Hey Creationists—Stop Arguing with a Strawman

Hey Creationists—Stop Arguing with a Strawman February 6, 2018

Answers in Genesis recently posted a piece titled Human Ingenuity: Outsmarting Evolutionary Stories, by Avery Foley, on their website. Foley’s argument is that recent discoveries are making it only more clear that humans were “intelligent from the very beginning.” Here is how Foley introduces the piece:

Looking at history, we see that the evolutionary story claiming that man was primitive and has evolved to greater intelligence is simply not true. Man was intelligent from the very beginning. Here are just two examples that were in the news recently.

Foley restates this claim in the conclusion:

Because of evolutionary conditioning, many people view our ancestors as primitive and not quite as intelligent as we are. But nothing could be further from the truth. … Humans have been intelligent, creative, and full of ingenuity since the Garden of Eden.

The two pieces of evidence Foley introduces do not come anywhere near proving his claims—in fact, his second piece of evidence rather backfires and suggests that he did very little research in putting together his article.

Here is the first example Foley offers:

Iron that falls from the sky [meteorites] has a recognizably different composition from terrestrial iron, featuring much more nickel and cobalt. And, according to a new study, ancient people knew to use this iron to make daggers, axes, and even jewelry.1 Researchers tested the iron found in weapons, tools, and jewelry from Egypt, the Near East, and China with X-ray florescence spectrometry. This method allowed them to determine the composition of the iron, alerting them to the fact that its origin is out of this world.

It appears ancient people searched for and made a business from selling this valuable iron. Ancient, post-Babel texts described the price of iron as 10 times that of gold, with the price plummeting once iron smelting was rediscovered at the start of the so-called “Iron Age.” In Tutankhamun’s tomb, researchers found another clue that there was indeed an ancient iron trade. The iron used to make the pharaoh’s dagger, bracelet, and headrest came from at least two different meteorites.

Iron was actively mined and smelted only a few generations after Adam (Genesis 4:22), but, after the Flood, iron and the process to make it useable had to be rediscovered and spread around the world. In the meantime, it appears our ancient ancestors used what they could find to make what they needed—including material from meteorites.

In other words, before the invention of iron smelting, humans found already-smelted iron in the form of meteorites, and used it to make rare and valuable swords and ornaments. So far so good.

Here’s the problem—this sort of meteorite iron working took place during the bronze age, from roughly 3200 BC until 1200 BC, when iron smelting was discovered. Foley does not appear to understand the evolutionary timeline. No evolutionary scientists thinks humans living in 3200 BC were not as intelligent as humans living today.

That is not how it works.

Most scientists believe Homo sapiens gained the capacity for abstract and symbolic thought at least 40,000 years ago—if not far earlier. As one anthropologist put it:

”The earliest Homo sapiens probably had the cognitive capability to invent Sputnik,” said Dr. Sally McBrearty, an anthropologist at the University of Connecticut. ”But they didn’t yet have the history of invention or a need for those things.”

The earliest Homo sapiens arrived on the scene roughly 200,000 years ago. That humans living in 3200 BC collected iron from meteorites and made it into spears and ornaments does not contradict some sort of evolutionary hypothesis. Foley is fighting with a strawman.

Now, to be fair, Foley may be suffering from an inability to see past the young earth creationist timeline in his head—if he hears evolutionary scientists talking about “cave men” who did not possess the intelligence to do the sort of abstract thinking and problem solving we do today, he may automatically place those individuals at the beginning of his 6,000 year timeline from creation (in 4004 BC) to present. Intelligence demonstrated in the archeological record in 3200 BC, seen from that perspective, would seem to disprove evolutionary theories about “cave men.”

Evolutionary scientists, however, are not operating on Foley’s timeline, and if he wants to make a serious argument that they are wrong, he needs to listen to what they are (and are not) actually saying.

Even by Foley’s timeline, however, his second story makes literally no sense at all. This story, remember, is meant to prove that early man was just as intelligent as we are today. Have a look:

After the dispersion at the Tower of Babel, people groups started migrating around the world. As the climate drastically changed during the Ice Age and then settled down, our ancestors met new challenges in the frigid Arctic, arid deserts, open grasslands, and more. Yet they settled these areas, thriving for generations—in fact, some continue to thrive today.

One group eventually made its way into the east-central region of what is today known as Arizona. In this arid area they found shelter in what already existed there—the geological formations. Hundreds, perhaps even thousands, of small villages are dotted throughout this area, carved right into the sandstone rock formations.

One such city featured recently on Live Science is known as Honanki.2 Erosion wore an alcove into one sandstone formation, and the people who settled this area capitalized on it. The pueblo (communal settlements) they created once stood two stories high and featured 72 rooms. Some rooms were used for food storage, others for family dwelling, and one is believed to have been a birthing room. Some 2,000 pictographs and petroglyphs still decorate the stone walls, giving us hints about this people’s culture and practices.

The argument, in other words, is that the ancient peoples who built these pueblos, carving them out of stone, were clearly every bit as intelligent as modern humans. There’s one problem. The peoples who built Honanki were not ancient. The Singua people built Honanki between 1100 AD and 1400 AD.

This doesn’t even make sense based on Foley’s internal timeline—these were people living in the last 1,000 years of a 6,000 year timeline. Even if evolutionary scientists thought humans living in 3200 BC were intellectually inferior to modern humans (and they don’t), what reason would Foley have to think that evolutionary scientists would believe people living only 600 years ago less intellectually advanced evolutionarily?

I’m left scratching my head. The only thing I can think is that Foley saw an article about ruins and assumed that they must be really ancient without actually reading the article. And then Answers in Genesis published it.

Now that I think about it, young earth creationists have a problem here. They want to both argue that the world was created in 4004 BC and argue that humans have always been just as intelligent as humans today—but with their 6,000 year parameter set, no on is going to argue with their second contention.

Yes, humans in 4004 BC were just as intelligent as humans today. So were humans in 40,004 BC. And?

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