September 23, 2014 | David F. Coppedge

How the Scientist Got His Just-So Story

A case of scientific racism?  An anthropologist studied living Kalahari Bushmen for clues to the evolution of cognition.

Human beings are long, long past any evolutionary stage anthropologists could claim they were going through 400,000 years ago when our ancestors allegedly learned to control fire.  (Michael Balter in Nature asserts that date, even though evidence of cooking goes back millions of years in the evolutionary timeline; 6/17/09.)  So what are anthropologists doing listening to the campfire stories of living tribesmen to draw inferences about our evolutionary past?

Laura Geggel at Live Science writes,

Telling stories around a campfire may have served as one of the first forms of “social media,” helping humans create and spread culture, reports a new study on the Kalahari Bushmen in Africa.

These firelight tales, rarely told during the day, can reinforce social traditions, encourage harmony and equality, and create a sense of community when the stories tell of people living far away or in the spirit world, the researchers added.

University of Utah anthropologist Polly Wiessner didn’t need to travel to Africa to find this out.  She could have gone to any campground in America to hear wild and wacky stories around evening campfires.  Africans are not a whit less human than anyone else (as can be demonstrated by our interfertility and the intellectual achievements of many Africans).  Besides, Wiessner used “educated Bushmen” to help translate the stories.  What is it that made her think tribespeople in Botswana and Namibia were somehow closer to our evolutionary ancestors (and thus less evolved) than Europeans or Americans?  Is this a case of scientific racism?

Wiessner apparently deduced in her “exploratory study” that since some Kalahari still live by hunting and gathering, they are like human ancestors hundreds of thousands of years ago.   That appears to be a highly dubious inference, unless one believes that these Africans represent an evolutionary throwback or atavism. While she agrees that all humans have the capacity to bond with storytelling, it’s clear from PhysOrg‘s coverage that she intended to do some storytelling of her own about human evolution:

Wiessner suggests that firelight stories, conversations, ceremonies and celebrations sparked human imagination and “cognitive capacities to form these imagined communities, whether it’s our social networks, all of our relatives on Earth or communities that link us to the spirit world.” She says they also bolstered the human ability to “read” what others are thinking – not just their thoughts or intentions, but their views toward other people.

When did the spark ignite?  When did the bolstering begin?  Clearly, she’s implying it happened way, way back when—long before modern humans evolved.

She also concluded that since the tribes’ subject matter changed from economics during the day to the spirit world at night, that somehow the light of campfires lit up the social bonds of early humans.  “What I found was a big difference between day and night conversation, the kinds of information transmitted and the use of imaginary thought,” she said.  Could she not find the same difference at any English pub or Japanese sushi bar?  All people talk about business during the day, and less so at night.  So what?

The paper, which PNAS published without rejection, appears to tell more about Weissner’s storytelling ability than those of her fully-modern-human subjects.  Why did PNAS allow her to say, “Control of fire and the capacity for cooking led to major anatomical and residential changes for early humans, starting more than a million years ago,” with not a single peer reviewer objecting?  This points to an insidious racism throughout academia that minorities might consider invidious.

Quick!  Call Al Sharpton and the other anti-racism activists.  Sic ’em on the evolutionary anthropologists—some of the most shameless racists on earth (8/10/14), who continue to imply that people in undeveloped countries are inferior to themselves.  They’ve done this to Neanderthals for years—intelligent humans who, in absentia, have been unable to defend their reputations against the N-word (5/06/14).  Now they’re doing it to living third-world human beings!  Outrageous.  Remember how Jared Diamond got in trouble for a similar racist “study” that his highly-intelligent subjects in New Guinea sued him over? (5/17/09).  Yet here is Michael Balter again, who exposed that story, pretending that another anthropologist is doing legit science.  And it’s not just Wiessner; look—she has Nature, PNAS, PhysOrg and Live Science all praising her “study” as if it were science, not racist storytelling.

Bible-believing creationists see all human beings as descendants of Adam and Eve.  Racism is excluded; we are all created in the image of God.  We’ve fallen from the original state of innocence, and gone our separate ways in our journeys away from the light (Acts 17:22-31), but Christians preach unequivocally that Christ died for every man, woman and child on earth.  That’s why we go out into all the world (Acts 1:8, Matthew 28:19-20) to bring the good news of the gospel to remote jungles, deserts and caves: we know that, despite the Fall, the Flood and Babel, we are “created equal” in God’s sight.  The final book of Revelation portrays a glorious celebration around the throne of God of people from every tribe, people group, and language (Revelation 7:9-10).

