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The Rowdy Neighbors

Smart Ancient Syndrome (SAS) and the Evolutionist Parade

Archeologists dug up something from Canaanite days and the story we heard is the story we always hear: this was an advanced civilization. Surprisingly advanced. We have no idea how they did what they did without power tools.

I should have a dollar for every report like this one:

An archaeological dig in Jerusalem has turned up a 3,700-year-old wall that is the largest and oldest of its kind found in the region, experts say.
Standing 8 meters (26 feet) high, the wall of huge cut stones is a marvel to archaeologists. "To build straight walls up 8 meters ... I don't know how to do it today without mechanical equipment," said the excavation's director, Ronny Reich. "I don't think that any engineer today without electrical power [could] do it."
"You see all the big boulders -- all the boulders are 4 to 5 tons," adds archaeologist Eli Shukron. Canaanites built it.
Just once I'd like to hear archeologists say "My god! these people were stupid! It's a wonder they figured out how to procreate!" But no! It's always about how smart they were!

This is not what you expect from the evolution model. It's as if the Evolutionists' Parade - that troupe of creatures emerging from the slime, each more upright then the one before - reverses itself and marches back into the "primordial soup" from which it came. Folks are supposed to be dumber back then, not smarter. They're supposed to be like that 2001 Space Odyssey ape straining his feeble brainpower to capacity, suddenly realizing he can use dry bones as clubs, and consequently, clubbing everything in sight - all to the ecstasy of Survival of the Fittest evolutionists! Instead, we find case after case in which those ancients without fuss (or power tools) did things that we still don't know how to do.
A Canaanite wall is small potatoes. Likely, the Egyptian pyramids offer most striking example of Smart Ancients Syndrome (SAS). To this day we don't know how they built them. How did they get multi-ton cut blocks over 400 feet up? A gently-sloped inclined plane would be a mile long; "packing it down" enough to support the weight tough to imagine. There's no trace of any ramp today. Surface stones of the pyramids are cut within 0.01 inch of perfectly straight. the gap between them is 0.02 inch - modern technology cannot do better - and filled with a cement stronger than the blocks they join. Height to base is a multiple of pi. Height of a side to its hypotenuse is a Fibonacci multiple. Interior shafts point precisely to various stars at certain times of the year.
One can get lost in pyramid claims. Alas, I haven't the time nor incentive to check them out. Is the Great Pyramid really at the exact center of earth's land mass - that is, does a north-south meridian and an east-west latitude passing through the structure really encounter more land than one drawn anywhere else? It's no wonder that some have thought space aliens built these things, and others have thought they hold some prophetic significance.

But if evolutionists are taken aback by such engineering marvels, they fit well with how the Bible presents matters. According to the Bible, we are not ascending from cavemen. We are descending from Adam. That's why the early Bible record has humans living to 900. Centuries later it is 500. Later still it is 200. Didn't it get down to around 30 in the Dark Ages before applications of hygiene (not discoveries, since the Hebrews knew it 2000 years before) and later scientific advances brought it back up to the present 80, like a correction in a bear market? Those ancients were not inferior to us; they were superior. They were not dumber than us; they were smarter.
Well.... if they were really smarter than us, why didn't have cars? Why didn't they go to the moon? Why didn't they read the genome?  I can hear the objections now. The answer is that knowledge accumulates. The invention of the printing press speeded it up, as did the invention of the computer. So, just as you can accumulate wealth in a declining stock market, collective human accomplishment forges ahead even as our individual capacities deteriorate.
One is reminded of God's words from Genesis 11:6:
Look! They are one people and there is one language for them all, and this is what they start to do. Why, now there is nothing that they may have in mind to do that will be unattainable for them.
They're supposed to be dumber than us. Even Geico knows that. "So easy that a caveman can do it," goes the slogan. It's from the evolutionist model. But against all evolutionist expectations, those "cavemen" weren't all that dumb. We could learn some things from them.
EDIT:  Hmmmm. Not saying it dovetails in all respects, but here is supplemental material from a geologist and carbonate sedimentologist, under the title Ancient People Were Smarter Than Us.



