Table of Contents
Part III: Establishing a Paleolithic
The Intelligence of Early Man
WORKING in Mexico, Peru, and Yucatan realize that such achievements
in the arts of living as were found in these three regions could
only have arisen over thousands of years. So wrote Jurgen Thorwald.
(1) Now, it is
a principle in advertising that if a statement is repeated often
enough, people will come to believe it whether it is true or
not. And the view that early cultural development was always
pitifully slow has similarly been repeated so often that it has
come to be accepted as unquestionably true.
Early Man, it was held, may have
had a fair measure of animal cunning, otherwise he probably would
never have survived, but of the kind of intelligence which we
associate with inventiveness and the advancement of culture he
can have had very little indeed, hence the tremendous time lapse
between each significant advance. And this was held to be true
for three reasons: first of all, he was so nearly animal himself,
and animals are not culturally progressive; and secondly, there
are certain primitive people who have not advanced culturally
either, and this fact is popularly attributed to the same cause,
namely, "low intelligence" -- thus providing us with
an actual picture of what fossil man was like when he roamed
the earth. These people, we are told, are Paleolithic Men who
happen to be still living! And thirdly, he had such brute features
and such a small cranial capacity, both of which were taken to
be clear evidence of his low level of mental development. He
looked idiotic and therefore was idiotic.
These views accord so well with
and, until recently, have formed such an integral part of evolutionary
philosophy that they were never seriously questioned. There must
have been a long time in the process of man's evolution from
ape to proto-man to Homo Sapiens
1. Thorwald, Turgen, Science and Secrets
of Early Medicine, Harcourt, Brace and World, New York, 1963,
1 of 2
and since everyone knows
how forward-looking and progressive modern man is now, the earliest
representatives of our race must have had a low I.Q. to remain
so long at one cultural level. All the evidence seemed to dovetail,
and the existence of primitive cultures which are marked by "backwardness"
and whose members appear to lack "nobility of countenance"
as we see it, seemed to provide the ultimate demonstration of
the reasonableness of the current view of prehistoric man.
Copyright © 1988 Evelyn White. All rights
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For many people, it is simply self-evident
that the earliest human beings had a low I.Q. because an evolutionary
view of things demands that this be so. But if we follow Lyell's
dictum of interpreting the past only in the light of the known
present, it can be shown that most of the available evidence
stands squarely against the current view of early man's lack
of intelligence. There is absolutely no historical record of
any primitive culture whose children were so lacking in intelligence
that they could not hold their own with the children of civilized
parents, when provided with comparable opportunities. Thus, although
it is felt by many people that our primitive contemporaries are
backward enough to be our contemporary ancestors, it is also
important to underscore at the same time the well recognized
fact that our own newborn babies are not essentially different
from those of any other culture, advanced or backward. Man seems
always to start with about the same intellectual endowment regardless
of whether he happens to be a member of some primitive tribe
or a member of some well-to-do European family where it may be
presumed opportunity for intellectual development is very high.
It is opportunity that makes the difference. The apparent backwardness
of some modern native cultures and the extreme simplicity of
the tools and artifacts of Paleolithic Man are not, in either
case, evidence of inferior intelligence but more probably due
to a historical circumstance which it is well worth examining.
If this can be established, an
important argument in favour of the supposed evolution of man
from some animal form is weakened. And the object of this essay
is simply to examine the evidence in the light of present knowledge.
How intelligent was Paleolithic Man?