The Human Paradox
Several data points affirm that the human species has been around for about 200,000 years. Along the Omo River in Ethiopia, two partial human skulls were unearthed which dated to around 196,000 years ago. 1 Three partial human skulls were uncovered at Herto, Ethiopia, which dated to 160,000 years ago. This find was especially important because one of the skulls is nearly complete. Its distinctly human face has even been preserved. 2 Besides fossils, mitochondrial DNA indicates that we arose some 200,000 years ago in Africa. 3
Interestingly, we had the same brain size back then as we do today. Yet, for the vast majority of the time our species has been alive, we have been living like animals. Civilization came late in the game, and only accounts for about 2.75% of the time Homo sapiens has existed as a species. The first civilization on earth was ancient Sumer in modern day southern Iraq. Its emergence was sudden and unprecedented. Sumerian civilization seems to have been born overnight. Pottery, the wheel, division of labor, organized religion, government, warfare, manufacture of tools, written language, agriculture, city building, fortification – all the critical elements of human civilization were innovated within the fourth millennium BCE. This happened along the Euphrates River. Interestingly, Genesis specifically states that the Garden of Eden was by the Euphrates River. 4
Prior to Sumerian civilization, humans had been hunter-gatherers for 200,000 years. They traveled in small family clans. They had no written language. They had primitive tools. They had no kings, no governments, and no organized religion. Nowhere on the entire earth did any humans generate anything like civilization. These were humans like us. We are not talking about Neanderthals. Neanderthals were a separate species, and DNA analysis demonstrates that they were not our ancestors. 5 We are not talking about ape-people either. Ape-people, that is the genus Australopithecus, went extinct about 1.8 million years ago, long before we arrived. Neither are we discussing Homo erectus, whose name does not necessarily imply that primitive hominids practiced same-sex stimulation. We are strictly discussing humans, Homo sapiens, the same species we are today.For 200,000 years, humans like us lived like animals! They were just like us anatomically, and in terms of brain size.Then suddenly, for no apparent reason, we became civilized.
Why, after 200,000 years of living like animals did we abruptly decide to start living like we do today? Why did civilization come about?
Naturalistic evolutionists have an answer – the end of the most recent glacial period of the present ice ages. Earth has experienced ice ages for about three million years. Not all that time has been spent in cold temperatures. Rather, there have been about 20 cycles of cold snaps and warm spells. 6 The cold snaps are called "glacial" periods. The warm spells are called "interglacial" periods. About ten thousand years ago, the last glacial period came to an end. Earth’s weather became much more pleasant. We entered into one of the interglacial cycles. Fertile earth began to emerge in places that had once been covered with ice and snow. People came out of their caves and discovered how to plant crops. Previously, during the glacial period, the growing seasons had been much shorter, which retarded the development of agriculture. But now, the warm summer months lasted long enough to grow and harvest food. Agricultural production became more attractive than hunting and gathering. Instead of freezing in a tent, people could build a house and live there indefinitely. Instead of battling wild animals with spears, people could raise domesticated livestock. Instead of climbing trees to pick bananas, people could reach down to dig up a potato. The agricultural life was much better.
The new way of obtaining food demanded a new society. People could no longer live in small tribes. They needed to build cities and forts to defend their food stores from thieves. They needed people to administer the cities. Kings were inaugurated for this purpose. They needed priests to appease the gods so that bad weather did not destroy their crops. Certain aspects of religion were invented for this purpose. They needed some way to till the ground and harvest their crops. New tools were invented for that purpose.
The end of the last glacial period of the ice ages made agriculture possible. Agriculture made civilization possible. Civilization made technology possible, and that is why we stopped living like animals.
