Friday, August 13, 2021

The Missing Link is Missing


A monkey does not draw clumsily and a man cleverly; a monkey does not begin the art of representation and a man carry it to perfection. A monkey does not do it at all; he does not begin to do it at all; he does not begin to begin to do it at all. A line of some kind is crossed before the first faint line can begin.

The Everlasting Man, G.K. Chesterton (ebook)

Chesterton’s point: shouldn’t we see, even today, some ape in some state of transition between man and ape?  Some much closer to human and some much closer to ape, a variety of states of advancement?  Not merely in physical appearance or DNA, but in mind and soul?  It is this that he will further explore in this chapter.

The modern scientist can do many things, but he cannot watch the Missing Link, he cannot run experiments on it, he cannot test it.

He cannot keep a cave-man like a cat in the back-yard and watch him to see whether he does really practise cannibalism or carry off his mate on the principles of marriage by capture.

The scientist studies based on evidence, and the evidence on much of this history of the cave man does not exist.  A fragment of a bone is clutched tightly as it is this scientist’s only tool.  But what does the fragment really tell us about the individual from which it came and, more so, about the surroundings in which he lived?

Yet, from the fragment, we get a being.  We give him a name.  We draw pictures of him, to “show that the very hairs of his head were all numbered.”  All from a thigh bone, or a fragment of a jaw bone, or a few bones from who knows how many different individuals – or creatures.

The sincerity of Darwin really admitted this; and that is how we came to use such a term as the Missing Link. But the dogmatism of Darwinians has been too strong for the agnosticism of Darwin…

What was the nature of man before he became man?  We write of prehistoric man, but as he lived in “pre-history,” what can we know – beyond a fragment of a bone?  There are traces of human lives before we find human stories; hence, we know only that man came before history – and not much else.  Chesterton will dive no further into this:

His body may have been evolved from the brutes; but we know nothing of any such transition that throws the smallest light upon his soul as it has shown itself in history.

Just because it was pre-history does not mean it was primitive.  Yet, what little we do know of the pre-history paints a picture far different than the stereotype.  We know of the art even though we don’t know of the story.

One summary of the pre-history begins: they wore no clothes.  But how does the scientist know this?  Based on what evidence?  A second claims that the cave drawings served no religious purpose – inferring that the artist or the tribe had no religion. 

I can hardly imagine a thinner thread of argument than this which reconstructs the very inmost moods of the prehistoric mind from the fact that somebody who has scrawled a few sketches on a rock, from what motive we do not know, for what purpose we do not know, acting under what customs or conventions we do not know, may possibly have found it easier to draw reindeers than to draw religion.

Maybe the reindeer was his religious symbol; maybe it was not.  Maybe he drew his religious symbol elsewhere; maybe his religion prohibited him from drawing the religious symbol (certainly an idea not limited to pre-history). 

It is commonly assumed that religion developed in a slow, evolutionary manner.  Theories abound, incorporating some combination of the fear of the tribal chief, the phenomena of dreams, and the sacrifice associated with the harvest.  But these causes are so disconnected – what could possibly connect them other than a religion, or, if you prefer, a superstition?

For the plain truth is that all this is a trick of making things seem distant and dehumanised, merely by pretending not to understand things that we do understand.

As if we are saying that pre-historic man had a strange habit of stuffing something in his mouth and chewing; or he lifted his alternating legs in rotation.  Have we not heard of eating, or walking?  We comprehend religious feelings, yet attempt to kill the idea in the pre-historic man. 

But it is likely that only a spiritual sentiment could connect such seemingly unconnected things – the tribal chief, the dream, the sacrifice.  To connect these things, it took a particular sort of mind – not the mind of a monkey, but the human mind.

The cow derives no particular feeling when hearing the skylark; live sheep don’t tie any meaning to their dead ancestors.

It is true that in the spring a young quadruped’s fancy may lightly turn to thoughts of love, but no succession of springs has ever led it to turn however lightly to thoughts of literature.

It is only in man that such experiences cross the line to art and religion.  Yes, the dog also dreams, but he has never transformed this into a religion: Cerberus is not some sort of canine trinity, worshipped by dogs. 

So, where is this Missing Link – this creature after the ape and before man had religion?  We have no evidence of him, we do not know if he even existed, we cannot deduce anything about him or how he might have (or if he might have) stumbled onto religion – assuming he did exist, which we do not know. 

Evidence on such matters begins only with the first men who were already men – they were also the first mystics:

We come back once more to the simple truth; that at some time too early for these critics to trace, a transition had occurred to which bones and stones cannot in their nature bear witness; and man became a living soul.


