Volume 1, Issue 19
December 25,  2011
How ancient is man, and does the
evidence support Creation or evolution?

Conventional Periods



I headed a recent newsletter with a table giving current views of the origins and antiquity of the earth and man, together with their associated beliefs about the truth and extent of Noah's Flood. Some were shocked at seeing a view (my own) that combined an ancient earth with only about six thousand years for man. Many Young Earth Creationists see man as older than that. The six thousand years can be calculated from information in the Bible, but how ancient is man according to the empirical evidence?
For help in understanding my explanations, I have compiled another table (above) that lists the conventional geological and archaeological periods and what is found in them. My explanation of what is found appears in the third column while that of the Young Earth Creationists appears in the last column. 
The most ancient evidence for man appears in the Pleistocene, which most will know as the Ice Age. As I teach, the Pleistocene contains much of the wilderness (uninhabited) remains of the less than two-thousand-year antediluvian era of man. Geologists also understood it this way before Charles Lyell stretched unstratified deposits called the diluvian into a million-year Pleistocene and before Louis Agassiz taught us to see the Pleistocene as the remains from a frozen Flood (Ice Age). Tellingly, Lyell had earlier rejected reports that evidence of man appears in these diluvian remains less that be used to support the idea that these were remains of those who died in the Flood.
Young Earth Creationists do not see this massive evidence from those who died in the Flood because they teach that all evidence of antediluvian man was destroyed by the Flood. For them, that means the "Ice Age" had to take place after the Flood, explaining why some of them (Whitcomb and Morris) push the age of man back to about ten thousand years. But they interpret what appears to geologists as the fossil evidence of an ancient world as having been created by the Flood. Most Young Earth Creationists agree with everyone else that no evidence of man appears in the fossils.
Bones have to become mineralized (fossils) in order to survive from earlier geological times. Georges Cuvier (1769-1832), founder of paleontology, pointed to this lack of human fossils as evidence of the recent appearance of man. The great naturalist also rejected the theory of evolution of Jean-Batiste Lamarck by pointing out that new species suddenly appear in the fossil record. The same holistic requirements that made it possible for Cuvier to show us how to reconstruct extinct animals from a single piece of bone also inhibit evolution. For evolution to take place, hundreds of things have to change in just the right way, all at the same time.
If neither the antiquity nor the evolution of man comes from the fossil record, however much that be falsely claimed, where did the scientists get it? Moreover, what are those "human" fossils of which so much is made today? As I will explain, man's evolution and antiquity are artificially read into the evidence just as Young Earth Creationists read their theology into the same record. Both views obscure and keep us from examining what is truly present in the archaeological remains and fossil record.
The theory of the evolution of man does not in fact derive from the fossil record but from studying living men and animals in the light of the philosophy of the Great Chain of Being, as became popular during the Enlightenment. In his classic study of the Great Chain of Being, Arthur O. Lovejoy points out that evolution developed from temporalizing the order of animals from the lowest creatures to man along the Great Chain of Being.
The men of the Enlightenment didn't believe in evolution. Following the classical philosophers Plato and Aristotle, they believed the forms of life were eternally fixed either in the mind of their Supreme Creator or in what they were coming to call Nature. Though not believing that forms of life evolved, these men of the Enlightenment saw the various types of men and animals as ordered from higher to lower along their Great Chain of Being. Carl Linnaeus decided the question of man's essential kinship with the animals by classifying humans along with the great apes as primates and adding to this classification the intermediate mysterious troglodytes (cave men). 
The Scottish Primitivist, Lord Monboddo saw the orangutan as man's closest relative. He infamously believed that humans were born with tails that midwives discretely remove to spare humans the horror. Monboddo, friend and correspondent of Erasmus Darwin and Lamarck's mentor Comte de Buffon, is the grandfather of evolution. Young Charles must have heard some interesting stories from his grandfather. The younger Darwin proposed that man's closest relatives were Africa's tailless apes.
When Darwin wrote his Descent of Man, he had no evidence from archaeology or paleontology. I have already explained how Thomas Huxley and others created an ancestor among ancient cave dwellers: the Neanderthals. Because Neanderthals did intermarry with humans and are fully within the range of appearances of present humans, neither Neanderthals nor so-called Archaic homo sapiens are less than fully human. Nor are they any more ancient than other antediluvian humans, whether Cro-Magnon, Neolithic, or Early Bronze Age man. None of their bones have become fossils. They were just more impoverished, which explains their living in caves and frequent rickets that gave rise to their large chests and bowed legs. 

