Natural History and Paleontology II
Vedic accounts offer descriptions of sentient beings exhibiting human consciousness present at the beginning of the cosmic creation billions of years ago. While Thompson acknowledges the conflict between this view and presently accepted scientific theory, he also wonders to what extent socio-cultural intellectual “knowledge filters” could influence modern analyses.
TRANSCRIPT: Natural History and Paleontology II. Origins Seminar 10: San Diego - c. 1986 / (010)
...Paleontology. So the case made by the scientists is that the evidence of fossils shows that you have human evolution, and they trace out a history of human evolution from an ape-like being called Australopithecus up through various stages to supposedly modern man. And they will say that about, if you go back 2 million years, you would have this Australopithecus. They identify two types basically of Australopithecus, robust and gracile, which means lightweight, and then they will say that there is something called Homo habilis, which is some kind of slightly less ape-like entity, and then Homo erectus. This Homo erectus is an interesting sort of being. The general idea is that from the neck down Homo erectus is entirely human in anatomy, and from the neck up he looks rather like an ape, with very massive jaws, protruding brow ridges, very little forehead and so on. So, this Homo erectus lasted for about a million and a half years according to their records, and they all say it died out about 300,000 years ago roughly speaking.
Then there is what they call archaic Homo sapiens now, and that includes the Neanderthal man, which is perhaps the most famous of these beings. The Neanderthal man though oddly enough had larger brains than modern human beings, but they looked much rougher in terms of their physical appearance. But then as far as modern human beings go, supposedly they appeared on the scene about 35,000 years ago, as recently as that, and when they appeared, they appeared with a highly developed culture, at least as far as cave dwellers go. That is, in Spain and France there are paintings found on the insides of caves and these paintings show a very high degree of artistic skill. Mainly they’re paintings of animals and they show perspective, and very delicate shading, and so on. And somehow, they've lasted there for thousands of years, apparently because the climate in the caves is such as to preserve them. So, that's the basic story that they tell.
So as far as Vedic literature is concerned, the picture we have is interesting. As I was saying, in the Bhagavad-gita in the verse where Krsna says that he spoke the message of Bhagavad-gita to the sun-god and this was passed down to Maharaja Iksvaku and the different saintly kings. In the purport to that verse Srila Prabhupada points out that the events of Lord Krsna speaking the message of Bhagavad-gita to the sun-god, which took place of course on the sun planet, occurred about 120 million years ago at least. And Vaivasvata Manu has in fact been manu for about that time. So, Vaivasvata Manu – Vaivasvata simply means the son of Vivasvan, and his actual name is Sraddhadeva if I'm not mistaken – so, King Iksvaku was the son of Vaivasvata Manu, but he appeared on the earth in this Treta-yuga. Srila Prabhupada points that out in the purport.
So that only takes you back about a couple million years, because you can calculate it. The length of a Kali-yuga is 432,000 years. So, the length of a Dvapara-yuga is 864,000, so you go back five thousand, then 864,000 and then the Treta-yuga lasts, well three times the Kali-yuga. So, what's that? 1,296,000 years is the span of a Treta-yuga. So, at the beginning of that period this Maharaja Iksvaku was reigning on the earth, and not much is said about the history that occurred before then, although things various things presumably were going on. So, during that period of Treta-yuga, there's the advent of Lord Ramacandra who appeared in the dynasty coming down from Maharaja Iksvaku, which was called the dynasty of the sun-god because Iksvaku was the son of Vaivasvata who was the son of the sun-god. So, the Ramayana gives quite a bit of detail concerning all these events, and interestingly enough it describes a situation on the earth in which there was very elaborately developed civilization. But at the same time there’s large, there are large areas of wilderness, because when Lord Ramachandra was banished to the forest, of course that's the main thing that happens in the Ramayana, that Lord Ramachandra because of some circumstances becomes banished to the forest. So, he went over a very large territory in this forest region all the way to the southern tip of India practically through unbroken forest, because presumably he entered the forest in the vicinity of Ayodhya, which is up in the northern part of India, I believe, and then of course went all the way down to the southern tip of India where he crossed over to Lanka.
So, he encountered various races of beings that were half-human and half-ape, or which were monkey-like in form. And in fact, he made alliance with them to help him fight against Ravana, so the situation there was there is this race of beings called Vanaras, and Vanaras simply means dwellers of the forest because vana is forest. So, they were essentially like monkeys you might say. But they were intelligent and they could speak and they had some social order. For example, they were led by a King Sugriva. So, they were organized enough to have kings, but at the same time their material culture wasn't very advanced. For example, they fought with clubs and rocks and things like that. So, Lord Ramachandra allied with these beings, so that is the scene on the earth which is described. So, the question is to what extent, you might say, is that compatible with the things that the paleontologists are saying?
