The Skeptic's Guide to The Universe

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Chapter Seven; HUMANS IN THE MIST part twenty-five

When paleontologists, archaeologists, anthropologist and other professionals who research the history of Earth through geology, fossils, and ancient sites of man and animals, a picture begins to develop. Like all primates, humans are very social and territorial animals. Similar characteristics are common to the varieties of primate species. But when the dawn of man came, modern man arrived on the planet pretty much the same as we are now but the Earth was a much different place than it is now. There were many other animals that have long since been extinct. While there are several ideas as to what lead to Homo sapiens to become what they are now. Several are worth touching on.

The consensus is that humans first appeared in the sub-Saharan Africa. From this rise, mankind quickly migrates to the Middle East, Europe, Asia, across the land bridge to the Americas and across the seas and oceans to Australia and other islands of human civilization. One idea to keep in mind is that over the 200,000 years of human existence the access to parts of the planet have came and gone with successive warming and cooling periods of the planet. Based upon archeology, human tools found indicate the level of technology that we had at different parts of the planet, so an idea of the paths and times we migrated and advanced around the globe can be made. Of course Homo sapiens are not the only species to use tools. The use of tools by man's ancestors has been around since at least Homo erectus, about 1.4 to 1.7 million years ago. So the advancement in tool development can not only indicate a time period but also a species of humans.

Some of these artifacts include the presence of animals hides, sticks and stones, and pottery and stone items used for holding water or food. The presence of domesticated animals, namely dog's bones present in close proximity to human artifacts and remains are indication of the progression of of the evolution of the human species. Also domesticated animals such as horses, bovine, swine and other modern domesticated animals are indicators of the advancement of mankind's dominance over his environment. These reflect a early time of human history and development of basic tools. The details of this period of time is almost completely unknown. [That's why we call it prehistoric.] But most of mankind's history is spent during this prehistoric era. Depending on the view of when mankind came into its own that period began about 200,000 years ago.

While prehistoric man would be not much different from us Today, except for his height, he really didn't begin to develop his intellectual skills until he was much further along the path. I have heard that if you were able to take a prehistoric man and raise him in Today's world that he would fit in perfectly. This is of course in sharp contrast to a recent video I saw on You Tube by "Ozmoroid" creationist geometry lesson.xxxiv It talks about how the height of mankind has gotten shorter since the time of Adam.

Archeology and physical evidence doesn't support this assertion. We have clothing and outfits that were worn by person more than 3500 years ago and these show that people were actually a bit shorter instead of taller. Structures built in those ancient times often have smaller door openings and ceilings when they are intact or reassembled. These are just a few inches not the drastic increase that Ozmorid put forth in his video but it does show the point that humans in general are more likely to get taller than shorter.xxxv I found it humorous that the idea postulates that Adam lived 6000 years ago and that due the the rate of decreasing height, humans should simply disappear in about another 4000 years. [I'll keep that day open on my calender.] While the future of humanity is uncertain for sure, it is uncertain because we simply cannot see into the future not because a silly hypothesis is laden with misinformation and ignorance. But the prediction of the end of the world is the specialty of the devout of many faiths and views.

As man advanced with simple tools and observations of the natural world. He began to form a cause and effect view of the world. Things like the weather patterns, seasons, migrations, stars, planting seeds, accidents, communication, and mutual protection become more clear. So man begins to work on using this knowledge to his benefit and the benefit for the clan or tribe. So begins the basis of science, deduction and observation. Not all these cause and effect relationships are accurate in the view of modern man. Just because the last time a meteorite was in the sky a king died or a enemy was defeated doesn't mean that every time a meteorite appears in the sky the same event will happen again. The failure of mankind to recognize that the same celestial event that they see is the same that there enemies or other nations or kingdoms would see seems to be like a foreign concepts to the writings of most ancient texts. After all there is only one sky, in spite of how often the broadcasts meteorologist insist on calling the space above us the “skies.” The ancients didn't understand as we do Today the concept of a shared experience.

The very idea that the sun comes up in East and sets in the West day after day is something that was important to ancient man to know. The knowledge of the progression of the sun in the sky over the year was important for crop management, animal tracking and hunting, when to travel to avoid coming cold weather, how to manage the domesticated animals for breeding. These are all ideas that took many generation to discover, yet are essential to how mankind lives in the world Today.

To have a festival for a better harvest as a cause and effect relationship Today seems archaic but that is how people lived in the past. A “meaningful” sacrifice had to be made according to the rules of the society.

The one or ones with the knowledge of the the seasons had the power to command respect. In a way they almost would seem like gods or at least demi-gods to the common uneducated person. So with basic knowledge of time a person could again be empowered to force their will upon their own people. If a violent storm came it was because the people sinned. If the crops failed it was a sin and a sacrifice had to be made. If the livestock got sick it was because evil was in the tribe and the evil had to be purged. So with the knowledge of time, a whole system of society could be created and called religion.

As man learned to master fire the use of this gave man the power to light the night and use it to keep away predators from his home. Oral language soon included its visual counter part in writing. Now a person could get the words of a person not even with them. They could even have words from people that had died. A great advancement to mankind. The idea of carrying knowledge forward help mankind avoid having to “reinvent the wheel” over and over again. During this period man was able to make more advance tools of stone and use the knowledge of those not with them in writing to help advance their tribes and clans.

However with the advent of written language, what can only be hypothesis at this point as the tribal stories began to take on the written form and past on from generation to generation. While the idea of a way to move a block of stone more easy is a very useful piece of information for stone age man to have. The story that this was handed down by the great stone god of the East is not really a helpful concept. But man was making more time available for himself so instead of following our naturally evolved natural to be nomadic, man began to build town and settlements. The best places were near were there was water for crops, drinking and so on.

I know most of this is a rehash of the stories told for the past few decades but sometime it is good to restate it to remind us of were we came from and where we are now. So please bear with me as I finish with the section.

So now man has a few cities and the populations grow as the ease to have the necessities of life begins to make living in larger groups more desirable. Cities in the Mid-East grow as do cities in Asia and Europe. One wonders at this point if trade for mutual benefit was the next step in human development of was the advent of war? Or was it something different all together?

Was it the idea that you have what I want so I am going to take it from you? Or was it the idea that your stories are different than ours so we must kill you and your ideas? Or was it simply a matter of a misunderstanding of whose animals got to the watering hole first that started the first war? Regardless the first war did begin and sadly we have not found a solution to that yet. But a more effective way to conduct those wars has never been a problem for mankind.

Man develops a more advance way of making items. These are made from bronze and have a much higher degree of strength then the stone tools of the past. Plus bronze was much lighter and could be used for many purposes. A leader of a city could adorn his soldiers in it to make them harder to kill and injure in a battle. Plus the spears with bronzed tips surely gave the army an advantage of a stone equipped enemy. So the armies advance and the victor has his will pushed upon the defeated. So their stories of history and the world are the ones that are passed down. So science and technology builds its tenuous relationship with warfare.

So, not only are the stories of the victory passed down the stories of power and glory grow as victories grow. Sometimes parts of the lore of the vanquish would be integrated or accepted into the prevailing mores some of these would benefit the society some would benefit the ruling class. One such idea is men are given the power to have women subjected to them. Maybe a conquering army might give the woman of that nation to the men as a “prize” and then the children born would be raised in that society increasing the city and country and society even more.

Once religion was created by man the power to motivate and control the population could be done with little intimidation as long as there were enough regular examples used to serve to keep the people suitably terrorized. Killing all the people in a conquered city or making an fatal example of a sexual deviant in the view of their gods. 


Coming Next time: 

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