Tom Irregardless and Me          No Fake News but Plenty of Hogwash

Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the book ‘I Don’t Know Why We Persecute Jehovah’s Witnesses—Searching for the Why’ (free).... and in the West, with the book, 'In the Last of the Last Days: Faith in the Age of Dysfunction'


Jason Chamberlain

This also reminds me of CS Lewis' discussion of the arrogance that we have in the modern era. We automatically assume that we have things right and that earlier folks couldn't have possibly understood the Bible correctly. It's ageism, plain and simple.


Hey Tom,

I've always been rather incredulous of the excitement and wonder that some express at the accomplishments of ancient peoples. I don't believe we're terribly brighter than they were, but, likewise, I don't believe we're terribly more dumb.

On the plus side for us, yes, indeed we do have astounding technological discoveries, not the least of which are modern agricultural techniques and medicine. Likewise, since there have been international standardized measures, there has been a steady up-tick in IQ decade-to-decade. Of course, there are a fair number of problems with the "IQ" concept, but as it stands, it's one of the better ways that we have to try to quantify intelligence. And it's important to note that this is not merely "facts accumulated," but measures such other capabilities as processing speed, spatial-orientation ability, creative thinking, etc, etc.

Now, you note that technology is cumulative, and in the very broad sense, that's true. It's likewise true that it can be horribly set back. The Romans and Greeks, among others, were nigh masters of construction with the materials that they had available. When Rome fell and the Dark Ages began, most of this technology was done away with, and much of the learning from those eras was purposefully destroyed (the story of Hypatia and the Bishop of Alexandria come to mind). In some areas, technology stood at a standstill for almost a millennium. In other areas, there were slow advances, and cathedrals certainly began to reach dizzying heights, as too did palaces, but not much else.

Of course, the Dark Ages were largely contained to Europe, at the time. In the power vacuum of the Roman Empire's collapse, warring tribes established themselves and began to adopt and religions which, if we look at what their own leaders said, were typically quite against reason, education, and technology. I realize that this example is from much later, but Martin Luther's characterization of reason as a "whore" that should be drug out to the streets, publicly humiliated, and put to death is apt.

Why do I bring these things up? Well, because I don't think it's necessarily the case that our ancestors were so much smarter than any of us. What they did do was master the set of materials they had available, and in those societies that were more open to trade, to the outside world, and to reason and a sort of proto-science, they did excel with marvels. The Pyramids of the Egyptians, the Parthenon of the Greeks, the Colosseum and aqueducts of the Romans, the cities of the Persians...all of these are quite impressive engineering feats. But it also pays to remember that these societies were powerful, and had the agricultural excess to fund court mathematicians and engineers, whatever supernatural trappings they may have added on to their job. When you live in a desert with a large river near by, it's actually not that hard to dig out trenches to make truly level terrain. With a few sticks and a dedicated eye toward the sky, you can figure out the seasons and cardinal directions to a remarkably accurate degree (the early version of Stonehenge was just that). When you have a people who have to dedicate most of their lives to gathering and raising food...well, you get a lot of really good information about the sky and seasons. Does this mean that our ancestors were smarter than us, because they realized that if you hang a weight off a suspended string, it will show you true vertical? No, not really, I wouldn't say. I would argue that we have remarkably different priorities and experiences (and this is not to say that all of ours are better...I mean, I myself keep a garden, and do amateur and naked-eye astronomy, and cook most of my own food, and make my own bread and, clearly I have some interest in these things).

The real problem, as I would see it, is functional fixedness. That's a psychological term that basically means that when you're given a set of tools, or a situation, you have certain schema built up by your experiences which constrain your most often-used avenues of thoughts. For example, if I were to give a person a candle, a hammer, a box of thumbtacks, a string, needle nose pliers, and a shoe, and ask them to use these tools and only these tools to affix the candle to the wall so that it stands straight up...most people don't think to use the box of thumb tacks itself as a base for the candle because they see it as a container, not structural support.