Well the basic point we wanted to make about this whole subject of paleontology is that first of all, what the paleontologists are saying is very much uncertain, and it's always subject to being revised by new findings. For example, in the magazine here we have a discovery from Mexico of projectile points, that is like spear points, which were dated to be 250,000 years old. Now these spear points are the same type that are associated with modern man in Europe at about 35,000 years ago, and that's supposedly when modern man first appeared. And supposedly human beings didn't come into the new world until modern man appeared and migrated up into the North and learned how to live in the Arctic region, and then crossed over from Asia into Alaska across what they call the Bering Strait land bridge, and then filtered down through North America and down into South America. So the standard date for that is about 13,000 years for the first appearance of man in the New World; and in fact not too long ago there was an article in Nature which reaffirmed this, that some people have been claiming that man was older in the New World but the article said man has only been in the New World since the Holocene which means, well, that's about 15,000 years. So here we have a find of these spear points in Mexico which are dated at 250,000 years, which is quite different. And the find was not made by some kind of anti-scientific person who was out to disprove evolution or something like that. Actually, the things were found by an archaeologist but weren't dated by her. She just identified them in that area of strata and then later a dating team from the US Geological Survey went through and dated the strata and they came up with a figure of 250,000 years, and at that point it became clear that there was a problem. Actually, I don't know if they even knew that the artifacts had been found there when they did the dating, maybe they did. They knew?
RLT: So, in any case, the establishment rejected those finds because a find like that would require quite a revision of the whole idea of evolution: to have modern man in America 250,000 years when in the old world he wasn't there supposedly before 35,000 years. So, that would be a big upset. So, upsets like this are generally discouraged; and in fact we actually called the lady who did the original investigation of these spear points because we wanted to use a photograph in this magazine – you notice we didn't use a photograph. We used a drawing but what happened was, actually, Madhavendra Puri called her and she said you could use a photograph if you give a date of 30,000 years at most for these spear points. But if you use the lunatic fringe date of 250,000 years then you won't have my permission. So, the interesting point is that nobody ever measured a date of 30,000 years, that's not experimental data – that was never measured. What they did measure was 250,000 years. But if you mention that you're considered to be lunatic fringe and if you mention this made-up date which nobody measured, which nobody observed experimentally, then that's okay. So, this is going on, that's a good thing to keep in mind.
We have another find here which is also curious. This was from Brazil and it's a skullcap which was found in Brazil, although being just like the Homo erectus type beings, very thick bones and low forehead and so forth. So, that was found in Brazil but such things aren't supposed to be in the new world at all not to speak of South America. So, that also completely upsets the picture. So, the point is the picture that they present is subject to alteration when new finds are made and very frequently the new finds become rejected if they don't fit the picture. So, we've looked into the way they treat data – they have about let's say a hundred skulls that they refer to, to make their whole case for human evolution from start to finish. So we did a survey of that just to see what the information was and how they dealt with it. And the fact is that cases which are agreeable with their basic viewpoint, which usually means a skull of the Homo erectus type found in some old strata, say a million or 50,000 years ago or something like that, with such a find generally, there's easy acceptance. Typically, you can't find the details of who found it or where; even if you look through the published technical literature and search like anything, it's not possible to find that information, which is curious, because if you look at a find which disagrees with the standard views, you find it's scrutinized like anything and there's criticism given as to the way the evidence was dealt with.
For example, Louis Leakey once found something that seemed too old in Africa. It seemed like a relatively modern human jaw and it was found, what? in lower Pleistocene strata, was that Geraru? Yeah. So, this was too old by far for a modern human jaw. But he had found it in a certain area of strata – he actually excavated it from the rock himself – and he located the strata, observed all the strata above and below it and exactly identified just where the thing came from. And he was supposedly a professional paleontologist, an expert in this whole field. So, he gave this report in England and this scientist named Boswell, however, insisted on it and came all the way back to Africa and he required him to take him to the site and prove that he actually found it where he said he did. But then there was a series of mishaps and he wasn't able to identify the site because it seemed that the camera with which he took pictures of the site had a light leak so his photographs didn't come out; and he'd driven iron pegs into the ground to identify where the site was, but apparently the Masai tribesman had dug up the pegs to use as spear points. So he couldn't find the site, so therefore he was absolutely blasted in the pages of Nature magazine and his whole idea, his whole find was rejected.
