If mankind is actually millions of years old...
Posted Thursday, October 31 2013 at 00:00
The top archeological news of the 21st Century so far, as reported on BBC on October 16, is the excavation, in Georgia, of a human skull said to be 1.8 million years old. This skull thus transfers the presumed cradle of the human race from Africa’s Olduvai Gorge in northern Tanzania to Europe’s Georgia in the northern hemisphere.
Dr Louis Leakey and Dr Mary Leakey’s find of a skull in Olduvai Gorge in 1959 established Africa as the earliest home of humanity. The “Old Man of Olduvai Gorge” (or Zinjanthropus/Homo erectus) was estimated to have come from 1.75 million years ago. The “Old Man” of Africa is thus some 50,000 years younger than the “Georgian Man”.
Besides, the Georgian skull is said to possess some of the features associated with the antique African and Asian human skulls, thereby raising the supposition that the ancestors of present-day man did not separately emerge on various continents and islands but somewhere on the land mass that joins Africa, Europe and Asia.
How very fascinating this is! For one thing, my Africa is forthwith overtaken in the matter of proudly laying claim to being the mother (or father) of the human race. For another thing, as everybody knows, the middle territory between Africa, Europe and Asia happens to be The Middle East; and that is what some scholars point to as the scene of Original Man.
As a matter of fact, the English churchman and writer John Donne (1572-1631), long ago went as far as suggesting (in his “Hymn to God the Father in my Sickness”) that Adam’s apple tree and the tree of Christ’s cross “stood in the same place”! Going by this kind of flight of imagination, we might logically conclude that the original Paradise was indeed located somewhere in present-day Palestine, Syria, Jordan, Israel, Saudi Arabia, or United Arab Emirates.
But for now, with the presumed longer history of the human race than previously assumed, precipitated by this Georgian discovery, questions at once spring up regarding scientific fact and religious doctrine. And the debate is bound to continue between the upholders of creation theory, the proponents of evolution theory, and the exponents of neither.
It is a debate that first gained prominence between Church and reason during the European Renaissance with Galileo Galilei (1564-1642) proving that the earth goes round the sun, and the Church hierarchy of the day insisting on the contrary; came to a climax with Charles Darwin (1809-1882) and his theory of evolution of the species; and continues to this day with the staggering explorations and discoveries in outer space, and phenomenal archeological findings – all of which leave our religious fundamentalist brothers and sisters sticking to their guns of what the Holy Book says.
But one wonders if this is not a needless debate. The Holy Book is not a science or mathematics or history textbook that might be afraid of new findings in the sphere of knowledge. Written over one thousand years by various authors, it is a Book of Books reflecting many kinds of compositions and containing bits or chunks of history, narratives, poetry, numeracy, measurement, wisdom, counsel, statutes, prophecy, miracle, drama, tragedy, comedy, fiction and even myth – all with the specific purpose of communicating spiritual truth.
And what is a myth? It is a mental construct that aims to explain, by use of a made-up story, the origin or presence of invisible, supernatural realities in our midst – such as the origin of life, disease, and death. Examples are the arrival of death in the world: in Buganda through the woman Nambi’s mistake of forgetting her millet in heaven and having to go back there for it, only to be followed by Walumbe; in Mbale through a chameleon which, as a messenger, misreports to man God’s offer of immortality to him; among Jews and Christians (and who else?) through a snake that tempts and corrupts the original couple with an apple.
The point is that myths are not falsehoods but imaginative expressions of reality; but neither do they pretend to be the scientific, mathematical, or historical “truth”. If the Bible says that from Adam to the birth of Jesus is only about 4,000 years (14 generations multiplied by three and multiplied again by the average span of a generation, the longest being Methuselah’s 969); and if the archeologists say that our ancestors were here 2,000,000 years ago – are these necessarily contradictory claims, or is theological timescale different from archeological timescale?
And what is this unnecessary fear that if evolution is true, then it contradicts God and He is not in charge of it? The assumption or presumption tends to imply that God can only create and refine instantly but never gradually. How come we can be “changed from glory unto glory/Till we lay our crowns before Him”? Whose small “god” is that who is afraid of evolution?