Human evolution Intelligent Design

What’s really at stake in the Neanderthal art controversy: The racist implications of Darwin’s theory

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A recent item in Nature rehashed the question of Neanderthal art.

Neanderthal art? Maybe you stopped listening back when Michael Shermer announced that

… there is almost no evidence that Neanderthals would have ever “advanced” beyond where they were when they disappeared 30,000 years ago. Even though paleoanthropologists disagree about a great many things, there is near total agreement in the literature that Neanderthals were not on their way to becoming “us.”[1]

Maybe you even stopped listening as long ago as when Carl Sagan opined that in the not-too-distant future, a chimpanzee would, with assistance, write a memoir. [2]

Although the two messages sound opposite at first glance, they have a common underlying theme: Darwinism will either show us humans who are intellectually incapable of art because they are separate, inferior species (demonstrating common descent with animals) or else it will show us that chimpanzees are just like us (demonstrating that art arises through common descent with animals). Or maybe that there is nothing much to art, any animal can do it. [3]

Recently this bombshell landed, an apparent Neanderthal painting of seals. As one researcher puts it, “The findings show that our long-lost cousins were cognitively advanced from the get-go, long before modern humans appeared in Europe.” The current Nature news feature discusses various other possible Neanderthal art finds and the ensuing scholarly argle bargle.

In truth, we don’t yet have much art of any type done by anybody surviving from tens of millennia ago, so most conclusions drawn will in fact be based on underlying philosophical assumptions, either those of Shermer and Sagan or of others.

The underlying issue riffs off one of Darwin’s predictions: That humans would evolve into separate species via natural selection:

The break between man and his nearest allies will then be wider, for it will intervene between man in a more civilised state, as we may hope, even than the Caucasian, and some ape as low as a baboon, instead of as now between the negro or Australian and the gorilla,” [3]

Since Darwin believed that humans are merely animals, he had to apply his theories to humans, and stick fast to anything that appeared to fit. As Benjamin Wiker put it in an article in Human Events,

Those defending Darwin cannot have read his Descent of Man, wherein he applies the principles of natural selection to human beings—a thing he prudently avoided in his earlier Origin of Species. In the Descent, the eugenic and racial inferences are clearly and startlingly drawn by Darwin himself.

Darwin’s racism was not adopted out of bad will but simply as the logic of Darwinism. That is the point that every Darwinist wants to miss or downplay.
They have demanded that we all understand that the greatest man who ever lived wasn’t a racist and we are all misquoting or misunderstanding him or are bad, bad people or whatever for even bringing this stuff up.

Okay so we’re really awful here at Uncommon Descent. As our name implies, we don’t espouse any theory that says that humans are merely evolved animals or that we must inevitably form separate species as a result of isolation. Heck, we don’t even espouse a theory that says that separate species usually form that way. The evidence is mixed.

His believers are therefore stuck in the awkward position of having to pretend that what is obviously racist isn’t, and denouncing any of us who read the plain sense of it correctly. Oh, and marketing red herrings about his opposition to slavery. (That’s true too, but so? Racism doesn’t entail a belief in slavery. Many racists have opposed it for good humanitarian and public policy reasons.)

The big story about the art is that the Neanderthals are just not performing the way they should as a separate, inferior human species. Maybe that’s because the paleontologists should never have sent a Neanderthal to do the job anyway?

Well, however it breaks out, they are still looking for thst Missing Link.

Note: Darwin’s enthusiast H.G. Wells wrote a famous science fiction novel, The Time machine, based on that very premise, read and filmed today. And it’s hard to imagine what, other than allegiance to Darwinism, would have caused so many readers of science mags to be so sure in 2005 the recently discovered Flores midgets of millennia ago were a separate species.

See also: Are vertebrates really smarter than invertebrates?