So, on the other hand, there is case after case of these Homo erectus type of skulls which are either found in circumstances which you can't find out about now. No matter how much you look, you can't find how they were found or where or by whom; or else you find that they were found by a native fossil collector who brought them into a scientist and said: “Well I found it over in such-and-such a place.” Or in one case they were found by somebody who is digging for, I think, bat manure in a cave and he found it and brought it in to some scientists; or in another case it was found by Greek villagers in a cave, but nobody can say just where the cave was. They're not sure what cave it was actually – but these are accepted. So the basic point is that the whole treatment of evidence is unreliable.
So, there are other cases which do exist in which there was all kinds of testimonial evidence concerning the exact situation of the find, but then the finds are rejected. So, the situation is quite problematic. However, it's also true that in the Vedic literature, there's a description of a situation in which there were intelligent ape-like beings living. So, of course one cannot say that the things they're finding correspond to those beings, that would be completely speculative, but there's certainly room for other ways of looking at the past than the current scientific picture. And in this magazine, we brought up another curious point here, namely, that there are even reports of sort of half-ape, half-human beings living today in the area of central Asia, from Mongolia to the Pamir mountains, in that area, which is pretty far from civilization. There are reports like that and in fact we have a book on the subject written by an anthropologist from England, which gives all kinds of evidence in the form of all sorts of different sightings, including sightings by Russian army officers and so on and so forth. And plus, there's a local tradition concerning these beings that goes back for, since time immemorial. So one can consider a picture in which various kinds of beings, including uncivilized species of human beings, have been existing in the world for a very long time. And those are also created species which have a particular karmic situation, and they can even still be existing today, that's definitely a possibility. So, that's the basic point we're making here. Are there any questions or comments? Yeah?
Answer: Well, not that man originated in India.
Q: That was around the main civilization.
A: The main civilization was always centered in India and radiated out from there.
A: Well, you see, human beings came to the earth from higher planets – that is the view point in the Vedic literature. King Iksvaku is an example: he's the son of Manu – it's not clear perhaps exactly where Manu is living – but he's the son of the sun-god who lives in the sun. So the grandfather lives on the sun and the grandson lives on the earth. So if a being is going to come down to the earth from the sun, then certainly such beings could easily travel all over the earth. That is, the first human beings who came down were more like demigods than human beings. For them to travel anywhere on the earth would be no problem. They wouldn't need ships, they wouldn't have to walk on the land, probably they had sufficient mystic powers to just fly through the sky in the demigod fashion. So the idea is that lower types of human beings were descended from the higher types through a process of degradation. It's exactly the opposite of the evolutionary idea.
Now there are various descriptions in the Bhagavatam. The thing is the Bhagavatam does not give very much chronology. That's been pointed out, the purpose of the Bhagavatam wasn't to give a chronological record anyway. So, the main purpose of the Bhagavatam was to take out sections from ancient histories which were, had a significance with relation to Krsna's appearance on the earth, or which dealt with the pastimes of some particular great devotee. So, there was no attempt really to give a detailed history going step-by-step except in the Ninth Canto, which describes the dynasties leading right up to Krsna, since of course that's in relation with Krsna. But there are occasional mentions that are kind of suggestive. For example, it's mentioned that when Pritu Maharaj became the king on the earth, that was the beginning of organized towns and cities, and organized agriculture and trade – that's actually mentioned in the Bhagavatam. So, it's mentioned in some other Puranas, I've seen other references to it. So, it doesn't say exactly how people were living before then, but at a certain point though, cities became organized. That doesn't mean that the people were barbaric before then. It may mean that they were so civilized, in fact more or less it does mean that they were so civilized, that they didn't need all these sorts of official systems in order to keep their civilization in good running order. For example, in the Satya-yuga, it's described that most people were essentially yogis and they spent most of their time meditating; and they would just eat fruits or something like that, that were readily available; and they wouldn't bother to build anything, practically not even a thatched hut. So, of course they wouldn't leave any historical traces but at the same time they were on what you call a super-civilized platform. For example, they would memorize the Vedic literatures, that was standard in those days, and they would engage in high philosophical discussions and so forth. So, that was the Satya-yuga type of human society.
