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33. Social Anthropology

“And the LORD said, ‘Behold, they are one people, and they have all one language, and this is only the beginning of what they will do. And nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them. Come, let us go down and there confuse their language, so that they may not understand one another's speech.’ So the LORD dispersed them from there over the face of all the earth, and they left off building the city.” Gen 11:6-8 (ESV)

The bible teaches that our planet is only a few thousand years old. It teaches that mankind has walked the earth since very nearly the start. It goes on to teach that mankind multiplied and covered the earth. The first humans sinned by rebelling against God. Their children, corrupt by sin, grew in their rebellion until God destroyed the world with a flood. Only a few humans and a sample of each air breathing animal kind were spared in order to repopulate the planet. The bible teaches that this took place about 1656 years after creation. “Recorded history” picks up shortly after the flood as the first few generations after the flood began to flourish. The bible records an event little more than a century after the flood in which God introduced a spectrum of languages and the immediate dispersion of people divided by their sudden inability to communicate. Most of the rest of the bible concerns itself primarily with God’s involvement with one specific people group through which God chose for His purpose to reveal Himself.

The bible is not the only record of ancient history. It is universally accepted that civilization as we currently know it, what we would call “recorded history,” sprang up suddenly roughly four thousand years ago. Diverse written language appears in cuneiform to glyphs to the western alphabet describing everything from mundane accounting records to genealogies to epic stories across the globe from Egypt to China to Western Europe.

There are stories of creation, patriarchs who lived unusually long lives, and a great flood in most cultures. Such myths have been documented in isolated tribes on Pacific islands and in South America discovered in the last two centuries. It has been suggested that early missionary visitors to some of these cultures have tainted these reports. The quantity, veracity, and even the unique differences found in these stories suggests there is more to them than merely similar mythology. Although in many cases the particulars differ from the biblical account, there are also striking similarities. Both similarities and differences tell us a great deal. Similarities suggest the more fundamental elements stem from a common history if not a common recollection of detail. Differences illustrate corruption of collective memory as it related by its many storytellers.

The most well known ancient flood myth is probably the Gilgamesh epic written within a few centuries of the Torah. Although the stories are superficially similar, the biblical account describes a ship that was actually sea worthy and capable of holding the cargo required. The ship described in the Gilgamesh epic would be impossible to keep afloat in the heavy seas of a violent open ocean. The Genesis flood account stands out as uniquely plausible compared with the myriad of other cultural flood myths.

Most origin myths contain a theme of pre-existing deity, formation of man from earth, and man having the purpose of managing the order of earthly things so that the gods can be about their own business. Anthropology takes into account a great deal more than written records. Anthropologists study a variety of historical phenomena from pyramids to cave writings.

The pyramids of Egypt are the most well known, but similar ancient structures exist on other continents from Asia to South America. The similarity of design suggests the design itself predates the division of language at Babel. The tower of Babel was probably some form of pyramid. After this the people who migrated to and settled Egypt built their own pyramids. Others built pyramid structures as far away as China. Those who settled Central America also built strikingly similar structures. They may have been Nabetian sailors or passengers on their ships who crossed the Pacific nearly 4000 years ago. The similarity of these designs makes it highly likely there was at least some contact at some point between these cultures long before widespread intercontinental travel is supposed to have taken place. Another common theme among pyramid style structures is similarity of purpose. These structures were usually associated with kings or deities for worship, sacred burial, or both. Another striking similarity is that the skills required for such architecture are highly specialized. Even today it is unclear how the ancients built these structures, even with huge labor forces. Most of these structures are believed to be thousands of years old with few if any constructed in the last two or three thousand years.

In evolutionary terms the pyramids present a strange puzzle. Pyramid construction requires a large and highly skilled labor force. It requires detailed plans, advanced engineering including mathematics and knowledge of physics, geology, and other physical sciences. Evolutionists generally suppose the skills employed by pyramid builders only recently evolved as the modern sciences rose out of the dark ages. What we observe is that the earliest societies were highly developed and possessed great skill. For reasons unexplained by Evolution, the skills fell into disuse and were lost with time only to be rediscovered as societies began working together for common progress.