[1] Michael Shermer, quoted in Bruce L. Gordon and William A. Dembski, The Nature of Nature: Examining the Role of Naturalism in Science (Wilmington, DE: ISI Books, 2011), p. 452.

[2] Carl Sagan, The Dragons of Eden: Speculations on the Nature of Human Intelligence, New York: Random House, 1977, p. 126.

[3] Claims about animals originating art should not be confused with humans teaching animals to perform a series of gestures read by humans as art:

These series can be long and/or complex; so is the bee dance. It doesn’t demonstrate individual creativity in the performer but rather the ability to process a large amount of certain types of information accurately. As such, it helps us to focus what we mean by “intelligence.” It also raises some very interesting questions about intelligence residing in nature.

[4] Darwin’s opinion in context: was saying that humanity had to diverge into species, based on his theory:

The great break in the organic chain between man and his nearest allies, which cannot be bridged over by any extinct or living species, has often been advanced as a grave objection to the belief that man is descended from some lower form; but this objection will not appear of much weight to those who, from general reasons, believe in the general principle of evolution. Breaks often occur in all parts of the series, some being wide, sharp and defined, others less so in various degrees; as between the orang and its nearest allies—between the Tarsius and the other Lemuridae between the elephant, and in a more striking manner between the Ornithorhynchus or Echidna, and all other mammals. But these breaks depend merely on the number of related forms which have become extinct. At some future period, not very distant as measured by centuries, the civilised races of man will almost certainly exterminate, and replace, the savage races throughout the world. At the same time the anthropomorphous apes, as Professor Schaaffhausen has remarked, will no doubt be exterminated. The break between man and his nearest allies will then be wider, for it will intervene between man in a more civilised state, as we may hope, even than the Caucasian, and some ape as low as a baboon, instead of as now between the negro or Australian and the gorilla.[8]

Presumably, Darwin’s believers think that the fog of preceding words shows that Darwin didn’t mean exactly what he said in the last lines.

20 Replies to “What’s really at stake in the Neanderthal art controversy: The racist implications of Darwin’s theory

  1. 1
    Barb says:

    “Why do people pursue art so passionately?” asked Professor Michael Leyton in Symmetry, Causality, Mind. As he pointed out, some might say that mental activity such as mathematics confers clear benefits to humans, but why art? Leyton illustrated his point by saying that people travel great distances to art exhibits and concerts. What inner sense is involved? Similarly, people around the globe put attractive pictures or paintings on the walls of their home or office. Or consider music. Most people like to listen to some style of music at home and in their cars. Why? It certainly is not because music once contributed to the survival of the fittest. Says Leyton: “Art is perhaps the most inexplicable phenomenon of the human species.”

    Still, we all know that enjoying art and beauty is part of what makes us feel “human.” An animal might sit on a hill and look at a colorful sky, but is it drawn to beauty as such? We look at a mountain torrent shimmering in the sunshine, stare at the dazzling diversity in a tropical rain forest, gaze at a palm-lined beach, or admire the stars sprinkled across the black velvety sky. Often we feel awed, do we not? Beauty of that sort makes our hearts glow, our spirits soar. Why?

  2. 2

    There is something innate in many, perhaps all, of us that drives us to be creative — whether that is music, painting, writing, or fixing up an old car in the garage.

    Creating something seems to be one of our deepest expressions of who we really are.

    It is almost as though we have been endowed with a small spark or an embryonic particle from the master Creator . . .

  3. 3
    Joe says:

    There is something innate in many, perhaps all, of us that drives us to be creative — whether that is music, painting, writing, or fixing up an old car in the garage.

    Pfft- that all evolved out of the necessity to be creative when surviving.

    Quick-What came first- the beavers big teeth or the urge and ability to build dams?

