The Creative Spark: How Imagination Made Humans Exceptional

Continuing the discussion from Did humans leave Africa earlier than previously thought? Discovery of ancient tools in China:

Has anyone had a chance to look into this book? It was recommended by Darrel Falk.

From what I gather, It supports @Agauger view and @Patrick’s contention that “humanity” arose a long time ago with Homo erectus. It also supports a notion of the Fall connected to the rise of civilization. Recently, I think this book correctly argues, we see the origin of war and an increase in violence. Before that point, however, violence was reduced and it was a much different, and generally more balanced, sort of world.

This story runs the risk of the “noble savage” fallacy, but it also my be well grounded. I’m curious if anyone has read this book and can comment more.

According to Fuentes (Chair, Anthropology/Univ. of Notre Dame), an essential component of human nature is our ability to work the trove of materials made available to us by virtue of our “symbolic inheritance.” Our creativity is thereby an essential component of what makes us human; so, too, is our ability to work together in creative ways for creative ends, for what the author calls a “cocktail of creativity and collaboration.” The condensed tail of evolution, in that scheme, has a vulnerable gaggle of newly terrestrial simians figuring out how to fend off hunger, predation, illness, and other threats existential and otherwise while filling our lives with meaning and hope, allowing our kind “to reshape their world, thereby reshaping themselves.” It’s a pleasing vision and one decidedly more optimistic than the naked-ape-with-guns portraits of a past generation of anthropologists. Still, it’s one that requires only a few case studies to wrap up, and regrettably, part of the author’s creativity turns on saying the same thing in numerous ways, with multiple variations on that trope that working together is a good thing and one that distinguishes us from other animals, which “do some ratcheting and scaffolding, but…lack the human combination of discovery, innovation, cooperation, and information transfer.” The diverse studies in creativity are good ones, though, encompassing everything from conflict resolution to learning how to use fire to cook—not just red meat, but fish and vegetables as well. Fuentes frowns on a few predictable things, like racism and war, but also on the paleo diet.

I also wonder if this fits @kkeathley’s advice to us:

I’ve not read the book, but Ken’s objection to “humans selfish because evolution selfish” is well made, and such ideas get some coverage in my book on the goodness of creation. Even more in Conor Cunningham’s Darwin’s Pious Idea. Nothing in evolutionary theory entails either violence or selfishness - after all, sloths and turtle doves evolved too.

One line of approach for a late Adam is the (unfortunately for me!) potentially falsifiable rarity of truly violent human activity in prehistoric times. There are signs of cannibalism, but that is as likely to be about veneration of ancestors as war. Apart from that, unequivocal evidence of violence is hard to find - though of course it’s also hard to create, in principle.

A recent Google search showed there is one very ancient skull with two adjacent and identical injuries, attributed by some to murder (but by others to an animal). To me, it seems quite difficult to inflict identical injuries an inch or so apart in warfare or execution, so I remain unconvinced.

The earliest unequivocal inter-human violence I found was a massacre dated to c13K BCE, with male and female legs broken presumably to bring about painful death. That date just about fits some windows for a Neolithic Adam. But it’s certainly a lot rarer than the wholesale slaughter that makes up a good part of more recent archaeology.

So there seems at least a reasonable case for an escalation of violence at a relatively late stage in history, compatible with a “sin event” as described in Genesis 2-11.

How so? You might connect a rise in violence to civilization, but how do you connect those to the Fall?

Shouldn’t “popular Darwinists” raise a red flag? Of course evolutionary biology pays a lot of attention to cooperation. We’re hardly the only social species. We’re just the only species with language, which makes cooperation in complicated ways easier.

Turtle doves are surprisingly selfish and violent. But of course your point is correct, and Darwin knew all that too.

Or is it just compatible with larger populations and more excess resources attributable to agriculture and cities? The idea of a Fall is superfluous, and especially a Fall that communicated something through Adam’s genes, spiritual inheritance, or example. Further, nobody can say what that communicated thing would be, or offer any scientific or even biblical justification for whatever it is.