In the same way, when most modern engineers look at ancient products, they immediately begin thinking about how they would do it would modern tools, and, also because most of them have not had to work with simple tools, they don't see any way that it's possible to do.

Then you have a few individuals who look at those projects and say "well, you know, using a simple level and pulley can lift a lot," and then go out and do things like build coral castles or to-scale replicas of Stonehenge using only wood, rope pulleys, and a lot of wedges.

So, in fact, with a little out-of-the-box thinking, we can build things in ways very similar to the ways that ancient peoples probably worked. Part of the problem is that we aren't entirely sure how these people did what they did - in some cases, they didn't leave a lot of workplace clutter to leave clues, or their written documents (if they existed) have been lost or destroyed. But we can make certain guesses. And, in some cases, we can ask still-existent people about their own ancestors. For example, we marveled over the Easter Island statues and platforms until someone figured out to just ask the few remaining local people who said "oh, yeah, here's how they did it. They chopped down all the trees from the island in the process and the environment totally collapsed, but here's how they did it."

Lastly, I would dispute the notion that "our ancestors were dumb" is actually from the evolutionary model. As I've said again and again, there is no inherent notion of "progress" in evolution - it's just continuing adaptation to shifting environmental factors. I don't know of any modern evolutionary biologist who would state that early humans were idiots. In fact, most of them argue that cognitively, we haven't changed much at all. Our cultures and technological progress has changed, certainly, but the basic mental hardware? Not so much. If you could bring Erastothenes into the modern era, and adapt him to modern technology, I have no doubt he would be a competent geographer and astronomer. Likewise, there are some people that you could take back to our ancestors' time, and I have little doubt that they would be quite competent there as well.

So, to me, the fact that some people in some societies figured out how to exploit the materials they had to their maximum to construct great wonders that dazzle us still today does not mean that they were any smarter. It means they were resourceful, and humans have always been resourceful. It is one of our best and worst traits.

So, to conclude, I think it's a false premise to say that the evolutionary model would predict that our ancestors would be idiots - they had to be smart. We don't have large teeth or claws. We don't have thick body armor or an immune system that makes our skin nearly impermeable to diseases. We had to become quite intelligent to survive. We also had to band together. The evolutionary model, if it said anything at all about our ancestors from so short a time ago, would argue that they would be nigh indistinguishable from us, and that at this point, culture is going to be the most important distinguishing variable.

This has probably been long and rambling, as I have a tendency to be, and there are a lot of other things that I could put into this post for further discussion, but I don't want to waste your time or the wall space. If you want to discuss any of this, I'd be quite happy to. I do enjoy the back-and-forth in a friendly environment.

tom sheepandgoats

Well reasoned again, Ragoth. Thank you.

Of course, I reserve the right to a certain amount of poetic exageration, hence the oversimplified use of "smart" and "dumb." One adapts to environment, as you point out. In the state pen, where inmates have nothing else to do with their time, they become absolutely ingenious at devising weapons and plans of escape.

I don't point to the Canaanite wall or the Great Pyramid as having necessarily proven anything. Nonetheless, those feats correlate well with the Genesis picture of man created perfect mentally and physically, and degenerating over time. It correlates better than with the reverse picture of humans "improving."

"Lastly, I would dispute the notion that "our ancestors were dumb" is actually from the evolutionary model" If it is not, then evolutionists have not worked very hard to correct the record. (and if they themselves didn't create the record, who did?) Thus the popular misconception reflected in the Geico ads, the parade of critters from the slime, and the Space Odyssey 'ape.' I'll grant you, though, that these three examples are from times well before those my post is concerned with.

tom sheepandgoats

Jason: re CS Lewis, does not the Bible itself foretell such a development? For example, 2 Tim 4:3

"For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths."

Also 1 Pet 3:15-16, 1 Tim 4:1-3, Matt 13:24-43. It's really a recurring theme in the Bible.


The ancients languages are very difficult to decipher.

There is no evidence of any primitive human language consisting of grunts and growls.