Christians are the ones who respect truth (John 18:37-38) and evidence (I Corinthians 15:1-11), deploring those who turn aside to myths (II Timothy 4:1-4), exposing those who make up stories out of their own imagination (II Corinthians 10:5).  How ironic that today, Christians are the ones routinely portrayed as anti-science, while the evolutionary scientists are the primary unscientific purveyors of imagination-based tales in the intellectual world.  What’s the essential difference, we ask, between Wiessner’s tale and the campfire stories of her Kalahari subjects?

What’s funny, after the outrage we should feel over Wiessner’s implied racism, is that hers is just another evolutionary just-so story, concocted out of imagination rather than proof.  Only this time, it’s a just-so story about storytelling!  “How the anthropologist got her just-so story” indeed.  Touché.

 

 

(Visited 53 times, 1 visits today)

Comments

  • raisemeup says:

    Your response is witty, revealing and brilliant as usual. It exposes the commonplace hypocrisy and bias of evolutionists who typically look the other way when wild stories are told around the evolutionary campfire. I would add one thing – I assume Wiessner came up with her “theory” during the night time?

  • bbierman says:

    Nothing new of course. Materialists have played the same game for centuries, even before Darwin. From Hobbes to Rousseau. From Darwin to Margaret Mead. From Freud to Wiessner. All stories. Some reflecting reality somewhat post-hoc, to which one can easily say “So what?”. Most complete fabrications. Assertions to sell an alternate to Genesis. But all stories just the same.

  • rockyway says:

    “Wiessner suggests that firelight stories, conversations, ceremonies and celebrations sparked human imagination and “cognitive capacities to form these imagined communities… ”

    – Wiessner seems a little mixed up… as people would have already had to have possessed imagination and cognitive capacity to begin with, to be able to tell these stories. Wouldn’t they already have been in communities?

    – The evolutionary story demands that language was a human invention… and so we ask, wouldn’t that accomplishment have required imagination, cognitive ability and community?

  • Tony says:

    “What is it that made her think tribespeople in Botswana and Namibia were somehow closer to our evolutionary ancestors (and thus less evolved) than Europeans or Americans? ”

    The idea that “more evolved” means superior. This phrase is actually rarely used in proper biology as it is very dependent on local environmental conditions, as, really, this would mean that a particular species or subspecies is better adapted to those conditions than whatever it is being compared with, due to it having exhibited a greater number of mutations in a certain timeframe. As an example, humans have evolved quite recently. Their evolutionary history is quite dynamic, evolving from small, rodent-like creatures in some 65 million years. But, say, jellyfish, haven’t evolved much for hundreds of millions of years. There have been far, far fewer mutations in the jellyfish ancestry than in that of humans. One could say humans are “more evolved” than jellyfish. However, drop both in the sea, and it is the jellyfish that becomes the superior creature: it needs no artificial breathing apparatus, it requires no diving goggles, it is a successful hunter. It is, in this context, far superior to humans, despite it being the “less evolved” of the two.
    The idea that “racial purity” advances evolution. It is, in fact, more or less the exact opposite — the more genetic diversity is increased, by genetic material being added to a given population either through mutation or racial mixing, the more likely there will be an advantageous genetic feature. In evolutionary biology, this is actually known as gene flow. this argument of yours seems to be a combination of the association fallacy and the argument from adverse consequences fallacy.As well so-called “scientific creationism” preceded Darwin’s theory of evolution, and it was the “scientific creationist” that actually introduced “racism” into the field of biology, not Darwin or the theory of evolution. Darwin actually refuted the claims of the creationist racists,the claim that white people were the ‘pinnacle’ of evolution goes against the very theory of evolution itself, where a life-form is never the ‘perfect’ life-form except in terms of the environment and environmental conditions it is adapted to; only a raving idiot would think that calling a certain race the “the pinnacle of evolutionary development” or more “evolved” than others

    • Editor says:

      Hi Tony,
      You’ve made a lot of assertions here. It was not creationists who misunderstood Darwin, if that is what you are claiming, but Darwinists themselves who committed racial genocides in the 20th century, and eugenics, in Darwin’s name. Darwin’s own cousin Francis Galton was the founder of eugenics; he claimed the Origin of Species was his inspiration.