  4. 4
    Robert Byers says:

    NO, NO, nO.
    I am YEC but Darwin was not a racist. in fact there is no such thing as racism but thats beside the point here.
    He clearly said he saw no difference in intellect between human races. Yes he said women were biologically intellectually inferior but even there by careful breeding they could be made smarter (I’m not saying that I’m a creationist!!)
    He was under pressure from other evolutionists to give credit to racial intellect speciation and had to be respectful but a close read finds him consistent with one race/same intellect for mankind.

    By the way art and music are simply manifestations of human thoughts in other mediums.
    There’s no more SOUL being shown by them then anything we do.
    They just touch the heart or rather deeper conclusions in our thoughts.
    A wedding does the same thing. Its no big deal.
    All human interests come from simple thoughts we have.
    Animals don’t think like we do because they are unintelligent. This because they were not made in Gods image. We think like God.

  5. 5
    goodusername says:

    Darwin’s opinion in context: was saying that humanity had to diverge into species, based on his theory:

    There’s nothing, even vaguely, anywhere in that quote suggesting that Darwin believed that humanity would diverge into separate species. The quote is about extinction – and extinct races, obviously, can’t develop into separate species.

    The other possibility that Darwin saw for the future, was a kind of unification of humanity into a single population:

    “As man advances in civilization, and small tribes are united into larger communities, the simplest reason would tell each individual that he ought to extend his social instincts and sympathies to all the members of the same nation, though personally unknown to him. This point being once reached, there is only an artificial barrier to prevent his sympathies extending to the men of all nations and races.”

    This, also, would tend to thwart the development of races into separate species.
    Since neither of the scenarios he predicted are conducive to the development of separate races, I doubt he believed that that would occur. There was simply too much interaction of the races (at present and likely into the future) to allow that to happen.

  6. 6
    John Thomas says:

    Interesting speculation about Neanderthal man at: http://www.evogenesis.com/blog.....-last.html.

    Two mysteries solved for the price of one?

  7. 7
    Barb says:

    NO, NO, nO.
    I am YEC but Darwin was not a racist. in fact there is no such thing as racism but thats beside the point here.

    Try reading “The Descent of Man” sometime. Darwin clearly felt that the races of man were very different, with Caucasians being at the top.

    He clearly said he saw no difference in intellect between human races. Yes he said women were biologically intellectually inferior but even there by careful breeding they could be made smarter (I’m not saying that I’m a creationist!!)

    And he was wrong about women being intellectually inferior, just like he was wrong about natural selection. And, Robert, you say you’re not a creationist but you start your post with “I’m YEC” which stands for young earth creationism. Really?

    He was under pressure from other evolutionists to give credit to racial intellect speciation and had to be respectful but a close read finds him consistent with one race/same intellect for mankind.

    That’s not how science is done. Science does not yield to peer pressure. Science follows the evidence and, if needed, revises the hypothesis if the evidence demands it. Darwin was utterly, completely wrong about a lot of things.

    By the way art and music are simply manifestations of human thoughts in other mediums.
    There’s no more SOUL being shown by them then anything we do.

    You are culturally illiterate.

    They just touch the heart or rather deeper conclusions in our thoughts.
    A wedding does the same thing. Its no big deal.

    Then please explain why people will travel to Paris to see the Mona Lisa hanging in the Louvre museum. It is a big deal to some, and it is one of things that separate us fully from the animals.

    All human interests come from simple thoughts we have.
    Animals don’t think like we do because they are unintelligent. This because they were not made in Gods image. We think like God.

    If we think like God, then why denigrate art and music by saying they’re no big deal?

  8. 8
  9. 9
    JWTruthInLove says:

    @bornagain77

    What if we could bring them all together, put them on a desert island and quarantine them for say a hundred years?

    Lol, another one for the right wing watch.
    Wasn’t there a similar suggestion for homosexuals & queers? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v.....e=youtu.be

    The main problem might be with satan. Clearly satan loves all the politicians.

  10. 10
    bornagain77 says:

    “Clearly satan loves all the politicians.”

