Pre-Adamic Horse Science

At about 35,000 years ago a young human (pre-Adam I think we can suppose), whether male or female we don’t have any idea, sketched in charcoal the life stages of wild horses in the Grotte Chauvet cave in France. We know the person was young because they left their footprints in the soft clay on the cave floor. Sketched in remarkable detail are four horses. The first shows a mature horse, head down as if grazing. Only the horses head and neck are shown because the three subsequent horses are superimposed on each of the previous, the head is rendered in striking realism. The next horse, again with head lowered, has its ears laid back in a fierce expression—perhaps the depiction of a young stallion defending its herd. The next in the sequence shows a young horse, calmly resting, its eyes closed in quite repose. Finally, a young colt completes the scene, its dark head colored in completely. The painting is carefully rendered and shows a detailed familiarity of horse anatomy and behavior. It also depicts a sophisticated artistic sense. The painting was not hurriedly done, nor dashed out on the spur of the moment. The area where the painting was made was carefully prepared. The cave wall was scrapped to expose the soft, white, limestone beneath. The contours of the cave were used to enhance the effect of the painting and give it greater three-dimensionality and a sense of movement.. The sequence shows simply and effectively the life story of a Pleistocene horse. The painting is not the depiction of a realistic scene, or actual event, but the abstract representation of a horse through time. The painter was expressing art as we know it, abstract and representational. What meaning did this work have for the painter? Why did he or she make the effort to crawl so deeply into the cave? Darkened patches on the ceiling show that the work was done by the light of torches. Why? Was it a ritual painting designed to ensure a successful hunt? Was it done to beautify the world? We don’t know exactly. But we have an idea. We are a kindred spirit with the person that struggled into that cave so long ago. We are of the same species. We have similar inclinations. We paint and enjoy the art of others for various reasons, but we recognize in this ancient art all the elements that inform our own appreciation of art. We don’t know the exact reason the horses were painted, but we recognize it as art. Art is something we do. And as far as we know we are the only species that has ever lived on this planet that uses and appreciates art. Art? Why?

After my Tribune article dissing Intellegent Design Theory I received the following:

I believe you could help me understand your statements about how “a whale’s leg turned into a flipper” and the evolution of flight from a reptile to a bird. I would like know what experiment you or other scientists used to show how a leg turns into a flipper and how a reptile turns into a bird? Lastly, what experiment did you or others use to show where DNA came from, and what mechanism caused it to occur.

I think the person is pointing out to me that no experiments could be done of this nature and so evolution is not science. And heaven knows, I’ve had a devil of time getting reptiles to Darwin into birds in the laboratory. (However, microbiologists get bacteria to evolve all the time—lucky dogs.) But the view that science just is experimentation is a very late 19th Century positivistic view of science. For example, astronomers hardly ever do experiments with galaxies and such (and it’s not just that they don’t fit into beakers, well the big ones don’t anyway). Today we realize that science is much more than experimental manipulation. As philosopher of science Ludwig Fleck pointed out in his Genesis and Development of a Scientific Fact some of the methods of science include: Logic, testing, trail & error, creativity, memory, falsification, confirmation, influence of current theory and paradigms, apprenticeships, refining technique, discussion, argument, going back to the drawing board, imagination, doubt, belief, asking questions, challenging convention, dreaming . . . and yes doing experiments where possible. One thing is clear: Science is an Art.















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5 Responses to Pre-Adamic Horse Science

  1. John says:

    I like to say that we didn’t have to do the experiment. God did. When we look at the fossil record, we’re reading his thesis.

  2. S.Faux says:

    I like the metaphor that John uses above (posted at 7:35 pm) that fossils are God’s thesis, but the point I would like to make in that regard is that fossils do NOT lie. Fossils are like scriptures in rock. Fossils show transitional changes over time that require explanation, and the only reasonable explanation for those systematic changes over time is something like Darwinian evolution.

    It is true that NOT all aspects of science can be experimental, but what most do not realize that that life scientists are constantly doing experiments that have significant evolutionary implications. Evolutionary ideas are constantly being tested. It seems to me to be a trivial point that scientists cannot turn a whale flipper into a leg or vice versa. That sort of manipulation is just mechanics at the DNA level. It won’t be long before we are building organs for transplant. Creationists can yell all they want before the evolutionary tractor, but if they don’t move out of the way, they will get mowed down. The debate is over, and Darwin won.

  3. Rich Knapton says:

    ” The debate is over, and Darwin won.”

    I disagree. The debate is never over and shouldn’t be over. I’m LDS and am quite comfortable with the concept of evolution. We are told by the Lord that by his law was the earth created. Did that law include Darwinian evolution? I have no idea and the Lord hasn’t said (at least to me). However, what looks like randomness to us may not be randomness at all. I think science only advances when challenges to prevailing ideas are thrown out and answered.


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  5. Rich Knapton says:

    In my little red dictionary it says Art: “the expression or application of human creative skill and imagination.” I use those tools in creating a marketing plan for a new company. I guess that’s art. My wife needs those skills in raising our children. So, raising children is an art. Almost every successful human activity requires those skills. They must all be art. If all human endeavor is art, then saying science an art is not saying anything very remarkable.


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