All these finds are clearly homo sapiens, but there is a world of difference between these remains and those of their presumed ancestors: as great as the difference between men and apes. If ordinary human skeletons can be so divided in an evolutionary picture of man, imagine the possibilities with the very real differences among species of apes. 
Promoting primates to the status of man (homo) creates homo erectus as man's ancestor species notwithstanding such such consistent skull differences as smaller brain case, sloping forehead, protruding jaws, massive and prominent teeth, ridges of bones above the eyes, and all this just pertaining to the skull. Wherever you find the habitats of fossil apes - whether Java man in Indonesia, Peking man in China, or Lucy and the Taung child in Africa - some anthropologist has proposed it as the homeland of our ancestors. Notice that anthropologists usually find females and young adults due to the ape's smaller stature. Aside from a few claims by anthropologists having imaginations as keen as certain Ark searchers, these are not found with artifacts that would suggest human behavior.
The latest big change in the evolutionary picture of man sees even modern humans as originating in Africa. That is surmised from greater genetic diversity among the present inhabitants of this continent. These same genetic studies point to the earth's present inhabitants as deriving from a second human dispersion: in truth, evidence of the second dispersion from Noah's Flood. Hence, Africa's genetic diversity says nothing about the origin of humans. The genetic diversity of this continent is instead explained by: (1) the diverse migration routes to Africa as depicted on the endsheets of my book; and (2), more importantly, deep forests that allow tribes to live in isolation on this large continent together with the notable tribalism that discourage Africans from marrying into other tribes. 

Best regards,
Philip Williams
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In this issue
How ancient is man?
How white/colored replaced Christian/Heathen
The Great Chain of Being
Christmas greetings
The problem with exceptional discoveries
Scientific help for the inconvenient recent descent of natives and slaves from Noahs family
White/colored division of mankind suited colonial purposes better than did the Christian/Heathen division
A neglected aspect in the history of scientific anthropology is the role that economic motives and racism played in turning colonial Europeans from the Bible to science, especially with regard to human origins. Belief that all humans are closely and recently related as members of Noah's family became a problem for merchant enterprises from Christian Europe where the humanitarian proscriptions of the faith had effectively eliminated slavery. 
The Age of Exploration brought Europeans into new contact with slave trading and other forms of human exploitation such as pirating the gold and silver of natives or enslaving them to work mines and plantations. Because the Turks had cut off trade with the Eastern Mediterranean where white slaves (Slavs) could be purchased, slaves were becoming almost exclusively people of color. Some Portuguese and Spanish plantation owners and slave traders hoped to see colored natives classified as non-human creatures as was possible using then official Aristotelian science. Failing that, slave owners discouraged conversion of their Heathen slaves less they be entitled to Christian obligation in their treatment.
The Quaker movement and the Great Awakening that followed brought new attempts to improve the treatment as well as preach the gospel to slaves and natives. It resulted in the first efforts to abolish the slave trade and eventually slavery itself. It is not surprising that proponents and sponsors of the science teaching the Great Chain of Being were colonial slave owners, European courts, and other investors in these ventures. For these, polygenesis (the separate origins of the races according to the Great Chain of Being) had great appeal. They preferred the white/colored classification of the human race to the former Christian/Heathen classification because conversion to Christianity could not change the color of their slaves's skins and the destiny appropriate to their color.
Not all the leaders of the scientific Enlightenment favored slavery, though usually not for humanitarian reasons, but they were racist to the man. The more enlightened they were, the greater their racism. Voltaire supposed blacks close relatives of the orangutan. Hume thought them incapable of artistic or scientific thought. Kant thought the same of the native Americans, though he did think blacks, as natural slaves, were capable of learning. Thomas Jefferson's Notes on the State of Virginia, introduced racist thought to America.
Interestingly, Lamarckian evolution, could be envisioned as more benign than polygenism due to the fact that by striving, coloreds could improve their capabilities and lot in life and was sometimes opposed for that reason. Though not the inventor of evolution, Darwin solved the colonial problem by introducing a racist form of evolutionary theory. The subtitle of his Origin of Species was The Preservation of the Favored Races in the Struggle for Life. Unlike polygeneticism, Darwin's evolution was a kind of racism that could be put to use in changing the world for the benefit of the favored races as happened in the form of Social Darwinism that began with Darwin's family and neighbors.
None of this is to say that racism cannot be read into the Bible as did happen by shifting Noah's curse from the Canaanites (Phoenicians), the founders of chattel slavery, to people of black skin. That interpretation seems unknown to Jews and early Christians whose teachers included Philo, Tertullian, Origen, Athanasius, and Augustine from Africa. If today associated with less-educated Christians, one must remember who taught them: theologians trying to make the Bible keep up with what was once understood as the latest scientific and socially-correct thinking. Racism seems an inevitable result of shifting the origins and destiny of humans from the family of God to some or another scientific explanation.
The Great Chain of Being 
From its NeoPlatonist roots to its evolutionary fruits
Depiction of a 1579 version 
The historical and contingent view of the world and man that comes from the Bible has long disturbed theologians who prefer what they believe to be a more rational philosophical understanding. Their preference has been the unseen but timeless and ideal world of Plato or else the uncreated and completely visible world taught by Aristotle. Neoplatonist philosophers bridged these worlds by positing the emergence of a visible world from a hierarchy of spiritual beings deriving from the One, who might be understood as the Christian God. 
Christian theologians such as the great Augustine mapped the historical view of the world found in the Bible into the timeless but emergent view of the world taught by the Neoplatonists. This type of philosophy dominated Christian theology in the Middle Ages. The earliest versions leaned toward Plato and an invisible world of angels, but Islamic philosophers preferred the more materialist version leaning to Aristotle. Thomas Aquinas adapted this Aristotelian form of Neoplatonism to create the hierarchical and static medieval view of the Christian world and history as depicted in Dante's poetry. 
The German philosopher, Gottfried Leibniz (1646-1716) modernized Aquinas's hierarchical world view helping create the Enlightenment's Great Chain of Being. His principle of plentitude which declared that God sought to create every possible form of creature explained why new creatures and peoples were still being discovered by European explorers. By proposing intermediate forms of life, perhaps not yet discovered, and by declaring that God was in the process of creating the best of all possible world, Leibniz shifted what was previously a static Great Chain of Being into a type of theistic evolution. Lamarck eliminated God as the cause of evolution, while Darwin shifted its mechanism to completely materialistic causes.
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Exceptional "discoveries" can never be scientific 
But they have always played a great role
both in fringe Creationism and in persuading public acceptance of human evolution 