The Encyclopædia Britannica says about Sumerian, the oldest known written language: "The Sumerian verb, with its various prefixes, infixes, and suffixes, presents a very complicated picture."

I read somewhere that 8 ancient languages are yet to be figured out.

The people that lived 6,000 years ago, seem to be smarter than present evolutionists are.

tom sheepandgoats


I actually thought about adding a paragraph or two on languages to the original post but decided against it because

a) it was long enough
b) it can be the subject of its own post someday

Now I don't have to.



Hey Tom,

I will agree that evolutionary biologists have done little to try to correct the popular notion of "cavemen were dumb." But, by the same token, psychologists and astronomers have done little (aside from maybe Carl Sagan and Neil deGrasse Tyson) that astrology or many other pop-psychology notions are bull. There are some historical and cultural reasons for this: for one, most of these people are engaged in active research, such as many recent papers detailing just how intelligent other recent branches from the homo tree were. Part of the problem is, the people who are in those areas know of this, but every time they get written up for news sources, the headline writer almost always inserts a "Ancestors not so dumb as previously thought!" The scientist sighs and shakes their head, because they have no control over headlines. When you read the papers, if they discuss the notion that "our ancestors are supposed to be less intelligent," it's usually with a qualifier line of "the popular, but incorrect notion."

So, part of the problem is that within the academic circle, the notion isn't there. The other problem is largely cultural - some of these ideas are so deeply ingrained, it wouldn't matter how many scientists complain about it. You have James Randi and Carl Sagan, for years, debunking astrology and publicly giving demonstrations on how wrong it is...yet...every newspaper still has an astrology column and many people still identify themselves by their astrological sign.

Besides that point, how exactly would they dispel these notions? A public debate? Who would televise it, and more importantly in some ways, who would watch it? How many people would watch it and then just say "Eh, who cares?" and go on with their pre-conceived notion anyway? I've not arguing against scientific advocacy - some people do it quite well, but it's a hard job. Tyson has stated repeatedly how much hate mail he gets over the whole issue of Pluto being declassified as a planet. There are Facebook groups, for example, which argue quite stridently that "Pluto will always be a planet to me." Now, how much can a person really care about whether or not an ice ball is planet? Apparently a lot. How much more do people care about their sense of self - being specially created, being at the center of the solar system, being at the center of the universe, being smarter and better than those who came before you? The Copernican Revolution continues to reverberate - we are not the center of the solar system, we are not the center of the universe. With relativity we understand that our observations are likely valid across the entire universe because there is no special vantage point - the laws are measurable as the same at all places. Evolutionary theory, for many people, deals a devastating blow to the idea of being special, but personally, I find this strange - I find it all the more special that out of all the possible people or creatures that could be here in my place, this particular group of molecules, put together in such a dizzying array, that makes me up, is here. How many Newtons or Einsteins could be here instead of me? By the same token, how many Hitlers or Stalins? But instead of any of them, here I am, the latest bud in an unbroken line through all of my ancestors that reaches back to the very first self-replicating molecule, born out of the dust of dying stars. To appropriate Darwin, there is grandeur in this view of life, however hard it may be to admit that I am not "special" in any "special" sense.

Briefly, as to languages, yes, Sumerian, in particular, is very difficult to decipher, but this is largely from it's own evolution. The earliest written records we have of Sumerian are mostly pictographs - small carved images that are meant to represent something in the world, usually recorded on potsherds and the like - basically transaction records for small kings. Later, they began to incrementally develop a phonetic alphabet, and for a long time these two were used interchangeably in the same document, which, admittedly, makes it hard to read. There are some later documents that are entirely in a phonetic alphabet, but the majority are a hodge-podge of pictographs and phonetics. This shouldn't be too surprising, as they were one of the first cultures to develop writing - they had nothing to base it on, as later cultures did, and so it developed as a very messy system to try to express, in writing, the entirety of their language. Complicating this picture is the vastly incomplete record we have. A few large storehouses of scholars who copied texts, some random scattered documents...that's about it. The later developments - Akkadian, for one, are a bit easier to read, but most scholars have little interest in these languages and so they haven't been studied very well until recently, when some of the larger records have been found.