…if we chose to project the human figure forward out of an unhuman world, we could only say that one of the animals had obviously gone mad.

What else could we conclude?  Man is that much different from all the rest of creation.  There is one answer that best explains this change, this difference, this reality:

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.


  1. If you're interested in the transcendence by the human over the animal, you'll be interested in this school of thought:

  2. How does the hypothesis of "evolution" justify the nearly universal human belief in the spiritual?

    I almost also asked why but impersonal forces are just that - impersonal and only following rules/laws as we can describe them.

    How positive and negative particles repel? But, why should positive and negative particles repel, ... ?

    Oh oh, I did it.

  3. There are in fact no transitional examples anywhere, neither on earth or in the fossil record.

    Evolutionists claim that every animal is a transition but that ignores scientific categorization. Come to think of it, you couldn't have Aristotle's forms existing in objects if transitional animals existed. There wouldn't be dog or cat or ape or man. There would be no form. Because the form is something not in between this and that. That means there would be no formal or final cause because the transition isn't a thing it a passing from one to another.

  4. There was no "prehistoric" man. The Bible is a history book of the universe, and we know the story of man from Day One. Well, actually, Day Six.

    Evolution is a fairy tale for adults. And RMB is correct that there are no transitional fossils of any kind.

    1. "The dawn of history reveals a humanity already civilised. Perhaps it reveals a civilisation already old." --GK Chesterton, as quoted in Bionic Mosquito's article, The Dawn of Civilization.

      "There was no "prehistoric" man. The Bible is a history book of the universe, and we know the story of man from Day One. Well, actually, Day Six." – Mister Spock

      These statements are conflicting. Either there was “pre-historic” man or there was not.

      History is defined as an account or record of events which happened in the past. Obviously, men must have been a part of these events, which were eventually recorded as history. Clearly, some men existed before the first version of history was recorded, therefore some men must have been “pre-historic”. I understand what Mister Spock is driving at, but his statement that there was no prehistoric man is technically incorrect.

      Man reads history and interprets it in the light of his own understanding and beliefs. It doesn't take a great deal of imagination to come up with the idea that the story of Adam and Eve, while historical, is also metaphorical and that Moses only wrote down what he believed to be the "origin of species", as he understood it. Certainly, there are other competing “histories” of beginnings.

      It is entirely possible that the Genesis account was written as an attempt to explain, not so much man’s origin, but the reason for his depravity and sinfulness. It is possible that mankind struggled through unknown thousands of years before he became self-aware enough so that someone like Moses could tell him why life is hard. I am not saying this is true, but it is certainly possible.

      If man was cut off from the very presence of God at the beginning as Genesis describes, then he probably fell, in a spiritual sense, all the way to the bottom. This is not to say that he became a brute beast, little more than an animal. All his faculties were still intact, but his spiritual sense was so perverted that he lost sight of his Creator, groping blindly in the dark for any speck of truth. He has been slowly recovering from that Fall ever since. Every generation gains a little more knowledge. Every insight learned builds on those laid down before. If mankind has evolved at all, it is in the spiritual sense. Body and soul have always been with us.

      History is merely the telling of the story of the grueling climb out of the pit.

  5. Punctuated equilibrium?

    1. There still has to be transitions. That just tries to explain why there are drastic shifts in the fossil record. But it doesn't explain away the need for transitions all along the way.

  6. Punk eek is a yarn manufactured by former evolutionist Stephen Jay Gould and soon-to-be former evolutionist Niles Eldredge to explain the complete absence of transitional fossils.

  7. G.K. Chesterton in his day had to parry a different sort of attack on Christianity regarding ancient peoples as well: one the says not that these men were irreligious, but that their religions were very similar to and pre-dated Christianity, and therefore invalidate Christianity (The Zeitgeist folks make this claim today). He responds in typical brilliance:

    "Mr. Blatchford and his school point out that there are many myths parallel to the Christian story; that there were Pagan Christs, and Red Indian Incarnations, and Patagonian Crucifixions, for all I know or care. But does not Mr. Blatchford see the other side of the fact? If the Christian God really made the human race, would not the human race tend to rumours and perversions of the Christian God? If the centre of our life is a certain fact, would not people far from the centre have a muddled version of that fact? If we are so made that a Son of God must deliver us, is it odd that Patagonians should dream of a Son of God?... I like paradox, but I am not prepared to dance and dazzle to the extent of Nunquam, who points to humanity crying out for a thing, and pointing to it from immemorial ages, as proof that it cannot be there."

    1. Man is made in God's image. All men search for God. It is no wonder that many in that search end in a similar place on key aspects - at least in the same zip code or county.