Examining the famous Piltdown discovery


There is valid empirical evidence of exceptional phenomena, the evidence of Noah's Ark and Flood among them. But without some historical record or revelation we could hardly make sense of them because they do not follow the ordinary order of the world that is the subject for scientific knowledge. Scientific knowledge depends on there being some definite order to the world.


This is why I dismiss fringe Creationism as I do various kinds of fringe archaeology. I refer to human artifacts being discovered inside coal seams, human footprints beside dinosaur tracks along the banks of Texas' Paluxy River, giant (20-foot tall) skeletons found in Greece, and ancient Hebrew scripts found in America. Most are simply frauds, while others are due to accidents or mistaken identifications. For the record, prominent Creationist organizations also dismiss these kind of claims, as of course does mainline science. For mainline science however there does seem to be one exception. That is when finds such as this lend support to human evolution.


This tendency goes back to the publication of Darwin's Descent of Man, when what was previously regarded as fringe interest in the evidence for monsters and sub-human beings suddenly became a respectable scientific enterprise. Many of these discoveries such as the Piltdown man in England and the Nebraska man in America have been shown to be either deliberate frauds (the Piltdown skull) or mistaken identification. Ignored is the fact that widespread scientific acceptance of the Piltdown man played the chief role in obtaining public acceptance of human evolution.


Exceptional discoveries are still highly regarded in the field of human evolution. I have in mind such highly promoted discoveries as Java Man, Peking Man, Lucy, and the Taung child. Note that these names refer to exceptional finds instead of species. I don't mean that these are not authentic skeletons, some from large primates among the mega-fauna that once existed even in Europe. But focussing on unique finds gives freedom to the anthropologist's imagination and fails to correct mistakes in his assemblages and reconstruction that would otherwise be constrained by what is ordinarily found among the remains of a true species. The argument that fossils are rare has little weight for what is supposed to be human's closest ancestors. Being most recent, such bones and fossils should be easiest found and best preserved. 


In truth, responsible anthropologists offer these corrections to highly publicized finds, but in comparison to finding the very ancestors of humans, one doesn't get media attention, students, disciples, or much funding for correctly identifying the remains of an ancient species of apes. 

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Christian Leaders & Scholars is the newsletter and publication site of Philip Ernest Williams, author of The Archaeological Evidence of Noah's Flood (2011). The site is also a ministry not only to Christian leaders and scholars but all who are interested in the more difficult issues pertaining to the Bible and its implications for science and history. (Read more)