So, when we speak of, say, a find of some spear points in Mexico at 250,000 years, of course anybody who is using spear points would necessarily be, from the Vedic point of view, rather degraded culture, because the whole point of spear points is that you stick the spears into animals to kill them so as to eat them. So, that would have been a race of hunters, you can see how the hunters are regarded in the Vedic literature. You consider the story of Mrigari, the hunter. So, that would mean that, let's say if this find was correct, that in Mexico 250,000 years ago there were some hunters going around as there were in the new world up until recently. So, this is all quite possible; but as for how they originated, the Vedic idea would be that ultimately, they came from higher civilized races by a process of degradation. Also, the Vedic literature would say the European races came about as descendants of Vedic Ksatriyas who were driven out of India, because it said that there were Vedic Ksatriyas who deviated from the Vedic tradition. So Parasurama, who was actually an incarnation of Visnu, drove them out and so that's the explanation as to how Indo-European languages are spoken in Europe. So, they arrived somehow ultimately in Europe and in due course of time they appeared as Greeks and Romans and Goths and Vikings and so forth. So that’s the… Yeah?
A: Well there's an establishment and it's grown up. And the people in that establishment are the people who decide what is accepted concerning the origin of man. They all have positions in universities mostly, Richard Leakey is an exception. His claim to fame is that he's the father of Louis, he's the son of Louis Leakey. Plus, he made some great discoveries, so he doesn't have a university position. But mostly they’re university professors and they're an established club. They all know each other and they decide what's what. That's generally the system in science, any field of science is dominated by a small group of people. It could be as small as ten people who control everything; and the way they control things is by a controlling publication, that is they get to decide who can express himself. Because in science, if you just talk somewhere like in this class, it doesn't count for anything. If you even go to a university and arrange to give a lecture, that doesn't count for anything either. What you say counts only if you publish it in official journals and textbooks. But to do that, you have to get past the review boards of the journals and the official publishers have to agree to publish your textbook. For example, if you decide to write your own textbook and you publish it yourself, which you can do if you have enough money, or you just go to, you know, Bantam Books or something like that, and get them to publish it, then that counts for nothing. But it has to be published by the official people, so that's how the scientists control things. And then they control the educational process starting with the universities and then from there, the high schools are controlled because they're the teacher’s colleges, and there are the boards of people who decide from the higher levels. So, I don't know how many people it is in paleoanthropology, but you could fit all of them in a small room probably. That is the people who really decide what's what.
A: Well, depends on how much propaganda we make. Because, you know, we can criticize for example the Christian creationists. But they've actually made quite a bit of propaganda and influenced a lot of people in the general area of the fundamentalist Christians. They have a whole school going, now they have a graduate school training up people in their viewpoint. They have all kinds of different books and they make quite an impact in a certain segment of the American population. So, it's a question of how much propaganda one makes, because these authorities can only control what people think if they're able to keep controlling the media of communication. So, their method of control is that they control things at the top in the universities and then the establishment follows the universities with the teacher's college and the high school teachers and grade school teachers and so on. Plus, then there are the popular magazines with their editorial staffs who are keyed in with the colleges and so on. So, that's how the system works. But that can only control what people think and what they hear as long as nobody else is really trying to present something else on a big scale. But that can be done. So, if we can't manage to present alternative ideas on a big scale then they'll never have much of any impact. So, in that case one needn't bother really, as a matter of fact, because what's the use of, you know, us presenting an alternative idea if nobody ever really hears about it. But if one makes a lot of propaganda then it can have a big impact.
A: Oh yeah, there's politics. I recently went to this conference in Japan in mathematical biology which was at least an experience, to see how things work, and I would say that the field of mathematical biology is fairly small. But I'd say that's controlled by about ten people and most of them were there at the meeting, and you could see they were a little clique of people, they all stood together in a group and you could see they were deciding everything and citing everything that was going to be done. And in that field, you have to please them if you're going to get anywhere. If you displease them, then just forget about it. You're just out, you don't exist. So that's the way it's done. Yeah.
A: Well as far as these official scientific groups are concerned, I don't think there's been any reception of Origins. You see their policy is that if something is small and it doesn't pose much of an obvious threat, then the best strategy is to ignore it. Because the idea is you give credit to something if you respond to it. And so they'll say: “Well we're the establishment, so if we respond to something then that's a message to the people in general that that's something significant and worth responding to. So, therefore their policy is, as long as possible don't respond to it. So, they did this with the Christian creationists up to the point when the creationists started passing legislation in the US Congress, not the US Congress, state legislatures such as Arkansas and Louisiana. They passed bills restricting the teaching of evolution in schools both in Arkansas and Louisiana. They could do this because in those states there's a big fundamentalist constituency. So at that point, the scientific establishment changed its policy on the creationists because up till then they'd been acting as though they didn't exist. And at that point they started producing massive propaganda against them. But as far as Origins is concerned, that doesn't exist. That's the situation, yeah?
