on this day ten years ago:
Nothing was blogged here 10 years ago today. Sorry. Must have been lazy.
Nothing was photographed ten years back.
The Birth of Humanity
I was watching the first of the new BBC series Saving Planet Earth that I'd recorded a few weeks ago. It introduced the series with a lovely journey through some of the most endangered species on Earth combined with insight in to the problems that underpin their threat. No prises for guessing that the real problem is us, humans. But one of the pieces that really caught my attention was David refering to the birth of humans. I'll transcribe the monologue below:
One of the most recent animals to evolve appeared some 4 million years ago today that animal is as significant an influence on the planet as the major natural forces that shaped it in the past. That animal is us. Human Beings.
[Looking at some early human footprints] This track of footprints was made by some of the earlist people to live on the Earth. Humanity was then in its infancy numbering only a few thousand individuals. So how did a species with such humble beginings come to dominate our planet?
For much of our history we lived like any other animal on our planet - taking what we needed from the wilderness around us. But then there came a turning point that was to lead to an explosion in human numbers and transform us into one of the most sucessful of all species.
About 10 thousand years ago we learned how to tame animals and plants and brees them to suit our own purposes. We learned how to farm.
With farming came a more settled exisytance and communities began to grow. From that point on the wilderness around us changed from being a provider to being a competitor*.
What struck me was just how this fits and, rather more, backs up my spiritual understanding of Genesis. As most of you will have gathered I'm not a Christian Fundamentalist (praise the Lord!), I believe the Bible is God's message but not his direct transcribed word, and neither is it God's comeplete message. Much of the old testament was passed down generations as stories before being written so how silly to think that God transcribed it. Further more the idea of God transcribing the Bible smacks of something sinister, and God is certianly not that*.
As my understanding goes, the first chapters of Genesis are a story. The language is mystical and I see no compromise in not taking it literally. But what I love about Genesis is that in actual fact it does tell real history! For example the ordering of the creation story is nealy correct and there are archeoplogical records of a global 'flood' across equatorial civilisations (just where humanity began). It proves that, while the sucessive passing down altered the stories, they did contain a nugget of truth. But back to my original point.
In my thinking I've come to my own understanding of how God created humans. Evolution did the work, though God was intricately involved (demonstrating the real love of God in the billions of years taken to bring us about), to bring humans from the apes. Look at the face of an orangutang and tell me you can't recognise the flame of humanity. But how I place the Genesis story is at a point where I ould say that God 'breathed' into the "bipedal ape-men" and gave them 'spiritual life'. These new humans had a relationship with God and were living in the garden of eden as it was - Earth before we fucked it up. And of couse what happened but we took the free will given and became selfish. We took advantage of the Earth given to us and began to exploit it; exploding our population and spreading across the world.
How David Attenborough fits in here is that the genesis point - the moment that God reveals himself and gives us a spiritual life (or 'humanity') - is the birth of farming. We are given free will, given intelligence, and what we do is learn how to take advantage of Eden, of the Earth, and from then on it all goes wrong. And now look at us, it's still the same only on a scale never before seen, we're still raping the Earth.
* Interestingly much of Fundamental thinking strikes me as being quite sinister. For one thing Satan gets big press. Having read the Bible through I don't remember coming across the Devil that much, so quite why he's now advertised I find concerning. Then there is the pathetic attempt to explain away the evidence for evolution, for example the flood being the demise of the dinosaurs. It me it appears striking that such explaning paints a picture of God as a great deciever. This greatly troubles me.
* David's last point echos something that I've written about here before. I've noticed, in America especially, but anywhere where farming is intensive, how our perception of nature is twisted to that of the enemy. It's after our crops - we must eradicate. We must exterminate. Proffits come first.[2007-07-22]