That's the naturalists' explanation. But is this explanation adequate? One problem with the view presented above is that the emergence of civilization really doesn’t correspond with the end of the last glacial period as they claim. Civilization first began about 3,500 BCE. But the last glacial period of the ice age had already ended some 4,500 years before in 8,000 BCE. Since 8,000 BCE, the average temperature of the earth has not varied any more than two degrees Celsius. 7 Temperatures have been enormously stable. The warm climate we have today is the same climate humans enjoyed in 8,000 BCE. Variations from the norm have been comparatively minimal. Did it really take humankind a full 4,500 years to realize that agricultural civilization was the wave of the future? And if so, if they only progressed toward civilization gradually over 4,500 years, then why did all major elements of civilization emerge so suddenly in 3,500 BCE?
Another problem is that there have been other interglacial periods during humanity’s existence. About 125,000 years ago, an interglacial period started that was similar to the one we are currently living in. It afforded early humans about 10,000 years of warm weather like ours before the earth was battered by another cold snap. 8 The humans who were living then had all the same opportunities that we did. They had the same mild climates we enjoy today. They basked in warm temperatures comparable to ours today. Most importantly, they were humans just like we are today, with the same anatomy, same brain size, and presumably the same intellectual capability. Why didn’t they create civilization? In just 5,500 years, civilization has brought us from jungle bunnies to computer geeks, from barbarians to cell phone junkies, from nomads to moon walkers. 125,000 years ago, humans had a 10,000 year window to accomplish everything we accomplished in just 5,500 years. Why didn’t they? If civilization was caused by the end of an ice age, then why didn’t the last interglacial 125,000 years ago cause the formation of human civilization back then? Moreover, there was a third interglacial about 185,000 to 215,000 years ago, about the same time our species first arrived on the scene. So humanity has been on the earth long enough to enjoy three long periods of very agreeable weather, and yet civilization only managed to take root the third time around. If civilization was made possible by an interglacial warm spell, then why didn’t civilization emerge the other two times we enjoyed a respite from the ice ages?
If the end of the most recent glacial period did not clear the way for civilization, what did? Is it possible that there was a change in our intelligence without a change in our biology? Is it possible we suddenly got smarter without a change in our brain size? And what might cause such a sudden change in intelligence?
Besides our intelligence, there is something else about humankind that makes us unique. Above all other species, humans feel a need for justice, empathy, and love for others. For 540 million years, complex life forms have been killing and eating each other with no sense of remorse, and without concern for their ecological impact. Humans are the first to question the morality of such a system.
So there are two sparks in the human mind that separate us from other animals – intelligence and a moral conscience. Yet neither can be satisfactorily explained by the naturalists, for our intelligence came about long after our brain reached its current size, and our moral conscience defies the brutality necessary to succeed as a species under the rules of survival of the fittest. So what caused us to gain intelligence and a moral conscience?
Could it be – God? Did God impart intelligence and love upon us poor apes? For 200,000 years, we lived as animals. Then, civilization suddenly began about the same time Adam and Eve are said to have been created. Perhaps the injection of Adam and Eve's super-human God-created DNA into the gene pool of the cave-people is what made the difference.
However, the idea of an Almighty Creator raises a host of difficult questions.
The God Paradox
According to traditional theology, the Almighty Creator God sees everything, knows everything, created everything, and can do anything. This God is the God who created earthquakes and tornadoes, hurricanes and wildfires, sharks and mosquitoes, black widows and rattlesnakes, and lions and tigers and bears, who rip out the necks of other animals and eat them alive. And this God desires a better world, as the Prophet says:
"The wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall rest with the young goat, and the calf and the lion and fatted livestock together, and a child shall lead them. The cow and the bear shall graze together… the lion shall eat straw like a cow, toddlers will play in snakes' dens… they shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain." 9
If God wanted non-violent animals, then why didn't he just create them non-violent to begin with? Theologians have a ready answer: God did create them non-violent, but the devil was thrown to earth, and therefore it is the devil who turned the animals to violence. God wants us to see the consequences of the devil's rebellion, so that we can learn a lesson from it. That way, when God reverts the world to non-violence in the future, we humans, the crown of his creation, can better appreciate his creation.