      We are not comparing humans to jellyfish here, but rather humans to humans. Darwin spoke of “higher civilized races” exterminating the “lower races” of man in some future day as an example of survival of the fittest, not that he would go out and do this himself (he was a proper Victorian gentleman), but as a natural outcome of his theory, showing Europeans, for instance, would prove superior to the Turks. Is it not logical that his followers would take those ideas to heart? And they did, with a vengeance.

      Wiessen specifically chose black Africans; why? She did not choose the most genetically mixed, as you think is optimal; she chose purebred Bushmen. Why didn’t she choose Oxford freshmen? Why not white California lawyers? Why blacks from Africa? Yet she drew sweeping conclusions about human cultural evolution from a few campfire stories, and then made up her own campfire story. Who is the “raving idiot” here?

      Your assertion that creationists imported racism into science is fact-free and opposite the truth. If certain Christians were racists (and many were), they were so in disobedience to the Scriptures, not because of them (see Colossians 3:11). Racism is contrary to Christian doctrine: (1) belief in a single human pair at the beginning, and (2) Jesus’ restatement of God’s greatest commandments to love God and love one another. There is a direct logical line, however, between Darwin’s ideas (and his own statements in The Descent of Man and his letter to Graham of 1881) and the “scientific racism” that followed. This is no fallacy; this is documented history.

      If you really think you are the descendent of a small, rodent-like creature, well, then, tell us where your mind came from. Tell us how logic evolved, and the ability to detect logical fallacies. If you respond that it came from apes, then Darwin’s horrid doubt should be yours as well. If you want us to treat your arguments as rational, you must agree with us that your mind and soul were created in the image of God.

  • Tony says:

    “Is it not logical that his followers would take those ideas to heart? And they did, with a vengeance.”

    no because is it logical for benjamin franklin’s followers to tie themselves to flagpoles in the middle of thunderstorms?

    “There is a direct logical line, however, between Darwin’s ideas (and his own statements in The Descent of Man and his letter to Graham of 1881) and the “scientific racism” that followed”

    Scientific racism was already extremely popluar many years, espe before Darwin published his book, there is no direct logical line, This is a Theortic fallacy (racists supposedly explain perceived racial “superiority” using evolution, therefore evolution is the premise of those views)

    “If you respond that it came from apes, then Darwin’s horrid doubt should be yours as well”

    you are just taking Darwin’s words out of context maybe you should look at the full context of his work.

    “but Darwinists themselves who committed racial genocides in the 20th century, and eugenics”

    no they didnt the KKK were big fans of eugenics and they also funded the anti-evolution league, also Hilter,Stalin and Chairman Mao were not Darwinists. The soviets and other communists suppressed research into Darwinism because they associated it with eugenics, Nazism and capitalism. They went on to denounce genetics and Darwinism together as “the whore of capitalism”

    “If you want us to treat your arguments as rational, you must agree with us that your mind and soul were created in the image of God.”

    that makes no sense its a total non-sequtior rationality has nothing to do with being created or not

    • Editor says:

      Tony, your posts are primarily unsupported assertions, repetitions of your own biases, and are filled with misspellings and capitalization errors. The statements that attempt to give support (like the Benjamin Franklin analogy) contain fallacies themselves (e.g., faulty analogy). Your history of communism is very flawed. Maybe you should go back to school in English, logic, and history before talking beyond your knowledge.

  • Tony says:

    I am a history major in university [sic], dont [sic] worry i [sic] know what i [sic] am talking about, there are no flaws in my understanding of communism. These things are more beyond your knowedge [sic] then they are mine,there [sic] is nothing wrong with the Benjamin Franklin analogy as it just shows you how stupid it is to confuse descriptions with prescriptions, the fact that when ever [sic] the words evolution and racism appear in the same sentence you would think it means it teaches us to be racist shows that you have little understanding of the naturalistic fallacy [sic]

    if [sic] you dont [sic] want to believe me read the works of Trofim Lysenko, Stalin’s favourite scientist and see what he thought of Charles Darwin,If [sic] you just searched up some of my claims you can easily find evidence of the facts like with the KKK and the anti-evolutionist league.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.