The biblical text provides an explanation for the pyramid mystery that makes perfect sense. Just a few short generations after the flood the people were still living in close proximity. One man rose to power as the leader. He built a structure the bible calls a “tower.” The evidence of pyramid shaped structures around the world—towers—strongly suggests the biblical Tower of Babel was the first such pyramid. The bible indicates God caused languages to divide resulting in a complete breakdown of the building effort. It does not say God took the skills away, only that the whole of the human race could not work together on that tower. Based on the similarity of design and function in the many pyramids around the world, it seems clear that leaders of individual clans retained the knowledge long enough to pass along the skills to their descendants who built these other pyramids. Only those with the largest families and those strong enough to enslave others could build the pyramids. Egyptian technology was among the most advanced retained and added onto, although many other groups succeeded in building similar if somewhat smaller structures. In time populations grew and groups waged war for control of resources. In time these various cultures would become preoccupied with other efforts. Pyramid construction could not be maintained. The skills fell into disuse and were forgotten.

It is an historic fact that some people once lived in caves. A few still do. Evolutionists propose that the migration from caves to houses demonstrates evolution. They suppose societies and the complexity of their homes evolved with human knowledge. When you presuppose Evolution it makes perfect sense.

What does cave art actually prove? It proves little except that at least some people used caves for shelter and drew graffiti on the walls while they were there. Relatively few other artifacts have been found in caves. This suggests that the cave dwelling populations were small and probably did not stay in the caves for long periods. Caves provide excellent shelter from weather and wild beasts and in some cases they are good for storage. Caves tend to be too unpleasant for humans to live in long term. They tend to be cool, damp, and dark. On hunting expeditions, however, a cave could prove an ideal resting place for a brief stay. A well-hidden cave could also prove to make an ideal hiding place from an enemy.

The biblical account sheds some additional light on potential reasons for using caves as temporary dwellings. Genesis 11:1-9 records an event which may have occurred less than 150 years after the flood. The bible indicates at that point all humans spoke a common language and were mostly settled in one community. Together they attempted to build a tower to heaven. God intervened to stop the project. He did this by miraculously dividing languages so that the workers could not communicate. The bible indicates that the people dispersed. This is logical since the inability to communicate causes isolation and distrust. The strongest families were able to hold their ground and remain nearest to the area. Weaker families dispersed more quickly to seek out their own resources and put distance between themselves and stronger, more stable tribes. The weakest were constantly being pushed out. People on the move have little or no opportunity to build fixed structures. Until their numbers grew and they settled somewhere, these traveling tribes took shelter where ever they could find it. For reasons described above caves were ideal for short-term shelter.

The individuals or families who fled Babel took with whatever knowledge they had acquired prior to the event. Since they could not communicate effectively with one another, the knowledge they had is what they took with them. The same people who were driven furthest and fastest were probably also the most poorly equipped intellectually and technologically. Those who had the most knowledge would be most effectively capable of holding their ground. This is probably the most compelling explanation as to why Mesopotamia is considered the cradle of civilization and why many of the people groups furthest away, like some of the remote tribes in Africa, Asia, and the Americas are the least developed “native” peoples.

Evolution fails to explain division of language. The bible provides an answer. Evolution suggests man migrated out of caves as they developed. The bible explains why some people would have used caves as shelter as they migrated away from development. The Evolution model does not present any compelling explanation of the hundreds of languages spoken today, nor why language is often associated with social development. Diverse written language appears to have sprung up roughly 4000 years ago from Egypt to China. This seems to coincide with the relatively sudden and nearly simultaneous appearance of various civilizations across vast distances. Babel provides a better explanation of early anthropology than nearly any evolution-based theory ever put forward.

Related Topics: Creation