The glory and the depravity of man

The two posts below come from two different articles and are based on two different scientific discoveries. If you read the original links, you will find that the time periods they describe overlap. Both deal with the proto-European cave-dwellers when they were dwelling alongside the Neanderthals. Now let’s put the two findings together. . . .What do we learn?

The first known musical instrument

Archeologists have found a hollowed-out bird bone, into which was carved five finger holes and a mouthpiece, making a flute. Scientists dated it at more than 35,000 years ago, which means it was made in the last major ice age. It was found in a cave in Germany that contained wall paintings and sculptures. This link gives the story and also something to click so you can hear what it sounds like.

stone age flute

What happened to the Neanderthals

Some scientists think they have discovered what happened to the Neanderthals. The more advanced, more highly evolved homo sapiens ate them:

One of science’s most puzzling mysteries – the disappearance of the Neanderthals – may have been solved. Modern humans ate them, says a leading fossil expert.

The controversial suggestion follows publication of a study in the Journal of Anthropological Sciences about a Neanderthal jawbone apparently butchered by modern humans. Now the leader of the research team says he believes the flesh had been eaten by humans, while its teeth may have been used to make a necklace.

Fernando Rozzi, of Paris’s Centre National de la Récherche Scientifique, said the jawbone had probably been cut into to remove flesh, including the tongue. Crucially, the butchery was similar to that used by humans to cut up deer carcass in the early Stone Age. “Neanderthals met a violent end at our hands and in some cases we ate them,” Rozzi said.

Nixon was not pro-life

Release of more of President Nixon’s taped conversations show his reaction to the Roe vs. Wade decision legalizing abortion. From Tapes Reveal Nixon’s View of Abortion – NYTimes.com:

On Jan. 23, 1973, when the Supreme Court struck down state criminal abortion laws in Roe v. Wade, President Richard M. Nixon made no public statement. But privately, newly released tapes reveal, he expressed ambivalence.

Nixon worried that greater access to abortions would foster “permissiveness,” and said that “it breaks the family.” But he also saw a need for abortion in some cases, such as interracial pregnancies.

“There are times when an abortion is necessary. I know that. When you have a black and a white,” he told an aide, before adding: “Or a rape.”

Notice that the issue of killing a human life played no role in his decision. He was a little worried about enabling sexual permissiveness and even recognized that the decision would be harmful to the institution of the family. But his racism trumped everything!

Why is Nixon considered to be conservative? He imposed the strongest government control of the economy–including wage and price controls–up until Obama. He favored a dramatic escalation in welfare, with his idea for a guaranteed minimum income. He cozied up to Communist China. He promoted the Vietnam war, but surely that was a Democratic war, started by Kennedy and dramatically escalated by our most liberal president, Lyndon Johnson. Nixon had a conservative image, but where was the reality?

Himmler vs. Christianity

In browsing through Uwe Siemon-Netto’s blog, I came across his review of a new biography of Heinrich Himmler, the head of the Nazi S.S.:

“There’s no doubt about Himmler’s anticommunism and anti-Semitism; he wiped out both groups mercilessly,” writes historian Peter Longerich, “but basically he was much more engrossed with Christianity. The conflict with the Christian world, in which he grew up, was of truly existential significance to him.”

According to Longerich, Himmler considered it his life’s calling to coalesce the fight against Christians with his idea of resurrecting the lost world of (pagan) Germania. While anti-Semitism and anticommunism were core elements of Hitler’s entire National Socialist movement, de-Christianization linked to re-Germanization “was the quintessential task of the SS in Himmler’s mind,” Longerich writes in his 1,000-[page] tome (Longerich, Peter. Heinrich Himmler, Biographie. Munich: Siedler Verlag, 2008; 275). . . . .

Himmler saw Christianity as an “alien, Asiatic” imposition on the Germanic world. . . .

Himmler too loathed the Christian virtue of neighborly love, Longerich reports: “The principle of Christian compassion stands in the way of his (Himmler’s) insistence on an uncompromising treatment of ‘sub-humans.’” Himmler strove to “replace Christian principles with Germanic virtues, such as toughness, as a precondition to persevere in the struggle against sub-humans and win the future.” He added, “We live in the era of the ultimate showdown with Christianity” (280).

The post goes on to discuss the movie “Valkyrie”–which I finally saw and liked–with some fascinating details about the Christian nature of the German resistance.

Bonhoeffer and his guilt

Yesterday a discussion broke out in the comments about whether or not the murderer of abortionist George Tiller is equivalent to Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who conspired to kill Hitler. It so happens that I had just seen the movie “Valkyrie” about a different plot to kill Hitler and had been searching the web for information about exactly what Bonhoeffer did. According to this account, Bonhoeffer was actively involved in the broader resistance movement, though his involvement with the conspiracy to kill Hitler was very indirect. Still, I was struck by this:

He did not justify his action but accepted that he was taking guilt upon himself as he wrote “when a man takes guilt upon himself in responsibility, he imputes his guilt to himself and no one else. He answers for it… Before other men he is justified by dire necessity; before himself he is acquitted by his conscience, but before God he hopes only for grace.” [26]. (In this connection, it is worthwhile to recall his 1932 sermon, in which he said: “the blood of martyrs might once again be demanded, but this blood, if we really have the courage and loyalty to shed it, will not be innocent, shining like that of the first witnesses for the faith. On our blood lies heavy guilt, the guilt of the unprofitable servant who is cast into outer darkness.”

One difference between Bonhoeffer and violent culture warriors today is that he didn’t justify what he did. He didn’t insist that he was doing the right thing, that what he did was really good and carried out in a spirit of self-righteousness. He did it in guilt and in the need for grace.


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