Remember my preference

 

Abstract

Table of Contents

Part I

Part II

Part III

Part IV

Part V

Part VI

Part VII

     

Part I: Fossil Remains of Early Man and the Record of Genesis

Chapter Two

Faith Without Sufficient Reason

     THERE IS no question that the theory of evolution is useful as a teaching aid to assist in the orderly arrangement of the data that is available. And there is no doubt also that when the theory is presented for popular consumption, i.e., omitting any mention of problems which yet remain to be solved before it can unequivocally be considered factually established, it has a certain compulsiveness about it, for it appears to explain everything. This, as a matter of fact, is one reason why there are a few authorities of stature within the camp who nevertheless feel somewhat uneasy about it all in its current theoretical formulation. For a theory which can be made to explain everything by manipulating the threads of the argument to suit the occasion is really unsound, for the basic reason that it could never be disproved. As Medawar observed, (27) if a theory is so flexible that the same explanation can be used to account for two entirely contrary tendencies, then the theory is meaningless. Once it was held that man's enlarging brain caused his emergence as Homo sapiens, the great tool-user, so that smaller brained creatures were lower in the scale. Now that small-brained creatures have turned up as tool users, it is being argued that the very use of tools is what enlarged the brain to man size. Evolutionary theory is highly "adjustable." "When we speak," Medawar said, "as Spencer was the first to do, of the survival of the fittest, we are being wise after the event: what is fit or not fit is so described on the basis of retrospective judgment. It is silly to profess to be thunderstruck by the evolution of organism A if we should have been just as thunderstruck by a turn of events which would have led to the evolution of B or C instead."
     A few years ago, T. H. Leith
(28) underscored the fact, which I

27. Medawar, Sir Peter B., The Art of the Soluble, Methuen, London, 1967, p. 55.
28. Leith, T. H., "Some Logical Problems with the Thesis of Apparent Age," Journal of the American Sci.entifc Affiliation, vol.17, (4), Dec., 1965, p.119.

     pg 1 of 6     

believe is of fundamental importance, that in order to be useful a theory must be so structured that some critical experiment is conceivable which, if it is actually false, could prove it to be so. As Medawar has pointed out, (29) since absolute proof is beyond our power (for there may always turn up one more piece of evidence which is irreconcilable), the best we can do in any area of research is to constantly seek for error in the hypothesis. The result of each experiment which does not demonstrate a flaw serves either to confirm the present hypothesis or to purify it by forcing its modification. But the theory of evolution is so flexible that it is simply not possible to conceive of a critical experiment which could disprove it. All research seems to be ultimately devoted to proving the theory, not to challenging it. How could one challenge it?
     In the meantime, it may be useful enough, heuristically, or even as a philosophy which ministers to our materialism, but it is nevertheless held as an act of faith indeed Huxley would even define it as a religion.
(30) As such, there is a large element of emotion involved in its defense. In his recent book This View of Life, Simpson reveals this quite remarkably. There are some sections in which he reiterates ad nauseam the basic tenet of his faith: "Evolution is a fact." (31)

29. Medawar, Sir P. B., The Uniqueness of the Individual, Basic Books, New York., 1957, p.76. Similarly, Rudolf Flesch remarked, "The most important thing about science is this: that it isn't a search for truth but a search for error. . ." (see his book, The Art of Clear Thinking, reviewed by H. Kreighbaum in Scientific Monthly, vol.74, (4), April, 1952, p.240). See also the editorial comment under "The Discipline of the Scientific Method," (Nature, Aug. 1, 1959, p.295): "Since, according to the code of science, no positive assertions are final and all propositions approximations, and indeed provisional, science is seen to advance more by denying what is wrong than by asserting what is right -- by reducing, and eventually eradicating, errors rather than by heading straight towards some preconceived final truth."
30. Huxley Julian, "New Bottles for New Wine: Ideology and Scientific Knowledge," Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, vol.80, 1950, p.7-23, especially p.15b; and see also his Introduction to Teilhard de Chardin, The Phenomenon of Man, Collins, 1959, where Huxley hails him as the new prophet of the new faith!
31. Simpson, Gaylord G., This View of Life, Harcourt, Brace and World, New. York, 1964:
      p. vii "one of the basic facts...."
      p. 10 "Fact -- not theory...."
      p. 12 "no one doubts...."
      p. 40 "all the facts support it.... "
      p. 51 "only dishonest biologists disagree...."
      p. 62 "unassailable now...."
      p. 63 "all problems being solved 'triumphantly'...."
      p. 151 "Evolution is a fact ... creation a dogma...."
      p. 193 "Evolution a fact... the truth of evolution... proofs... all agree...proofs of evolution."
In his article, "The Biological Nature of Man," (Science, vol.152, 1966, p.475), he wrote, "We are no longer concerned with whether man evolved, because we know that he did"! (emphasis his).

