It is not natural to see man as a natural product. It is not common sense to call man a common object of the country or the seashore. It is not seeing straight to see him as an animal. It is not sane. It sins against the light; against that broad daylight of proportion which is the principle of all reality.
When the man of science considers the history of man, he begins with evolution – a slow, and soothing process, reflecting gradual change. Chesterton considers this not a practical word or a profitable idea. Nobody can explain how nothing turned into something, or how something turned into something else.
It is really far more logical to start by saying ‘In the beginning God created heaven and earth’ even if you only mean ‘In the beginning some unthinkable power began some unthinkable process.’
It is at least as rational, isn’t it? It explains, frankly much more believably, than does the idea of “give me the big bang and I can explain the rest” (which even that they cannot do, but what of the big bang?). The answer to this is, and will remain, a religious question. What do scientists say? The more we know, the more we know what we don’t know. There isn’t progress toward an answer in that.
Neither history nor science can tell us of the origin of the universe, the origin of life, or the origin of man – the latter being a very unique form of life. “Man is not merely an evolution but rather a revolution.” That he has a backbone like birds or fish really tells us nothing of man – nothing meaningful, at least.
Chesterton offers as example the cave man. Not in Plato’s cave; this one is the cave and cave man of history. The stereotype tells us that he knocks the woman on the head before taking her to his cave. But what evidence of such a thing do we have? And why on earth would a woman wait to get knocked on the head? Were cave women not interested in the benefits of a mate – food, protection, shelter?
The evidence we do have is something quite different. It exists in the cave: there are not the skeletons of clubbed women, crushed skulls lined up in a row like bowling balls; nothing of the sort. There is, however, art – drawings and paintings of animals, drawn in some real detail and with some real understanding.
In this and twenty other details it is clear that the artist had watched animals with a certain interest and presumably a certain pleasure. In that sense it would seem that he was not only an artist but a naturalist; the sort of naturalist who is really natural.
To the extent there is any character at all in the evidence found regarding the cave man, it is a human character – even a humane character. There is real evidence of such mild and innocent things; there is no evidence of the brute, clubbing women on the head.
But what is the point? What is Chesterton driving at? The point is found in the question: Where is the cave man of crude evolution, he asks? The missing link, so to speak.
Are these, perhaps, pictures on the wall of a child’s bedroom, decorated just as we do today? That seems more likely than attributing these to a club-wielding woman-beater. Had someone said that St. Francis of Assisi had drawn the pictures out of a love for animals, everyone would have nodded in understanding. So, why not of the cave man?
Further: while there is to be found the picture of the reindeer drawn by the cave man, where is the picture of the cave man drawn by the reindeer? The bird claw or the fin of a fish – where is the art from these? Did monkeys begin to draw, with man eventually putting on the final touches?
That is the simplest lesson to learn in the cavern of the coloured pictures; only it is too simple to be learnt. It is the simple truth that man does differ from the brutes in kind and not in degree; and the proof of it is here; that it sounds like a truism to say that the most primitive man drew a picture of a monkey, and that it sounds like a joke to say that the most intelligent monkey drew a picture of a man.
The distance between man and every other living being on earth is so extreme; would not evolution have provided beings to fill in these gaps? Where is the proof?
As an aside…what in evolution explains how man survived without the capabilities of reason, planning and rational thought? Man has no sharp teeth, no fast speed, no overwhelming strength by which he could survive in a pre-rational state. Easy prey for the lions, snakes, and wolves (or their predecessors), don’t you think? Was it nothing more than the opposable thumb that took man over the hump?
In other words, every sane sort of history must begin with man as man, a thing standing absolute and alone.
Man is truly a different kind of creature: he is both created and creator. He is different enough that he could be considered an alien on earth. It seems unnatural to consider that man is a natural product of this earth. For some, this is why, perhaps, man is considered a cancer; for others, a blessing.
It is not seeing straight to see him as an animal. It is not sane. It sins against the light; against that broad daylight of proportion which is the principle of all reality.
Man does not naturally flow from anything else on earth; there is nothing to prepare for what is, in fact, an unnatural novelty. Man isn’t one unique herd out of one hundred herds; he is the one cow that jumped over the moon, the one pig who had wings.
Now, as a matter of fact, there is not a shadow of evidence that this thing was evolved at all. There is not a particle of proof that this transition came slowly, or even that it came naturally. In a strictly scientific sense, we simply know nothing whatever about how it grew, or whether it grew, or what it is.
Something happened; and it has all the appearance of a transaction outside time. It has therefore nothing to do with history in the ordinary sense.
I am not saying anything about evolution (more broadly considered) one way or the other, and I don’t believe Chesterton is either. But what I am saying (as, I believe, is Chesterton): the rationality in man, the reason, the art, the soul – these cannot be explained via evolution. It can, however, be explained by this:
Genesis 2:7 And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.
God breathed into man.