A: : Well it's tied in with the government nowadays. Since World War II, science has been tied in with the government in a very big way. But that mainly deals with physical science, because when it comes down to it, the government is more interested in bombs than anything else. Evolution is significant, but bombs are really what they're really concerned about. But, so in the area of physics, physical science, there's big money, hundreds of millions of dollars. They build particle accelerators you know as big as counties these days. You know, they keep building them bigger and bigger and you wonder what the limits are going to be. Pretty soon, they're going to build a particle accelerator tube that goes around the equator or something. So, they have hundreds of millions of dollars, even billions, but in other fields, there's an establishment which is, well let's say, well represented on government levels. There's the triple-AS which is the American Association for the Advancement of Science and they essentially govern science in America. And they're tied in with the government quite closely, they have their offices in Washington and essentially…
A: Well, cosmology, you know, is only recently become scientifically respectable, the Big Bang. That has happened since, let's see we give the date in here. It's the time of the discovery of that blackbody radiation as they call it. It's only the last few years – prior to that time cosmology was considered to be pretty speculative by the scientists. That is, that they regarded that as sort of armchair speculation and not serious science and, so this man was probably speaking along those lines. More recently, it's become a big deal. So what time is it now? Six.
A: Well as far as the remains are concerned, there are very few remains, first of all, of human-like beings at all. The total comes to about a hundred skulls. So, how many Homo erectus skulls are those?
Assistant: It should be about 25, 30.
RLT: 25, 30 Homo erectus skulls. And Australopithecus?
Assistant: About 20.
RLT: 20 and so that covers about 50 and what are the rest?
Assistant: There’s about, say, 40 transitional skulls… and about 10 Neanderthals.
RLT: So, we've got about 10 Neanderthal and 40 transitional. So that's the situation. There are a couple of finds of skulls which are fully modern but unacceptably old. But there's not very much like that. There are finds of artifacts that are way too old and some of these, as I was saying the other day, are found in circumstances that seem completely inexplicable, that is, artifacts found at times when supposedly mammals weren't even existing. As I was saying, the scientists of course totally reject this kind of find. But they even reject finds like this Castenedolo skull. Castenedolo skull, I'll just describe that briefly. It's found in Pliocene deposits in Italy. So, Pliocene came before the Pleistocene, so that means more than 2 million years ago. So that means older than most of the Australopithecus beings which were like apes basically. So, now the scientists will say that the reason the, they don't argue that the bones were found at the level of Pliocene strata, they agree that that's no doubt true. But they will say the way they got there was that it was a grave, and people dug down and put the body at that level and filled up the hole. It's what they call an intrusive burial, so that's their argument. However, the original discoverers say that they saw the strata above the skeleton. And the strata weren't disturbed, because if you're going to dig a hole you have to dig all the way down through. So, all the strata should be disturbed above the body. But still someone could argue: “Well, maybe they didn't look closely enough, maybe they really were disturbed.” But then another point was the bones were broken and scattered along that horizontal level. That at a certain level marked Pliocene, the bones were scattered over 30 feet or something.
Assistant: ...scattered over 60 ft, and some over a smaller area.
RLT: But they were scattered?
RLT: They weren't all together in a piece.
Assistant: No, they were scattered.
RLT: And the skull was broken, of the lady?
RLT: Yeah. So, one can ask: “If it was a burial, how did the body get like that?” Because normally you wouldn't dig a really wide hole and then cut up the body into hunks and scatter it and then fill all that in. Normally, one wouldn't do that and the skull was…, that we have a picture of here. You know part of it is missing, that's this picture. The facial part is missing apparently. So why is that if it was a burial? So, this is an example, but there are very few examples like that. So, that's the kind of evidence that exists; and there are, as I say, artifacts that are unusual but they're very few of those also, that's the situation. One more and we better stop.
Q: Just curious, there are various methods of dating...
A: Oh, well that's a whole subject. I don’t know if I should go into dating now…, well there are definite problems with the dating methods. I would say that dating methods can only be significant on a statistical basis, because any given date could be completely off. That's definitely proven. And it's a whole scandal actually, because dates are often rejected, because they don't fit any reasonable picture at all. So, they just reject those values and if dates do fit a reasonable picture, they accept them. But that's not the way you're supposed to treat evidence. Just like if you do a college physics lab and you're supposed to measure a certain value – and in the books it comes out to a certain number – if every measurement you make that comes close to that you write down and every measure you make that goes away from that you ignore, then that's known as cheating. But that's done with these dates. However, if they have any significance it’s on a broad statistical level. That is, if you do a hundred dates of one hunk of rock and they average around a certain mean value, then they tell you something. But one date doesn’t tell you anything.