    Maybe so, maybe not, after all the ruler king David was man “after God’s own heart”,, so there have wicked rulers and wise rulers, but either way you choose to look at it, you have to concede that Satan, if he has a preference at all, has a special place in his heart for any party that has steadfastly underwrote a policy that has led to the abortion of 53 unborn babies.

    If I Were the Devil – (BEST VERSION) by PAUL HARVEY audio restored
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H3Az0okaHig

  11. 11
    bornagain77 says:

    53 MILLION unborn babies.

  12. 12
    JWTruthInLove says:

    @bornagain77:

    53 MILLION unborn babies.

    Mind-boggling 🙁

    (…) has a special place in his heart for any party that has steadfastly underwrote a policy (…)

    He has a special place in his heart for judges.

    The current judicial interpretation of the U.S. Constitution regarding abortion in the United States, following the Supreme Court of the United States’s 1973 landmark decision in Roe v. Wade, and subsequent companion decisions, is that abortion is legal. [wiki]

  13. 13
    Robert Byers says:

    Barb
    I am a YEC creationist. i meant that I was one and so didn’t agree with Darwins female intellectual inferiority belief.!

    i read Descent and Darwin asserted one human race/ one intellect.
    he pressed the point against other evolutionists but still had to respect them. He chose his words carefully.
    Most evolutionists did insist the races were intellectually biologically different because of evolution. I think most back in those days. Evolution on this issue went underground because of the war and rising aspirations of the lower identitiews on earth.
    I suspect most evolutionist thinkers today do believe in race/intellect/by evolution.
    They are very quiet about it. I think Watson of DNA fame spilled the beans and was punished. A few years ago.

    Yes people love art and music that is of high quality.
    Yet they really are loving the spiritual ideas behind it and not the object itself.
    Music and art are simply expressions of human thoughts.
    We just like the same thoughts that are well presented. Its a buzz.
    Music is just a part of the spectrum of human thoughts being expressed by sounds. Its not any different then anything else we think and express.

  14. 14
    Joe says:

    OK if YEC stands for “Young Earth Creationsit”, what is a Young Earth Creationist creationist?

  15. 15
    Joe says:

    53 MILLION unborn babies

    Liberals say there ain’t no such thang as an unborn baby. It becomes justifiable that way.

    Just sayin’

  16. 16
    Barb says:

    I am a YEC creationist. i meant that I was one and so didn’t agree with Darwins female intellectual inferiority belief.!

    Okay, thanks for the clarification.

    i read Descent and Darwin asserted one human race/ one intellect.
    he pressed the point against other evolutionists but still had to respect them. He chose his words carefully.

    Most scientists do choose their words carefully, and yet they are still misconstrued.

    Most evolutionists did insist the races were intellectually biologically different because of evolution. I think most back in those days. Evolution on this issue went underground because of the war and rising aspirations of the lower identitiews on earth.

    Darwin insisted this as well, and Hitler used it for his own purposes when trying to get popular opinion against the Jews.

    I suspect most evolutionist thinkers today do believe in race/intellect/by evolution.
    They are very quiet about it. I think Watson of DNA fame spilled the beans and was punished. A few years ago.

    They might, but they more or less have to be quiet about it, because it’s horribly racist.

    Yes people love art and music that is of high quality.
    Yet they really are loving the spiritual ideas behind it and not the object itself.

    I think most people like the ideas behind art and music, whereas some just appreciate the painting/sculpture/whatever. Or some just appreciate the life of the artist who created it.

    Music and art are simply expressions of human thoughts.
    We just like the same thoughts that are well presented. Its a buzz.
    Music is just a part of the spectrum of human thoughts being expressed by sounds. Its not any different then anything else we think and express.

    They are expressions of human thought, but there is intrinsic value in them. This is why people pay good money to see famous musicians play, and why people support operas, ballet companies, museums, and the like. Animals do not have this; they operate on instinct and have no real appreciation for abstract concepts like art.