     pg.2 of 6     

Circular reasoning plays a large part in current evolutionary anthropology, perhaps as large a part as it does in modern geology although it is not as readily admitted. The circularity of the reasoning goes something like this: we know that human evolution is true and therefore there must be a succession of forms from some protohuman being up to man spread over an appropriate time scale of millions of years. Since by disregarding geographical location and taking some liberties with an expansive time scale, one can line up a set of candidates in fossil form which make what is euphemistically termed a "nice sequence," this proves that human evolution is a fact. The possibility that there might be another explanation for similarity of form is not even considered. The point is that the mere arbitrary lining up of man-like fossils, even when the temporal ordering is correct, does not prove descent. The assumption is made that descent is the explanation, and the line-up is then used to prove the assumption. (32) This is as characteristically circular as much geological reasoning is.
     This kind of evolutionary sequence was once very popular in cultural anthropology: artifacts developed progressively from simple to complex by known stages; religion evolved continuously from animism to monotheism; art passed from a very low stage of crude representation to its modern sophisticated (?) level of abstraction; in short, everything evolved. Little by little most of these classically familiar evolutionary schemes have been discarded as being either purely arbitrary mental creations or positively contrary to fact. Christian readers sometimes see references to the abandonment of these cultural evolutionary constructs and unfortunately gather the impression that all evolutionary ideas are being abandoned which is not so at all: Unfailingly, human and prehuman fossil remains are still being set forth in such a way as to create the impression that linear relationships actually have been demonstrated between them. As Howell put it, "Man . . . is most closely related to the living African anthropoid apes"!
    It is too soon for us to be able to see the true significance of the many new fossils from Africa and elsewhere, each of which tends, by its discoverer, to be hailed as the missing link, until it is challenged

32. R. H. Rastall of Cambridge wrote "It cannot be denied that from a strictly philosophical standpoint geologists are here arguing in a circle. The succession of organisms has been determined by a study of their remains buried in the rocks, and the relative ages of the rocks are determined by the remains of organisms that they contain." (Encyclopedia Britannica, 1956, Article on Geology, vol.10, p.168). W. R. Thompson says of Simpson, "Simpson states that homology is determined by ancestry and concludes that homology is evidence of ancestry"! ("Evolution and Taxonomy," Studia Entomologica, vol.5, 1962, p. 567).

     pg.3 of 6     

as to its significance by the man who is lucky enough to find one even more primitive (or human-like!). A great deal tends to be made, by each discoverer, of those features of his own particular find which distinguish it markedly so it is claimed from other like finds and on that account justify its claim as a new link in the chain rather than part of an existing link. We have already referred to the fact that within any species there may be considerable variability, variability which is quite sufficient to justify the counter-argument that many supposed links are not links at all but variant specimens of a single species. It is instructive to note a paper by Stanley M. Garn who, in discussing "the problem of fossil differences," makes the following series of observations which are extracted in the correct order from his paper but with much supplementary information omitted in the interests of brevity. He wrote: (33)

     In describing the pithecanthropus-sinanthropus fossils from Java and China and the various "Neanderthals," much is commonly made of differences between them and us. According to textbook descriptions (usually copied from previous textbook descriptions), these old-world fossils were unique in various ways. "Fossils" are supposedly characterized by unusually thick skulls, exceptionally large teeth, extra-massive mandibular symphyses, and pattern of tooth size and tooth eruption not found in living man. Such characterizations heightened student acceptance of the notion that a "taxonomic chasm" separates the classical old-world fossil from contemporary man. . .
     Now many of the fossils selected for description were thick-skulled, if published measurements can be trusted. But they were not so unique in skull thickness as we were wont to believe. And it is not necessary to search museums for isolated cranial extremes simply to demonstrate this important point, nor is it necessary to center upon the thick-vaulted Florida and California coastal Indians. A contemporary series of living Americans extends well into the fossil range of skull thickness. With due precautions to exclude possible cases of Paget's disease, it is quite possible to show that contemporary Americans and paleanthropic fossils do not form separate distributions: the fossils are quite overlapped by living men and women.
    Many fossils have been described as big-toothed, and surely the megadonts of Asia and Africa were as big-toothed as their name properly suggests. But from Pithecanthropus on, the exceptional nature of fossil-tooth size (at least for premolars and molars) is again open to question. With perhaps one classical exception (Pithecanthropus 4) modern and fossil tooth sizes quite overlap. The Neanderthals, as variously described, fit comfortably within contemporary ranges, and this observation is remarkably true for the Lower-K teeth from Choukoutien...It is clear that the distribution of tooth sizes in contemporary American whites encompasses the "fossil" range to the extent that, as with skull thickness, there is no suggestion of a true taxonomic chasm. . . .
     For some years, too, the notion has been current that fossil man

