles and the bush living very primitive lives? Just think of all those National Geographic magazines we looked at as kids. Remember those simple natives, wearing leaves and eating berries, hunting birds with bows or blow guns. Don’t such tribal peoples prove that we came from primitive hunter-gatherer forebears? In fact, they do not. (“Oog! Me no understand.”)
First of all, sometimes these tribal people are not as primitive as they seem. Anybody remember the Tasaday? They were supposed to be an aboriginal people in the Philippines who lived an extremely uncivilized and simple existence. After their discovery, anthropologists and social scientists flocked to the Philippines to investigate the primeval Tasaday. The only thing was—the Tasaday were not so uncivilized and simple as they appeared. It turned out the whole thing was a clever hoax. The Tasaday actually had to be coached in the fine art of being primitive.
Secondly, the existence of primitive tribes does not prove that this was the way mankind existed in previous eras. It simply means that there are such people on earth today. Period. But didn’t they evolve from some half-ape, half-human ancestors? No. But didn’t they get locked away by dense jungles in out of the way locations, and then just live for millennia in their original, primeval status quo? I don’t think so.
Rather, I think they are tribes that did indeed get isolated from the rest of humanity—and then degenerated to become what they are today. Looking at the matter from a biblical perspective, mankind is not the result of evolving from such flagrantly primitive states. Instead, we understand that the opposite is true. Mankind was at first civilized, and then fell into less sophisticated modes of living. If anything, we can say that because of the Fall mankind is not evolving but devolving. We are definitely not getting better, no matter what popular mythology says.
Bottom Line: Tribes who live in a hunter-gatherer existence are not proofs of social evolution, but rather of social entropy. They demonstrate the tendency of fallen man to degenerate. They are living witnesses of the “Descent of Man.” Ugh!