It's as though you didn't know Chinese, but you knew Japanese to a fair extent. You are given a box of documents written in Chinese (on stone tablets for some reason), but the vast majority are broken. The few intact records you have are mostly one-liners recorded on sherds that detail some transaction, "so-and-so owes so-and-so this many sheep." The writing system isn't consistent across the documents, but you're told you have to work out the entirety of the language and construct a useful grammar book. It's a daunting task and full of pitfalls.

To extend that example a bit, suppose you're from the future and the Chinese haven't existed for millennia. To make matters worse, the Japanese, and any other culture that used the Chinese writing system as an inspiration, are also gone. You have no extant peoples you can check your work against. It is complicated, but I think it's complicated for historical and informational reasons, more likely.

I look forward to more.


tom sheepandgoats

First of all, I have an image of Tyson on my dartboard. You know very well that Pluto is a planet, per the well-known principle of "once a planet, always a planet" and I refuse to entertain any hate speech to the contrary. (smile):

"psychologists and astronomers have done little [to show] that astrology or many other pop-psychology notions are bull."

The analogy is not really parallel. Psychologists and astronomers are not responsible for notions of pop-psychology. Evolutionists are responsible for SAS. I appreciate the practical obstacles you presented to setting the record straight. Still, I don't know that they try very hard, or are inclined to, since in this case the error furthers their overall view. (and even headline writers are usually science editors of some is their field of interest...yet they are still under the popular misconception.)

Not to mention Romulus Crowe the scientist,
with whom I used to frequently exchange comments, (see his comments in the Piltdown post) and who investigates matters of "pop psychology" (ghosts, in this case) using the scientific method.

It seems a bit like Piltdown man to me, where scientists smelled a rat almost from the beginning, I'm told. Nonetheless, the misconception continued for decades until it was finally why could't they have done it from the outset? I don't claim it's conspiracy, mind you, but one suspects that their much-touted passion for facts and proof cools when the error favors their overall view:

Not to lay too much stress on this point, for you can easily find countering examples from the religious camp. Yet (I'm sure you've gleaned this by now) JWs maintain that all religions are not equal. Most of us became JWs precisely because theirs is the voice of reason among religious notions. You mentioned the religionist's alarm at not being the center of the universe. JWs are free from that misconception, as discussed toward the end here:


Hey Tom,

Pluto may always be a planet in my heart of hearts, but, unfortunately, it doesn't have the gravity to sweep out it's orbit. For right now, that's a major part of the definition, but, of course, that may change later. To a lot of astronomers, it really doesn't matter aside from the fact that if Pluto is technically a planet, then somewhere around another hundred objects in our solar system are also planets. That gets confusing.

I would argue the point of "responsibility," at this to this extent: while psychologists are not, directly, responsible for "pop-psychology" notions, misunderstandings of psychology are their cores. For example, all the pop-Freudian language out there. Or pop-quantum mechanics. It seems really popular right now. Every New Age or shady-guy-with-something-to-shill wants to use the phrase quantum mechanics or try to claim quantum physical properties for whatever they're trying to sell. "The Secret" comes to mind as the foremost example, behind Depak Chopra.

So, I would say that misunderstandings of evolutionary theory are to blame...especially that ever-popular diagram of monkey-to-man that graces so many textbooks. Unfortunately, scientists don't get much input into textbooks. School boards do. And if you've ever been involved in that process, or know anyone who has been, or read about quickly get a sense that you have a large group of people who are competent administrators but don't really understand most of the subjects they're reviewing. Or, on the other hand, you have some people who do understand the subject and try to get the correct information into the books...but getting either the entire board to agree to those standards, or, even harder, getting the textbook company to print it...that's the hard part. Thus, we still get that idiotic diagram that no evolutionary scientist has ever endorsed as accurate. So we're back at the practical problem - how does the scientist convince the public that their long-entrenched opinion, which is reinforced by textbooks, most of which are rather poorly constructed or thought-out, is actually thoroughly misunderstood at best, or absolutely wrong?

