The Re-interpretation of an Evolutionary Display

I was recently in the Museum of World Treasures in Wichita, Kansas. It is a neat little museum, with artifacts from across time (fossils to mummies to medieval swords to Vietnam War uniforms). However, there was one particular case that caught my attention. It displays various types of stone tools. As to be expected, these stone tools were put in an evolutionary perspective. I will let the signs in the case explain that perspective themselves. (I apologize for the photographs: they are not the best, but the signs should at least be readable.)

The entire case as it appears in the Museum of World Treasures.
The first two stone tools in the case and their sign.
The next two stone tools and their sign.
The last three tools and their sign.

As I said, these signs portray a familiar evolutionary perspective: humans took time to become sophisticated, so we can group tools based on how “primitive” or “advanced” they are. Moreover, humans spent a lot of time on each stage of development. Note that, according to the signs, the Oldowan period spanned 0.9 million years and the Acheulean period spanned 1.6 million years. Presumably, the advanced stone tools lasted for about 100,000 years. While it isn’t stated, note that the implication is that these long periods of time we needed for early humans to “figure out” how to make their stone tools better.

Now, it is easy, as creationists, to approach a display like this and dismiss it out of hand. We can say things like, “How do they know how old the tools are?” or “How do they even know that those are all tools?” or “They put the tools in an arbitrary order in order to fit their own narrative,” or “They clearly have a bias, they simply cannot be trusted.” However, I think it would actually to be fruitful to slow down a moment and, rather than dismissing the information out of hand, take some time to re-interpret it in light of the Genesis narrative.

If we start with the Genesis account, then the we know humans were capable of metal working prior to the Flood. We are told about Tubal-cain, one of the descendants of Cain, who was a forger of instruments of bronze and iron (Genesis 4:22). Presumably, this knowledge of metalworking was carried by Noah and his family through the Flood, so it makes sense that this knowledge was still present at the Tower of Babel. But what happened at the Tower of Babel? Famously, God divided the people. Since they were disobeying His command to disperse throughout the Earth, God forced a dispersal by disrupting their languages (Genesis 11:1-9).

Imagine a group of people leaving the Tower of Babel. They migrate into a new area of the world. As such, they are forced to survive off of the materials that they have available around them. While these people may have knowledge of metalworking, they may not have the ability to work metal themselves, plus they may simply not have the natural resources needed to forge metal. Thus, these people are reduced to using whatever hard materials they can find, such as stone. Thus begins the industry of making stone tools.

Initially, these people make simple tools. Sure, they may know about complex, well-made tools, but remember, they have been recently separated from a true civilization. They are now “out in the wild,” as it were, so they are just trying to scrape a living out of the world around them. Thus, their first tools are not pretty. They get the job done, but they look “primitive.”

Over time (a short period of time, just a generation or two), they become more familiar with the stones that they use. They get better at flintknapping, better at shaping the stones for particular purposes. Now they start to produce more “advanced” tools that are better suited for their needs.

From that point, some people eventually rediscovered forging and metalworking and began to make and use metal tools once again. Other people never made the leap from stones to metal. Perhaps they were content with the stones. They were able to live their lives with them, so why seek out something new? These people were only became re-acquainted with metal tools when they met foreigners who used metal tools.

Now, I know that a lot of what I have said here is speculative, but it is rooted in the historical account of Genesis. Note that it does not necessarily contradict the main theme of the display at the museum. Humans did indeed have to develop their stone tools, and their tools became better over time. However, that development was driven by limitations of ability and resources rather than by mental development and the time of these changes occurred rapidly, rather than over millions or hundreds of thousands of years.

I believe that this should be are typical response to information that we get from evolutionists. Rather than dismissing their information out of hand, we can often re-interpret their information in a Biblical context. By doing so, we can often find nuggets of truth buried under the layers of bias.

Thoughts from Steven.