Living (and eating) like a caveman?
Interest surges in castaways and survivors
The idea of mankind’s descent from ‘primitive hunter-gatherers’ has long fascinated Western society. It used to justify an innate racial smugness towards other people groups. Being less industrialized, these seemed more like those from whom ‘we’ had allegedly progressed, so they were ‘obviously’ less evolved, thus inferior.
However, the stresses of industrial society also led to a degree of envy of the ‘primitive’ lifestyle. The idea of the ‘noble savage’, free of hang-ups and in close touch with nature, has surfaced repeatedly. Maybe our supposed caveman ancestors were happier and more relaxed than we are today?
With the even more hectic lifestyle of the post-industrial world, of late [this refers to 2001 when this editorial originally appeared—CW] this theme has emerged again in a spate of TV shows about various types of wilderness survival. Also in the blockbuster movie Castaway. Tom Hanks’ character is the epitome of the hassled information-age executive, in stark contrast to the solitary no-tech island life forced upon him.
Our evolutionized society sees the evidence for stone-tool cultures as indicating a stage in which our brains had not evolved far enough. But biblical history makes better sense of the evidence. Metal-working etc. was discovered shortly after Adam’s creation (Gen. 4:22). In time, progressive discoveries were passed on to each generation (through a process unrelated to evolutionary ideas of biological change), leading to today’s level of techno-stress.1 But the dispersion-catastrophe of Babel forced some of our ancestors to abandon much of their culture’s previous level of technology.
Hanks’ character, similarly forced away from the accumulated goods and know-how of a civilization, replays in miniature how small, isolated post-Babel groups might have been plunged into a ‘stone age’. Though highly intelligent, acquiring fire and stone tools takes him great effort and ingenuity. His technology would have remained even more ‘primitive’ if not for metal items conveniently washed ashore.
We do appear to be designed (not by evolutionary randomness and selection, but by intelligent programming) for a slower-paced lifestyle. The ‘return to nature’ impulse may carry in it echoes of Eden, a yearning which somehow recognizes that ‘nature’, while devastated by the Curse, still contains some of its primeval goodness.
And speaking of ‘cavemen’, a number of diets today, recommending proportions of the basic food groups different from the norm, claim to suit the ‘way we were designed by evolution’. Since our forefathers ate this way, the thinking goes, natural selection will have ensured this is better for us. At the same time, some diets doing the church rounds, with appropriately Christian-sounding labels, also claim to be ideal for us; since their makeup is supposed to be the most Edenic, we were designed for such diets, we’re told..
At first glance, since the Bible is true, it would seem obvious that a ‘Bible’ diet must be better for us than an ‘evolution’ diet. But it may not be that simple. First, no evolutionist can hope to be certain what his or her alleged ‘stone-age’ ancestors ate. If a particular ‘cave man diet’ did turn out to be healthier, it could be explained equally well in a biblical framework. Because, though we know Adam and Eve were vegetarian, when we look at all of biblical history, we find we cannot be certain of the protein-carbohydrate-fat ratios in their diet , among a host of other nutritionally relevant issues. Consider:
The Fall into sin. Nature, including its plants, was cursed, and much of it was changed. Also, humanity was expelled from the Garden. Were the same plants outside? If not, how do we know the makeup of the ones left behind?
The global Flood. Fossils show that a huge percentage of plant kinds have become extinct. God’s permission to eat meat after the Flood (Gen. 9:3) may be because many of these contained more protein or other nutrients than today’s plants.2
Christians assessing dietary issues would thus be advised to consider the overall quality of the evidence, unfettered by evolutionary baggage or an inadequate understanding of mankind’s true (biblical) history. Whether it concerns dietary fads or vaccine issues, evidence matters because truth matters. And concern for truth is a major plank of the Christian worldview.
Creation magazine, in defending and proclaiming that worldview in the service of the Gospel, is meant to promote clearer thinking in many different areas. Enjoy this issue—and pass it around widely.
- This was not a ‘steady’ process. The huge ‘spurt’ in science/technology in countries which embraced the Reformation shows the importance of a biblical worldview—and the subsequent blessing of God. Return to text.
- Also, many of today’s fruits and vegetables are very different from the ‘parent kinds’ from which they were bred. This is not necessarily a bad thing, as we were given dominion. Many ‘wild’ varieties of our food plants are nearly inedible, and not always more nutritious. Mutations losing information add to the picture that we cannot reliably reconstruct a fully Edenic diet. Return to text.