Look up the video of Richard Feynman talking about his reactions reading a physics textbook. It's pretty standard, but, again, even Feynman couldn't get that changed. But that's the problem with any large publishing outfit - change is always slow.

As for Piltdown and the long time it took to expose the hoax...well, the major problem was that nearly everyone only had access to bone molds instead of the actual bones. When you have only plaster casts...well, it gets hard to make a solid case for something being a fake, even if you highly suspect it. Only when the original bones were finally released and studied did people say "Yes, obviously, fakes. Thank you," and left it at that. Again, that's part of the whole thing of science - it changes everyday, but proving studies or findings incorrect always takes time, because statistically, there are any number of reasons why you could fail to reject the null hypothesis (i.e., no relationship or "nothing to see here"). You have to build up an impressive dossier of negative evidence to discount a significant positive finding. That's just the math of it. It really sucks for the people who know that something's wrong with a study, but that's the process of science. It's also the problem with paranormal investigation, but that would be the subject of another post.

As for the Jehovah's Witnesses and the center of the universe, that's all well and good. Of course, if you're an optimist, we are at the center of the universe - everything is expanding away from us. If you're a pessimist, there is no center of the universe, as everywhere is expanding away from everywhere else. Fun with math.

Anyway, good to hear from you.


tom sheepandgoats

"Of course, if you're an optimist, we are at the center of the universe - everything is expanding away from us."

No. I'm offended.

Is it something about my breath?


Hah, nice.

With some of the people I know in Chicago, it wouldn't be a surprise.

Tobias Fong

I wanted to comment here, but I don't exactly have the knowledge and expertise on this subject. Nonetheless, I do know a bit on the Japanese language. They borrowed heavily from the Chinese, which resulted in the Kanji today. Acutally, they developed their own language, and one of their oldest texts, the Kojiki and the Nihongi were written in Japanese and Chinese respectively. Japan borrowed a lot from the Song Dynasty during the Heian period, and it took them centuries to perfect their written language. In fact, the Japanese language that they used today was only perfected after the Second World War, if I remember correctly.

As for the whole thing, I agree that our ancestors are not dumber, and could possibly be a lot smarter. As everyone has pointed out, they managed to build the pyramids, the Easter Island, the Stonehedge, etc and written so many languages we have yet to decipher them. Technology doesn't come from solely being smart. It came from being...lazy. Usually, a guy would become lazy, ask, "Is there a more convenient way, or easier way of doing this?" Hence, the vacuum cleaner was invented to replace the broom, the elevator to replace the stairs, etc. Of course, it takes ingenuity and creativity to invent such things in the first place, but that does not automatically make us smarter.

There are old stories of ancient civilization that were so advanced that they could perform what we perceive as magic, but always, they wiped themselves in an apocalyptic nuclear war or something. I don't know how true they are but those stories give a certain food for thought. Either that or I've been reading too much Spooksville.

tom sheepandgoats

Technology makes us dumber?

I am old enough to still know a few buzzards older than myself who refuse to use calculators, insisting on paper and pencil. And I recall there was a furor when calulators were invented. Schools did not want to allow them in class on grounds kids would forget how to do basic math. Which....more or less....they did.

Tobias Fong

No, I didn't meant to say that technology makes us dumber. Just lazier. And perhaps, more spoiled. In the past, people would walk miles to reach a destination. Now, they would complain if they aren't driven there in a car.

Before the elevator was invented, people climbed dozens of flights of stairs. Now, when it breaks down, they whine about climbing six storeys or something.

It depends on how you look at it, though.

tom sheepandgoats

The joke here is for parents to berate their lazy offspring "Back in my day," they'll say, "if we wanted to change the TV channel, we WALKED!

Bill in Detroit

Hey Tom ... wanna have some REAL fun? This guys' DVD will wipe the snarky smile off a whole bar full of Sumerians and their smelly Canaanite cousins, too!

Oh ... I'm soooo sorry ... that's already been done by a small migrating tribe of Israelites. (Who 'got by with a little help from their friend')

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