33. Garn, Stanley M., "Culture and the Direction of Human Evolution," Human Evolution: Readings in Physical Anthropology, edited by N. Korn and F. Thompson, Holt, Rhinehart & Winston, New York, 1967, pp.102-107.

     pg.4 of 6     

and modern man were differentiated by the order of tooth eruption. Franz Weidenreich championed such a belief arguing a real toxonomic "chasm" in this respect. Broom and Robinson, and Dart, in turn, have gone further by suggesting different sequences of tooth eruption for individual Australopithecines, sequences which they claim to be "unknown" in modern man. But the idea of one tooth-eruption sequence for fossils and another for modern man falls when subjected to careful review. . . Actually, and as we have shown, the "fossil" order is the usual order of alveolar eruption in modern children. . . .
     Paleoanthropic fossils, according to the textbooks are said to have massive mandibular symphyses, and high mandibular symphyses as well, as befits forms with supposedly massive dentition. Yet, by comparison to a rather small series of contemporary American adults (258 in all) it would seem that we hold equal claim to the extremes of symphyseal size and massivity. All except one or two fossil specimens fall within the contemporary combined-sex bivariate distribution. All other euhominid, erectus or sapiens (taken from the listing of Weidenreich), fall well into the contemporary American white distribution. . . Once again it would appear that the fossils are not qualitatively different from us. . . .
     It would appear appropriate to observe that the facial skeletons of fossils and modern man are by no means so greatly different.

     Since a great deal is made of the face of fossil man, the majority of reconstructions putting the major emphasis here pro bono publico, it is a useful corrective to have this admittedly rather long extract in front of one. Because it shows that if one is determined to provide man with ancestors from which he evolved, it is also necessary to show them as being significantly different in form in various ways, otherwise one cannot point to any evidence of "evolution." Evolution means change; and if there is no demonstrable change one cannot argue for evolution. So because of a consuming faith in an otherwise undemonstrable theory of human origins, it is necessary to find substance for it by over-emphasizing the evidence to the extent of distorting it out of all proportion to its true significance. The facts do not justify this distortion as Garn's paper shows unequivocally. It is generally accepted as true that a view held without adequate evidence is held as an act of faith, no matter how reasonable it may otherwise seem to be.
     What I am trying to underscore here is that the whole subject of man's supposed pedigree is loaded with dubious arguments based on an interpretation of the data which is often entirely arbitrary, its sole justification being that it lends support to a view of human origins which is held simply as an act of faith.
     Even concerning the Cradle of Man the same dubious arguments are made to carry weight in the public mind because perfectly valid alternatives are ignored. Since most of the newer fossils have been turning up in Africa, it is popular to hail Africa rather than the

     pg.5 of 6     


Middle East as the Cradle of Man, in spite of the fact that the Australopithecine line leads to modern apes and not to man at all, according to the many experts. . . But there are ways in which the Middle East can still be shown to be the most reasonable Cradle of Man and that the group of fossils widely scattered over the world (in Asia, Africa, and Europe) which by general consensus of opinion do represent early man, such as the Homo erectus series, can be accounted for without making them man's ancestors. After all there is no need to assume automatically that everything that looks like an ancestor is an ancestor it could be a descendant. If one believes in evolution, the former is a reasonable enough assumption because these fossil skulls are so very primitive in appearance. If one believes that man was created, the logic of the argument is not nearly so compelling; for degeneration is as likely as improvement, for as we hope to show, there is a way in which all those fossil remains which are generally agreed to belong within the family of man, Homo sapiens, can be accounted for without appealing to evolutionary processes of any kind. And this way is not only reasonable in itself, but has substantial support from what we know of man's early history on the basis of archaeology, the records of antiquity, and modern research into the effects of food, climate, and habit of life on human physique.

     pg.6 of 6     

Copyright © 1988 Evelyn White. All rights reserved

Previous Chapter                                                                      Next Chapter



Home | Biography | The Books | Search | Order Books | Contact Us