(Investigator 131, 2010 March)

Were early humans peaceful or were they violent and fought wars?

Genesis portrays the world of humans before Noah’s Flood as:

1.    Dangerous “anyone who meets me may kill me” (4:14);
2.    Full of sexual predators “they took wives for themselves of all that they chose” (6:2);
3.    Violent and corrupt “the earth was filled with violence” (6:11). 

In a 2001 Internet write-up Brian Ferguson, an anthropologist who specializes in the origin of war, wrote: “In recent times, my main efforts have been to challenge a variety of biologically oriented explanations, and archaeological claims that war has always been a part of human existence.”

New Scientist says: “Brian Ferguson of Rutgers University in Newark, New Jersey, also believes there is nothing in the fossil or archaeological record supporting the claim that our ancestors have been waging war against each other for hundreds of thousands, let alone millions of years. The first clear-cut evidence of violence against groups as opposed to individuals appears about 14,000 years ago, he says…” (4 July, 2009, p. 37)

This ancestors-at-peace paradigm is under challenge. Them and US (2009 Kardoorair Press) by Danny Vendramini presents a new assessment of early humans by examining their interaction with Neanderthals.

Them and Us exposes Neanderthals not as docile omnivores but as savage predators at the apex of the Stone Age food chain — carnivores whose prey included humans. Neanderthals, says Vendramini, hunted, abducted, raped, killed, and ate humans in the Middle East for thousands of years.

Neanderthal predation generated selection pressure that transformed surviving humans into aggressive predators like themselves besides imbuing them with “dark atavistic fears.” One reviewer of Them and Us wrote: “Every monster from every myth, every horror novel and every scary movie is derived from this quintessential beast.”

We have then a picture of early humans at war with Neanderthals, a picture that squares better with Genesis. To fully reverse the peaceful-ancestors picture we’ll also need evidence of humans fighting each other. But a start has been made.

This is a science-versus-Bible issue to watch for developments.