  17. 17
    tjguy says:

    Barb said:

    “Beauty of that sort makes our hearts glow and our spirits soar. WHY?”

    Here is a creationist just so story to explain that:

    Once upon a time the Creator created man directly from the dust of the earth. (Gen. 2:7)

    He created them in a special way – “in His image” (Gen 1:27)

    This ability to appreciate beauty is unique to humans, so it would make sense that this ability is included in what makes humans human- what it means to be created in God’s image.

    Why would the Creator create us with this ability? Animals get along fine without it so it is not necessary for life.

    Perhaps it has something to do with the purpose for which God made humans. we were created to have a relationship of love with God in which worship and praise is very important. (Is 43:7, 21)

    Jesus defined eternal life as “knowing God” in Jn 17:3.

    The Father is seeking worship peers who worship Him in spirit and truth. Jn 4:23

    How can we worship and praise something that we can’t even appreciate?!

    Animals cannot appreciate beauty so they are oblivious to it. That is not how God wants us to be! He wants us to enjoy beauty, art, music, etc.

    Art is a wonderful medium thru which we can express our wonder of, thanks to, and praise of God! Just look at the unparalleled works of art and music that were inspired by people’s love and appreciation for God!

    David said in Ps. 27:4 that he wanted to dwell in the house of theLord forever to gaze upon”THE BEAUTY OF LORD”.

    Is there anyone or anything more beautiful than The Lord Himself?

    If we are moved by the beauty of His creation, just wait until you get to heaven.

    If we could not appreciate beauty, what a shame that would be! There would be no one who could worship, love, or praise Him.

    Not only would the beauty of this world go unnoticed(outside of God and the pleasure it brings Him), but the most wondrous beauty of all would go unnoticed and unappreciated!

    Is this a scientific answer to your question? No. It is an answer from God’s Word. Please forgive me for bringing up God’s Word on a science site. I know it is outside the realm of ID theory, but science doesn’t have all the answers.

    If evolutionists can have their “just so stories”, why not creationists too?!

    Don’t miss out on the most awesome beauty of all!

  18. 18
    tjguy says:

    Oh, and while I’m at it, much of what content of the last post also relates to the creationist “just so story” of why humans have language and superior social abilities. We need these in order to know God and have a relationship with Him.

    OK, enough with the just so stories from God’s Word.

    Here is some real science to end the post with:

    Over at creation.com(Sorry, it is a creationist website, but they do real science there too believe it or not.)

    Royal Truman just posted part three in his 6 part series in which he is evaluating “those reports which claim that a high proportion of random polypeptide chains would produce protein native-like folds.”

    The post is titled:

    The proportion of polypeptide chains which generate native folds—part 3: designed secondary structures

    I believe it has implications for ID as well.

    Don’t be afraid to check creationist sites. They won’t hurt you! One thing I appreciate about Bornagain is that he is willing to do that and even post the sites – horror of all horrors – on this website!

  19. 19
    Barb says:

    I think tjguy makes an excellent point: art and music are abstract concepts and are not absolutely necessary for life. To me, as a Christian, they are proof that God wants us to enjoy life, not just survive.

  20. 20
    Robert Byers says:

    I agree with tgguy and bard on most points.
    yet a few clarifications as I see it.
    There is no such thing as beauty.
    Or rather beauty is simply accuracy in symmetry.
    It does show a creator because it shows order is the right answer.
    We only note beauty because largely we don’t have it. So we wrongly imagine its a special case. In fact its just right answers. On wiki they say math people see beauty in math because its so dedicated to right answers and right process.
    Animals don;’t note beauty because they don’t note accuracy in the universe.

    Music is not abstract but only the use of sounds to express thoughts.
    music just mimics tones of voices that people use all the time.
    Otherwise we would not like the same music.
    Music is a simple stretching of sounds for emphasize.
    just as singing is a simple stretching of words for emphasize.

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