This explanation is arguably plausible within the creationists' time frame of 6,000 years. However, it falls apart if the earth is much older. Animals have been ripping each other's necks out and eating each other for 540 million years. What was God's purpose in allowing this to continue for so long? Certainly it was not to teach us a lesson about the devil's rebellion, for we did not even exist back then. Was the lesson meant for trilobites and dimwitted reptiles?
Moreover, the universe is even older – standing at 13.7 billion years. If the human species is the crown of creation, the only organism "made in the image of God," as Genesis 1 says, 10 then why did it take God 13.7 billion years to create us? What could delay God for 13.7 billion years? Was it really necessary to create failed experiments like dinosaurs and dodo birds before us? Was it really necessary to waste 3 billion years creating different types of bacteria and sea scum before creating the first true plant or animal? Once the Almighty Creator God is separated from the creationist time frame of a 6,000 year-old earth, it leaves that God in a theological no-mans' land, because there is little cover from the many arguments that can be launched against that God's very existence.
Also, if we are in the image of God, then why do our bodies have the marks of evolution on them? We have a worthless organ called an appendix, which is good for nothing but exploding and killing us. We have a large amount of DNA that is repressed and doesn't even code for anything. It just takes up space and nutrients inside our cells. Why would the Almighty Creator God include irrelevant DNA in his code for life? Moreover, if we are the crown of God's creation, and if he created color and beauty for our enjoyment, then why can't we see colors in their full glory? We are more dependent upon our eyes than upon any other sensory organ, yet the color capacity of our eyes is inferior to that of goldfish and chickens! Far from being highly evolved, our color vision is no better than that of the most primitive of living reptiles, the crocodiles! We have only three cones for color, but many inglamorous species have more. These include flies, jumping spiders, and a certain shrimp-like praying mantis that lives at the bottom of the ocean. 11
If we are to assume a divine hand was involved in the making of our evolutionary history, it would have to be more along the lines of Intelligent Interference than Intelligent Design, for God did not perfectly create us, nor did God perfectly morph us from the lower apes. The human body was not designed by an all-knowing God. Rather, it came about haphazardly and imperfectly.
1 McDougall, Ian; Brown, Frank; Fleagle, John. Stratigraphic Placement and Age of Modern Humans from Kibish, Ethiopia. 2005, Nature 433, p 733-736
2 Stringer, Chris. Human Evolution: Out of Ethiopia. 2003, Nature 423, p 692-694
3 Cann, Rebecca L; Stoneking, Mark; Wilson, Allan C. Mitochondrial DNA and Human Evolution. 1987, Nature 325, p 31-36
4 Genesis 2:14
5 Jobling, Mark A; Hurles, Matthew E; Tyler-Smith, Chris. Human Evolutionary Genetics: Origins, Peoples & Disease. 2004, Garland Publishing, New York, NY, p 260-261
6 Gould, Stephen Jay; Andrews, Peter; Barber, John; Benton, Michael; Collins, Marianne; Janis, Christine; Kish, Ely; Morishima, Akio; Sepkoski, J John Jr; Stringer, Christopher; Tibbles, Jean-Paul; Cox, Steve. The Book of Life: An Illustrated History of the Evolution of Life on Earth. 2001, W W Norton & Co, New York, NY, p 208
7 Jouzel, J; Lorius, C; Petit, J R; Genthon, C; Barkov, N I; Kotlyakov, V M; Petrov, V M. Vostok Ice Core: A Continuous Isotope Temperature Record Over the Last Climatic Cycle (160,000 years). 1987, Nature 329, p 403-408
8 EPICA Community Members. Eight Glacial Cycles from an Antarctic Ice Core. Jun 10, 2004, Nature 429, p 623-628
9 Isaiah 11:6-9
10 Genesis 1:27
11 Kelber, Almut; Vorobyev, Misha; Osorio, Daniel. Animal Color Vision – Behavioral Tests and Physiological Concepts. 2003, Cambridge Philosophical Society, Biological Reviews, Vol 78, Issue 1, p 83-85
Graphic of Bison Skull, Utah Museum of Natural History
Graphic of Crocodile, University of Wyoming Geological Museum